Minister addresses parliament during debate on the independent review of children’s social care
The Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho, laid out the government’s five-point plan to tackle issues in the social care system during commons debate.
During her speech she acknowledged the previous failings in the social care system and the findings of the independent review before setting out the government’s aims to rectify these issue. She began:
“Today, I can share with you what our vision and ambitions are for the future system.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the Government believes in the power of opportunity. It was why levelling up was at the core of our manifesto in 2019. And it is our belief that the roots of opportunity start with the power and importance of family. With the right support, families are the best means of protecting, nurturing, and promoting the interests of children, now and forever.”
In her speech she referred to the Care Review which said “we all have a part to play and it starts with love” as she continued:
“Our ambitions for reform will reaffirm the central role of families in the care system and put love and stable relationships at the heart of what children’s social care does.
Children should grow-up in loving, safe and stable families. That is where they can achieve their best. Where that is not possible, it is right that the care system should take swift and decisive action to protect them. But care itself should also provide the same foundation of love, stability and safety – this is what all children indeed all of us need to thrive.”
Coutinho then outlined the government’s five-point strategy to help families. She stated:
“Firstly, our ambition for families. Families are at the heart of what makes us all happy. So when families are struggling, we should provide rapid and intensive multidisciplinary support at the right time to help fix the issues. Lots of members talked about early intervention and I completely agree that is the core issue here. From our programmes to improve early help services from birth to adulthood, we want to build a strong evidence base on what works to support families to turn around difficult situations. I’d like to thank the Children’s Commissioner for Part One of her recent review into family life.
Our second ambition is child protection. The murders of Arthur [Labijo-Hughes] and Star [Hobson] sickened us all. The recommendations from the National Panel look to ensure such terrible incidents are as rare as possible and when children are at risk of harm, we must intervene quickly and decisively through a more expert and multi-agency child protection response. Local Authorities, Police and Health services are under statutory duties to work together to safeguard children. We will use the recommendations of all the reviews to support them.
Thirdly, foster care and kinship care. Where children cannot be looked after safely by their parents, we should properly support wider family networks to step up, in a family-like environment. At the moment, there are practical, financial and cultural barriers to this, especially some of the ethnic disparities that have been talked about today. Moving in with a relative or people from your community provides a strong chance of achieving the kind of lifelong stability children need. We need to encourage the system to always look to wider family before care outside the family and to help equip families to do this well where that is in children’s best interests. Multiple members have mentioned adoption – we have set out a strategy last year and that will be an important part of our solution here as well.
Our fourth ambition is for the care system. Where family isn’t an option, the care system should provide stable and loving homes. But the care review found that all those supporting children in the care system need to be more focused on outcomes – that has been widely discussed today and I think that’s absolutely right. It was mentioned the number of times children in care move homes. I’ve spoken to young people in the last couple of weeks who talk about moving 21 times – that is not the kind of experience you need to set up the relationships that are so important for people.
We’ve also been working in close partnership with departments across government and with Ofsted. What is clear is that continuing with the status quo is not an option. Would gently say that the trajectory has been positive, with lots of work from very dedicated teams to get the Good or Outstanding level up from 36% to 55% and reducing the number of LAs judged to be inadequate. I pay tribute to their work. Of course we cannot accept any failure in this area, but I think they have done exceptional work so far.
Our fifth ambition is to equip the children’s social care system with the people and tools that it needs to do a good job of supporting all those that need its help. That means a skilled and empowered workforce, better data and transparency, and clear system direction. We have committed to a National Framework for Children’s Social Care. We are working to publish a draft of this alongside the Implementation Strategy. We will continue to work closely with Ofsted who play an important role in the intervention and improvement programme.”
Coutinho concluded her speech by paying tribute to everyone working in social care, without whom she claims success will not be possible. She stated:
“Finally, by far the most important factor for achieving success will be the people delivering our vision. I’m sure this house will join me in paying tribute to every social worker and all those who are supporting children such as those in children’s homes and foster carers, who are there tirelessly day in and day out providing support to children and their families. We will bring forward proposals to support the workforce, and foster carers, to ensure they have the right skills and strong leadership.
Finally in conclusion I am proud to be responsible for a system that has been shown to help children recover from traumatic experiences, and often to succeed against the odds. But the children’s social care system cannot do it all. A young person’s success is driven by so many different factors and actors. I want the other parts of the local council, the school system, the health service and many others within and outside Government to do all they can to give our children the best possible start in life.
Children’s social care can’t do it alone, and we can’t do everything at once. This is a programme for long term, once-in-a-generation reform. We will start by laying the foundations for a system that is built on love and the importance of family.”