The long-awaited Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, led by Josh MacAlister, was published this morning. The review aimed to identify the challenges facing children’s social care in England and ways to ensure that children grow up in loving, stable, safe families and, where that is not possible, care provides the same foundations.

In his opening remarks, the review chair states,

The time is now gone for half measures, quick fixes or grandstanding. Changing the easiest bits, papering over the cracks, or only making the right noises, may in fact make matters worse. It will create the illusion of change but without the substance. It will dash hopes and fail another generation.”

The Review consulted closely with thousands of care-experienced children, young people and adults, and the practitioners who work with them, and formed an Experts by Experience Board to support all stages of the process and shape the recommendations. Alongside numerous organisations working with children, the Institute of Health Visiting submitted written evidence to the review’s consultation in March 2021 and participated in the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s National Review to examine the circumstances leading up to the tragic deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

The review highlights numerous challenges in the current system including difficulties with multi-agency working, unnecessary barriers to sharing information about children, and a ‘broken care market’. The review also acknowledges that children’s social care can only function effectively when the wider system and welfare state is working well to support children – the report cites the work of the Institute of Health Visiting highlighting the knock-on impacts of recent cuts in health visiting, stating:

“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 review concludes that our current approach to children’s social care is not working, with record numbers of looked after children and a system skewed towards helping families only when they reach crisis point and children have already been harmed. In recent years, the system has been further strained as more families are struggling due to the impacts of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis has tipped more families with children into vulnerability. As health visitors, we are well aware that babies and young children are a particularly vulnerable group as they are less visible to other services, leaving many with unidentified and unmet needs.

The review provides a stark warning that,

“Without a dramatic whole system reset, outcomes for children and families will remain stubbornly poor and, by this time next decade, there will be approaching 100,000 children in care (up from 80,000 today) and a flawed system will cost over £15 billion per year (up from £10 billion now). Together, the changes we recommend will shift these trends and would mean 30,000 more children living safely and thriving with their families by 2032 compared to the current trajectory.”

The Institute of Health Visiting joins with other charities working with children responding to today’s report and calling for change.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director says,

“Today’s report is a wake-up call for our nation – too many vulnerable children are being let down as services often intervene with too little, too late. We cannot continue to ignore the voices of so many children and young people that have been captured in this report – sadly what they have told us has been known for far too long. And as health visitors, we will also continue to advocate for babies and young children whose needs are so often overlooked. Urgent action and investment is now needed to address the underlying root causes and fix a struggling system. We hope that policymakers will seize this opportunity and build a future where every child feels safe, secure, seen and supported”. 


New evidence paper published by the National Children’s Bureau: Impact of investing in prevention on demand for statutory children’s social care

The final report of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is expected imminently. To support the launch of the Review, the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has worked with their academic partners to showcase the latest research on children’s social care.

The NCB’s new evidence paper (Impact of investing in prevention on demand for statutory children’s social care) demonstrates that investing in prevention, including family support and early help, can reduce demand for more expensive crisis support later, and also leads to better services overall.

The NCB says:

“We have a unique opportunity to strengthen families and invest in early intervention. We must seize this moment to transform children’s lives for the better. Rarely has the case for early investment been so clearly articulated. We have to seize the moment”.

Highlights from the evidence paper:

  • Increased spending on children’s social care preventative services (including family support and early help) has a positive impact on:
    • Ofsted judgements
    • Numbers of Children in Need
    • Rates of 16–17-year-olds starting periods in care.
  • The distribution of local authority spending on prevention has become increasingly less well matched to need.
  • Two recent papers have reinforced the contributory causal relationship between family poverty and levels of child abuse and neglect and the demand for children’s social care services, including rates of entry to care.

The evidence paper concludes with a brief summary of further contextual research on the association between household income and intervention, and on systems-thinking in children’s social care.

You can read more in the NCB’s evidence paper here.

You can join the iHV in raising awareness of the publication of the NCB’s evidence paper and share on social media using the prepared tweet below:

The imminent #CareReview is our chance to secure a future where every child feels safe, secure & supported @NCBtweets’ new evidence paper shows how investment in preventative services can help build that future, saving money in the process.







iHV responds to Local Government Association (LGA)’s analysis on children’s social care, published today, which calls for Government to use the upcoming Spending Round to fully fund the demand on children’s services next year to allow councils to provide the vital support that children and families rely on.

Severe funding shortages and huge demand pressures mean councils were forced to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by nearly £800 million last year in order to try and keep children safe, the Local Government Association reveals today.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, commented:

“The Institute has long warned that more children entering safeguarding procedures and care would be an inevitable consequence of cutting preventive services such as health visiting which identifies needs in families early, mobilises support for families in need and reduces long-term negative consequences of late identification for these children, such as safeguarding issues and care proceedings. These new figures should be of concern to the whole population as, as well as negatively impacting on the child his/herself and their potential future, these high levels of vulnerable children impact crime rates and criminal justice budgets and increase demand on the NHS from complex health needs.

“One in three health visitors has been lost over the past 4 years and the imposition of unhelpful new ways of working makes it impossible for the profession to adequately offer the necessary long term support that some families need. Alongside the LGA, we also call on the Prime Minister and Treasury to use the upcoming spending review to reinvest into public health, preventative and children’s services. The economic arguments are clear.”