Children's Commissioner calls for government to "make real change" to children's social care

The Government needs to “make real change” and reform a failing social care system by opening up opportunities for every child, the Children’s Commissioner for England has said.

Dame Rachel de Souza made the plea amid concerns a long-awaited independent review of children’s social care review will not deliver the necessary changes.

The review will be led by Josh MacAlister, who will be paid just over £140,000 for leading the 15-month analysis which launched last month, and final recommendations are expected to be put forward to the Government in the summer of next year.

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Major Yorkshire report calls for radical shake-up of care system to stop thousan...
The independent review of children’s social care, led by Josh MacAlister, launched this month and is a 15-month analysis with final recommendations expected to be put forward to the Government in the summer of next year. Photo credit: AdobeStock

Figures have shown that across the Yorkshire and the Humber region there are 8,568 children in care, while official statistics released last year revealed levels had reached a 10-year-high with 78,150 children in care in England.

During the past five years, North East Lincolnshire has witnessed the greatest increase regionally in the number of children in care with a rise of 69 per cent, while Rotherham saw a rise of 57.7 per cent, and North Lincolnshire saw an increase of 41.8 per cent.

North Yorkshire was the only area in the region to see a decrease in figures with 428 children in care - a fall of four per cent compared to 2015.

Dame Rachel, who was born in Scunthorpe and received her title in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list for services to education, told The Yorkshire Post: “Children in care want the same things as every other child - a loving, stable home and the chance to do well at school.

Dame Rachel de Souza , took over the role of Children’s Commissioner from Yorkshire-born Anne Longfield in February.

“Our ambitions for every child in care should be as high as for every other child.”

She welcomed the independent review, which will see her office feed into the 15 months of work, but stressed that “action” and not “rhetoric” by the Government must come from the findings.

Dame Rachel, who took over the role of Children’s Commissioner from Yorkshire-born Anne Longfield in February, said: “What needs to come out of it is real change. Its end point should be reforming a system that gives every child in care the support they need to do well in life.”

Working alongside Mr MacAlister is an expert board of 14 members, all of whom have indepth experience of the social care sector.

Pictured Chris Hoyle, with his son Oscar. Chris, a care leaver was the first in North Yorkshire to attend the University of York after the introduction of the Leaving Care Act in 2001. Mr Hoyle is part of the review's expert board of 14 members, all of whom have indepth experience of the social care sector. Photo credit: James Hardisty/JPIMedia

The team will help guide the review, which will hear of the experiences of children, young people, adults and families involved in social care systems.

Among the members are Chris Hoyle, who was the first care leaver from North Yorkshire to attend a university in the UK, after the inception of care leavers act in 2001, and Janet Kay, a former social worker and lecturer from South Yorkshire, who is also an adopter and a kinship carer.

Mr Hoyle, who is now an analyst for the widening participation team at the University of York, said the review must be used as a “watershed moment” for the social care system.

He said: “There have been tweaks to the system over the years, but we essentially have the same children’s social care system we had at the turn of the 20th century.

“I hope this review will be bold in the way it approaches reform of that system. What that actually looks like, I don’t know.

“I have grown up in a world where we only have residential care and foster care and so I don’t know what that new world will look like, but I am keen to see proper systematic change.”

Mr MacAlistair, who confirmed to The Yorkshire Post that the Case for Change document will be made public at the end of May this year, said the review presented an opportunity to make “some really significant positive change happen”.

He said: “I want to make sure this report comes up with recommendations that can be implemented - a plan that can actually be put into action, rather than just good intent.

“There’s been a lot of good intent, but we need an actual plan that can be acted upon.”

He also insisted that the voices of “hundreds and thousands” of people who have experience of care will be “at the heart of the review”.

“It’s one thing to look at structure and process - it’s entirely different to look at the experience of people who go through a system like that," he said. "Without care-experienced people at the heart of this, you miss out that part about what it feels like in that system."

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