Independent Review of Children’s Social Care: What it means for Schools

In this blog, we examine the findings of the independent review of children’s social care and the implications for the education sector. 

In 2019 the UK government committed to reviewing the children’s social care system to ensure that children and young people get the support that they need. On the 15th of January 2021, the independent review of children’s social care was announced and the final report by Josh MacAlister was published in May 2022.  

You can read the full report HERE. For the purpose of this blog we have used the executive summary which you can read HERE 

A revolution in Family Help  

The review recommends introducing one category of ‘Family Help’ to aid the shift in the children’s social care response so that families in need receive more responsive, respective and effective support. This proposed ‘Family Help’ category will replace ‘Targeted Early Help’ and ‘Child in Need’ work providing families with much higher levels of meaningful support.  

The review proposes that this new service will be delivered by teams made up of professionals including family support workers, domestic abuse workers, mental health practitioners and social workers to provide support and reduce the number of families being referred to other services.   

Ideally, the Family Help Teams would be based in community settings that children and families know and trust, such as schools.  

A just and decisive child protection system 

It is vital that the child protection system does more to protect children and young people from harm. The review recommends wider system improvements including: 

  • more generous multidisciplinary help offer 
  • improved workforce knowledge and skills 
  • more decisive intervention for inadequate and drifting authorities 
  • and strengthened multi-agency arrangements.  

A proposed ‘Expert Child Protection Practitioner’ who has social work experience will work alongside the Family Help Team to make decisions when there are concerns that emerge of signification harm to a child. The aim is for this co-working to provide an expert second perspective and remove the need for breakpoints and handovers.  

The review mentions that information sharing needs to be strengthened to address cultural barriers, clarify legislation and guidance, and use technology to achieve frictionless sharing of information. It also stresses a more coherent response to harms that occur outside the home such as county lines, criminal or sexual exploitation and peer-on-peer abuse.  

Unlocking the potential of family networks  

The review acknowledges that there are many non-parent carers such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and brothers or sisters who care for their family members but are unheard of in the children’s social care system. These careers need to be brought to the decision-making conversation and supported as needed.   

Fixing the broken care market and giving children a voice 

The main goal when finding a home for a child is care should be around surrounding them with people with whom they can form living and lasting relationships. The review recommends Local Authorities take back control of the care system by establishing new Regional Care Cooperatives (RCCs). They will be responsible for the creation and running of all new public sector.  

Fostering, residential and secure care in a region, as well as commissioning all not-for-profit and private sector provided care for children as necessary.  

The Government is being called on to immediately launch a new national foster carer recruitment programme, to approve 9,000 new foster carers over three years so that children in care can live in family environments. It is vital that these carers can advocate for the children and help them voice their own feelings.  

Five ‘missions’ for care experienced people 

The review highlights 5 missions that are needed so that care experiences people can go on to thrive and secure: 

  1. Loving relationships 
  2. Quality education  
  3. A decent home 
  4. Fulfilling work  
  5. Good health 

These 5 missions are considered the foundations for a good life. It is vital that different establishments around the UK step up to prioritise these missions including Central Government, Local Authorities, employers, the NHS, schools, colleges and universities.  

Realising the potential of the workforce 

The review recommends a radically new offer for social workers with the first priority being an improvement in professional development which provides progression through a five-year Early Career Framework linked to national pay scales. This framework will provide a desirable career pathway for social workers to remain in the industry. 

Next is the need to identify and remove barriers which divert social workers from spending time with the children and families who need their support such as action on improving case management systems, reducing repetitive administrative tasks which do not add value and embedding multidisciplinary teams at the heart of local communities who can deliver, not just commission, the help that is needed.  

Finally, there is the need to reduce the use of agency social work which will allow social workers to work closely with a smaller number of children and families. The action also needs to be taken to improve the knowledge and skill of crucial workers such as family support workers and children’s home staff.  

A system that is relentlessly focused on children and families 

It is proposed that a National Children’s Social Care Framework is needed to set the direction and purpose of children’s social care and national government involvement.  For the system, supported by meaningful indicators that bring transparency and learning. It is suggested the government appoint a National Practice Group, to build practice guides that would set out the best-known ways of achieving the objectives set by the National Framework. 

Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements should be clarified as in too many places the contribution and voice of education are missing from partnership arrangements, and so schools should be included as a statutory safeguarding partners. 


All of these recommendations should be delivered through a five-year programme with a Reform Board established to head the programme which includes people with lived experience of children’s social care.  

What does this mean for the Education Sector? 

Schools should be given ‘corporate parent’ legal duty 

In Scotland, certain organisations such as schools, police forces and primary care providers have been made ‘corporate parents’ which means they have a legal duty to promote the wellbeing of those who have experienced care. The review has suggested this could be replicated in England to reflect the role that schools, colleges, universities, health agencies and other parts of the public realm play in the lives of children in care and those with a care experience. 

Schools to be made Statutory Safeguarding Partners  

Currently, only Local Authorities, health services and police forces are responsible for local safeguarding arrangements; the review argues that schools should also be part of this partnership as the education sector voice is currently missing. The relationship between education and social care is lacking, with many children who are in care more likely to be excluded and less likely to achieve academically.  

Family Help Team 

As mentioned above the new category of Family Help would replace two categories and provide families with better support.  

Allow teachers to foster children whom they are known to 

The review suggests that the culture of care needs to change and in circumstances where fostering within a family network is not going to work, then adults that are known to the child and willing to foster, like teachers, should be identified. 

Hold virtual school heads to account for progress 

The review has identified a lack of accountability for virtual school heads and suggests that Progress 8 for children in care should be a key measure by which virtual school heads’ performance is judged, and Ofsted should assess this through its framework for inspecting children’s services. 

Increase the supply of Boarding school places for looked after children 

The DfE should invest some of the free schools' capital budget into the state boarding capacity, led by schools that have the highest performing track record of providing excellent pastoral care. Virtual heads should also work to identify children who could benefit from a place at a state or independent day or boarding school. 

Replace young offender institutions with secure schools 

The review suggests that young offender institutions and secure training centres should be phased out within the next ten years and replaced with secure children’s homes and schools. 

All staff to receive training on mental health response  

Identifying and responding to poor mental health should be a vital part of the training that professionals working with children and young people within the care sector should receive. The review also notes that mental health support teams and senior mental health training need to be rolled out faster in England schools and colleges.  

The DfE response 

‘The government is setting out initial new measures in response to recommendations set out in Josh MacAlister’s independent review of children’s social care, which looked at how children and their families interact with the care system and how it can be improved.’ 

The main points are as follows: 

  • Families most at risk will be supported to stay together with a focus on early help, preventing them from reaching crisis point 
  • The Government plans to set up a new National Implementation board of sector experts 
  • The government will boost its efforts to recruit more foster carers and increase support for social workers in their professional development and learning  
  • Seven areas of England will receive funding to set up Family Hubs 
  • Local authorities will receive funding for work that supports vulnerable children to remain engaged in their education and strengthen links between social care and education 
  • Join up data from across the public sector to increase transparency – both between safeguarding partners and to the wider public, setting out more detail later this year 
  • Develop a national children’s social care framework, which will set the direction for the system and point everyone to the best available evidence to support families and protect children


You can read the full response HERE 

Posted Date

24th May 2022

Georgia Latief
Marketing Content Manager

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