The UK Government has at last announced its long-awaited review into the children’s social care system in England – and has been challenged to take the opportunity to make sure it delivers radical change for vulnerable children.

Welcoming the launch of the review, Mark Russell, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said: “Many children who need help from social care have suffered abuse, neglect and exploitation, resulting in unimaginable trauma and damage to their mental health. 

 “Yet help for these vulnerable children – including those with a social worker, in care, care leavers and asylum-seeking children – too often falls short, despite the efforts of dedicated care workers. 

 “Even before Covid19, the children’s social care system was creaking under the pressure of funding cuts and rising demand. 

 “Support for children and young people is too often determined by funding shortages, artificial barriers and systemic flaws rather than by the help children need. 

 “This welcome review is a golden opportunity to tackle these issues on a broad cross-Government basis and ensure children’s rights are upheld and strengthened. 

 “Early help services have been stripped back by councils in many areas due to funding pressures and it’s important this is addressed. Without timely support, children’s problems are more likely to escalate and increase demand on more expensive statutory services for those at crisis point. These were stretched even before the pandemic left more children at increased risk of abuse, exploitation, isolation, mental ill-health and poverty. 

 “The shortage of local care placements increases the risk of children going missing and being targeted for criminal and sexual exploitation and we welcome the pledge to address this and ensure all young people have safe and stable homes. Improved support is also needed not just for care leavers, but for all children supported by social care as they transition to adulthood. 

 “Funding cuts have contributed to all these issues and it’s vital that the review’s recommendations are ultimately supported by the money councils need to implement them. Councils in the most deprived areas have been hit disproportionately hard by the estimated £2.2bn drop in funding available to children’s social care over the last decade – meaning there is a postcode lottery in the support offered to vulnerable children. 

 “The pledge to listen to children is really positive. Their voices must be at the heart of the review and include those whose voices are often not heard like those with special education needs and unaccompanied asylum-seekers who too often fall through cracks in the system. 

 “This review must do more than tinker at the edges; it must listen and act, radically, where necessary, to deliver real change and enable councils and their partners to make decisions with a laser-like focus on the well-being and best interests of these vulnerable children. We must give them the hope of a bright future.” 

 The Children’s Society will be providing evidence to the review and supporting children and young people to contribute. 

* Source: The Children’s Society.