The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has launched an Inquiry into care thresholds after huge variations in levels at which children are taken into care have emerged across the country.
The APPGC is calling on social workers to give their views on their experience of care thresholds in a bid to help the group of MPs to understand this issue. The group, chaired by former children’s minister Tim Loughton, are keen to hear about how decisions are made in practice.
The Inquiry follows the APPGC’s previous Inquiry in 2016-17 called ‘No Good Options’ which found significant variation in the number of children accessing children’s social care services across the country.
No Good Options found that the average national rate of looked after children per 10,000 was 60. However, the lowest local authority was 22 per 10,000 while the highest was 164 per 10,000.
Experts told the Inquiry that the reasons for these variations are little understood. It was suggested that just 10 per cent of variations between local authorities in terms of the number of children in care could be explained by differing levels of deprivation in the those areas.
The report said: “Clearly, variation cannot be explained by demographics alone, suggesting the key factor is local practice. Specifically, difference in thresholds and in the interpretation of statutory duties.”
It added that there is a clear need to improve understanding about the underlying causes of such wide variations in practice and outcomes. Whilst local authorities must be empowered to innovate and respond to local need, “children and families must also have universal and consistent entitlements, no matter where they live”.
The No Good Options report concluded that there is “little understanding of the causes of variation in the children’s social care system and the impact on children’s outcomes”.
“Local authorities are rightly able to innovate in order to respond to local need and drive improvement. However, the Inquiry urges the government to focus its efforts on understanding the causes and impact of existing variation,” it added.
Launching the new Inquiry, the APPGC said it will explore the causes of different threshold levels for accessing children’s social care services.
“To help us to understand this issue, we are keen to hear directly from social workers about their experience of dealing with care thresholds, and about how decisions are made in practice,” said a statement. “We want to hear from those from the full range of children’s social worker roles - from newly qualified social workers, to independent reviewing officers, principle social workers and senior managers.”
Social workers can take the survey here.