On 8 December 2022 the House of Lords is due to debate the following motion in the name of Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Labour):

[…] that this House takes note of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, published on 23 May, and the case for integrated care and support across all services.

1. Independent review of children’s social care

1.1 Background

In May 2022 the independent review on children’s social care published a report recommending wide-ranging reforms to children’s social care. The report was the product of an 18-month independent review chaired by Josh MacAlister, founder and former chief executive of social care charity Frontline.

Undertaking the review was a 2019 Conservative Party manifesto commitment. It was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and began work in January 2021.

The terms of reference for the review set out key themes and questions:

  • Support: What support is needed to meet the needs of children who are referred to or involved with social care, in order to improve outcomes and make a long-term positive difference to individuals and to society?
  • Strengthening families: What can be done so that children are supported to stay safely and thrive with their families, to ensure the exceptional powers that are granted to the state to support and intervene in families are consistently used responsibly, balancing the need to protect children with the right to family life, avoiding the need to enter care?
  • Safety: What can be done so that children who need to be in care get there quickly, and to ensure those children feel safe and are not at risk of significant harm?
  • Care: What is needed for children to have a positive experience of care that prioritises stability, providing an alternative long-term family for children who need it and support for others to return home safely?
  • Delivery: What are the key enablers to implement the review and raise standards across England, such as a strong, stable and resilient workforce, system leadership and partnerships, and what is needed so that this change can be delivered?
  • Sustainability: What is the most sustainable and cost-effective way of delivering services, including high-cost services, who is best placed to deliver them, and how could this be improved so that they are fit for the future?
  • Accountability: What accountability arrangements are necessary to ensure that the state can act appropriately, balancing the need to protect and promote the welfare of children with the importance of parental responsibility, and what is needed to ensure proper oversight of how local areas discharge those responsibilities consistently?

The review was informed by an ‘experts by experience board’ composed of members with lived experience of children’s social care. Its purpose was to guide the review’s approach to hearing the voices of children, young people, adults and families throughout the review.

Shortly after launching, the review group published a call for advice and call for evidence to invite input from other organisations and to identify relevant research. In June 2021 the review published ‘The case for change’, which set out “the review’s early thinking about what needs to change in the children’s social care system”. The review invited feedback on this document and used that feedback to inform its final report.

1.2 Conclusions and recommendations

The review’s final report argued that the current children’s social care system was “increasingly skewed to crisis intervention, with outcomes for children that continue to be unacceptably poor and costs that continue to rise”. It concluded that “for these reasons, a radical reset is now unavoidable”.

The report said that without fundamental changes the number of children in care would increase from its current level of 80,000 to 100,000 in 2032. It also said that costs could increase from £10bn to £15bn per year. It said implementing its recommendations would lead to 30,000 more children living safely and “thriving with their families” by 2032 “compared with the current trajectory”.

The report set out its conclusions and recommendations in the areas of family help, child protection, family, the care market, the care experience and the workforce.

 Family help

The report recommended replacing the separate services of targeted early help and children in need with one category of ‘family help’. Multidisciplinary teams of family support workers, domestic abuse workers and mental health practitioners would work alongside social workers to deliver this help. This would, the authors argued, reduce the number of handovers between services.

The report said that this measure would require approximately £2bn over the next five years.

Child protection

On child protection, the report recommended that once concerns about significant harm to a child were raised, an experienced social worker should work with the family help team. The review said this would “provide an expert second perspective and remove the need for break points and handovers”.

The review also recommended a bespoke child protection pathway, called a “child community safety plan”, so that the police, social care and others could provide a robust child protection response.

Kinship care

The report argued that extended family who care for children were a “silent and unheard majority in the children’s social care system” and that they needed “far greater recognition and support”. It said wider family members and friends should be able to contribute to decision making about the child’s care, leading, if appropriate, to a ‘family network plan’ under which the local authority could fund and support family members to care for the child. It also recommended that special guardians and kinship carers with a child arrangement order should receive a new statutory financial allowance, legal aid and statutory kinship leave.

Care system

Local authorities should “take back control” of the care market by establishing ‘regional care cooperatives’ (RCCs), the review argued. These cooperatives would have responsibility for creating and running all new public sector fostering, residential and secure care in a region, as well as commissioning all not-for-profit and private sector-provided care for children as necessary. Participation in RCCs would be mandatory under these plans.

