Unbelievably we are already three months into the review. When we launched back in March, I committed to setting out a Case for Change in the summer. I’m sure the staff working as part of the review team are cursing me for setting such a punishing schedule. A review like this would normally take a lot longer before publishing a report. But I wanted this review to set out the problems early – giving everyone the opportunity to understand our thinking and tell us whether we have missed or misunderstood anything.
So it’s been three months of intense reading, endless zoom meetings and a lot of drafting and redrafting. We’re making real progress and I’m looking forward to sharing the results early in the summer.
I know many may question the pace and ask if we are consulting widely enough. I hear this concern and I want to reassure you that we have already had powerful and often emotional conversations with hundreds of people who have lived experience of children’s social care. I want to thank all of those who have shared such personal experiences with us so far – from the children I met in a special school yesterday through to fathers who have had their children removed. We will be continuing this engagement throughout the review and after the Case for Change is published we will be creating opportunities for everyone, including the children’s social care workforce, to help us answer the important questions posed in this paper.
This week, after months of zoom calls, it’s been refreshing to start to meet face to face again and remember that there is life away from a screen!
I took advantage of our new-found freedom to visit the Aycliffe Secure Children’s Home and Bower Grove school in Kent, where I talked to looked after children to understand their experiences of the care system.
And today I met with families in Camden who are being supported through the Changing Futures & Supporting Families work. ‘Early help’, ‘family welfare’, ‘targeted support’ – whatever you want to call it – the kind of work we can do to support families and help prevent them getting into a crisis situation. This is an area of work we have heard a huge amount about in the last three months. It was great to move from reading about this sort of support to meeting more people in person to hear how it can help.
The wider review team has also continued meeting with hundreds of inspiring people and organisations in what are often fascinating conversations. Over the past fortnight alone their meetings include: the Drive Forward Foundation to hear about challenges that care leavers face in higher education, sitting in on the APPG meetings that the care leavers charity Become have organised as part of their Spotlight inquiry, discussing the transition from care to adoption with Adoption UK and Home for Good and meeting with the National Network for Parent Carer Forums to talk to parents about experiences of getting the right support for disabled children.
Last week we launched our workforce engagement plan which set out how we want to tap into the unique insight offered by those who work with children and families. The full engagement plan is here.
We want to partner with organisations and groups to plan co-led events so please get in touch. Virtual meetings will be here for a bit longer with the benefit of meeting people from all corners of the country – but who knows maybe some of these meetings can be in person one day. Let’s hope so, I think we’ve all had enough of staring at screens!