Industry News: Our government wants to transform the quality of children's social careEdward Timpson
Children’s social care is about changing lives. It has the ability not just to improve the circumstances of vulnerable children but to transform them completely. That’s why as a government we’re determined that every child in the country, whatever their background, should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. And children’s social care services have an essential role to play – whether that be by keeping children safe from harm, finding the best possible care when children cannot live at home, or creating the conditions that enable children to thrive and achieve.
Children who come into contact with the social care system have often had more to deal with in their short lives than many adults. I know from my own family’s experience – having grown up with 80 foster brothers and sisters, and two adopted brothers – the intrinsic value of secure, trusted relationships and the importance of having a stable family home. And that without the right support, too many children find themselves on the wrong track, denied the opportunity to become the person they could be.
So we are taking the next step to giving these children the chance of a better life, with the introduction of our children and social work bill. This builds on the foundations we have laid over the last six years. Over that time, we have changed the law so children in care can stay with their foster families after they turn 18; we have made radical strides in delivering a world-class adoption system; we have rolled out a £100m innovation programme to drive excellence in children’s social care practice, with a further £200m committed over the next four years; and we have supported the high-quality training and development of social workers through programmes like Frontline and Step Up – so we can raise the status and standard of this crucial profession.
But now is the time to go further. There is a real opportunity over the next four years to truly transform the quality of children’s social care services in England.
Although many children in and leaving care achieve fantastic things, we know that too many get left behind. The children and social work bill enshrines in law for the first time the responsibilities we have as a country towards these children, who often have no one to speak out on their behalf, to act as their “corporate parent”.
Being a good parent means having your child’s hopes, fears and aspirations in mind. That is what our new principles – and our “local offer for care leavers” – require. The care leaver covenant will reflect society’s collective responsibility towards all care leavers, and I’ll be asking businesses, charities and the rest of the public sector to set out how they will support young people coming out of care. Parental responsibilities don’t end at 18 or 21, just as a young person starts to make their way in the world. That is why this bill provides all care leavers up to age 25 with access to a personal adviser, who will guide and support them on anything from applying for jobs to finding a first place to live.
The bill also represents the next important step in our plans to transform the adoption system. Over the last two years, the number of decisions for adoption have almost halved. We know that up and down the country, grandparents, relatives and foster parents do a fantastic job caring for children – and we will continue to support them in doing so. But we also know that some children are being put in unsuitable placements with relatives whom authorities are not confident will be able to look after the child for the long term. This isn’t right. So the bill will improve the way decisions about placements and adoptions are taken, making sure they are always in the best interests of the child and take account of the impact of the abuse and neglect they may have experienced, as well as providing adopted children with the additional support they need to thrive in school.
Another important part of our reforms to children’s social care is learning and innovation. We want leading local authorities to trial new ways of working so they can truly drive innovation in the best interests of children – even where this means stepping outside the existing statutory framework.
The bill also introduces a new, centralised system for reviewing serious incidents, which will be overseen by an independent panel. All too often we see the same mistakes repeated across serious case reviews. These new arrangements mark a new approach, which will be better able to extract genuine, high-impact national learning and clear proposals for doing things better.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, this bill represents a step change for the social work profession. Excellent social workers can truly transform children’s lives for the better: they are the crucial ingredient of a successful children’s social care system. None of the other measures in the bill will have the impact we need them to without the skill, hard work and commitment of social workers.
As a government we want to raise the status of the profession, embedding the highest standards and supporting our workforce to achieve them. The bill will set the framework for a new regulator with a relentless focus on raising the quality of social work education, training and practice in both children’s and adults’ services and overseeing the delivery of child and family social worker accreditation.
We will build on that progress by helping to attract the most capable people into social work. We won’t rest until we have created a world-leading profession with the confidence and backing to make the right decisions for children.
This is not about reform for reform’s sake – and it will not undo all the changes already underway. This bill is about continuing on our commitment right across government to make sure every child can fulfil their potential regardless of their background.
Our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our society is matched by our ambition to ensure the most disadvantaged children have the brightest possible future. I am not prepared to accept anything other than the best for all these children and will continue to stand firmly in their corner.
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