Blog from Shazia Hussain – head of the support team to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.
Last week the Review hit a significant milestone – we set out the Case for Change – a key document which sets out the big problems in children’s social care and which we hope will open up a debate on how we ensure every child grows up safe, secure and loved.
A week after publication and, after we’ve all managed to catch our breath, I wanted to talk a little about the work of my team and set out plans for engagement over the summer.
My role is to head up the Review secretariat team which supports Josh in his role as independent chair.
The team are civil servants, although they work independently from the Department, and they provide Josh with access to the objective advice and support which is vital to making the Review meaningful, insightful, and evidence-based.
Publishing the case for change was always a crucial first task – Josh has been clear that setting out his thinking early will ensure the Review can be fully collaborative – and we have already started to receive feedback on areas people agree with as well as those they don’t.
As well as gathering feedback on the case for change, the next stage will be about moving our way towards solutions. And key to that, as it has been right from the start, is listening and hearing your views – and crucially that must include continuing to reach the community of people with lived experience of children’s social care.
My team has already been shaping summer plans based on direct feedback from people and organisations. We’re really keen that people keep signing up to register their interest in speaking to us about themes in the Case for Change and anything else they think is important. You can find out more about how to do this under ‘get involved’ on our website.
Over the summer there will be events for those with lived experience – run by us and by others with lived experience. We will be advertising the first of our ‘open-to-all’ sessions early next month and we’re planning to include some larger events to feed in broader ranges of backgrounds and experiences. Not everyone wants to take part in group events, large or small, so for those that prefer it we will also offer other methods such as surveys and one-to-one conversations.
One of the big things we learned from our first round of workshops is that while some people are happy to come to us, in fact many more like to share their thoughts in events organised by groups that they know and trust. So we are continuing work with charities and organisations to bring people together and organise events we can attend. This approach will be especially useful to reach out to groups who are ‘seldom heard’ – for example prisoners, homeless people, young people in youth offending institutes.
Looking ahead to later in the summer, we are also developing a project to look in depth at some local areas to deepen understanding of families’ ‘whole experience’ of children’s social care and help design solutions.
Of course, we also want to tap into the unique expertise of children’s social care workforce members. We’ve already had many expressions of interest from local authorities and trade unions and are working with them to run tailored workforce sessions. We are also setting up focus groups for professionals who prefer to engage separately and will be running polls with the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care.
All in all, it’s going to be a busy summer. We’re really looking forward to having some future-focussed discussions – we hope you will join us.