Today the Government is publishing ‘Putting Children First: delivering our vision for excellent children’s social care’, a policy paper which sets out our programme of reform to children’s social care for the next four years.
Children’s social care services have an essential and life changing role to play in transforming the life chances of our most vulnerable children and families, stepping in to provide support so that children can stay with their birth family wherever possible. Where this can't happen, difficult decisions often have to be made to put in place alternative arrangements that are in the best interests of the child, ensuring they have safe, stable and nurturing relationships, whether through adoption, foster care, residential care or family and friends’ care.
In January, we set out our ambitious vision and our reform programme for children’s social care, structured around three key areas:
- People and leadership, bringing the best people into the profession, equipping them with the right knowledge and skills for the incredibly challenging but hugely rewarding work we expect them to do, and developing leaders equipped to nurture practice excellence.
- Practice and systems, creating the right environment for excellent practice and innovation to flourish and creating a learning culture, drawing on both best practice and the lessons when things go wrong.
- Governance and accountability, making sure that what we are doing is working, using data to show the strengths and weaknesses in the system, and developing innovative new organisational models with the potential to radically improve services.
‘Putting Children First’ sets out – against each of these three pillars – how we will create the conditions to enable Government, local authorities and their local partners, social workers and other professionals such as foster carers to provide consistently excellent children’s social care, where the best interests and voice of the child are at the heart of decision-making, and to enable excellence to flourish and spread.
By 2020 we want all vulnerable children, no matter where they live, to receive the same high quality of care and support. The best outcome for every child will be central to every decision that is made.
Also published today is an independent report on children’s residential care by Sir Martin Narey, former Chief Executive of Barnardo’s and independent social care adviser to the Department for Education.
Sir Martin is clear that, despite challenges, the quality of care provided in homes is generally high and that there is an important ongoing role for residential care as an option for looked after children. We support Sir Martin’s positive vision for the future role of residential care, and are very grateful for his report. The Government accepts his analysis and findings and welcomes the recommendations he makes. We will be responding more fully to his recommendations in the Autumn. However, some immediate actions are clear and we will take them forward now, including:
- Introducing a specific funding stream as part of the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme to test innovative ideas for using residential care in a more dynamic and creative way to support those children who can benefit; and
- Developing a Staying Close programme for those leaving residential care, an alternative to the Staying Put arrangements which already exist for children in foster care. We will use the Innovation Programme to pilot possible models of Staying Close.
Copies of ‘Putting Children First’ and Sir Martin’s report will be placed in both House libraries.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords