TACT – the UK’s largest fostering charity, broadly welcomes the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (IRCSC) – an in-depth and far-reaching report published today. We are especially pleased that it has actively addressed the difficult issues and made a range of positively transformative proposals. The Report’s call for significant investment in the sector is very welcome, and clearly proves that investment is not a binary choice, as we will ultimately spend way more than the sum asked for if we do not take action now.
TACT is particularly excited to see the following recommendations:
- The call for a national recruitment campaign for foster carers, and the fact that DfE is seemingly accepting of this. TACT has long campaigned for this and look forward to working with DfE on making it a success.
- The recommendation that foster carers be given full delegated parental authority as a default when a child moves in with them. This was a key demand of TACT’s and the Fairer Fostering Partnership. It will mean that decisions about the child are made in the child’s home and will allow children and young people to be involved in the decision-making process.
- A very welcome call for better support for foster carers. TACT looks forward to investment in higher fees and allowances for foster families and for them being treated with the respect they are due by the professional network.
- The recommendation for a windfall tax on the 15 largest for-profit providers of children’s homes and fostering, to help fund the reforms needed. This is a stroke of genius and will bring back in some of the money that has been taken by the Private Equity and other for-profit providers. TACT thinks that this should be a yearly tax for the next 5 years.
- The recommendation that care experienced people are granted protected status under the Equalities Act is extremely welcome but is only a first step. All of the recommendations in this report need to involve care experienced people in their design and implementation.
- Whilst not recommending a national care service, the report recommends that Local Authorities (LAs) cease to individually provide fostering services and instead groups of LAs will form regional Co-Ops who will be responsible for fostering, residential and secure care (and adoption ongoing). This is a huge step forward and will significantly improve the system as the Co-Ops will have a sole focus on children’s care rather than having to compete with child protection for funding and management time.
- All Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) to be replaced by secure care. TACT has long campaigned for this, and we look forward to being involved in the planning for new Secure Care. YOI’s have never been fit for children.
- The recommendations about supporting the children’s social care workforce and tracking social workers entering the profession from different routes to judge the efficacy of different qualifying routes will bring a long-overdue rigor to the system.
- The suggested requirements that all registered social workers demonstrate at least 100 hours a year of practice time and the implementation of a five-year early career framework are very welcome.
There are areas we would like to have seen some more bold and far-reaching recommendations for:
- TACT is disappointed that support for kinship carers is being separated from support for foster and adoptive families and children in residential care. The silos of the system have long been a barrier to families receiving the support they need. Kinship carers are looking after the same children as foster and adoptive families and residential children’s homes. They all need the same sort of support, and this would be best offered as a unified offer rather than in a siloed fashion. The structural silos are a key weakness of the current system, and it would be a significant missed opportunity if we just build new silos.
- The undesirability of the for-profit sector is made clear in the report. It would have been good had the review recommended that the Cabinet Office exempt children’s social care from the requirement to operate as a market.
- It is regrettable that the concept of corporate parenting has not been quietly euthanised by the report. We should give the authority to the family raising the child and require all branches of the state to respond to their requests for services and support.
- Whilst the call for better foster carer support is welcome, we need formal recognition that household budget costs rise year on year. Currently, foster carers are financially penalised for doing what is expected and needed of them, namely, look after children long-term and through to at least the age of 21.
- The abysmal implementation of the excellent Staying Put initiative needs urgent action and investment. 18-year-olds are not cheaper to parent than 17 years olds and the restrictive financial arrangements for Staying Put are seriously undermining an excellent concept.
TACT looks forward to working positively with the care experienced community, Central and local government, and the whole of the children’s social care sector now need to turn the detailed recommendations of this excellent report into actions that benefit children, young people and their families, however these are constituted.