The report also called for a drive to increase the number of foster carers by 9,000 over the next three years.

Ambitions for care-experienced people

The report highlighted challenges and disadvantages faced by people who have been in care, arguing that “children in care are powerless, are often invisible and they face some of the greatest inequalities that exist in England today”.

The review set out five “missions” for care-experienced people: loving relationships, quality education, a decent home, fulfilling work and good health. It also said that the UK should recognise the care experience as a protected characteristic.

Social care workforce

According to the review, its proposals offer “a radically new offer for social workers”:

  • Improving professional development: The government should introduce a five-year ‘early career framework’ to provide a desirable career pathway to remain in practice, specialise and be rewarded through higher pay that reflects expertise.
  • Protecting more time to spend with children and families: Improved case management systems, fewer administrative tasks which do not add value and multidisciplinary teams who can “deliver, not just commission, the help that is needed” would result in social workers being able to spend more time with children and families.
  • Reducing reliance on agency staff: New rules and regional staff banks could reduce reliance on costly agency workers. This would mean social workers could provide more stable relationships with children and families.

In addition, the report said that family support workers and children’s home staff should have support to improve their knowledge and skills through a knowledge and skills statement for family support workers, a leadership programme and professional registration for children’s home managers.

Focusing on children and families

The review contended that there was “currently a lack of national direction about the purpose of children’s social care” and that national government involvement was uneven. It recommended the development of a national children’s social care framework “to set direction and purpose for the system”. This would be “supported by meaningful indicators that bring transparency and learning” and would be supported by a national practice group.

The report also made further recommendations:

  • Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements should be clarified to put “beyond doubt” their strategic role.
  • The government should update the funding formula for children’s social care to better direct resources to where they are most needed.
  • Inspection should be aligned to take a “more rounded” understanding of “being child focused” and there should be greater transparency about how judgements are made.
  • The government should intervene more decisively in inadequate and drifting authorities, with permanent regional improvement commissioners to oversee progress across regions.
  • Existing work on data and technology should be built on through a national data and technology taskforce.


The report said that its suggested reforms should be delivered through a single five-year reform programme, run by a ‘reform board’. It said the secretary of state should be responsible for holding other government departments to account and should report annually to Parliament on progress.

While some of these recommendations could be started without immediate investment, the report argued, increases in budgets would be needed. The report said that the reforms would require £2.6bn of new spending over four years, consisting of £46mn in year one, £987mn in year two, £1.257bn in year three and £233mn in year four.

1.3 Government response

The government has not yet published a response to the review’s report. However, speaking shortly after the publication of the review’s final report in May 2022, the then children and families minister, Will Quince, outlined the government’s plans in response to the review:

We will work with the sector to develop a national children’s social care framework, which will set a clear direction for the system and point everyone to the best available evidence for how to support children and families. We will set out more detail later this year.

I want to pay tribute to every single social worker striving to offer life changing support to children and families day in, day out. Providing more decisive child protection relies upon the knowledge and skills of these social workers—which is why I support the principle of the review’s proposed ‘early career framework’. We will set out robust plans to refocus the support social workers receive early on—with a particular focus on child protection given the challenging nature of this work.

We will also take action to drive forward the review’s three data and digital priority areas, ensuring local government and partners are in the driving seat of reform. Following the review’s recommendation for a data and technology taskforce, we will introduce a new ‘digital and data solutions fund’ to help local authorities improve delivery for children and families through technology. More detail will follow later this year on joining up data from across the public sector so that we can increase transparency—both between safeguarding partners and the wider public.

And, recognising the urgency of action in placement sufficiency, we will prioritise working with local authorities to recruit more foster carers. This will include pathfinder local recruitment campaigns that build towards a national programme, to help ensure children have access to the right placements at the right time. As the review recommends, we will focus on providing more support throughout the application process to improve the conversion rate from expressions of interest to approved foster carers.

In response to a parliamentary question in November 2022, Claire Coutinho, minister for children, families and wellbeing, outlined the actions the government had taken so far to address the recommendations in the report:

The department has established a national practice group to begin work on the national children’s social care framework, a ministerial child protection group, and a national implementation board. The national implementation board will meet on November 16 2022, following an interim meeting in July, and is made up of people with lived experience of the care system and those with experience of leading transformational change.

