Government announces new long-term strategy to fix children’s social care

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The Government has announced an overhaul of children’s social care.

Backed by £200 million over the next two years, a new, ambitious and wide-ranging Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy will transform the current care system to focus on more early support for families, reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage.

The government say these new ambitious reforms to children’s social care are designed to get families the early help they need, integrating the child protection system, supporting foster and kinship carers, supporting care leavers, and hiring more social workers.

Specific measures announced today in the strategy, Stable Homes, Built on Love, include:

  • Introducing more effective, joined-up family help for those that are struggling.

Up to 12 local areas will get over £45m to test a new approach to Family Help to provide increased, evidence-based support for families to overcome issues to prevent problems from escalating. The new service will help families with issues such as domestic abuse or poor mental health, giving them access to local support with the focus on the help they need rather than bureaucratic boundaries and assessments between services and professionals.

  • Where a child is at risk of harm, experts will intervene swiftly and decisively to protect them.

A new Child Protection Lead Practitioner role will have advanced, specialist training, and will work in a fully joined up way with other services such as the police, to better identify and respond to significant harm. The change will mean services work more effectively to protect children from harms that happen outside of the home, such as criminal exploitation and serious violence.

  • Harnessing the value of family networks by supporting the kinship care system.

There will be a focus on improved support and reducing barriers to kinship care, including investing £9 million in a kinship care training and support offer for all kinship carers. The Government will explore the case for a new financial allowance, possible additional workplace entitlements and options for an extension of legal aid for kinship carers who become Special Guardians or who hold Child Arrangement Orders.

  • Transforming the experiences of children in care and care leavers, by prioritising children in care living in homes close to their family, friends, communities and schools.

In addition to the recruitment programme and the above inflation increase to allowances, the Government is investing £30m in family finding, befriending and mentoring programmes to support children in care and care leavers to find and maintain loving relationships. The Government will also increase the leaving care allowance from £2,000 to £3,000 from April this year, an above inflation increase to help them set up home independently. For care leavers undertaking apprenticeships, there will be an increase to the bursary available from £1000 to £3,000.

  • Expanding and strengthening the children’s social care workforce.

Local authorities will be supported to recruit up to 500 new child and family social worker apprentices and there will be consultation on proposals to reduce over-reliance on agency social workers. The Government will also introduce a new Early Career Framework for social workers that will make sure that social workers have the knowledge and skills they need to support and protect children.

  • Setting clearer direction for everyone who works in the system, through a new Children’s Social Care National Framework and Dashboard.

The National Framework, published for consultation, sets out clear outcomes that should be achieved across all local authorities to improve the lives of children and families, raising the quality of practice across the country.

Commenting on the announcement, MP Nigel Huddleston said:

“I welcome the launch of this new long-term strategy, which will strengthen protections for children, ensuring every child can grow up in a safe and loving environment, giving them the very best start in life.

This funding is the beginning of the long-term plan to transform children’s social care and it comes on top of the £3.2 billion extra funding for social care (adults and children) that was set out for local government at the Autumn Statement.”

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