Dame Rachel de Souza made the plea after the head of the long-awaited independent review of children’s social care said initial findings have found that the English children’s services system is a “tower of Jenga held together by Sellotape”.
The findings from the review led by Josh MacAlister, who The Yorkshire Post previously reported has been paid just over £140,000 for leading the 15-month analysis, described the children’s social services system as risk-averse, financially strained and over-focused on investigating potential abuse and neglect at the expense of providing practical support for struggling families.
In the interim report released yesterday, Thursday, June 17, Mr MacAlister, said: “Our children’s social care system is a 30-year-old tower of Jenga held together with Sellotape: simultaneously rigid and yet shaky.”
Mr MacAlister, who was appointed to chair the review by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, at the beginnning of this year, said there was need for a serious policy effort to tackle poverty and 'deep-rooted child welfare inequalities' across England.
He highlighted children living in the 10 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods were 10 times more likely to be on a child protection plan than children in the least deprived areas.
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: “The Case for Change is a very important reminder that there are too many children who are being let down by the children’s social care system.
"We know from calls to our advice line Help at Hand and our previous research that urgent reform is needed.
"It is vital that the ongoing independent review into children’s social care leads to real change for children and families."
Findings from the report also showed there are nearly 80,000 children in the care system - including 8,568 children in Yorkshire and the Humber - up 24 per cent since 2009-10, while numbers on child protection plans have grown 32 per cent to 51,500. Councils estimated this growth would drive a £3bn gap between budgets and need by 2025.
The review, which sees Mr MacAlister working alongside an expert board of 14 members, all of whom have indepth experience of the social care sector, 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.
Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissoner for England, told this newspaper the independent review of children’s social care is a “once in a generation chance” to create real change for the most vulnerable children and young people.
Ms Longfield, 60, who lives in Ilkley, and has been a vocal campaigner for the rights of children in the North of England throughout her time as the Children’s Commissioner, said: "The current care system is broken for too many children and this review is a once in a generation chance to create real change for our most vulnerable children and young people.
"It’s an opportunity that government mustn’t miss.
"Whilst many children in care grow up with a loving family too many are falling through the growing gaps in an outdated care system that is not designed for them.
"Once in care, too many children are pinged around the system, with regular moves to places many miles from home - left without the security of trusted adults they can build a relationship with and a school they can call their own."
Ms Longfield also stressed the report's initially findings which highlighted the state has failed to keep teenagers safe from harm from criminal gangs and trafficking, while stressing the need for "long term change" to the system as a whole.
Ms Longfield said: "Radical change is needed to the current ineffective and dangerous response which leaves thousands of teenagers at continued risk of extreme violence and harm.
"The recommendations that will emerge over coming months need to be bold and backed by resources for change. Investing in our most vulnerable children must be a priority for government.”
A final report with recommendations for change is expected in the summer next year.
A government spokesperson said: “The independent review of children’s social care is wide-ranging and seeks to improve the lives of children and families who are supported by social care services.
"Key to this process will be identifying where the social care system can do more to transform outcomes for children, and the work Josh MacAlister has undertaken so far in his role as chair will help feed into this important review.”
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