We have also been working closely with other departments across government to rapidly agree on an ambitious and detailed implementation strategy that will respond fully to all three reviews. Ministers from across government are engaged on emerging policies and will agree on the final implementation strategy in due course.

2. Children’s social care

This section provides information on the current legislative framework governing the provision of children’s social care, demand for services since 2013 and funding for children’s social care.

2.1 Current legislative framework and the role of local authorities

Local authorities have powers and duties relating to children’s social care. Many of these are contained in the Children Act 1989 and include:

  • a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area
  • a duty to provide accommodation to children in need under certain circumstances
  • a power to make an application to the court for a child to be placed in the care of the local authority
  • a duty to make enquiries to decide whether it needs to take action to protect a child if that child is the subject of an emergency protection order, is in police custody, or it believes is suffering or likely to suffer serious harm

The Children Act 2004 places a duty on local authorities to promote cooperation between itself and other relevant organisations in order to improve the well-being of children in its area. This includes protection from harm and neglect as well as positive duties such as promoting physical and mental health.

The Department for Education (DfE) also publishes statutory guidance which local authorities must have regard to. ‘Working together to safeguard children’, published in 2018, sets out the legislative requirements on individual services, as well as:

  • a framework for the three local safeguarding partners (the local authority, relevant clinical commissioning groups and the chief officer of police for a relevant police area) to make arrangements to work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of local children including identifying and responding to their needs
  • a framework for the two ‘child death review partners’ (the local authority and relevant clinical commissioning group for an area) to make arrangements to review all deaths of children normally resident in the local area, and if they consider it appropriate, for those not normally resident in the area

The National Audit Office has summarised what happens when a child is referred to the local authority:

  • At the referral stage, a local authority can decide to take no further action, or refer a child to more universal services, such as those provided by children’s centres.
  • If, following an initial referral and assessment, a local authority decides that a child requires further support then, under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, they will be defined as a child in need. Under this classification, the local authority is required to provide the child with a range and level of services appropriate to their needs.
  • In cases where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 the local authority can launch an investigation into their welfare. This is generally in partnership with other agencies, such as the police. If concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be at continuing risk of harm, then an initial child protection conference should be convened within 15 working days.
  • At the initial child protection conference, the decision will be made as to whether the child needs to become the subject of a child protection plan.
  • In the most severe cases immediate action will be taken to take a child into the care of the local authority. These children will be looked after by local councils, and usually live with foster carers, or in residential care settings such as children’s homes.

While the local authority has statutory duties once a child is referred to them, they are also responsible for early help. The DfE’s statutory guidance says:

Local organisations and agencies should have in place effective ways to identify emerging problems and potential unmet needs of individual children and families. Local authorities should work with organisations and agencies to develop joined-up early help services based on a clear understanding of local needs. This requires all practitioners, including those in universal services and those providing services to adults with children, to understand their role in identifying emerging problems and to share information with other practitioners to support early identification and assessment.

There has been some debate about whether legislation provides sufficient clarity about responsibility for early help, and to what extent providing it is a statutory duty. This question has been addressed in several reviews and inquiries, including the 2011 independent review of child protection led by Professor Eileen Munro, the House of Commons Education Committee’s 2012 report on the child protection system and Ofsted’s 2015 thematic report on the effectiveness of early help services. A 2022 research paper commissioned by Ofsted summarised the issue:

Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 places a general duty on local authorities to provide appropriate services for children who they assess as children in need, and section 10 of the Children Act 2004 provides a duty to make arrangements to promote cooperation between local partners with a view to improving children’s well-being. But with no legislative requirement for local authorities to provide preventative services for children, these duties are interpreted quite differently in different local areas.

More information on the legislative framework can be found in the House of Commons Library briefing ‘An overview of child protection legislation in England’ (19 February 2020).

2.2 Demand for services

The number of children requiring attention from children’s social services has grown across a range of measures in the last 10 years. However, it should be noted that local authorities have different thresholds for engagement.

Both the number and rate of children needing help from social services increased on several headline measures between 2021 and 2022. The Department for Education has stated that referrals from schools increased between 2021 and 2022, as restrictions on school attendance were in place for parts of 2021 because of Covid-19, and that it is likely this contributed to the increases seen in headline measures.

