SIGN THE PETITION: Vote of No Confidence in Independent Review of Children’s Services England.

Vote of No Confidence in the Independent Children’s Services Review.

The government’s announcement that Josh MacAlister will chair an ‘independent’ review of children’s social care in England has provoked concern amongst the social work profession.

As social workers we are fully aware that the system is in crisis. At heart this is the result of years of cuts, austerity, privatisation and deregulation. We are in favour of a review of children’s services that will be, in the Government’s words, ‘radical’ but that means confronting the impact of years of privatisation, mismanagement and austerity. It requires the scope of the review is widened to assess the impact that poverty, austerity, racial and gender oppression and the privatisation of social services, including education, have had upon those with experience of care.

The present Government has a terrible record of cronyism with large contracts being offered to their friends and donors – as recently revealed by the New York Times. The appointment of MacAllister falls into this pattern. He is not a social worker and he is not independent.

MacAlister is the CEO of Frontline, a privatised provider of social work education. It has significant links with corporate partners and has been heavily funded by the global management company the Boston Consulting Group. He has previously published his ‘blueprint of child services’, in reality a blue print for privatisation. It is not appropriate that the review is being led by a privatisation ideologue

We demand that any review of children’s social care be led by a qualified social worker – someone who has the trust of frontline workers. And we demand that care-experienced people be included in the review leadership team.

The Social Work Action Network opposes Josh MacAlister’s appointment and calls for a vote of no confidence in the ‘independent’ review of children’s social care.

Sign our petition to the UK Government here.

PAs and Care workers in UK under the new immigration system – letter for signatories from DPAC


Many disabled people have for as long as 30 years used PAs and Care Workers from the EU and EEA countries as well as from countries further afield. This has increased their choice and control over the care they receive and for many has been invaluable.

One of the many negative outcomes of taking back control of our borders after Brexit is the loss of freedom of movement for EU and EEA workers especially for anyone from those countries who weren’t working in the UK prior to December 31st 2020 and who aren’t able to apply therefore for pre-settled or Frontier Worker status.

At the moment the new style immigration policy appears to offer no option at all for care workers from other parts of the world to come and work here. The government has refused to class them as skilled workers or class them as a shortage occupation.

We are asking disabled people, their family, friends, DDPOs and our supporters to sign up to support the letter below asking that Care Workers and PAs are classed as a shortage occupation and/or can continue to apply to work in the UK with Frontier Workers status which basically would allow them to come here to work while primarily living in their home nations.

We will collect signatures to our letter until February 7th and then plan to send it to members of the Migration Advisory Committee which advises the government on shortage occupations plus ministers, MPs and Lords.

To sign up to the letter please email us at

We would like to keep your details so that we can contact you further about supporting changes to the current guidelines as we’re sure we will need to exert further pressure on the government to get the changes needed.


As disabled people who use care workers and personal assistants (PAs) from both the UK and many other parts of the globe including from EU countries, we are concerned that we appear to no longer have the opportunity to employ new staff from outside of the UK. 

We are urging you to include care workers as a shortage occupation as well as extending the Frontier Worker scheme to include new employed and self-employed care workers both from EU and EEA countries and extending this to care workers from outside of the EU.

As service users, their family. Friends, and supporters we know from many years of personal experience that it is vital to have every path open to enable the recruitment and retention of staff with the key values, behaviours, personality, client synergy and skill set to deliver high quality, safe, and value-for-money services. As recipients of social care, we know that it is not possible for just anyone to become a satisfactory care worker/PA.

Figures show there is already a dramatic shortage of skilled care workers and PAs in the UK, and these changes will exacerbate the overwhelming pressures our care system already faces. The provision of quality care is important to the mental and physical wellbeing of a vast swathe of the UK’s disabled and older people – who are often denied rights and opportunities many take for granted.

The majority of this industry workforce do not wish to relocate to reside in the UK permanently and come here to work for a fixed period of time and then return home. They contribute to the GDP through taxation and purchasing goods and services. Loss of such workers will exacerbate the overwhelming pressures our care system already faces.

Many of these workers perform skilled tasks similar to Nursing and Health Care Assistants who are able to continue working in the UK.

ONS figures estimate there are 112,000 unfilled vacancies at any one time in the Adult Social Care sector – a rate of 8% – compared to an overall vacancy rate of 2.7% across the UK economy as a whole.

In 2019-2020, 143,000 care workers and PAs left the industry, and the retention rate is worryingly low, particularly during the first year of working.

27 per cent of Adult Social Care Workers are aged over 55 and will need to be replaced in the future as they age or become unable to continue with physically demanding work.

