The Care Review launch

Friday 15 January 2021
Scared boy on staircase

The Education Secretary launched the long-awaited independent review of children’s social care. It’s what the sector has been waiting for since the general election

The review will look at a wide range of experiences of children and young people. From the beginning stages of when they’re first referred to social care, to children who need to go into foster care or children's homes. This is ambitious, but vital.

What the review will cover

Our 2017 research found that only one in four children in social care were later referred to early help services after their case was closed. These services are vital in helping children and families before they reach crisis point.

Children’s journeys through, and interactions with, social care aren’t always linear. The majority of children who leave care go home to live with their birth families. It’s important that children and their families receive the right support at such a significant time. It's encouraging to see the review’s Terms of Reference touch on this. Especially as the situation is urgent with over 80,000 children in England now in care.

The review will look at how children’s social care works with key partner agencies, including the police and health bodies. We know that domestic violence continues to be the most common factor of need identified at the end of relevant children’s social care assessments. If children are to be supported as they should be, key agencies have to understand the impact of domestic abuse on children. 

The review is offering us what the government has called a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform children’s social care. We have the chance to make sure the system works more effectively for the children and families who engage with it.

Letting children and families with lived experience share their thoughts

Crucially, it's the children and families who not only need to be at the heart of the review, but be empowered to shape it.

We’re so pleased that the participation of ‘experts by experience’ is being considered. This will allow members to share ideas on the best way to gather the views of people with lived experience. And to help develop the recommendations the review will eventually lead to.

The review’s chair, Josh MacAlister, is independent of the government. He has expertise in this area and founded the social work charity Frontline. His inital Call for Advice will give young people, families, professionals and organisations the chance to influence his approach to the review at this early stage of the process.

Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Review of Children’s Social Care, said:

“I want to use this Call for Advice for you to guide me on what I should be spending my first few weeks and months reading, how best to hear directly from children, young people and their families, who you think I should be talking to, and what questions I should be asking. There’s lots that I don’t know so please share your advice generously.”


The big challenge for the review will be money. It's clear that funding cuts have had a damaging impact on children's social care. Local authority spending on early intervention services fell from £3.5 billion to £1.9 billion between 2010/11 and 2018/19. A 46% decrease.

Concerns about the avoidable costs this generates for the taxpayer in crisis spending do not appear to be fully realised by government, particularly the Treasury. An expansive, ‘once in a generation’ review, informed by evidence and experience, which seeks to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children is precisely what is needed.

Action for Children are looking forward to working with Josh MacAlister and his team in the year ahead. And helping him make the case for the funding that’s needed to turn ambition into reality.