The review comprised a rapid survey of the academic literature, roundtable discussions, conferences, small-group discussions, online surveys, focus groups, filmed interviews and meetings with organisations and individuals. The findings are helpfully summarised in Section 2 of the report (pp. 16 – 18).
The review sets out the background of the relentless rise in care proceedings and numbers of looked after children between 2007 and 2017 and it notes the substantial reductions in spending on preventative services in England (but not in Wales) since 2010.
But in my view, one of the most important, and starkest, findings of the review is that:
“Many contributors expressed a strong sense of unease about a culture of blame, shame and fear affecting those working within the child welfare and family justice system, as well as children and families who are reliant upon it, often fuelled by media reports or interventions by politicians. Contributions to the Review highlighted that this was resulting in a growing sense of mistrust between those working at all levels, and between families and professionals.” (Paragraph 2.8, page 18)
So, the report reveals a “triple whammy” of crisis – increased demand coupled with decreased resources; and toxic organisations which are ill-placed to respond to the challenges.
Meanwhile the Children’s Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, is reported as saying that “throwing money” at the situation will not work.
Children and Young People Now quotes him arguing that government spending on early support for families should not be increased. Instead he appears to put faith in the Government’s What Works Centre for Children's Social Care (expected to launch in 2020) which is tasked with promoting evidence-based practice and which, he says, will spread evidence of schemes that reduce the number of children in care.
‘Clutching at straws’ is a phrase that comes to mind. I’m sure that the What Works Centre will produce some interesting and valuable ideas which may result in practice improvements. What I am sure it will not do is to make up for chronic under-funding of services.
And I don’t think it will have much impact on a toxic culture of blame and fear which the Government just appears to ignore.