Within the care experienced community, it has been hard to comprehend some of the decisions that have been made in recent years around care experienced young people and adults, with a common theme of failing to value our voices as meaningful input. With the Government’s new strategy to reform Children’s Social Care being released last week, it has been a challenging few days for us in TACT Connect to navigate the shock and disappointment.
After thousands of our care experienced community and allies invested valuable time and consideration into creating what was promised to be the biggest systemic change in decades, the report outlining the Government’s long-term strategy was dropped at midnight last Thursday with little regard for those impacted by the experience of Local Authority care and how it might feel for them to read it. It’s lengthy, it misses the mark and it’s out of touch. We get a sense of a substantial lack of active listening, and it has been disheartening, to say the least.
Last year, the MacAlister review concluded that £2.6bn needed to be invested over the next five years to make sure the system was meeting children’s needs, yet the Government have offered just £200m, less than 10% of what is required, making their strategy seem like an empty promise – how can the suggestions in the review be truly enforced without any of the financial backing they require to work?
There are some positive responses; increasing fostering homes for young people being received into foster care, the retention of foster carers, a boost to early help intervention and the reassuring stance that Independent Reviewing Officers will remain in place. But crucially, there is little to no discussion about how the stigma and isolation for those both in and leaving care will be addressed in a meaningful way, and instead our care experienced young people are currently being asked to give their time for free and be reimbursed for travel as a way of being part of the Children’s Advisory Board. This feels demonstrative of the limited insight that our current Government has into the complexity of early adversity, trauma recovery and evening the playing field. Unhelpfully, this also shows little recognition of those campaigning tirelessly to fight for equality, and for the care experience to become a protected characteristic, just like other stigmatised communities.
As if the catalyst of worries raised above isn’t enough, it’s proposed that just 12 out of 133 Local Authorities will be part of a pilot study for the strategy. It is claimed this is a focus on building best practice, but this is hugely worrying. As a care experienced community, we know how much our members have to deal with an ongoing postcode lottery and this only widens that gap of fair chance and opportunity across the country. We feel that the decision to pilot the strategy also diminishes the expertise of the thousands of care experienced people who advised on the strategy, as well as those who have been involved in campaigning for children’s social care rights for the last decade.
In TACT Connect, many of our own members had invested tirelessly in the English Care Review. We had held many spaces where our community shared their views and as a result fed into the Call for Ideas initiative. It’s disappointing to see that little has been taken from the ideas raised by our next generation, and the intergenerational community that hold so much knowledge and insight into such a life changing experience. Showing true allyship is listening to those with the first-hand experience and acting on what they are saying they need, and the Government have not proven themselves worthy Allys with this strategy.
As a care experienced community we join the other voices that have been raised in the sector to loudly say – this isn’t good enough, we deserve better. If you want to help and show your support, we would hugely appreciate everyone who can writing to their local MP or board to emphasise their dissatisfaction with the report. This overhaul of Children’s social care was a long time coming, and unfortunately all the Government have proven is how uncommitted they are to actively listening and saving a sector that is undeniably essential to our society.