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Children’s Commissioner presents her vision for a better care system

On Tuesday, 24 November the Children's Commissioner, Anne Longfield OBE, presented aspeech online where she reflected on what she has learnt from children and young people in the six years she has been Commissioner, and how they have felt about the care and support they have received. Drawing on new research conducted by her office and stories shared with the Commissioner, including through the helpline, the speech described the flaws she sees in the social care system and outlined the ways it must change to become more ambitious for children.

Anne Longfield was joined by Lemn Sissay MBE, the prize-winning writer and a passionate advocate for reform within the care system, and Sophia, a care leaver and coordinator for the Commissioner's IMO project.  The speakers were joined by five children in care – Alicia, Azizah, Luke, Sophie and Tamara – who took part in a panel discussion, answered questions from the audience and shared their experiences.

In her speech, the Commissioner noted:

"[T]hings are now on a precipice with council revenues hit by Covid. Next year is a real crunch point, with council revenues hit by Covid-19, just as families are facing the biggest economic shock in a generation. Unless emergency funding is granted in this one-year spending review, family services will be in deep trouble.

"I think the underlying cause of all of this is a system that has become almost entirely focused on the need to safeguard children from immediate risk – too much on process, and not enough on either wider need or outcomes.

"This is a golden opportunity for the Government to improve the experiences and outcomes of vulnerable children in the care system, through the care review.

"It should start by looking at what we know works, when it's done properly:

• Consistent work with families by designated keyworkers;
• Loving foster families, including specialist foster care for children who need extra help;
• For some children, it is high quality children's homes;
• A trusted, stable relationship with an adult who won't give up on the child;
• Parenting support;
• Family therapy and mental health support for both children and parents;
• Speech and language therapy;
• And involving children in decisions made about their care."

The Commissioner called for a more collaborative way of helping children to flourish. She added that the review needs to "hardwire permanency and stability into everyday decision making". The review should also consider whole packages of support. It should "propose moving from a reactive safeguarding system, whereby different services identify risks to children and notify the local authority, to a proactive one, where agencies come together, identify the needs of children and plan together to meet these needs".

To read the speech, click here. To watch it on You Tube, click here.