We have a huge opportunity to improve children's social care, says review chief

The former teacher heading up a major review of children's social care hailed the "huge opportunity" of overhauling the sector during a visit to the Black Country.

Josh MacAlister (centre) met with carers and staff from Walsall children's services and the charity Kinship at Walsall Council House
Josh MacAlister (centre) met with carers and staff from Walsall children's services and the charity Kinship at Walsall Council House

On a trip to the region, Josh MacAlister, who is chair of the independent review, met with carers, young people and council officers in Walsall and addressed the Sandwell Children’s Trust Annual Conference, where he spoke of the challenges facing children's social care.

The review was launched earlier this year in a bid to look at how the children’s social care system in the UK can be improved.

Mr MacAlister, who founded the social work charity Frontline in 2013, said the visits had given him a "valuable chance" to hear from people in the region "who understand and are passionate about providing safe, stable and loving homes for children to grow up in".

He added: "From support for families and teenagers, to relationships, better multi-agency working and helping kinship carers - all these big topics were discussed and during the thousands of hours of listening my team has carried out with people across the country.

"The review I lead looks across the whole of children’s social care – which makes it both a challenge and a huge opportunity."

In Walsall, Mr MacAlister spoke with kinship carers – grandparents, close relatives and extended family members who look after children when their parents cannot – as well as professionals from the charity Kinship and from Walsall children’s services.

Jacqui Smith, chair of Sandwell Children’s Trust, said she was "delighted" that the trust had contributed to the review, as it was "so important that the authentic voices of care experienced children and young people - as well as those carers and professionals that work with them are listened to".

Lucy Peake, Kinship CEO said: "Our partnership with Walsall Council through our Kinship Connected programme shows the value of helping and preparing kinship carers to take on this often hugely challenging role.

“Having the right support in place can and does make a world of difference to families and the children they care for."

The review, which looks at every area of the care system, from a child's first referral to social services to outcomes for children leaving care at 18, will make recommendations to ministers next year.

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