Earlier this month, I published the last part of my independent Family Review, which focused on supporting children in custody to maintain relationships with their family and friends. It drew on visits my team carried out to children in all forms of custody, as well as data I requested about how often they get visits from family and friends. I was deeply concerned about how varied the practice is when it comes to supporting children’s family relationships, as well as having broader concerns about the conditions children are living in. With the publication of this report my Review is now complete, and the recommendations have all been made.
It is the culmination of a year’s work, where I and my team have visited children and their families across the country, in nurseries, Family Hubs, schools and support services, and carried out new research and analysis to understand what family life means to people now. The office has learnt a great deal about what families value about family life, the ‘protective effect’ that a strong and loving family creates for its members, and what families need from the services around them.
The recommendations I have made call for policymakers to be brave in explicitly aiming to strengthen families and set out a range of comprehensive recommendations which would allow services to function as a loving family does – without judgement or stigma, consistently there through thick and thin, and flexible to need.
I am proud of this Review, and feel grateful and indebted to all the children and families who contributed to it. But it is of course only the first step. My focus for next year will be to turn these ideas on paper into reality for families around the country. Because I owe it to those who spoke so honestly and movingly about the joys and challenges of family life to do so.