SWAN is pleased to support the Care Review Watch Alliance response the the Case For Change, and shares it here.

The Case For Change is the first position statement released by the ‘Independent’ Review of Children’s Social Care in England, and feels remarkably familiar in its tone. SWAN are concerned that the Westminster government is seeking to reduce its role and responsibilities toward children and families – potentially moving away from state duties to uphold decent standards of living or promote safety for children. The criticism of local authority social workers is creating distance between the government and the profession, leaving space for business, social enterprises and third sector services to tender for roles. We only need to look to the NHS and education to see what has gone before – and the results:

“The Care Review Watch Alliance (CRWA) is a loose collective of people from all corners of the care community including care experienced people, care professionals, educators, researchers, social workers, foster carers and residential care providers.  We have come together for a common cause – to share our concerns about the Children’s Social Care Review in England and to challenge the DfE to ensure that this review strengthens much needed support for children and families by investing in services that promote their welfare and not allowing the system to be undermined by allowing the motive to profit to trump the motive to care.

Along with many others we were keen to see what the ‘Case for Change’ report would tell us, although we already had some trepidation with regards to how this review was constructed from the outset, including: the chair’s lack of independence and relationship with the DfE; the lack of transparency around the appointment process; the Chair’s previous publication offering a blueprint for children’s social care which basically proposed the privatisation of a public statutory service; a contract that curtails the chair from offering any criticism of government and making a case for increased funding; an exclusion of key voices in the review; and a catastrophic strategy in engaging those with care experience that caused a lot of distress.

We are saddened to arrive at the conclusion that the Case for Change has only confirmed all of our worst fears – we would have been happy to be proved wrong.  Whilst the review does identify some of the key issues that blight the lives of children and families such as poverty and social inequality, it conveniently apportions the blame on local authorities and social workers.  This well and truly lets the Government off the hook when we have seen child poverty rates increase exponentially since the introduction of austerity measures a decade ago: through punitive welfare reform legislation leading to cuts in benefits and a vicious circle for some families, as the landscape of vital provision and support has shrunk leaving many to fall through the gaps that have opened up. 

This report also exposes the injudicious decision of appointing a chair with very little experience and understanding of children’s social care.  The Case for Change is unbalanced and fails to be child focused, which could endanger children in England preventing them from being properly protected from harm, which is a basic and universal right of children and a hallmark of any civilised society. The report also fails to highlight any positive aspects of the current system and its successes in supporting children in care. This makes its intentions very clear: to denigrate public sector services for children and families and replace them with private companies, often global multinationals with no interest in the lives of children that fill their coffers.

This ‘once in a lifetime’ review has begun by repeating what many have been saying for decades and what few can argue with. But where is it taking us? CRWA believe the Review’s likely destination will leave children and families high and dry. We have seen the government wash its hands of its statutory responsibilities for health, education and adult social care. The ‘Case for Change’ suggests that children and families will be next.”

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