Care Crisis Review

A sector-led Review of the rise in applications for care orders and the number of children in care

Applications for care proceedings in England and Wales reached record levels in 2017. This is one factor contributing to the rise in the number of children looked after in the care system, now at the highest level since 1985.

Family Rights Group have facilited a seven month sector-led Review into the care crisis. The Review is supported by stakeholders within the child welfare and family justice system. 

The Review's aims:

  • to examine the reasons for the rise in care proceedings and number of children in care
  • to at all times retain a focus on achieving the best outcomes for children and families
  • to take account of the current national economic, financial, legal and policy context that impacts on families and on local authority and court practice
  • to identify specific changes to local authority and court systems and national and local policies and practices that will help safely stem the increase in the number of care cases coming before the family courts and the number of children in the care system.

Purpose of the review

  • To identify specific changes to local authority and court systems and national and local policies and practices that will help safely stem the increase in the number of care cases coming before the family courts and the number of children in the care system.
  • To do so in a way that retains focus on achieving the best outcomes for children and families and takes account of the current national economic, financial, legal and policy context that impacts on families and on local authority and court practice.

Why a sector-led review?

  • The crisis has an impact on children, young people and families and on those working in the child welfare and family justice systems.
  • All stakeholders have knowledge and expertise about the service responses that can make a difference to children and families and may help to safely avert the need for care proceedings.
  • There is a groundswell of opinion that those most affected by the crisis should take a combined lead in promoting ways of supporting families to avoid problems escalating.

Strands of activity

  • Collating evidence on the drivers for the increase in care proceedings.
  • Scrutinising research findings about the policies and practices that may safely lead to reductions in care applications and children coming into or remaining in care.
  • Calling for information and emerging evidence about effective approaches (used by local authorities, courts and voluntary organisations) to engaging positively with families at an early stage and enhancing the chances of resolving family difficulties.
  • Consulting with children, young people, parents and kinship carers.
  • Consulting with sector leaders and legal and social work practitioners in England and Wales, to explore and prioritise actions for change.
  • Reporting, with recommendations, on ways of reducing demands on the family justice and child welfare systems and improving outcomes for children and families.

Arrangements for the review

  • Scheduled for November 2017 to June 2018.
  • Funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
  • Facilitated by Family Rights Group.
  • Chaired by Nigel Richardson, recently retired Director of Children's Services, Leeds City Council.
  • Scoped and planned by family justice and child welfare stakeholders.
  • Advised by a Stakeholder Group and academics.

Stakeholders and Advisers

Stakeholder Advisory Group

Ben Ashcroft, Care experienced and Founder of Every Child Leaving Care Matters
Cllr Judith Blake, Leader, Leeds City Council and Chair of Core Cities UK
Matthew Brazier, Her Majesty’s Inspector, Specialist Adviser (Looked After Children), Ofsted
Nigel Brown, Chief Executive, Cafcass Cymru
Beth Cape Cowens, Child Care lawyer and FRG Trustee
Ian Dean, Principal Policy Advisor Children and Young People, Local Government Association
Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive, Cafcass
Angela Frazer-Wicks, Family Rights Group’s Parents’ Panel & Co-Chair of Your Family, Your Voice Alliance
Dez Holmes, Director, Research in Practice
Tony Hunter, Chief Executive, SCIE
Sally Ann Jenkins, Head of Children & Young People Services, Newport City Council
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England
Kevin Makwikila, Member of Family Rights Group's Parents' Panel
Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane, a Lord Justice of Appeal in England and Wales
Mel Meggs, Deputy Director of Children’s Services, Rotherham MBC
Alice Miles, Director of Strategy, Children’s Commissioner for England
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division
Keri O'Riordan, Professional Officer, British Association of Social Workers
Nigel Richardson, former Director of Children’s Service, Leeds City Council (Chair)
Alasdair Smith, Director, Children and Families, London Borough of Southwark
Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families (England)
Rachael Wardell, Corporate Director of Communities with Responsibility for Children and Adult Services, West Berkshire Council (and lead for ADCS on workforce development)
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board and Leader of the LB Islington
Sue Williams, Director of Family Safeguarding, Hertfordshire County Council
Teresa Williams, Director of Strategy, Cafcass


Advisers to the Review

Professor Janet Boddy, University of Sussex
Professor Karen Broadhurst, University of Lancaster
Alex Clark, Secretary to the President of the Family Division
Professor Anna Gupta, Royal Holloway, University of London
Professor Judith Harwin, University of Lancaster
Dr Lisa Holmes, Oxford University
Professor Joan Hunt, Cardiff University
Professor Kate Morris, University of Sheffield
Dinithi Wijedasa, Cardiff University


