Summary of key points from Putting children first

The government's vision for excellent children's social care in England

In January 2016 the Department for Education published Children's social care reform: a vision for change, setting out its plans for improving the quality of children's social care services in England over the next 5 years.

Putting children first: delivering our vision for excellent children's social care outlines how these changes will be made. It builds on Adoption: a vision for change, published in March 2016, and responds to the recent review of residential care by Sir Martin Narey and review of multi-agency arrangements for safeguarding children by Alan Wood CBE.

The plan is built around three pillars of reform:

  • people and leadership
  • practice and systems
  • governance and accountability.

People and leadership

  • Ensure every local authority has an accredited practice leader in place by 2020, with the first group of practice leaders being accredited in 2017.
  • Establish a new programme, led by Tri-borough (Westminster City Council, Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea), to develop the practice leaders of the future.
    • A new programme, similar to the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE), will also be launched for those making the transition from frontline practice into practice supervision in 2017.
  • Raise standards of entry into social work by continuing to invest in teaching partnerships.
  • Roll out a new system of assessment and accreditation for all child and family social workers, practice supervisors and practice leaders by 2020.
    • This will build on the knowledge and skills statements published by the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families for child and family practitioners, practice supervisors and practice leaders.
    • A new optional training programme to improve social workers' skills will also be trialled, starting with a course on making permanence decisions.
  • Establish a new specialist regulator for social workers in England, covering both child and family social work and adult social work. This will have responsibility for:
    • setting new professional standards for social workers, their qualifying education and training and continuous professional development
    • maintaining a single register of social workers
    • overseeing a fitness to practise system
    • approving post qualifying courses and training and making the required arrangements for new social workers to complete the ASYE
    • overseeing the proposed new assessment and accreditation system
    • making effective use of workforce-related data to offer insight and advice to inform and support workforce planning.

Practice and systems

  • Expand the Innovation Programme, with a new round of bidding in September 2016.
  • Work with the 8 leading local authorities as Partners in Practice to develop sector-led improvement and understand how barriers to good practice can be removed.
  • Use the new Power to Innovate to create a controlled environment for local authorities to test deregulatory new approaches, before making substantial changes to legislation.
  • Develop effective responses to new and emerging threats, including publishing new practice guidance and a revised civil definition of child sexual exploitation later in 2016.
  • Establish a new national framework for inquiries into cases of serious harm to children, including national reviews of the most serious and/or complex cases and local child safeguarding practice reviews.
  • Improve the quality and collection of data and ensure that data drives practice.
  • Launch the What Works Centre by the end of 2016. This will work closely with the sector to gather, disseminate and embed new learning, including learning from national and local child safeguarding practice reviews.

Governance and accountability

  • Encourage areas interested in testing out new delivery models for children's social care services to bid for Innovation Programme funding with the hope that, by 2020, over 1/3 of all current local authorities will be delivering their children's services through a new model or actively working towards a different model.
  • Carry out a review of the role of the local authority in relation to children, with an advisory board led by Alan Wood CBE.
  • Introduce new inspection arrangements, currently being consulted on by Ofsted, which will act as an enabler for excellent social work practice and innovation.
  • Introduce a stronger statutory framework for multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, including greater accountability for local authorities, health services and the police.
  • Take decisive action when Ofsted finds children's social care services to be inadequate, including removing service control from local authorities which persistently or systemically fail and do not have immediate capacity to improve.
  • Aim to shift the focus away from the government intervening where there is failure, towards supporting the spread of excellence.

Putting the 3 pillars in action: how will things change for children and families?

  • Introduce a new voluntary care leaver covenant for organisations to sign up to, which will be launched in the autumn of 2016.
  • Extend support to care leavers up to the age of 25 and carry out a review to identify ways to maximise the support offered by personal advisers to young people leaving care.
  • Introduce Staying Close to enable young people leaving residential care to live independently, in a location close to their children's home, with ongoing support from that home.
  • Invite local areas to test innovative new ways of using residential care to support children and link more smoothly with other care placements and services.
  • Use the Innovation Programme, What Works Centre and Partners in Practice to investigate which interventions make a difference to children on child protection plans and prevent the need for children to become looked after.
  • Guide the way local authorities as a whole act for children in care and care leavers, by setting out corporate parenting principles in law.
  • Identify what different foster carers need to meet the diverse needs of today's looked after children, by carrying out a national stocktake of foster care.
  • Develop the 'Achieving Permanence' professional development programme to provide adoption social workers with the specialist skills they need.
  • Empower foster carers and all those who look after children in care so that they feel that they have the power to parent.

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