The tables below set out the number and rate per 10,000 children of the following measures:

  • children in need: children for whom, following an initial referral and assessment, a local authority has decided that a child requires further support
  • section 47 enquiries: an investigation under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 into the welfare of a child in cases where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm
  • initial child protection conference: a meeting if concerns have been substantiated and the child is judged to be at continuing risk of harm
  • child protection plan: a plan put in place after an initial child protection conference to protect a child

Table 1: Children requiring social services support: Number as at 31 March

Year Children in need as at 31 March Section 47 enquiries in the year Initial child protection conferences in the year Children on a child protection plan as at 31 March
2013 378,030 127,190 60,080 43,140
2014 395,480 142,710 65,190 48,300
2015 390,130 160,490 71,410 49,690
2016 393,910  172,510 73,050 50,310
2017 389,040 185,680 76,930 51,080
2018 404,710 198,090 79,470 53,790
2019 399,510 201,170 77,440 52,260
2020 389,260 201,000 77,470 51,510
2021 388,490 198,790 72,580 50,010
2022 404,310 217,800 73,790 50,920

Table 2: Children requiring social services support: Rate per 10,000 children

Year Children in need as at 31 March Section 47 enquiries in the year Initial child protection conferences in the year Children on a child protection plan as at 31 March
2013 330.9 111.3 52.6 37.8
2014 343.7 124.0 56.7 42.0
2015 336.6 138.5 61.6 42.9
2016 337.3 147.7 62.6 43.1
2017 330.1 157.6 65.3 43.3
2018 341.0 166.9 67.0 45.3
2019 334.2 168.3 64.8 43.7
2020 323.7 167.2 64.4 42.8
2021 321.2 164.4 60.0 41.4
2022 334.3 180.1 61.0 42.1

Chart 1: Children in need, 2013 to 2022

Chart 1: Children in need, 2013 to 2022

(Department for Education, ‘Characteristics of children in need’, 27 October 2022)

Chart 2: The number of children on child protection plans, section 47 enquiries and initial child protection conferences, 2013 to 2022

Chart 2: The number of children on child protection plans, section 47 enquiries and initial child protection conferences, 2013 to 2022

(Department for Education, ‘Characteristics of children in need’, 27 October 2022)

2.3 Funding

Funding for children’s social care is primarily delivered from local authorities’ core funding. In 2019/20, local authorities spent £9.2bn on children’s social care. The department provides some funding for children’s social care through separate grants; in 2020/21 it spent a total of £235mn on children’s services.

Central government provided additional funding to local authorities to help them respond to the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020/21 the government distributed £4.6bn to local authorities in additional un-ringfenced funding and £1.5bn in 2021/22. Of the 2021/22 additional funding, 3.8% was spent on children’s social care workforce pressures, 7.5% on children’s residential care, 0.5% on care leavers and 3.4% on other aspects of children’s social care.

Analysis by the House of Commons Library suggests that expenditure on children’s social care has been protected by local authorities “during a period in which government funding for local authorities has fallen in real terms”. Please note that in 2014/15 spending on ‘services to young people’ was reclassified and is therefore not comparable with earlier years.

Table 3: Local authority expenditure on children’s social care: England £bn

Year Cash Real terms (2019/20) Real terms annual percentage change
2014/15 8.09 8.92 N/A
2015/16 8.30 9.07 +1.8%
2016/17 8.48 9.04 -0.4%
2017/18 8.84 9.27 +2.5%
2018/19 9.38 9.6 +3.6%
2019/20 9.93 9.93 +3.4%

Many councils overspent on their children’s social care budgets in 2020/21. According to the government’s July 2022 statistics, in 2020/21 councils budgeted £10.4bn for children’s social care but spent £11.2bn, an overspend of £744mn in real terms. Between 2020/21 and 2021/22, councils’ budgets for children’s social care increased by £363mn, an increase of £3.5%. Budgets have risen again for 2022/23; councils have budgeted an additional £348mn for children’s social care, an increase of 3.2%.

Several analyses have found that between 2010 and 2019 spending on early intervention and children’s services fell while spending on late intervention child protection and in-care services increased. Research conducted by the National Children’s Bureau, the University of Cambridge and the University of Kent found that from 2010/11 to 2018/19 local authorities shifted funding away from early intervention, with spending on early help services falling by 44%. Over the same period, there was a 29% increase in late intervention services, defined as children in care, safeguarding and youth justice, and an all-time high of looked-after children.