Skills for Care estimates that 56 percent of the adult social care workforce are non-UK workers coming to the UK from abroad to work. PA Pool, an organisation set up to help disabled and older people recruit PAs, has an almost 50 per cent split between UK and non-UK staff. This means they could lose up to half of their potential workforce due to the current changes. Independent Living Alternatives, another PA agency, say that for traditional live-in staff 60 per cent of their workers are from the EU and only 28 per cent from the UK.

While it appears any EU and EEA staff working in the UK by December 31st, 2020 have the option to apply for pre-settled status, or for Frontier Worker status if they do not wish to later apply to settle here until June 30th 2021, there is at present no option for these schemes to be extended to new staff who weren’t working in the UK by December 31st 2020 which we feel it is vital to have. Due to all the factors outlined above, we feel this is essential to prevent a social care ticking time bomb, which will result in a devastating shortage of skilled, qualified care workers, increasing pressure on our already crumbling social care system and putting disabled people’s lives at risk as well as increasing both pressure and avoidable expense on our NHS.

Limiting the employment opportunities in social care poses a grave danger that many disabled people who have spent over 12 months shielding will end up losing their freedom, independence and quality of life which has been the sole factor keeping them going through the past months. Ensuring disabled people have the right to continue employing the skilled care workers they rely on must be a priority.

In conclusion we are urging you to make care work a shortage occupation and extend the Frontier Worker scheme to include new self-employed staff from inside the EU and EEA areas as well as from outside of the EU.

Disability, Vulnerability, and the Pandemic

Written by Bob Williams-Findlay of Reclaim Social Care

It is widely acknowledged that we are living through difficult and uncertain times. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to over 80,000 deaths in the United Kingdom, with many more likely to face long-term implications of having the virus. Given this, and the fact that a large percentage of those affected come from older generations and people with pre-existing health conditions, it is not surprising people within ‘at risk’ groups are feeling vulnerable. There is however a real danger in taking a ‘common-sense’ approach towards understanding this situation.

Too often ‘common-sense’ draws upon existing stereotypes, assumptions, and cultural values which reinforce ageism and disablism. Stereotyping usually falls into one of two camps where people are viewed as either tragic or brave – failing to conform to expectations or exceeding them. The portrayal of older and disabled people as ‘burdensome’, ‘helpless’, ‘childlike’, and ‘pitiful’, all underpin the notion of ‘vulnerable people’. Disabled people since the 1970s have challenged how they are both seen and treated. Employing a social interpretation of disability, Disabled people challenged the root causes of why they encounter social restrictions; this involved shifting the focus away from ‘blaming’ the person’s impairment for their disadvantages towards appraising how society responds to people who have impairments or chronic illnesses. In recent years, we have seen an undermining of this social approach as governments have sought to dismantle the welfare state and shift the responsibility for well-being back onto individuals. The rhetoric of neo-liberal social policies has reintroduced ideas linked with eugenics and encourages euthanasia.

Many older and Disabled people are deeply concerned not only about the inadequate and irresponsible manner in which the Johnson government has approached the pandemic, but also the language and narratives associated with it. What we have witnessed is the government, the mass media, and health professionals all presenting people within ‘at risk’ groups as being ‘the vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerable people’ (sic). These labels imply the characteristics of individuals –their age, impairments, and chronic illnesses – are the direct cause of their vulnerability. We would argue this is a false and dangerous presentation, one that panders to outdated ideas found within Social Darwinism. The disgraceful way ‘social value’ is measured by the likes of Lord Sumption acts as testimony to this way of thinking. Social Darwinists held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by “survival of the fittest,”

It is not our aim to deny that age, impairments, and chronic illnesses are factors that are likely to put some groups of people at greater risk; what we are challenging are the assumptions that are made and the perceived causes of the vulnerability. It is not age, impairments, or chronic illnesses that predetermines vulnerability; but the ways in which society sees and treats older and Disabled people create both the conditions and situations where people within ‘at risk’ groups made vulnerable.

Let us consider the definition of vulnerability; it is viewed as: ‘the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally’. Key here are the words: being exposed to the possibility of’ which acknowledges that it is external to the person. We nevertheless live in an ageist and disablist society that socially constructs ‘vulnerable people’ as being: ‘a person over the age of 18 who is unable to take care of themself. It can also refer to one who is unable to protect themself against significant harm or exploitation.’

