The Care Crisis Review has just been published, exploring the factors which have contributed to the number of children in care reaching the highest level since the Children Act 1989 was enacted with care order applications reaching record levels in 2017.
Funded by the Nuffield Foundation and facilitated by Family Rights Group, the Review listened to the opinions of over 2,000 people across England and Wales concluding:
• There is a sense of crisis felt by many young people, families and those working within the system.
• Professionals are frustrated at working in a sector that is overstretched and overwhelmed and in which, too often, children and families do not get the direct help they need early enough to prevent difficulties escalating.
• There was a sense of unease about how lack of resources, poverty and deprivation are making it harder for families and the system to cope.
• Contributors expressed a strong sense of concern that a culture of blame, shame and fear has permeated the system, affecting those working in it as well as the children and families reliant upon it. It was suggested that this had led to an environment that is increasingly mistrusting and risk averse and prompts individuals to seek refuge in procedural responses.
The Review did however find that the child welfare legislative framework is basically sound and there are some local authorities that are bucking the national trend.
The system works well sometimes: children and families described individual practitioners who had transformed their lives and professionals described innovations, approaches and leaders who enable them to practice in a way that is respectful, humane and rewarding.
The Review also found common agreement about the way forward, with a consensus that relationship building has been and is at the heart of good practice setting out 20 options for change including:
Immediate steps that could be taken to move away from an undue focus on processes and performance indicators, to one where practitioners are able to stay focused on securing the right outcomes for each child.
Other options for change emphasise the importance of shared visions and ethos across agencies, with leaders giving a consistent message, including modelling the way they want others to act. They promote approaches, including family group conferences, in which families are supported to understand professionals’ concerns and to draw upon their own strengths and networks to make safe plans for their child, safely averting the need for some to enter the care system.
The options for change highlight the ways in which statutory guidance, such as Working Together to Safeguard Children, can be changed in order to promote relationship-based practice.
The Review also sets out opportunities for revitalising Family Justice Boards, and in Wales the Family Justice Network and other mechanisms, so that all can become places where challenges are discussed and solutions developed
Click Here for the full report.