The Institute of Health Visiting submitted its response to the Children’s social care strategy: Stable Homes, Built on Love on 10 May 2023. The Department for Education (DfE) has been seeking views on their proposals to reform children’s social care. The vision for reform of children’s social care responds to recommendations made by three[1] independent reviews. The vision is underpinned by the fundamental principle of the Children Act 1989 – that children’s welfare is paramount.

The vision aims 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 that 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.

DfE has promised to take action across six pillars to transform children’s social care:

  • Pillar one: Family Help provides the right support at the right time so that children can thrive with their families
  • Pillar two: A decisive multi-agency child protection system
  • Pillar three: Unlocking the potential of family networks
  • Pillar four: 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

The consultation focuses on  their proposed response to various recommendations including:

  • Support and protection for children and families
  • Support for kinship carers, and wider family networks
  • Reforms to the experience of being in care, including corporate parenting
  • Support for the workforce
  • Delivery and system reform

In our response, we recognised that this consultation provides an ideal opportunity for much greater collaboration and a joined-up cross-departmental approach to child safeguarding and early help between the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care. Whilst there is reference to the importance of ‘close integration with the wider support system’ in the proposals, more weight needs to be given to the ‘upstream’ functions of prevention, early identification of need, and early intervention below the threshold for children’s social care. These represent a significant gap throughout the whole vision. We urged the review team to take advantage of this opportunity to develop a whole system response for babies, children and families from the heart of government to frontline practice, including a dedicated budget for prevention and early intervention to support more seamless and integrated support for families and at the scale needed to respond to growing levels of need.

You can read the iHV’s response to the Children’s social care strategy and Consultation: Stable Homes, Built on Love here.

The iHV would like to say a huge heartfelt thank you to our iHV Safeguarding Expert Advisers for their expert advice and guidance when writing this evidence submission:

  • Dr Michael Fanner – Strategic Advisor – Global Safeguarding, Specialist Research, Education and Training and Safeguarding in Health
  • Trish Stewart – Associate Director of Safeguarding for Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust

[1] The three reviews are: The Competition and Markets Authority’s Children’s Social Care market study 2022; Child Protection in England 2022; and the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care 2022.