Christian children’s charities have welcomed the launch of the Government’s landmark review into children's social care.
The independent review aims to raise the bar for children and young people in the care system by looking at all stages of the process from the first referral to becoming looked after, the Department for Education (DfE) said.
It will focus on major challenges including the rise in numbers of looked after children, inconsistencies in practice and outcomes, and the failure of the system to provide enough stable homes for children.
And it will look at the "capacity and capability of the system to support and strengthen families in order to prevent children being taken into care unnecessarily", the DfE said.
Josh MacAlister, a former teacher and founder of social work charity Frontline, will chair the review.
Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society, a Christian charity, said the review is very much needed.
“Many children who need help from social care have suffered abuse, neglect and exploitation, resulting in unimaginable trauma and damage to their mental health,” he said in a statement.
“Yet help for these vulnerable children - including those with a social worker, in care, care leavers and asylum-seeking children - too often falls short, despite the efforts of dedicated care workers.
“Even before Covid19, the children’s social care system was creaking under the pressure of funding cuts and rising demand.
“Support for children and young people is too often determined by funding shortages, artificial barriers and systemic flaws rather than by the help children need.
“This welcome review is a golden opportunity to tackle these issues on a broad cross-Government basis and ensure children’s rights are upheld and strengthened.”
The review follows a Government pledge of £4.4 million to extend Covid-19 response programmes run by major children's charities aimed at reaching "hidden" children.
The Government has also set out plans to create a National Centre for Family Hubs to improve families' access to vital services.
“The pledge to listen to children is really positive,” Russel added. “Their voices must be at the heart of the review and include those whose voices are often not heard like those with special education needs and unaccompanied asylum-seekers who too often fall through cracks in the system.
“This review must do more than tinker at the edges; it must listen and act, radically, where necessary, to deliver real change and enable councils and their partners to make decisions with a laser-like focus on the well-being and best interests of these vulnerable children. We must give them the hope of a bright future.”
The Children’s Society will be providing evidence to the review and supporting children and young people to contribute.
Meanwhile, Tarn Bright, CEO of Christian fostering and adoption charity Home for Good, said:
“It is vital that this review delivers tangible change for vulnerable children. Covid-19 has increased the pressure on a system that was already on its knees.
“At Home for Good, we have seen first-hand how the Church continues to step up and play its part in welcoming children and providing them with a safe and loving home. We stand ready to work with Josh and his team to bring about much-needed change that will touch the lives of every child in and around the care system.”