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 formed the Government’s response to, three independent reports published in 2022:

Government proposals for “whole system reform”

The strategy set out reforms across six “pillars”, which will be implemented in two 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.”

‘Families First for Children Pathfinder’

The strategy said the Government will provide £45 million to launch a ‘Families First for Children Pathfinder’ programme in up to 12 local areas in England over the next two years. In July 2023, the Government announced that Dorset, Lincolnshire and Wolverhampton would take part in the first wave of pathfinders. A second wave, in up to nine additional local authorities, will run from April 2024.

The pathfinders will test:

  • A new Family Help service, which “removes the distinction between ‘targeted early help’ and children in need” and provides “intensive multi-disciplinary support” to families facing significant challenges in a “non-stigmatising way”.
  • 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:

  • Developing a national kinship care strategy, which was published in December 2023. Further information is available in the Library briefing on kinship carers.
  • Testing the use of regional care cooperatives (regional groupings of local authorities) to plan, commission and deliver care places in two regional pilots.
  • Providing £36 million for fostering recruitment and retention programmes in 60% of local authorities.
  • 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. Following a consultation, the national framework was published as statutory guidance in December 2023.

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. A response to this was published in October 2023 and a consultation on proposed statutory guidance for local authority use of agency social workers closed at the end of February 2024.

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.”

Documents to download

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