Children’s care reform must not be kicked into long grass

Five years ago, ADCS published A country that works for all children. The position paper sets out what our collective ambitions for children and young people should be and what steps can be taken to achieve these aims. The paper outlines a number of issues that are affecting children and families, and whilst these are in the context of a pre-pandemic world, there is much in the paper that remains pertinent today.

As I outlined in my speech at the recent National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, a country that works for all children means children and families are not living in poverty and going hungry. Their home and environment are affordable, warm and safe. Families have the economic means to succeed and public services are properly funded to help them thrive. In a country that works for all children the education system prepares children not only for exam success and the skills of the future, but also for adulthood. When children cannot live with their birth parents they are cared for and supported by well-trained carers and are helped by a supported and well-trained workforce. Children’s contribution to the community and wider society is both recognised and valued. These are ambitions we can all get behind, but where are we now?

The paper’s stark infographic paints a picture of rising child poverty and an increase in the number of children requiring support from children’s services, all whilst funding for local authorities has fallen in real terms. Fast forward to 2022 and these challenges have been exacerbated, in part due to a cost of living crisis but also due to a lack of a long-term plan for children accompanied by meaningful investment from government.

There are myriad other challenges across the system such as school funding, SEND pressures, the erosion of early help services that we continue to experience and a tidal wave of need for adequate mental health support for children. Clearly, we are a long way off achieving our goal of a country that works for all children, but amongst all of the difficulties we face, there is appetite for meaningful reform at a national level and this is where I believe there can be optimism. (Note: at the time of writing the Chancellor has not yet delivered his Autumn Statement). In children’s social care, the care review talks about significant investment and quite rightly looks to the sector to help reform children’s social care. The SEND and AP Green Paper has a welcome focus on inclusivity to rebalance the system towards a better mainstream offer for children with special needs. The government is due to respond to both of these reviews imminently and we hope children are at the heart of the responses.

We cannot afford for this work to get kicked into the long grass but instead it must enable us to make the progressive changes that we need to make if we are serious about achieving a country that works for all children.

This colmn first appeared in the LGC - Steve Crocker: Children’s care reform must not be kicked into long grass | Local Government Chronicle (LGC) (

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