The British Association of Social Workers has raised concerns about the independent review of children’s social care and questioned whether the outcomes have already been agreed and the reform footprint developed.
BASW England said the proposed timeframe of 12-15 months for the review to take place, in the context of a global pandemic, suggests a rushed approach which is unlikely to deliver on the ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for transformation that has been promised.
Concerns have also been raised about lack of transparency in the process by which the current chair of the review was appointed.
“Such an unrealistic timeframe, coupled with knowledge of the review chair’s previous proposals for aspects of children’s social care, has led many members and others in the sector to believe the shape of reform has already been set. This undermines the argument that the review will be both evidence-based and inclusive,” said the position statement.
Questioning the appointment of former teacher Josh MacAlister, who founded the social work charity Frontline in 2013, as chair of the inquiry, BASW added that his appointment “reflects a bias towards predetermined outcomes and models rather than an open, inclusive and evidence informed approach which we expect”.
The statement says that while social workers, other professionals and those with lived experience have expressed an urgent need for reform and would welcome a review to push for much needed improvements and investment, “the manner in which the review has been announced, its framing, and how preliminary stages have been conducted raises many concerns”.
Reflecting on BASW UK’ ‘Vision for Social Work with Children and Families’ and BASW’s Code of Ethics, which underscores the importance of transparency, professional integrity and adherence to human rights and social justice, BASW England urges the government to:
1. Defer and reframe the review, and significantly extend the timeline - a realistic timescale for real improvement.
2. Reconsider the leadership of the review and through a transparent process, appoint a co-chair and review panel to include social work expertise and familiarity with the necessary knowledge base.
3. Ensure the lived experience of care and social work services is at the heart of the review.
4. Ensure an anti-racist, anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive approach - the voices of black and minoritised care experienced people must be central to a review which has such significant implications for their communities.
5. Tackle the impact of austerity, poverty including food insecurity and discrimination in family distress, risk and statutory intervention.
6. Uphold and strengthen children and family legal rights and reflecting the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
7. Ensure transparency about membership of the review team, business support and resourcing.
8. Be independent of government - inclusive, transparent and accountable.
9. Involve practising social workers and BASW the professional association of social work throughout any Review.
10. Diversify channels of communication across the sector including the use of TikTok, SnapChat and WhatsApp to reach a younger audience.
Furthermore, the review should be rooted in the best evidence available from the UK and beyond while the future of children’s services should be developed and provided through public and not-for-profit organisations and approaches.
“The review needs to focus on early help, strengths and relationship-based practice as highlighted in the BASW England 80/20 campaign, and make time for direct work and adopt an interdisciplinary approach that also develops the role of social workers. Most importantly the review must focus on creating a well-resourced system (including preventative provision) that provides the right conditions for good social work practice with a focus on improving the outcomes for children and young people,” said the policy statement.
The BASW England Review Steering Group comprising of members of the Children and Families Group, National Standing Committee, will be the lead working group for collating views of members. BASW England will lobby MPs, other identified stakeholders and partners based on statements generated in partnership with members.