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We need a national plan for children

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care recently published its long anticipated final report. The report and many of its recommendations can take us forward, the focus on supporting children and families early via ‘Family Help’ is the central reform and a welcome one at that, albeit one that needs testing. Directors of children’s services are ready for change and the Association has long called for many of the proposed changes, from action on profit making in placements for children in care to urgent reforms to youth justice and a national foster carer recruitment campaign. Of course, there is still plenty of detail to work through but the opportunity to be bold and ambitious for children, young people and families should not be lost. However, this will require substantial leadership, investment from government and strong sector engagement.

The report has arrived at an exciting time, with reforms to wider children’s services set out in recent green and white papers on education. It is essential that the government’s response to these important documents considers the system as a whole. The care review’s case for change described the system as a tower of Jenga held together by Sellotape and I often wonder if we are the Sellotape in this scenario. We now have a chance to create a more holistic system, both nationally and locally, to achieve a country that works for all children.

For all of the changes on the horizon in relation to schools, support for children with special educational needs and disabilities and the care system, there are some obvious gaps. The alarm has long been sounding on children’s mental health services, with longer waiting lists and more children reaching crisis point. The experience of the past two years has only exacerbated these issues. ADCS has recently called for a national review of children’s mental health services as a matter of urgency and we will continue to push government on this. We’d also like to see concerted action on the shameful levels of child poverty in this country.

We are keen to work closely with government, and sector partners, to achieve meaningful reform and improve children and young people’s lives, but this relies on a cross government commitment and bold investment by the Treasury to realise our joint ambitions. ADCS has long called for a national plan for children, this is needed now more than ever.

This column first appeared in the MJ - We need a national plan for children (

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