Can you help Josh fix children’s social care? His review is calling for your advice

Last month, the long-awaited review of children's social care was launched. It is being led by 'social entrepreneur', Josh McAlister, the founder and chief executive of the charity, Frontline, a former Manchester secondary school teacher.

Still in his early thirties, Josh, a native of Rochdale, Frontline was established "with a mission to create social change for children who do not have a safe or stable home, by developing excellent social work practice and leadership".

His appointment hasn't come without criticism with claims of a lack of independence from government, which funds most of Frontline's work funding and lack of experience in children's social care.

But the review must look not just at children in care, but also at disabled children. As many parents of disabled children know, it can be a battle, one often lost, to get a children's social care assessment. I tried to get one for my youngest as part of the EHC assessment process. I failed. The Education, Health and Care Plan is all too often barely an education plan - the H and C are the stuff of dreams.

Will he do what needs to be done? It’s up to us to tell him what that is, and what families’ experiences are, so don’t be shy (as if).

It's more than likely that when input from social care is sought as part of an EHC needs assessment, the reply comes back, as it did with us, "not known to service" and case closed. If you make a fuss, you're told you, "Wouldn't want to be known to social services, would you?" If you continue to ask for social care input and "make a nuisance" of yourself, you may be labelled a "difficult parent". It has been known to have questions asked about the suitability of your parenting. Some parents have even faced the threat of care proceedings and having their children removed - see our post from solicitor, Nathan Davies, about this.

Respite of respite

As the anniversary of the first lockdown approaches, it will be almost that long since children who did qualify for social care support and respite services have seen any of it. The easements that came in with the Coronavirus Act removed legal duties for providing for children's social care that weren't restored until the end of September 2020.

Watch our conversation with the chief executive of the Council for Disabled Children, Dame Christine Lenehan here to find out more about children's social care. You can also read our post about your child's rights to social care here and here about using direct payments to pay family members for providing care during the pandemic.

Under the extended national SEND Tribunal trial, EHCP social care issues can now be ruled on by a first tier tribunal judge, which may well be to order a social care assessment to be carried out in the first place. It would also be useful to investigate why so few parent carers are offered a carer's assessment.

So is social care is a mess Josh McAlister can fix? First of all, he's asking for your help.

Josh McAlister. Image: Frontline

Call for advice

Most consultations start with a call for evidence. This one is a bit different. Before evidence, a "call for advice" has been put out:

It is a huge privilege to be leading the independent review of children's social care. One of my first actions in leading this review is to start by listening. That's why we're starting the review process a bit differently with a 'Call for Advice' rather than the traditional 'Call for Evidence'. The opportunity to submit evidence will come later but right now I need advice, and lots of it.
I want to use this Call for Advice for you to guide me on what I should be spending my first few weeks and months reading, how best to hear directly from children, young people and their families, who you think I should be talking to, and what questions I should be asking.
There's lots that I don't know so please share your advice generously. Your response will help to shape the very start of the review and ensure that it begins in the most informed way possible to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families...
We also have ambitious plans to engage thousands of voices in the review process so watch this space.

Josh McAlister

You can also send documents you'd like the review team to read, and he pledges to read every response submitted. You can read more about the review and sign up or for updates here If you want to feed back to the cal for advice, you can do that here.

We'll also keep you up to date with progress, as you would expect.

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Tania Tirraoro

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