Our response to the government's 'Stable Homes, Built on Love' consultation

Wednesday 10 May 2023
Two young girls hugging each other and smiling

We welcome the actions the government is taking to support vulnerable children, but greater investment will be needed to turn the system around.

The Department for Education published 'Stable Homes, Built on Love' in February 2023. This document sets out the government's strategy to reform children's social care, following the final report of Josh MacAlister's Independent Review of Children's Social Care which was published in May 2023.

Read our Response

The government's social care strategy sets out six key 'pillars' of the reform process:

1. Trial a new 'family help' service to provide specialist support to families before their problems get too big.

2. Reform child protection so investigations are led by expert social workers.

3. Trial a new approach to allow extended families to look after at-risk children, as an alternative to fostering or residential care.

4. Reform the way that local authorities commission homes for children in care, and improve the support available for care-experienced people.

5. Recruit new social workers and improve career development.

6. Introduce a new national framework for social care to guide the system, inform inspection and improve data collection.

Our Response

We welcome the government's approach which builds on the recommendations of the Independent Review of Children's Social Care. However, we think the following will be needed to make the reform process a success.

1. Significant investment in early intervention

Since 2010-11, local authorities have been forced to reduce their spending on 'early intervention' children's services by £1.9bn. Now, for every £1 spent on crisis interventions, local authorities are spending £0.23 on prevention. Without significant investment from central government, the reforms won’t deliver the transformational change government envisions.

2. Strengthening of the legal framework for delivering preventative services

The last 30 years have demonstrated that the existing legislation around early intervention has not delivered a consistent quality service across the whole of England. We think government should revisit the primary and secondary legislation to set clearer expectations about the services local authorities should deliver.

3. Partnering with the voluntary sector

Action for Children runs more than 400 services for children and families across all four countries of the UK. Across this portfolio of services, we see how organisations complement statutory services by being able to reach and engage those families that are less likely to engage with services. We want government to more explicitly recognise, support and encourage partnerships with the voluntary sector in their strategy.

4. Aligning inspection and evaluation
Inspection of children's services plays a large role in setting culture across the whole sector. We want see relative importance of early and family help provision boosted within OFSTED’s inspection framework and aligned it with the evaluation measures included in the new National Children’s Social Care Outcomes Framework.

5. Building a workforce capable of delivering change

There is a fine balance between ensuring that there is enough central direction to ensure that the system offers important forms of specific expertise to everyone, and ensuring that local authorities have enough leeway to adapt their offer in partnership with the community they serve. We think the best approach is for central government to set minimum expectations for the expertise available through the new family help teams.