Comments on Care Review – Case for Change

Another chance to read these three powerful letters (published in the Guardian 16 and 24 August 2021) in response to front page article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/aug/11/revealed-englands-pandemic-crisis-of-child-abuse-neglect-and-poverty ). Together they provide a powerful critique of the Government’s Care Review ‘Case for Change‘, from internationally respected social worker/ researcher/ educators who have over the years contributed in UK and overseas to policies and legislative change to strengthen families’, children’s and care leavers’ rights to democratically accountable quality services. See also our Post on a Labour Policy for Child and Family Social Work discussed at a meeting in February 2021 with the Labour Shadow front bench team, and with Labour Local Government leaders.

The acute situation evidenced by Patrick Butler’s article and pointed up in these letters makes it imperative that measures to remedy deficits in services must go beyond this ill-thought-out, Tory-inspired review and beyond the remit of the Department for Education. Secure funding for the child and family social services of all Local Authorities (not just the stop-go ‘innovations’ for the few, given the thumbs up or thumbs down by the What Works Centre’s narrow approach to evaluation) requires a total rethink of Local Government finance. Beyond that, coherent measures to ensure adequate incomes, decent housing, adequately funded public health services and schools, safe environments are essential if the stigma and actual harms of living in poverty and poor neighbourhoods , and the need to unnecessarily come into care, are to be avoided. And that must mean very considerable rises in public spending, and the taxation to pay for it, to make good and go well beyond what was removed during the Tory inflicted years of austerity

Guardian Letters 16 August 2021

Patrick Butler is right that the pandemic has made the crisis in children’s social care

“even more acute” (Crisis in children’s services in England is shocking if not

surprising, 11 August). However, it is difficult to see how the government’s review of

children’s social care will achieve the radical changes needed, for two reasons.

First, it will require a commitment to more progressive taxation and increases in the

minimum wage and universal credit to combat major inequalities, including those

associated with the rising demand for children’s and youth services: childhood

poverty, social deprivation, homelessness, poor health, ethnicity and disability.

Second, it will require the introduction of needs-led funding of local authority

services; the end of exploitative privatised provision, including the use of poor-

quality unregulated accommodation; and the reversal of draconian cuts in local

services from 2010, which against rising demands have prevented children

remaining with their families and communities, or receiving quality care to fulfil

their potential into adulthood.

Prof Mike Stein

University of York

 Your report on children’s social services paints an accurate picture of help and care

for children collapsing and in crisis. The report focused on more demand during the

pandemic, but there has been a longer trajectory of decay, disinvestment and

disregard.

Since 2010, Conservativeled governments have targeted austerity at poor

communities and at public services. Privatisation has been promoted, and well

over £200m each year is now gushing out of children’s services as profits for

international venture capitalists. Poorer services at a higher cost.

The pandemic has not caused today’s difficulties. Instead, it is the virus of an

ideology and intention promoting a privatised marketplace amid cuts that riddle

children’s social services and leave children and families stranded and neglected. It is

a virus that needs to be tackled with urgency.

Ray Jones

Emeritus professor of social work, Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Guardian letters  24 August 2021

In stating “above all, poverty must be reduced”, your editorial is setting the public policy bar very low.

What is required is a much wider societal vision – the implementation of progressive income tax, wealth reform, and public policies to combat major inequalities and injustices, including responding to the accumulated evidence of their impact on health, education, wellbeing and local communities, so young people can remain within their families. See, for example, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s interview in the Guardian (‘Inequality strikes at our health and happiness’, 18 September 2018).

A vision of equality and a commitment to the needs-led funding of public services should be the essential foundation stones for any recommendations arising from the government’s review of children’s social care.

Prof Mike Stein
York University

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