This moment is a once in a generation opportunity to reset children’s social care. What we need is a system that provides intensive help to families in crisis, acts decisively in response to abuse, unlocks the potential of wider family networks to raise children, puts lifelong loving relationships at the heart of the care system and lays the foundations for a good life for those who have been in care. What we have currently is a system increasingly skewed to crisis intervention, with outcomes for children that continue to be unacceptably poor and costs that continue to rise. For these reasons, a radical reset is now unavoidable.
Achieving this reset starts with recognising that it is loving relationships that hold the solutions for children and families overcoming adversity. While relationships are rich and organic, children’s social care can be rigid and linear. Rather than drawing on and supporting family and community, the system too often tries to replace organic bonds and relationships with professionals and services.
Without a dramatic whole system reset, outcomes for children and families will remain stubbornly poor and by this time next decade there will be approaching 100,000 children in care (up from 80,000 today) and a flawed system will cost over £15 billion per year (up from £10 billion now).¹ Together, the changes we recommend will shift these trends and would mean 30,000 more children living safely and thriving with their families by 2032 compared to the current trajectory.
¹. These costs approximate children’s social care spend by local authorities. There is no agreed definition of children’s social care spend, but the aggregate presented here includes all those children and young people's services lines from the Section 251 return except: 3.4.5 Universal family support, 3.5.1 Universal services for young people, 3.0.1 Spend on individual Sure Start Children's Centres, 3.0.2 Spend for services delivered through Sure Start Children's Centres, 3.0.3 Spend on management costs relating to Sure Start Children's Centres, 3.0.4 Other spend on children under 5, and 3.6.1 Youth justice.