At every stage of this review I have been keen to get input.
In January 2021, as we started the review, I asked for people to share their advice with me and in March we asked the academic, research and policy community to respond to our Call for Evidence. This evidence and advice as well as conversations with hundreds of people with lived experience of children’s social care shaped the ‘Diagnosis’ stage – the first of four phases along with Discovery, Development and Delivery (using the Open Policy Making Toolkit) – and informed the Case for Change which set out what we considered to be the problems in children’s social care.
When we published the Case for Change we asked you to tell us what we had missed or misunderstood, and many of you shared your feedback through the summer. From March through to October there have been opportunities to get involved through events, workshops and focus groups, organised by the review or by organisations who work with people with lived experience of children’s social care or the children’s social care workforce. Over 2,000 people have spoken to the review and around 200 people made a longer commitment through our Bridge the Gap deliberative policy making events. Over 300 children and young people shared their views through workshops organised by ‘A National Voice’ ambassadors from Coram Voice.
Many other charities and organisations have initiated their own consultations. Become via their Spotlight Inquiry, Barnardos worked with young people to ask them what they want from the review, the Black Care Experience have organised Black Table Talks to help us consider the experience of Black children…there are honestly too many initiatives to mention but we are of course grateful to everyone who has taken the opportunity to bring together groups to share their experience and inform the thinking of the review.
Combined with ‘deep dives’ in ten local areas this ‘Discovery’ phase has helped us to probe the problems surfaced through the Case for Change, gain a deeper understanding of the issues and start to move our thinking towards solutions.
We’re now approaching the penultimate stage of the review, the ‘Development’ phase, where we’re starting to generate ideas ahead of formulating the review’s final recommendations next Spring. In this phase we’ll be returning to the young people, families, professionals and groups that we have developed a dialogue and relationship with this year. While at the start of this review our questions were very open, by this stage our questions are becoming more granular as we try to identify solutions.
What I’m finding is that this exercise is a great leveller. It doesn’t matter if you are a professor who has spent years considering this in the abstract or a family who are experiencing children’s social care right now – pointing out problems is the easy bit, coming up with solutions that will work is hard.
Today we are launching our Call for Ideas. This is your opportunity to share your ideas for change. From big transformative ideas that might take years and require systemic change to smaller solutions that could deliver more immediate results for children.
Charities and organisations with a professional interest in children’s social care who may have spent more time pondering solutions, now is your time to share your expertise. But this Call for Ideas is open to all and we hope anyone frustrated with the current system – from parents or care experienced young people to professionals on the frontline – will take the time to share ideas. This process will be open for 6 weeks, which will take us to the end of the year.
January 2022 to Spring will see the review team move into a final ‘Delivery’ phase where we will take everything we’ve read and heard – everything you have shared through hundreds of meetings and thousands of pages of submissions – and bring all our thinking together into a coherent set of recommendations. That means we’ll need to get our heads down and be a bit quieter in early 2022 as we write the final report.
We’ve spoken to so many people through our work and made a lot of connections through our local deep dives, so we have no shortage of people to reach out to to test our thinking in the new year. However, in terms of open public consultations this Call for Ideas is the final official opportunity to share your views with the review before it concludes.
For those who have submitted evidence to our previous open calls for input this may come as a relief – I know from the detail and depth of the submissions that contributions have involved a lot of work. These contributions will be put to good use as we put pen to paper on final recommendations ahead of next Spring.