Funding for early help services has increased since 2020. The autumn budget and spending review included additional funding for several early intervention services, summarised by the House of Lords Public Services Committee:

In the 2021 spending review the government committed £492 million in additional investment for early intervention services over the following three years. This included money for the expansion of family hubs and the increase in the supporting families budget. There was funding for early years services, including £50 million for parenting programmes, £50 million for breastfeeding support and £100 million for infant and perinatal mental health.

However, the committee concluded that:

The additional £164 million per year is significantly lower than the £1.7 billion reduction in local authorities’ annual early intervention spending since 2010.

In the 2022 autumn statement the chancellor announced £1.3bn in 2023/24 and £1.9bn in 2024/25 as a social care grant for local authorities to spend on adult or children’s social care. The chancellor also announced that local authorities would be able to increase council tax by up to 3% per year without putting the rise to a referendum, an increase from 2%.

3. Backbench House of Commons debate on the independent review

On 24 November 2022, the House of Commons debated the review. Moving the motion, Rachael Maskell (Labour Co-op MP for York Central) said the reforms and funding the report called for were needed “in full”. She highlighted that the reforms would cost £2.6bn, while the current annual cost of adverse outcomes for children who have needed a social worker is £23bn a year. She said not implementing the reforms would cost £15bn in 10 years’ time “and have a higher social tariff, too”.

Ms Maskell said the government should create multidisciplinary teams from health, mental health, education and social services to work with families to “get the right support to families in the right time”. She also called for the development of “family network plans” to help extended family support for children.

On the social care workforce, Ms Maskell said that social workers often did not receive enough training or had to spend too much time on “paperwork”, reducing the amount of time they can spend with families. She advocated an “early careers framework” to improve graduates’ skills. After five years they could then take on roles that require higher levels of expertise such as in child protection. She agreed with the report’s proposal for a national pay scale.

Ms Maskell argued for improvements to residential care and supported the reforms suggested in the recent Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report (discussed in section 4.1 below).

The co-sponsor of the debate, Tim Loughton (Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and a former children’s minister), commended the work of the independent review. He highlighted, however, that the report reiterated problems that had been identified in previous reports. He said that over the last decade “we have failed too many children by not taking up the challenge that those reports presented”, and that despite successes too many children had been left behind. He said that the solutions to the problems outlined by the independent review were “no different from what they were 10 years ago”.

Mr Loughton said he agreed with the report’s recommendation that more help should be made available earlier on in a vulnerable child’s life. He said that vacancy rates in social work were too high, and case loads too heavy. He argued that social workers could not effectively protect children if they were not able to spend enough time with families. He also said that fewer children should be moved out of an area for placements, and turnover in social workers should be reduced. He also agreed with the report’s recommendations for recognising and providing support for kinship carers.

Speaking about the role of maternal mental health in determining outcomes for children, Mr Loughton commended the government for rolling out the ‘best start for life’ programme of support for carers of babies and toddlers. He agreed with Ms Maskell that the costs of failing to intervene at an early stage outweighed the costs of implementing reforms.

Mr Loughton highlighted some areas where he did not agree with the report. He said it took an “unnecessarily antagonistic view of the independent sector”, though he disclosed his interest as chair of the safeguarding board for an independent children’s company. He argued that as long as a child was receiving good care the provider was not important. He also disagreed with the report’s recommendation to abolish independent reviewing officers.

The shadow minister for children and early years, Helen Hayes, highlighted the “high level of consensus on children’s social care” and said the need for change was urgent. She also highlighted high workloads for social workers, and said that Covid-19 had exacerbated this.

Ms Hayes argued that reductions in central government funding for local authorities meant that councils had been forced to focus on statutory services as opposed to early intervention. She said this ultimately resulted in more need for child protection services. She also argued that many of the issues that caused families to need help, such as poverty and inequality, had “deepened and widened on the government’s watch”.

Speaking about the recommendations in the report, Ms Hayes said there was agreement on many of the recommendations, such as the need to restore early help services, to provide better support for kinship carers, to end private “profiteering” in residential care and private foster care services, and to end the placement of children in unregulated settings. She argued that these changes should be put in place immediately.

The responding minister, Claire Coutinho, agreed that “the system is not delivering well enough, or consistently for the children and families it supports”. She highlighted actions the government had taken since the publication of the independent review’s report, including setting up a national implementation board, a child protection ministerial group and a data and digital solutions fund.

