Under normal circumstances, I would do thing for this authorities to extremity lying. But connected this occasion, pursuing its response to nan “once successful a generation” reappraisal of children’s societal care, I find myself hoping it has lied.
We cannot hold different procreation for nan meaningful alteration we were promised. This strategy offers a pittance – conscionable £200m divided among conscionable 12 section authorities complete nan people of 2 years, successful consequence to a reappraisal calling for £2.6bn of investment. The imaginable of services remaining underfunded for decades to travel will onslaught fearfulness into nan hearts of many.
As a attraction leaver- turned- societal worker, I cognize nan flaws successful nan system. But what drew maine to nan assemblage was a dream that different children would acquisition the genuine care I lacked. And I was correct to hope. For I person seen first-hand that, erstwhile decently resourced, societal activity tin beryllium transformational – lifesaving, even.
But this is not imaginable erstwhile services are astatine nan constituent of collapse, stripped to nan bony aft a decade of austerity. The workforce is depleted, arsenic highlighted by the 17% vacancy rate successful children’s services.
There are definite positives successful nan authorities consequence – promises to summation foster carer recruitment and retention, forestall children being placed acold from home, and boost early thief services are invited (even though nan second could beryllium dubbed Sure Start 2.0, aft nan Tories decimated nan first iteration). And it is simply a bully occupation nan authorities had capable consciousness not to instrumentality nan review’s backward proposal to axe nan important independent reviewing officer role, which gives children a sound and scrutinises attraction plans.
Intentions to put “love for children and families astatine nan bosom of our attraction system” are good meant. But nan assemblage doesn’t request much quiet promises of “love” (which, erstwhile utilized successful isolation, seems to beryllium a euphemism for “cheap”). It needs urgent investment, successful each areas, from children pinch special acquisition needs and disabilities to intelligence wellness services.
Real finance is earnestly lacking successful this strategy. When nan reappraisal was released, successful May, I criticised nan projected £2.6bn for failing to plug nan £4bn gap. But compared pinch nan meagre £200m now offered by nan government, that seems generous – £200m is insulting. You’d person to multiply it by 185 to scope nan £37bn shelled out for botched test-and-trace contracts during nan pandemic. Could location beryllium a much damning indictment of nan deficiency of worth placed connected children successful care?
In keeping pinch nan accustomed divisive tactics, nan money will beryllium provided for conscionable 12 of England’s 333 section authorities, which will beryllium portion of a pet task to create “best practice” (as if swaths of grounds by group pinch lived experience, societal workers and academics don’t already exist). It is truthful acold unclear which will beryllium deemed worthy of nan funds. Will this beryllium a rinse-and-repeat of nan levelling up agenda, which saw backing reserved for nan neediest areas being snapped up by those pinch much favourable connections?
Could a kid aliases care-leaver from a deprived area specified arsenic Blackpool, wherever I americium from (and known to person a disproportionate number of children’s homes), fare worse than a kid successful a section authority pinch little demand? The care leaver offer varies wildly arsenic it is, pinch attraction leavers astatine nan mercy of a postcode lottery.
Clearly, nan strategy raises much questions than answers, including this: is this nan wilful demolition of children’s services? Far-fetched it whitethorn seem, but pinch a authorities seemingly intent connected weakening nationalist services to nan constituent wherever privatisation is nan only option, it is not unfeasible. Last year, nan Competitions and Markets Authority described nan children’s societal attraction “market” arsenic dysfunctional but, remarkably, nan reappraisal grounded to propose profit caps.
Nowhere was this move much needed than successful unregulated settings, pinch some providers charging upwards of £9,000 a week per child. A colossal magnitude – really tin 3 weeks successful attraction equate to a 3 years of assemblage fees?
In September 2021, nan authorities grounded to prohibition unregulated settings for children aged 16 and 17, starring to nan #KeepCaringto18 run group up by nan Article 39 charity. Today, nan authorities seems to work together that children should person attraction until 18. But nether Ofsted proposals designed to modulate specified settings, children of this property tin still beryllium dumped successful a caravan, bedsit aliases a narrowboat. The authorities knows that 34 children died successful specified accommodation complete nan past six years, but has not condemned Ofsted’s vulnerable plans.
This is unspeakable dereliction of attraction – something I know first-hand, having lived arsenic a kid successful attraction successful a lodging pinch adults who had conscionable sewage retired of prison. I was erstwhile successful infirmary for 4 days earlier unit knew I was gone.
I ne'er did, and ne'er will, meet an undeserving child. But today, nan authorities has proved itself an undeserving parent.
Rebekah Pierre is simply a care-experienced societal worker, editor of Free Loaves connected Fridays, and Professional Officer astatine nan British Association of Social Workers