Open letter to leaders

Dear Children’s Social Care Leaders,

My name is Josh MacAlister and 14 months ago the government asked me to lead an independent review of children’s social care. Today I have published the final report which includes a clear set of recommendations, alongside a plan and costings, that I am asking the government, public services and businesses to support and implement.

As leaders of the children’s social care system, you will know too well the great responsibility this places on each of your shoulders to improve the lives of children and families. The report we have published today acknowledges that government needs to play its role in setting the conditions for you to succeed. This includes more financial investment in support for families, to provide them with the help they need and ensure more children remain safely within their loving family networks. It includes asks of government to be much clearer about what it expects of you, to join up work for children and families across Whitehall, to give you access to better live data to support system learning and share guidance on ways of working that have proven successful for children and families. Finally, it also recommends giving you the tools to focus on those things you do best as leaders, and some help with those things that 152 individual local authorities will always struggle to do at a smaller scale.

Action by national government is not enough on its own. Through this review I have had the privilege of seeing some the best services and practice in England. However, for too long children’s social care has been caught in a spiral of poor outcomes and crisis intervention – and in some cases we must be honest that poor leadership has contributed to the problems the system currently faces. Some of you reading the report may feel uncomfortable about our findings, or perhaps even more uncomfortable about the testimony of some children and families that have lived experience of the system you are accountable for. However, I hope that these messages embolden you to do your bit in resetting children’s social care. There are recommendations in the final report that are within your gift to deliver now and I urge you to consider the whole plan and then act where you can with urgency. I know that there is a real appetite and energy from everyone working in the children’s social care sector to see things radically change for the better. This is our chance.

This letter is not only aimed at senior officers in local authorities. For elected members that have responsibility for children’s social care, we know that many of you face daily challenges securing the funding you need to turn the tide from ever increasing crisis spending, towards intensive and timely help for families. I am recommending investment of £2bn for the creation of the new family help model and for ongoing additional spending on this to be ring-fenced so that the very real financial pressures local government face do not deter us from our mission to help families more and keep more children safely within their family networks. Again, there are also actions you can take now to improve the support you offer to children, families and those who have experienced care. Please read the report, identify where your local authority could do more and then act.

I wanted to extend my thanks to all of you who have opened your offices and given your time to me and my review team over the last 14 months. We have spent many thousands of hours in conversations with you and your staff throughout this review, and the conclusions we have reached would not have been possible without that generous spirit of sharing and openness.

You can read the final report on our website here alongside supporting documents which include more information on the recommendations, a children and young people’s version of the report and a children’s rights impact statement.

Josh MacAlister

Chair of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care

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