The children’s social care review has published its first report, ‘The Case for Change’ together with a summary for children and young people.

The central claim of the review’s report is that more ‘early help’ and support for families would mean fewer children entering care. The review recognises that this requires urgent investment.

“There is no situation in the current system where we will not need to spend more.”

NYAS has taken a leading role in calling for children’s rights to be at the heart of the Care Review’s work, joined by representative bodies for over 150 organisations and tens of thousands of individual social workers and lawyers across the sector. The ‘Case for Change’ is the first time the Care Review has referred to ‘rights’, quoting Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):

“All children have the right to say what they think in all matters affecting them and to have their views taken seriously.”

There is not yet a commitment from the Care Review to conduct a Child Rights Impact Assessment of its own recommendations, or to use children’s rights as the framework for the review, as called for by NYAS and partners.

Advocacy is not a major feature of the ‘Case for Change’, but we feel it should be. Independent advocacy is one of the most important safeguards for children’s rights. NYAS often support young people who tell us they only found out that they were entitled to an advocate after leaving care.

That is why NYAS has been calling for an ‘active offer’ of advocacy, as is the statutory requirement in Wales. This means that when children enter care, or at other key moments in their care journey, they are automatically connected with an independent advocate who can explain advocacy and offer their services. With an ‘active offer’, every child is guaranteed to be made aware of their rights and how to seek advocacy support should they need it. NYAS continues to urge the Care Review and the Department for Education to consider such a policy.

“It has been clear that children and care-experienced adults think it is essential that someone consults them and ensures their views are heard.”

The review has also criticised previous ‘top-down’ approaches to reform, focused on statutory duties and entitlements. We believe the review must recognise that unless duties and entitlements are clearly set out in law, and properly funded, then a postcode lottery of support will emerge – particularly in the context of strained local authority budgets.

We welcome the review’s focus on secure accommodation for children, which we identified previously as one of the most under-researched forms of care.

“The alarm has been rung on this issue many times and action is long overdue.”

It is disappointing that the review has chosen to repeat UK Government assumptions about unregulated accommodation. While calling for a ban on unregulated accommodation, which echoes our own Regulate! campaign, the Care Review appears to have accepted government proposals for a two-tier system of regulation which refuses to guarantee care to children over 15 years old.

Mental health is rightly recognised by the Care Review as crucial, and many of the problems identified such as a ‘cliff-edge’ of support, long waiting lists and recovering from trauma, are the focus of our Looked After Minds campaign recommendations, which we will continue to share with the review team.

We also provided evidence to the Care Review on children living ‘out of area’, stigma, family court, education, social care funding, cross-departmental working, safeguarding, poverty and criminalisation – all of which are alluded to in the full Case for Change, which you can read here.

NYAS will respond in full to the report in the coming weeks.