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Education Secretary launches review of children’s social care

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has launched an independent review of children's social care which aims 'to raise the bar' for vulnerable children across the country. A commitment to look at the care system was included in the Conservative Party's General Election manifesto.

In a speech to children's charities and sector organisations, the Education Secretary has also announced that he has appointed Josh MacAlister to lead the review. A former teacher, Mr MacAlister founded the social work charity Frontline in 2013. He will step down from his role as Chief Executive to lead the review.It is intended that the review will reshape how children interact with the care system, looking at the process from referral through to becoming looked after. It will address major challenges such as the increase in numbers of looked after children, the inconsistencies in children's social care practice, outcomes across the country, and the failure of the system to provide enough stable homes for children.

Running throughout the review will be the voices and experiences of children, young people or adults who have been looked-after, or who have received help or support from a social worker. Their experiences will be considered and reflected sensitively and appropriately, with their views included in full in the work.

During the virtual launch, Josh MacAlister launched a 'Call for Advice' to help shape the early work of the review and invited applications for an 'Experts by Experience' group to advise him on how to include the voices of people with a 'lived experience' of the children's social care system. The review will consult widely and bring in a broad range of expertise.

The Review will address the need for change that supports children to achieve their potential. Children who have been in care comprise 25 per cent of the homeless and 24 per cent of the prison population. Over a third of care leavers (39 per cent) are not in education, employment or training, compared to 13 per cent of all 19-21-year-olds and just 13 per cent progressed to Higher Education by age 19 compared to 43 per cent of all other pupils.

In addition, statistics published on 15 January 2021 reveal the number of serious incident notifications between April and September 2020. The data will provide important information to the care review to help address major challenges.

The Department for Education will publish terms of reference for the review, setting out the themes and questions that will be addressed and how it will respond to the changing needs of children in care or at risk of going into care, especially given the impact of the pandemic.

These will include how to improve accountability for those responsible for children's outcomes, how to ensure children have a positive experience of care, and how to support and strengthen families – helping children stay safely with their families where possible.

For the full announcement, click here.