Facilitators of the Review

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, Family Rights Group
Dorit Braun, Project Manager, Family Rights Group
Yasmin Choudhury, Website Manager/Deputy Office and Finance Manager, Family Rights Group
Sophia Hill, Administrator, Family Rights Group
Pam Ledward, Principal Social Work Adviser, Family Rights Group
Caroline Lynch, Principal Legal Adviser, Family Rights Group
Mary Ryan, Lawyer and Consultant, Ryan Tunnard Brown
Caroline Thomas, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Stirling
Jo Tunnard, Consultant, Ryan Tunnard Brown


We are facing a crisis and, truth be told, we have no very clear strategy for meeting the crisis.” 

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court


And the Work Starts now...

The Review has achieved its aim of developing a greater understanding across the sector about the factors contributing to the crisis and of involving a wide range of those involved in the system in identifying and developing options for change. The next stage is much more important. For all of us to own the problem, reflect on messages from the Review, and consider the commitments we can make to safely tackle the crisis and improve the experiences of children, families and practitioners.

Do let us know how you are getting on. We will update this information from time to time, so do come back to take another look.

The Review’s findings have been discussed in some key places, including:

  • A speech by Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for children, older people and social care in the Welsh Government at the Care Crisis Review Launch in Cardiff, June 2018
  • Prime Minister’s Questions – on 20/6/2018 a question on the Review from Lucy Allen MP
  • Westminster Hall debate called by Lucy Allen MP on the Care Crisis Review 5/9/2018
  • House of Commons Library Briefing on the Care Crisis Review ahead of the Westminster Hall Debate 5/9/2018
  • LGA Briefing sent to MPs ahead of the Westminster Hall debate about the Care Crisis Review 
  • House of Commons Library Briefing ahead of a children’s social care debate 9/10/2018 (note debate was postponed)

Post-publication media coverage

Family Rights Group emailed all MPs with a summary of the Review and a link to all the reports. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) sent information about the Review to all Directors of Children’s Services ahead of their annual conference and information was also included in the delegate packs.

Since the Review published its reports in June 2018, we have had extensive media coverage. Click on the links below to see the articles:

Implementing the Review's findings

Now the review has ended, the work to implement the findings has now begun. Some developments are already underway. We will update this information from time to time, so do come back to take another look.

  • The What Works Centre has added a new Change Programme work strand to reduce numbers in care through social workers having flexibility to provide funded support to families.
  • The Review’s recommendations are being incorporated across the Welsh Government’s Ministerial Advisory Group work programme
  • In the House of Commons debate on the Review, in September, the Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP, said he was working across government to consider what more and different can be done with the National Family Justice Board.
  • Working Together 2018 Statutory guidance has been amended, with additions to the section on page 9 about the child-centred approach to safeguarding, as follows (new paras 10 & 11): 
- “10. This child centred approach is fundamental to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of every child. A child centred approach means keeping the child in focus when making decisions about their lives and working in partnership with them and their families.

- 11. All practitioners should follow the principles of the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 - that state that the welfare of children is paramount and that they are best looked after within their families, with their parents playing a full part in their lives, unless compulsory intervention in family life is necessary.”

  • Anna Turley MP set up a Parliamentary Taskforce on Kinship Care, which is facilitated by FRG.
  • The Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board now has an extended remit to include special guardianship where child had been looked after. A Task & Finish Group d is examining how factors including support needs of children under SGOs can be incorporated into the Board’s work plan and special guardians’ voices fed into the Board.
  • The Department of Health and Social Care is about to begin a public consultation, with NHS England and the Department of Education, on the development of a mental health prevalence survey for looked after, and previously looked after children.

Read the Review's reports:

CCR FINAL IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Options for Change

Download the report here


Summary of the Options for Change IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Summary of the Options for Change

Download the report here


Care Crisis Review Factors report IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Factors contributing to national increases in numbers of looked after children and applications for care orders

Download the report here


Care Experienced Young People and Adults Survey Results IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Care-experienced young people and adults survey results

Download the report here


Family Survey Results IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Family survey results

Download the report here


Professionals Survey Results IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Professionals survey results

Download the report here


PSW Survey Findings IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Children’s Principal Social Work Network survey findings

Download the report here


Analysis of focus group responses from care experienced young people IMAGE

The Care Crisis Review: Analysis of focus group responses from care-experienced young people

Download the report here

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