Reform of children’s care will take on board input from to those with experience of the system - Gillian Keegan

My first visit in this role was to a children’s home. The young people I met were full of excitement and enthusiasm for the opportunities ahead.

One wanted to be a hairdresser or perhaps a beautician—she was still deciding—and another was set to follow his dreams and join the Navy. They all wanted to have the same opportunities as their friends, and our job is to make sure that all children should have those opportunities. It is why levelling up was the guiding principle of our 2019 manifesto. While the care review, the child safeguarding practice review panel on the tragic deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, and the Competition and Markets Authority pointed to some good and innovative practice in children’s social care, they were also unequivocal in showing us that we are not delivering consistently enough for children and young people.

These reviews provide us with a vision of how to do things differently, and how to help families overcome challenges at the earliest stage, keep children safe and ensure that those in care have loving and stable homes. Many thousands of people with lived and personal experience of the system also contributed and told their stories to these reviews, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to them for helping us to reach this point.

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We want children to grow up in loving, safe and stable families where they can flourish. The Prime Minister recently spoke about the role of families in answering the profound questions we face as a country. Where would any of us be without our family? That is true for me and I am sure it is true for everybody. My parents, my brother, my sister and my wider family had a huge role in shaping who I am, and they continue to do so.

Gillian Keegan was appointed Secretary of State for Education last year. PIC: UK ParliamentGillian Keegan was appointed Secretary of State for Education last year. PIC: UK Parliament
Gillian Keegan was appointed Secretary of State for Education last year. PIC: UK Parliament

When children are not safe with their families, the child protection system should take swift and decisive action to protect children. Where children cannot stay with their parents, we should look first at wider family networks and support them to care for the child.

Where a child needs to enter care, the care system should provide the same foundation of love, stability and safety.

Over the next two years, we plan to address some urgent issues and lay the foundations for wider-reaching reform across the whole system. Our strategy is backed by £200m of additional investment, so we can start reforms immediately and build the evidence for future roll-out. We know this is something that partners support, including local government. This investment builds on the £3.2bn provided at the autumn statement for children and adult’s social care.

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After that, we will look to scale up our new approaches and bring forward the necessary underpinning legislation. We will listen to those with experience of the system as we deliver. This starts today, as we consult on our strategy and the children’s social care national framework. Our strategy will focus on six pillars of action to transform the system.

We must be ambitious for children in care and care leavers, and provide them with the right support to help them thrive and achieve their potential into adulthood.

Too many children and families have been let down, and we are determined to make the changes needed.

An abridged version of a speech by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan during a debate on Reform of Children’s Social Care in the House of Commons.