On Monday 18th April, Heather Stewart, Chair, attended the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Enquiry on children’s social care. The speakers were Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive, CAFCASS, Lisa Holmes, Director of the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University, Ashley McDougall, Director of Local Service Delivery at the National Audit Office and Eleanor Schooling, Director of Social Care- OFSTED. This was an oral evidence session (the first of several) to look specifically at changes in demand and need.
Tim Loughton, MP, opened the meeting and talked of the context for the increasing demand on social care services, specifically safeguarding needs, increase of asylum seekers and child sexual exploitation. All speakers concurred with this and one observation was that there has been a significant increase in care applications, which has set a new record every month for the last six months. While demand is increasing, resources are reducing in real terms and consequences for quality are concerning. The general sense was that some services were still maintaining good standards and others weren’t and the interest was on why this was so. There was an idea that those that were already performing poorly were likely to continue to do so and the successful services were good at providing targeted early help.
This was quite a number-crunching meeting, in which there was a lot of interest in the data available for analysis and trying to make sense of it. Little was said of the demoralised workforce, other than that there are clear disparities across the country in the caseload of social workers, and there was a sense that therapeutic services had reduced. One heartfelt view from the audience was that the child’s needs should be at the centre of decision-making, whereas too often costs were, eg in the funding of appropriate placements.
There will be several more oral hearings. If any members would be interested in participating, please let Alison Roy or the ACP office know.