NEWS: Government responds to Children’s Social Care Review

By Sharon Martin, NIROMP Chair on 2nd February 2023

The long-awaited Department for Education implementation strategy includes welcome focus on ‘Putting love, relationships and a stable home at the heart of being a child in care’ and rejection of the proposal to remove the Independent reviewing officer role. On advocacy, the DfE has said it supports the establishment of an independent opt-out advocacy service and planned to consult on proposals for this in the autumn.

In an initial response to the news, NIROMP Chair said “Our focus throughout the review has been to maintain a strong, unfaltering commitment to the children and young people we are here to serve. We have maintained our programme of work to continuously develop and improve the IRO role; working collaboratively to champion children’s rights and interests. We are looking forward to reading and digesting the implementation strategy in full and will draw on the knowledges, skills and experience of our regional networks – working in partnership to make sure every child experiences secure, loving care and a stable home.”

The proposed strategy to put love, relationships and a stable home at the heart of being a child in care includes:

  • Deliver a fostering recruitment and retention programme so foster care is available for more children who need it, investing over £27 million over the next two years. This will boost approvals of foster carers in areas of specific shortage. This will include supporting foster carers better, so they want to continue fostering. We will test and develop a best practice regional model that can then be delivered more widely.
  • Develop a programme to support improvements in the quality of leadership and management in the children’s homes sector. This will include exploring proposals for professional registration of the workforce and a leadership programme with a new Knowledge and Skills Statement with accompanying continued professional development.
  • Introduce a financial oversight regime. This will cover the largest providers of children’s homes and fostering agencies, to increase the transparency of their finances and reduce risks of sudden market exit.
  • Pathfind Regional Care Cooperatives (RCCs) to plan, commission and deliver care places. We will be co-designing, testing and evaluating this approach in 2 regional Pathfinders.
  • Set up an expert group to review standards of care, regulations and guidance. We will undertake a consultation with a view to updating legislation, when parliamentary time allows.
    To be a more ambitious, supportive corporate parent for children in care and care leavers, we will:
  • Prioritise loving relationships. We will fund practical interventions of well- evidenced family finding, befriending and mentoring programmes investing over £30 million over two years.
  • Strengthen corporate parenting responsibilities towards children in care and care leavers across the public sector. This will mean more organisations consider the needs and views of children in care and care leavers in delivering their policies and services. We will consult on these plans as necessary in autumn 2023 and bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows.
  • Create opportunities for children in care and care leavers to achieve their potential through education, employment and training. To achieve this we will use Virtual School Heads (VSHs) and Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) funding. We will also boost the Care Leaver Covenant and the rate of the apprenticeships care leavers’ bursary.
  • Have a universal offer of wrap around support and accommodation for all care leavers. We will increase the leaving care allowance that is available and uphold and strengthen our offers for Staying Put and Staying Close.
  • Decrease mental health and physical health disparities and increase life expectancy for children in care and care leavers. We will build social workers’ and other practitioners’ understanding and skills to respond to children’s mental health needs. We will work with health partners to drive high expectations and service delivery for physical and mental health support.

NIROMP Chair will be meeting with IROs and their managers on 7th February as part of its ongoing schedule of learning and development events:

  • 7 February 2023, 12-1.30pm. Focus: IRO continuing professional development & promoting the voices of children. Leading: Sharon Martin and Izzy Martin. 
  • 21 March 2023,12-1.30pm. Focus: Unregulated settings, children placed at home and children returning home. Leading: Paul Nash and Lee Durrant.
  • 2 May 2023,12-1.30pm. Focus: Promoting Positive Anti-Racist Practice. Leading: Sharon Martin and Pritpal Sodhi. 
  • 13 June 2023, 12-1.30pm. Focus: Transitional Safeguarding. Leading: Sharon Martin. 
  • 25 JulyN 2023, 12-1.30pm. Focus: IRO Challenge & Dispute Resolution. Leading: Tricia Hunte
  • 5 September 2023, 12-1.30pm. Focus: Promoting Children’s Voices. Leading: Izzy Martin.
  • 28 November 2023, 12-1.30 pm. Focus: ‘In My Shoes’. Joint session with Cafcass. Leading: Rebecca Stephenson.

Download the Implementation Strategy and Consultation: HERE

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