Case for more early help and support

“Our children’s social care system is a 30-year-old tower of Jenga held together with Sellotape: simultaneously rigid and yet shaky,”

Josh MacAlister, chair of the recent independent review of Children’s Social Care in England, wrote in the report. He told the BBC, 

“If we carry on like this, it will become more expensive and continue to be inadequate in the support it gives to children and families.  And so, we need to change. There is no option here where children in social care will not cost more money in the short term. The question is do we invest and reform or do we carry on as we are and see services not do a good enough job.”

One of the key findings from the report was that there was a tendency to investigate families rather than look at how support could be offered.

Other key findings were that the system fails too many teenagers, and too many children are ending up in care.

We are unique with a tremendous record

St Michael’s is unique because of the spectrum of services we offer to support parents and protect children’s safety and wellbeing.

We offer early interventions working with young mothers and fathers through pregnancy, before the birth of their child and beyond. Building trust means parents are more likely to ask for help. By working with both parents separately, we can often spot early signs and prevent things from escalating and affecting the child.  

The family residential work helps local authorities make the right decision for the children and ensures parents are given a fair chance during the assessment. It also develops and changes parenting knowledge & behaviour, helping parents become more child-focused.

Our Securing Change project works with parents at their most vulnerable when they move out of our assessment centre either with or without their child. This work is essential especially supporting women at risk of being involved in repeat care proceedings with multiple children taken into care.

Caring Dads is a programme for dads who have domestically abused their children’s mothers. It helps them understand the root of this behaviour; often their own neglectful childhood. It looks in detail at how their behaviour affects their children.

Early and ongoing support is essential

After an assessment, parents who leave without their child are struggling with so many emotions and grief and highly likely end up with future children being taken into care too.

For those leaving with their child, we need to make sure they feel supported, help them settle and build trust so we can help them avoid another crisis. Each stage of childhood can present new parental challenges, and people’s situations can change quickly.

Much more investment is needed to ensure more children do not end up in the care system.

Proud of our work

Too few parents are getting the support they need to care for their children in the community. We are proud of our work, giving parents the chance to develop their parenting skills while also finding ways to get their own basic needs met.

We have also witnessed the rise in the number of babies being removed at birth, especially from Care Leavers. This is a worrying trend that needs to be investigated more closely.

We welcome the review and agree things need to change to make the system work better for families and those who want to support them.

The report asks us to consider some of the key questions and issues raised and feedback which we will be doing.

Some questions asked by the review   

What is the role of the Children’s Social Care system in strengthening communities rather than just providing services?

How do we address the tension between protection and support in Children’s Social Care that families describe? Is a system which undertakes both support for families and child protection impeded in its ability to do both well?

What do you think about our proposed definition of family help? What would you include or exclude?

How do we raise the quality of decision making in child protection?

Given the clear evidence of positive outcomes and value for money of programmes that support parents at the edge of care and post removal, why aren’t they more widely available, and what will it take to make this the case?

How can we strengthen multi-agency join up both locally and nationally without losing accountability?

More questions can be read in the report.  Let them know your thoughts

The full is here report

Guardian Article about review

BBC Broadcast with Josh MacAlister

Other links

The rise in children taken into care

Born into Care report from Nuffield Trust