Consider this for a moment, especially within the context of the pandemic. Consider this also in the context of the crisis within social care and the reduction in the means to live independent lives based upon choice and control. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is how co-dependent we are on other people, the value of mutual support, and the need for community. Being isolated, unsupported, and without access to basic needs harms everyone not just older and Disabled people. Our society ‘blames’ older and Disabled people for not being self-reliant and brands them as ‘vulnerable’ to legitimise this view and subsequent treatment. Now it is time to consider what really makes up older and Disabled people’s vulnerability, not just during the pandemic, but also in its aftermath. We believe it is:

  • The ageist and disablist stereotyping that impacts on how we are seen and treated;-
  • The underfunding and privatisation of the NHS;-
  • The absence of a fully funded National Care, Support, and Independent Living Service;-
  • The existence of a market driven private care sector;-
  • The lack of protection from the virus due to cuts in services, resources, the lack of provision of PPE, discharging patients with Covid-19 into care homes, lack of policies to support families and friends;-
  • The failure of the existing benefits system;-
  • Not adequately addressing the climate crisis

The list could go on. Our priority short term is to ensure that people in ‘at risk’ groups are protected and empowered to speak for themselves. We must continue to challenge ageist and disablist narratives and the harmful use of language. To slate judgemental labels and promote a better understanding of why certain groups are ‘at risk’ during the pandemic. Above all, our long term aim is to remove the inequalities and barriers that maintain older and Disabled people’s vulnerable status.

Steve Rogowski: Children’s Social Care is not a Business!

This article was originally going to be published within Professional Social Work Magazine, however, we are glad we are able to publish it here.

Going Through the Motions? The Review of Children’s Services/Social Care 

The Department for Education’s (DfE) review into children services/social care under Josh MacAlister, the Frontline chief, has been broadly welcomed by sector leaders and children’s organisations. However, is it all really as it seems? Not least there are concerns over the review’s independence because of the DfE’s direct funding of Frontline, the fast-track training provider for children’s social workers, and ministers’ vocal championing of the organisation since its inception.

The review will consider how the children’s social care system responds to referrals and consider the full spectrum of need from early help to looked-after children. Within the care system, it will look at fostering, residential and kinship care, though it will be up to review to decide whether it covers adoption support. It will also be up to the review to decide whether to include care leavers, despite the DfE’s terms of reference highlighting the poorer adult outcomes experienced by people who have been through the care system.

The DfE said the review would tackle challenges including the sharp increase in recent years in the number of looked after children and the failure of the system to provide sufficient stable homes for children. Specific issues include:  the capacity and capability to support families to prevent children being taken into care unnecessarily; hearing the voices of children, young people, and adults that have received the help or support of a social worker, or who have been looked after; and how partner agencies, such as health and police, interact with children’s social care. Importantly, a key question is how social care funding, workforce and other resources can be used most effectively to change children’s lives and represent good value for money.

Although it might be well and good to embark on such a review, there are certainly caveats to all of this. First, there is the spectre of cronyism concerning MacAlister’s direct appointment rather than through a formal process. Second, there are concerns about the fast-track child protection training scheme Frontline, including its students being privately and generously funded when compared to university social work education and social work students. And third, a decade of Conservative governments’ austerity has led to drastic cuts to key family supports including local authority children’s services, so it is little wonder this has impacted on such services’ capacity and capability to support families and prevent children being taken into care.

But, like Ray Jones in his book ‘In Whose Interest? The Privatisation of Child Protection and Social work’, it is Frontline that I want to dwell on a little here. Within the debate about privatisation and marketisation, both key signifiers of neoliberalisation, little attention is given to the influence of global big business on social work and social care reform. As a result, there has been little critical exploration of the potential implications of this for social work practice and policy. And Frontline is a key example of big money’s incursion into English social work by Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) and others, with BCG being one of the largest management consultancies in the world. Surely such lineage indicates the likely direction of travel for social work and social work education in the UK being to advance private business interests in the public sector. It is hardly a revelation that global corporations are frequently involved in morally questionable activities, but it is unprecedented for an English social work training programme to be part-founded by a global management consultancy.

While recognising we are all caught in the invidious compromise of neoliberalism, it is still legitimate to ask why Frontline has partnered with firms and corporations whose conduct is often counter to social work values? Several other important questions also arise: what have such firms to offer an English social work training scheme? What do they receive in return and at what cost to the public trust in the profession?

Bearing all this in mind, it is no surprise many consider the review is largely going through the motions and that the government and hence the review already know many of its final thoughts and recommendations. For example, the focus of the review includes value for money and the most sustainable and cost-effective way of delivering services including who is best placed to deliver them. An obvious concern is that this could lead to the review to see looked after children as a cost that needs reducing, with the way forward including increased outsourcing or privatisation/marketisation of services. This in turn leads to questions about the morality of profits being made on the backs of vulnerable children and their families.

In short, it is surely time to critically consider and resist the mantra of ‘private sector good, public sector bad’.

Dr Steve Rogowski is a social worker/independent scholar.