The John Lewis Christmas advert highlights the importance of children’s social care. Now we need to fix it

Thursday 10 November 2022
Young girl holding skateboard standing at the door look down at floor as she meets her new foster carers in John Lewis Christmas Ad

The government must commit to invest and reform children’s social care, writes Joe Lane, Action for Children’s Head of Policy & Research

John Lewis has used its Christmas advert this year to highlight the number of children growing up in care.

At Action for Children, we’re working with John Lewis to help more care experienced young people directly through things like employability support. As well as to raise awareness of the importance of the children’s social care system.

It’s a crucial moment for children’s social care

John Lewis’s new programme of work to support care experienced young people and children’s charities like Action for Children couldn’t be better timed.

Children’s social care is facing a critical moment. First, because children’s services are under extreme funding pressure. Without financial support for those services, local authorities are going to be forced to further reduce the level of support they can fund and provide for children in the social care system.

Second, because the government is yet to respond to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care that it kicked off nearly two years ago. That Review recommends some big changes to the provision of social care including a bigger focus on preventative services through new ‘family help teams.’

The two things are linked because all of the reforms proposed in the Care Review will rely on children’s services being adequately funded in the first place. If the starting point for reforms is deep financial crisis, they won’t work.

Government needs to invest and reform children’s social care

Children’s social care is complex and providing support for children – before they need to go into care, in care, and when they leave care – needs lots of organisations to commit to working towards better lives and better futures for children in care and care leavers.

We know that at Action for Children. We work with 40,000 care experienced children and young people. And we know that the support that John Lewis are providing to care leavers through their own approach to employment and support is essential.

But, as well as charities and companies doing what they can to support children in care, the government needs to make sure the whole system is working as well as possible for children and families.

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We want to see the government do two things in the coming weeks and months

  1. Adequate funding for children’s services. Directors of Children’s Services say there is a nearly £800 million shortfall just to keep the current system running. That is already feeding through to commissioning decisions meaning fewer children and families are getting the help they need.
  2. An ambitious response to the Care Review. The big message of the care review, that we need a more preventative system that steps into help families before they reach crisis, is right – and is the key argument we made in our Revolving Door and funding reports. The government should move quickly to legislate for and fund family help teams recommended by the review.
Families need help before they’re in crisis

We’re missing opportunities to help children and their families before things get worse. The government must act to deliver its commitment to reform the children’s social care system

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