Today an independent report on the Social Care system in England was published with shocking statistics about the picture over the last ten years.
Referrals to Children's Services, Children in Need, Section 47 enquiries (exploring risk to life), and Looked After Children have all increased - the number of children in care has increased by 24%. Public spending for statutory provision (safeguarding) has increased by 26% over the last seven years, in contrast to the spend for non-statutory provision, which has decreased by 35%.
The model is clearly stacked towards intervention rather than prevention, and the human and fiscal cost of this is increasing and unsustainable. From a background working with young, drug addicted offenders I have seen what can happen when children face extreme inequalities - in my experience it quickly becomes more and more complicated to peel away the the layers of overlapping adverse experiences they have faced.
Far from placing blame, this report identifies areas for development and suggests a broad approach for the future - community-led initiatives underpinned by systemic change: "the care system must build not break relationships". On a local level, that means families working with their community support agencies as well as statutory services - together and with equal voices.
Our view so far is that improving children’s social care is not something that national government or local authorities can achieve on their own. When it comes to supporting children and families, the statutory children’s social care “system” is only the tip of the iceberg: promoting and protecting children’s welfare and rights must be a priority that goes beyond any single agency. The vast majority of the resources that exist to support families when they struggle, to keep children safe and to help them thrive when they can’t live at home, are in the places children live and with the relationships they already have.