In December 2019, the Westminster Government pledged to a care review in England and on the 1 March 2021 the Independent Review of Children's Social Care was launched. We have been working with Government, the Chair of the review (Josh McAlister), his team, care experienced people and other organisations in the sector to influence the process.
The Fostering Network welcomes the commitment from the Government to review the care system in England. At present, there are more children in care in England than there ever has been. An independent, rigorous and evidence-based review of the care system, accompanied by sufficient funding, has the potential to create long-term positive change for children in care. Three-quarters of children in care are in foster care, meaning that fostering must take a central part in the review.
How to participate in the Review
The review wants to hear from people with lived experience of children’s social care and the wide range of people who work to support children. There are many ways to engage with the care review team through activities and submissions.
Response to the Case for Change document
While we welcomed aspects of the Case for Change document, there was not a big enough focus on foster care and the changes needed to make it the best it can be. Foster carers are holding up the weight of the care system often without the resources, support and recognition that the vital role warrants. The continued failure to position foster carers firmly as part of the social care workforce and a key member of the team around the child risks undermining their ability to fully meet the needs of the children and young people they are caring for.
Our submission includes the views of the fostering sector. We ran engagement events with 82 foster carers, 37 fostering service staff members, researchers and health professionals and 18 key national representatives of care experienced children, young people and foster carers, researchers and policy makers. The response also includes responses from over 7,000 foster carers who shared their views with us in the 2018 and 2021 State of the Nation's Foster Care surveys.
Call for Evidence
In the Spring of 2021 we responded to the Review’s Call for Evidence with our key asks:
- Foster carers must be recognised as a key member in the team around the child and as part of the social care workforce.
- Children in long term foster care should have the same stability and legal protections as those in other forms of permanence, for instance under adoption and special guardianship orders.
- The Mockingbird Family Model should be available in every local authority area in England as a key support model for looked after children.
- Foster carers have a huge role to play working in local early intervention and preventative services. Foster carers have the skills and expertise to interface between families and children’s services, support children on the edge of care and help families to stay together.
* The Fostering Network is the lead replicator of Mockingbird in the UK and should maintain this role in any further roll-out with appropriate pre-consultation. In addition, any expressions of interest to roll out the Step Up, Step Down programme should also be done with appropriate pre-consultation with The Fostering Network.
Initial response to the Review
- We produced the following briefing for Government stating that the Review should: not be cost-neutral, be evidence-based, be wide in scope, be independent and have Government commitment. Read our full briefing.
- We also worked with other organisations and groups who work with and represent care-experienced children, young people and adults across England to submit principles that were unanimously agreed upon. These principles were sent to the Secretary of State for Education in an open letter. Read these principles here.
- Also in February 2020 the Department for Education took its first step of the care review and launched a consultation seeking views on new measures to ensure that the use of independent and semi-independent provision (commonly known as unregulated provision) provides the right level of support and does not place children in care and care leavers at risk. Read our submission here. Relating to this consultation, we are supporting a campaign to Keep Caring to 18, with many others in the sector, which is calling for care for every child in the care system.
The Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers is sector-wide and represents all the main voluntary sector organisations that work to support children in care and care leavers. Its ultimate aim is to promote better outcomes for care-experienced people through influencing policy and campaigning for positive change in the care system. We will also be working closely with the organisations in this alliance to influence the care review at every stage.