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iHV response to the Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy published today

2nd February 2023

The long-awaited response to the recommendations in the Care Review and Inquiries into the deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson was published by the Government today. In response to the year-long review’s analysis and recommendations, the government has accepted that urgent change is needed, stating, “we agree with their problem analysis and vision for change”.

Today’s 222-page document, “Stable Homes, Built on Love: Implementation Strategy and Consultation Children’s Social Care Reform 2023” published by the Department of Education, sets out their plans to address these problems and ensure that every child grows up in a “safe, stable and loving home”.

Much of the strategy is positive, particularly the increased focus on early help and child centred support that builds on families’ assets. The report highlights that, “The best way of promoting children’s welfare is very often by supporting children’s families and the loving relationships around them. To achieve this vision, we need to rebalance children’s social care away from costly crisis intervention to more meaningful and effective help for families, so that it achieves the outcomes children deserve. Achieving this will require a major reset that puts love and stable relationships at the heart of what children’s social care does”.

The plan is centred on taking action across six pillars to transform children’s social care, with an investment of £200 million to address urgent issues facing children and families now. The majority of proposals, including a new early help model for families, trialled across 12 local authorities, will be evaluated over two years before being rolled-out more widely.

The six pillars are:

Pillar 1: Family Help provides the right support at the right time so that children can thrive with their families

Pillar 2: A decisive multi-agency child protection system

Pillar 3: Unlocking the potential of family networks

Pillar 4: Putting love, relationships and a stable home at the heart of being a child in care

Pillar 5: A valued, supported and highly-skilled social worker for every child who needs one

Pillar 6: A system that continuously learns and improves, and makes better use of evidence and data

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director commented,

“Like many organisations across the sector, we welcome the investment, but it falls significantly short of what is needed to achieve the ambitions we all share, and address the scale of rising need. As much of the funding is committed to pathfinder and pilot areas for the next two years, this will further delay efforts to strengthen services and the investment that is desperately needed for the majority of children now.  

“It is also disappointing to see that despite calls to develop a cross- department strategy, this strategy is published solely by the Department for Education with all the associated limitations. If we are serious about improving child safeguarding, we need to strengthen the whole system of support around families – if one part of the system is weak, the whole system suffers and ultimately babies, children and families face the brunt of this.”

The need for a whole system response to safeguard all children was brought to the forefront in the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel which highlighted the importance of information sharing between agencies:

‘Practitioners need to be given the space and time to do quality work with the child [baby] and to critically reflect on the child’s [baby’s] experiences, including putting together the jigsaw of information they hold about them and the network around them’.

Whilst both the Care Review and the Inquiry into the murders of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes recognised the valuable contribution of health visitors, it is disappointing to see that ‘health visitors’ are only mentioned 4 times in the strategy which also fails to address the current workforce crisis that these reports flagged:

“Children’s social care picks up the needs of families which universal and other services cannot address. Therefore, getting the right support for families through universal services and, wherever possible, addressing issues before they escalate is critical”.

“The issue of capacity in health visiting services is a national concern and merits further attention”.

We await a response to the Care Review and Inquiry recommendations from the Department of Health and Social Care with details of their plans to rebuild the health visiting service in England that is so important to both safeguarding and child protection because it sees and safeguards all children.

Note: The Care Review chaired by Josh MacAlister, consulted widely (and beyond the remit of the Department for Education) put forward more than 80 proposals to reform the system, backed by a call for £2.6bn in funding over five years. The LGA has also commented today that, “The funding announced falls short of addressing the £1.6 billion shortfall – estimated prior to inflation – required each year simply to maintain current service levels”.


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