Ms Coutinho set out the government’s ambitions for children’s social care:

  • On families, “rapid and intensive multidisciplinary support” should be provided “at the right time”, with early intervention being very important.
  • On child protection, there should be “a more expert and multi-agency child protection response” to intervene “quickly and decisively”.
  • On foster care and kinship care, extended families should be supported as a first option when children could not be looked after by their parents.
  • On the care system, children should not be moved so many times and the number of local authorities judged to be good or outstanding should be increased.
  • On the workforce, the minister emphasised the need for “a skilled and empowered workforce, better data and transparency and a clear system direction”. She also said the government would bring forward proposals to support the workforce and foster carers to ensure they had the right skills and strong leadership.

4. Other recent children’s social care reports

4.1 Competition and Markets Authority report on the children’s social care market

In March 2022 the Competition and Markets Authority published a report following its review of children’s social care provision. The CMA set out to examine the lack of availability and increasing costs in children’s social care provision, including children’s homes and fostering. This examined conditions in markets in England, Wales and Scotland and included recommendations for the Scottish and Welsh governments as well as the UK government.

The review found “significant problems in how the placements market is functioning, particularly in England and Wales”:

  • A lack of placements of the right kind, in the right places, means that children are not consistently getting access to care and accommodation that meets their needs.
  • The largest private providers of placements are making materially higher profits, and charging materially higher prices, than we would expect if this market were functioning effectively.
  • Some of the largest private providers are carrying very high levels of debt, creating a risk that disorderly failure of highly leveraged firms could disrupt the placements of children in care.

Its recommendations differed for the different governments but fell into three categories:

  • recommendations to improve commissioning, by having some functions performed via collaborative bodies, providing additional national support and supporting local authority initiatives to provide more in-house foster care
  • recommendations to reduce barriers to providers creating and maintaining provision, by reviewing regulatory and planning requirements, and supporting the recruitment and retention of care staff and foster carers
  • recommendations to reduce the risk of children experiencing negative effects from children’s home providers exiting the market in a disorderly way, by creating an effective regime of market oversight and contingency planning

Mr Quince provided an initial government response to the review in a letter to the chief executive of the CMA, Dr Andrea Coscelli, in a letter in May 2022:

My officials and I have begun to consider the recommendations in detail, and further engagement with key colleagues across government will inform our thinking. In addition to this, I have asked my department to conduct thorough research into the children’s homes workforce, engaging with the sector and experts to develop proposals to improve oversight of the market.

I have also announced that I will establish a national implementation board, comprising of people with experience of leading transformational change, to challenge the system to achieve the full extent of our ambitions for children. The board will also consist of people with their own experience of the care system, to remind us of the promise of delivery and the cost of delay.

In the meantime, to help local authorities meet their sufficiency duty, we are making a substantial investment in building new children’s homes. The chancellor announced £259 million capital funding in the spending review to provide high quality homes for some of our most vulnerable young people—closer to families, schools, and health services.

Mr Quince said the government would respond fully to the CMA’s report and the independent review by the end of 2022.

4.2 Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel report of its review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson

In May 2022 the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel published its ‘National review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson’, children who were murdered by their carers or partners of their carers in 2021. The aim of the review was to evaluate the role of agencies in their deaths, and to ask “how agencies acted to protect Star and Arthur, and what factors enabled or limited their ability to do so, so we can identify improvements for the future”.

The panel’s report concluded that there were a set of issues which hindered professionals’ understanding of what was happening to Arthur and Star. These were:

  • weaknesses in information sharing and seeking within and between agencies
  • a lack of robust critical thinking and challenge within and between agencies, compounded by a failure to trigger statutory multi-agency child protection processes at a number of key moments
  • a need for sharper specialist child protection skills and expertise, especially in relation to complex risk assessment and decision making; engaging reluctant parents; understanding the daily life of children; and domestic abuse
  • underpinning these issues is the need for leaders to have a powerful enabling impact on child protection practice, creating and protecting the optimum organisational conditions for undertaking this complex work

The report argued that there were two important factors to consider about child protection in England:

  • Multi-agency arrangements for protecting children are more fractured and fragmented than they should be.
  • There has been insufficient attention to, and investment in, securing the specialist multi-agency expertise required for undertaking investigations and responses to significant harm from abuse and neglect.

5. Read more

5.1 Responses to the independent review

5.2 Previous reviews and policies

5.3 Scrutiny reports

5.4 Other

Cover image by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash.