Documents to download

On 2 February 2023, the Government published an implementation strategy and consultation on reforming children’s social care in England: Stable Homes, Built on Love.

The strategy is based on, and forms the Government’s response to, three independent reports published in 2022:

Government proposals for “whole system reform”

The strategy says children’s social care in England needs to be rebalanced “away from costly crisis intervention to more meaningful and effective help for families.” It says the Government will reform in phases:

  • Over the next two years, the Government will invest £200 million “addressing urgent issues” and “laying the foundations for whole system reform.”
  • After two years, the Government will focus on “embedding reform everywhere.” It will scale up the approaches tested and bring forward new legislation, subject to parliamentary time.

‘Families First for Children Pathfinder’

The strategy sets out that the Government will provide over £45 million to launch a ‘Families First for Children Pathfinder’ programme in up to 12 local areas in England over the next two years. The first wave of pathfinders, in three areas, will be launched in September 2023. The pathfinders will test:

  • A new Family Help service, which will provide “intensive multi-disciplinary support” to families facing significant challenges in a “non-stigmatising way”. It will, the strategy said, simplify how support is provided by becoming “a single service that removes the distinction between ‘targeted early help’ and children in need”.
  • Changes to front-line child protection practice, including some child protection functions being led by a group of multi-agency staff from local authorities, police and health working as a team on a day-to-day basis.
  • How to implement family group decision making, such as family group conferences, at an early stage.

Other proposals

The Government’s other proposals range across children’s social care and include:

  • Providing £9 million for training and support, accessible to all kinship carers by the end of the Parliament. The Government says it will also publish a kinship care strategy by the end of 2023.
  • Testing the use of regional care cooperatives (regional groupings of local authorities) to plan, commission and deliver care places in two regional pilots.
  • Developing a financial oversight regime covering the largest providers or children’s homes and fostering agencies.
  • Providing £27 million for a fostering recruitment and retention programme.
  • Establishing an early career framework for social workers, to “give child and family social workers two years of consistent, high-quality support and development.”
  • Establishing a children’s social care national framework, setting out the outcomes children’s social care should deliver, by the end of 2023. A children’s social care dashboard will also be set up. A consultation on the proposed national framework and dashboard was published alongside the strategy.

Alongside the strategy, the Government also published a consultation on whether to set national rules on the use of agency social workers, including potential price caps.

Response to the Government’s proposals

Aspects of the Government’s reform proposals received a broad welcome, but some stakeholders raised concerns that the proposals amounted to a “piecemeal approach” rather than the required whole-system reset.

In response, the Government said it is taking a “test and learn” approach and the strategy marks “the start of the journey.”

The consultation on the strategy, and the associated consultations on agency social workers and a children’s social care national framework, closed on 11 May 2023. The Government has said it will respond in September 2023.

Documents to download

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