Children's social care a 'Jenga held together with Sellotape,' says damning review

By Laura Sharman | 17 June 2021

The children's social care system is too focused on investigating families rather than providing them with support, according to an independent review of services.

Led by Josh MacAlister, the review details problems in the children's social care system in England.

The review found that a focus on investigations had created an 'increasingly adversarial' system that is both less able to support parents and protect children.

It said more support and decisive action was needed to protect children from harm, particularly teenagers who were being failed by the system.

Mr MacAlister said: 'Our children’s social care system is a 30-year-old tower of Jenga held together with Sellotape: simultaneously rigid and yet shaky.

'There are many professionals and services doing excellent work but this report sets out the scale of the problems we face and the urgent need for a new approach.

'Improving children’s social care will take us a long way to solving some of the knottiest problems facing society - improving children’s quality of life, tackling inequalities, improving the productivity of the economy and truly levelling up.'

Chief executive of The Children’s Society charity, Mark Russell, said: 'This report lays bare the scale of the challenge ahead in order to reform a social care system, which is letting down vulnerable children.

'It is a system hamstrung by under-investment, bureaucracy and artificial barriers.

'It has serious systemic flaws – including a lack of understanding of threats from outside the home like criminal and sexual exploitation - and places too much focus on intervening only at crisis point.'

Vice chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, Cllr Teresa Heritage, urged the review to 'consider the context in which services for children and families are delivered'.

She added: 'Inspection, media and government pressure can alter practice and drive risk aversion while the impact of national policy must not be underestimated.

'Children’s services alone cannot do everything - we need a whole-system approach to improving children’s lives.'

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