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‘Not the Radical Reset Children’s Care Needs’

A new parliamentary reports criticises the Government’s plans for young people’s care – with the Home Secretary announcing that the same strategy will be used to tackle child sexual abuse

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. Photo: Imageplotter/Alamy

‘Not the Radical Reset Children’s Care Needs’

A new parliamentary reports criticises the Government’s plans for young people’s care – with the Home Secretary announcing that the same strategy will be used to tackle child sexual abuse

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The Government’s flagship reform of children’s social care system is unambitious, under-funded, short-staffed and will fail to provide many more places for young people, according to a new parliamentary report.

The new strategy – ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love’ – was launched last February by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan as “the first step towards achieving once-in-a-generation reform”.

But a forensic analysis by peers suggests that claims made by the strategy are flawed and “for at least the next two years, most young people will see no difference”.

Separate from the findings of the House of Lords’ Public Services Committee, Home Secretary Suella Braverman – backed by Keegan – announced last week that the strategy would also be used to tackle the epidemic of child sexual abuse. 

But it amounts to the watering-down of recommendations by Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, to protect children. Instead of setting up a new child protection authority or appointing a new Cabinet minister for children, Braverman and Keegan say they will use existing mechanisms in the strategy so they “are all working as effectively and as cohesively as possible to properly safeguard, support and protect children from harm, including child sexual abuse”.

Prof Jay has said she is “deeply disappointed” by this decision.

While finding that the overall strategy for social care is a step in the right direction, the peers said that its implementation is not.

It “does not represent the radical reset the children’s care system needs,” the report states. “By design, the majority will see little benefit for several years. This represents a wasted opportunity.”

The peers found that the strategy ignores the need for a radical reform of children’s residential homes where there is a shortage of places leading to profiteering by private owners which can raise prices. It also relies on increasing foster parenting but there is a shortage of suitable foster parents and the Government has no targets for the numbers needed. “In some cases, [authorities] are failing adequately to ensure the safety of children in foster care,” the report states.

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The Government is spending money on recruitment programmes and has given an inflation-busting 12.3% rise in foster parent payments. It has also put an extra £200 million into the social care system. But the peers say this amounts to only 20% of the £1 billion required to make a real difference.

The committee organised an event with the Children’s Commissioner’s office to find out what young people in care thought about the service. Many told of being moved between four and 10 times to different foster parents. One child had experienced 100 different placements. Another reported being abused by a foster parent to a social worker who declined to note it and did not support the child.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are committed to ambitious reform to children’s social care which is why we published our plans to do just that earlier this year, alongside an initial investment of £200 million to make sure our plans are working.

Our reforms will focus on providing early support for families, reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage. This is backed by £10.8 billion for children’s social care this year alone, an increase of almost £800 million year on year.”

The spokesman confirmed that Braverman’s announcement of using the strategy, rather than creating a new child protection authority, to help tackle child sexual abuse had been agreed across government.

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