Today, June 13th the Family Rights Group published the Care Crisis Review report. The email sending out the press release states:
The Review confirms there is a crisis in Children’s Social Care and Family Justice Sector, explores the reasons why and sets out 20 options for change.
Over 2000 people and organisations contributed to the Review, including the Local Government Association, Ofsted, Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, the All Wales Heads of Children’s Services, third sector organisations and alliances, the Offices of the English and Welsh Children’s Commissioners, members of the judiciary, lawyers, social care practitioners, young people and families.
For further information please contact Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, Family Rights Group. firstname.lastname@example.org
The 20 options for change
- Immediate steps that could be taken to move away from an undue focus on processes and performance indicators, to one where practitioners are able to stay focused on securing the right outcomes for each child.
- Approaches, including family group conferences, in which families are supported to make safe plans for their child.
- Suggestions of ways in which statutory guidance, such as Working Together to Safeguard Children, can be changed in order to promote relationship-based practice.
- Opportunities for revitalising local and national family justice forums and other mechanisms, so that all can become places where challenges within the system are discussed and solutions developed.
- Proposals for the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education, in consultation with the devolved administrations, to examine the impact of benefit rules and policies, and the projected effect of planned benefit reforms, on the numbers of children entering or remaining in care.
- A call for the Ministry of Justice to undertake an impact assessment of the present lack of accessible, early, free, independent advice and information for parents and wider family members on the number of children subject to care proceedings or entering or remaining in the care system, and the net cost to the public purse.
- That the National Family Justice Board revises the approach to measuring timescales, including the 26 week timescale for care proceedings.
- That there are improvements in exploring and assessing potential carers from within the family, when a child cannot live at home, and better support is provided to such carers and children so they do not face severe financial hardship.
- That Ofsted and Social Care Wales in their inspections and research should take into account the duties on local authorities to support families and to promote children’s upbringing within their family.
The report also notes the £2 billion shortfall in children’s social care service and supports The ADCS and LGA’s call for Government to provide the cash, making the uncontroversial point that “Money and resources matter for families and for services”.
I don’t disagree with any of those 20 points. That there is a crisis in the child protection system is obvious and has been for a long time now. The President of the Family Division agrees. Lord Justice McFarlane’s speech at the launch of the Review is now available online.
I first wrote this post about ‘Forced adoption’ in 2014. I have long commented upon and decried the frankly woeful state of the debate in our country about these vital issues and I have warned time and time again at the dangerous impact of those who profess to ‘campaign’ for parents.
However, I am sadly very pessimistic that anything is going to change. There can be little doubt what the problems are and little doubt about what is needed to fix them. Social workers who are not struggling under excessive case loads. Who have access to services and support for families who are struggling. That needs money. There isn’t any and there won’t be any because we have shown, collectively, as a society – when we need to make a choice about the politicians we elect, we chose those who promise to cut taxes and hence services.
However, it goes further and deeper than that I fear. The only value children seem to have in our society is as economic actors; if they aren’t on track to achieve whatever grade is now valued in school exams, they are worthless. If they fail, its because they deserved to. Because they were lazy or didn’t try. The culture of blame and shame which makes it so difficult for people to own and learn from their mistakes is enthusiastically promoted by politicians and journalists.
Journalists tell me that there is no point in trying to move away from sensationalist reporting and click bait headlines because ‘it’s what people want’. Even with easily available published judgments to the cases they write about, they will not provide their readers with a link to that judgment or even read it themselves.
I note with sadness that, for example, The Times offers a short comment on this review and can’t even be bothered print the correct name of the Family Rights Group.
We are really in a mess.
What’s the way out? Short of a magic money tree and shipping a boatload of politicians and journalists off to some hellish version of Love Island where they can simply rant at each other and leave the rest of us in peace, I have no clue.
All I can do is continue to operate in my sphere of influence. If we cannot make the fundamental changes to the system that I and many others think are needed, we can try and make parents and children have an easier passage through the system, to feel less brutalised by a system they do not understand or which is not well explained.
I think we do that by talking, listening and discussing. To find out what we can achieve to make things better.
The Transparency Project is again supporting #CPConf2018 and we are going to meet in London on 15th September to talk particularly about the issue of removal of children on the basis of future emotional harm. All are welcomed who have an interest – which really, should be all of us.