As you will probably be aware, we are in the middle of a “once in a generation” review of children’s social care in England, looking at how to mould our children’s support, safeguarding and care services into a better shape.

The first formal report from the independent review team was published yesterday 

Overall, the report presents a case for change that we can all applaud. It argues for more help, less process. It stresses more relationships for children and more stability. It argues for more children being supported in their families. It argues for government attention and some system change.  

Yet if this is going to lift up our children and change our care system, I want more. 

I want more analysis and a deeper understanding of how we have got to this point. We haven’t ended up with the children’s care system we have overnight. It has emerged gradually because of lots of social pressures. Those pressures have led to a system organized around risk and risk-based accountability, and that often prevents us acting in the best interests of children, a responsibility that is enshrined in the Children Act.  

We stand a greater chance of changing our system for the better if we understand why we’ve reached this point.  

In some ways the review team have an ambitious vision. The report has a lot to say about the need to avoid child protection and children coming into care. It has a fair amount to say about children’s experience of care. But there needs to be more thinking about early help and prevention, more on kinship care, more on adoption and more on safe transition to adulthood.  

It's so important that the Care Review doesn’t fall into the trap of choosing where to load up the resources, thereby adding to the competition for funds in these straitened times. To me, it isn’t an either/or scenario. We can’t choose to either help birth parents or foster carers, kinship carers or adopters. Surely, the right answer is to provide an equal chance for all children by supporting them and their carers, whatever point in the system they find themselves at. I don’t think I am alone in wanting good outcomes for children irrespective of who is doing the help.  

To use the review team’s own analogy, the care system is currently a tower of Jenga held together with Sellotape: simultaneously rigid and yet shaky. We can’t just remove a couple of Jenga blocks and stick those back together. We have to fix the whole tower.  

Of course, as an adoption organisation we’re really disappointed about the sidelining of adoption in this initial report. Adopted children are, obviously, just as deserving of support as children who are at different points in system. I welcome what the report has to say about FASD and contact. But again, this is such a partial view. The real challenge is that we have a system that invests heavily in creating adoptive families and then fades away, leaving adopters to pick up the pieces of their child’s trauma. 70% of adoptive families say they face a continual struggle for support.  

The next phase of the review is further consultation to test the analysis set out in the report. The review team are to be praised for encouraging input from literally anyone with relevant experience and a point of view. At AUK we’re organising a range of ways for adopters and adopted people to feed in, which you’ll hear about in the coming weeks.

At any time, you can go to the review website and have your say.

I hope that the voices raised in the next consultation will ramp up the ambition, and match that ambition with a sophisticated understanding of the scale of the challenge we have to surmount if we are going to give every child an equal chance in life.  

Ellie Haworth, AUK Director of Service Delivery