25th July 2022

Children’s Social Care – the Children’s Commissioner’s view

The Children’s Commissioner is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of children and is particularly focused on supporting children who have a social worker, are in care or are living away from home. These children share the same hopes and aspirations as all other children. They need support to achieve their ambitions and to thrive. They need a loving and stable home, a brilliant education, and adults who love and support them into adulthood. 

What children say about children’s social care

They took me into their family home and were like we’re going to treat you as a normal kid, so you don’t need to kick off. It’s a normal family home, I don’t see it as my foster home. I see it as my home, my parents” – Girl, age not given. 

Almost 6,000 children in care responded to The Big Ask – which was the largest-ever survey of children. Most children in care who responded to The Big Ask were generally happy or ok. But, children with a social worker were 90% more likely to be unhappy with their lives than other children. Children explained that they want the care system to provide them with a supportive foundation to achieve their goals, and to set them up for happy, healthy lives, in which they can thrive and build strong relationships. 

Our progress to deliver for children in contact with children’s social care

The Children’s Commissioner has been clear that the children’s social care system is in urgent need of reform. The Children’s Commissioner has published a vision paper for social care reform, with four ambitions for the sector:  

  1. For all children to be listened and responded to – children should be confident that they can shape their care plan and that it will be delivered;  
  2. For all children to have relationships that are trusting and stable – the social care system needs the flexibility to support children and families to develop relationships and strong community networks; 
  3. For all children to feel loved, supported and stable – children must experience fewer placement moves and have an increased sense of support and stability; and, 
  4. For children to be able to access practical help and support – the social care system should be equipped to respond to families underlying concerns.  

The Children’s Commissioner is committed to working across Government to deliver on this vision for social care reform. She has worked closely with the two major recent external reviews on the subject: The Independent Review into Children’s Social Care (the Care Review) and the independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel report into the deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.  

This week the Children’s Commissioner will build on her vision paper with a policy paper on Children’s Homes. This proposes creating a Charter for Children in Social Care; clearer guidance on when children should be moved into and between settings; and ideas on how homes can support children to develop strong bonds and lasting relationships.  

Ensuring that the voices of children are heard across government is a top priority for the Children’s Commissioner. During the recent ‘It’s Our Care Day of Action’ the Children’s Commissioner facilitated a conversation between care-experienced young people, the Secretary of State for Education and Chief Secretary to the Treasury. This was a chance for young people to share their perspectives on the biggest issues in the care system. The Children’s Commissioner also chaired a roundtable with care-experienced young people, the Minister for Children’s and Families and the Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years.  

The Children’s Commissioner’s office also provides practical support to children in care directly through our advocacy helpline Help at Hand – which has supported 800 children and young people this year. To ensure that the Commissioner hears from a range of children, the office uses the section 2E powers of the Children and Families Act 2014 to visit children in a variety of settings, including children’s homes, unregulated settings, and secure children’s homes. To better understand the structural issues with the care system the Children’s Commissioners has visited nearly 20 children’s services and engaged directly with Directors of Children’s Services across the country.  

The vision for children’s social care

Children’s social care will remain a priority for the Commissioner this year. The office will also be looking in more detail at how to ensure children in care get better access to education and will examine the quality of Child in Need plans. The Children’s Commissioner is committed to amplifying the voices of children in care and care leavers. This is why this summer the office is establishing a Care Experienced Advisory Board to ensure her work is directly informed by care experienced young people. 

The Children’s Commissioner is dedicated to creating a social care system that gives children loving and stable relationships throughout their entire lives and ensures that they can access the practical support they need to thrive. Children in care do not experience the care system in isolation from other systems and services and so it is vital that reform plans in education, SEND, social care and to the NHS are joined up and create a more integrated support system for children.