25th May 2022
“Requires improvement”. Not my words but the inspectors. York’s most challenged families badly let down by the elected leaders of York Council. They should have been all over this, picking up the early warnings and putting in place the resources necessary to run good Children’s Services. They didn’t; rather putting money into pay offs and pet projects.
Families have not had the help they need; social workers have been over run and overwhelmed by demand and children’s interests have not been well served. This is what happens when political interests are put ahead of the people you are there to serve. After all, they were in ‘good’ shape when Labour left office.
As Josh MacAlister published his Independent Report into Children’s Social Care, it spoke to authorities like York; setting a new path for families. Recognising the challenges, his reforms will ensure that every child has a safe, secure and loving environment to grow up in. He puts the child at the centre.
With the publication of the report on Monday, a report I contributed towards as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adoption and Permanence, I pushed the Minister to ensure funding was available to implement it in full; our children and young people deserve the very best.
The recommendations put forward in the report focus on removing the profiteering providers of children’s care and developing new Regional Care Co-operatives, ensuring no child is denied the support or placement they need at their most fragile moments. The report seeks to build on family networks, maintaining contact and stability for children and, most importantly, early help through ‘family help’, bringing health, education and social care together to deliver the right interventions at the right time to keep children safe.
As for the social care workforce, this report couldn’t have come soon enough. Newly trained social workers will no longer be thrown into the deep end to see if they sink or swim, but will have managed caseloads to make the very interventions needed, and will benefit from an ‘Early Careers Framework’ with 5 years training and supervision to launch their careers, not burn out and end them.
However, the most striking comment of all, hidden in the text of the 276-page Independent Review, was the recognition of the correlation between poverty, deprivation and children’s services. Recognition that the disadvantage families face has a direct impact on the ability of some families to have resilience at their most challenging times.
With the ‘cost of living’ soaring, 80,000 babies, children and young people are currently in the care system; half a million families are in need of support. This is predicted to rise sharply without a new approach taken.
Strong, well led children’s services must provide families the time they need to build secure and loving homes and provide parents with the resources and resilience to undertake the most challenging and important task of all.
The report encourages family members to come forward to provide ‘kinship’ care arrangements where appropriate, and for 9,000 new foster parents; perhaps something you want to explore.
In York, we know that the cost of living is biting hard; families need help. So many turn to me when that help isn’t comprehensive, timely or adequate. Food, energy and housing costs are out of control. Matters elected politicians in power can mitigate through the choices they make.
If you do not have a decent, safe and secure home, then how can a family settle. Without sufficient food, how can a child concentrate on living and learning. No heating through those winter months has consequences.
The stresses of not having weigh heavy on families, desperate to make the right choices. Mental health is often the first to give way. Services across the board must step up. Families need support now. It is completely unacceptable for local authorities to receive such a poor rating; families and young people pay the price.
In my time in Parliament, I have dedicated much of my time working on issues impacting on the most fragile families in my constituency. They really matter. In Westminster, I work cross-party to secure changes. I really welcome Josh MacAlister’s fresh approach, and trust that for York it will be a significant moment to pivot to a system which truly puts babies, children and young people at its core. Labour will, as nothing matters more.
This article appeared in York Press on 25th May 2022