Family Rights Group response to the final report from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England
Published: 23rd May 2022
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Family Rights Group (FRG) today warmly welcomed the emphasis placed by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care on a child welfare system designed to support children to live safely within their families. The charity endorses recommendations for substantial investment in early help for families, in financially and practically assisting children to live within their wider kinship network if they can’t live at home, and in strengthening the lasting supporting relationships of children in the care system.
Family Rights Group Chair and member of the Review’s Experts by Experience Board, Angela Frazer-Wicks said:
“The three key factors in the child welfare system are support, support, support. Early support for families to reduce the likelihood of a child being placed in care. Support for families to enable them to take the lead in making a robust plan for a child who may be at risk, through a family group conference. And a network of family and community support for those children and young people who are placed in care.
“I am incredibly grateful to all the young people, parents and families who shared their experiences of the child welfare system to inform the Review’s thinking. It is now essential that those with lived experience shape the system’s future direction at local and national level.”
Commenting on the Review, Family Rights Group Chief Executive, Cathy Ashley said:
“The Review’s projection that there will be approaching 100,000 children in care by 2032 is a stark warning that the priorities of the system must change and must do so urgently.
”Family Rights Group strongly endorses the emphasis the Review places on the value and importance of family and community networks in children’s lives. The Review rightly highlights that too often the child welfare system currently overlooks the potential of family networks. We very much welcome the Review’s recommendation that families should have a new legal entitlement to family group decision making, so families can take the lead in creating family led plans for short-term or longer-term care options for children, potentially averting the need for a child to enter the care system.
“We are delighted that the Review has made far reaching recommendations on kinship care. If implemented these recommendations would provide many kinship carers with the financial, legal, and practical support that Family Rights Group and our partners in the Kinship Care Alliance have long campaigned for, including:
- A legal definition of kinship care – co-created in partnership with existing kinship carers and their children, charities, and sector experts
- A financial allowance for special guardians and kinship carers with child arrangement orders
- Extension of legal aid to many kinship carers or prospective kinship carers
- A new kinship leave entitlement – unlike new parents or adoptive families, kinship carers currently have no right to paid leave from work when the child comes to live with them.
“Family Rights Group has pioneered the Lifelong Links approach, designed to enable children in care and care leavers to have lasting relationships with those who care about them. We are delighted that the benefits of this are recognised in the Review’s recommendations.
“Whilst we welcome many aspects of the Review, we would also add some words of caution;
Firstly, the Review’s intended impact depends on the Government committing to the aims set out in the Review and, as crucially, to investing, as a minimum, the financial resources recommended by the Review.
Secondly, the Review rightly highlights the link between poverty and the likelihood of a child being on a child protection plan or in care. So the Government must also put in place measures to address child poverty, including the impact of the current cost of living crisis on those families on the lowest incomes.
Thirdly, the significance of state intervention in a child and family’s life, resulting in the potential removal of the child into care or adoption, means that there must be robust checks and balances within the system. We are not persuaded that the Review has got the balance on this right and are keen to explore this in further detail with those working in the system and those with experience of it.
Fourthly, many of the proposals need fleshing our further, in order that the Review’s key aims and intent are realised. Family Rights Group looks forward to working with children and young people, families, practitioners, decision makers, civil servants and politicians to robustly and constructively inform this thinking.”
* FRG is hosting a free webinar on the latest evaluation of Lifelong Links on Monday 23 May. For details and to book a place visit: https://frg.org.uk/lifelong-links-webinar/
** The Report comes in the wake of Family Rights Group’s ‘Time To Define Kinship Care’ campaign calling on Government to establish a legal definition of kinship care and just a week after the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care published a report ‘Lost in the Legal Labyrinth– How a lack of legal aid and advice is undermining kinship care’. This report found that that 82% of kinship carers did not know enough about their legal options to make an informed decision about their child.
About Family Rights Group Family Rights Group (FRG)
Family Rights Group is a national charity that promotes policies and practices that keep children safe within their family and strengthen the family and community networks of those children who cannot live at home. The charity works with parents whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system and with wider family members and friends who are raising children (known as kinship carers). They run a free, independent, and confidential child welfare practice and legally based advice service for parents, grandparents, relatives and friends about their rights and options when social workers or courts make decisions about their children’s welfare.
Advice line 0808 801 0366 Mon-Friday 9.30am-3pm.