Unrest over Care Review board plans

Fiona Simpson
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Charities raise concerns over plans for ‘lived-experience’ voice on Care Review implementation board.

The implementation board is seeking three people with ‘lived experience’ of care. Picture: ellphoto/Adobe stock
The implementation board is seeking three people with ‘lived experience’ of care. Picture: ellphoto/Adobe stock

Arrangements for selecting people with care-experience to sit on the Department for Education body set up to support implementation of reforms in the Care Review have been criticised as flawed prompting many charities to rebuff offers to make nominations to it.

In July, the DfE asked “larger” charities to nominate people with “lived experience” of the care system to sit on the National Implementation Board that will advise ministers on the delivery of recommendations made in the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, published in May.

The board currently includes representatives from, among others, Ofsted and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (see box), who, according to former children’s minister Will Quince, were chosen based on “experience of bringing about transformational change”. Its terms of reference are yet to be published.

The government is also seeking three people with “lived experience” to join the board but a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted to the DfE by children’s counsellor John Radoux reveals that 12 charities and umbrella organisations have been asked to nominate those with either personal experience of care, birth parents or kinship carers.

Recruiting members

Radoux questions why the appointment of those with such “prescriptive” experience is necessary, saying that areas like foster and residential care risk being sidelined.

He argues that while there should be “much great recognition, and support, for kinship carers” by the government, “the review had not much to say on foster care and almost nothing on residential children’s homes”.

“This is a mistake that seems likely to be replicated by the [implementation] board,” he says.

However, Kinship, which is among the charities asked for nominations, says the DfE has “shown a commitment to ensuring that people with lived experience play a key role in the board and we very much hope to see kinship carers represented”.

Other charities asked to nominate people are Action for Children, Barnardo’s, Become, Children England, the Commission on Young Lives, the Children’s Society, Coram, Coram Voice, Family Rights Group, the National Children’s Bureau and NSPCC.

The DfE tells CYP Now: “It is important we hear the expert views of people who have direct experience of the children’s social care system. We have asked a range of organisations representing some of these different experiences to work with us.”

In its FOI response, the DfE said that those appointed to the Care Review’s Experts-by-Experience (EbE) Board which helped shape review chair Josh MacAlister’s 80 recommendations were “invited” to nominate themselves.

Radoux describes the invitation to EbE board members to self-nominate as “deeply problematic”.

“It means a very small group of people recruited for a specific purpose will be given ongoing advantage,” he says.

He also highlights that an email from the DfE asking organisations to nominate experts lists one purpose of the role as to “champion the government’s vision for social care”.

“This strips anyone on the board of their ability to push back or hold ministers to account before recommendations are put through,” he says.

Mixed response

Concerns over the restrictive nature of the role has led care charity Become to turn down the offer to nominate young people.

A Become spokesman says that despite raising these with the DfE, they were “not adequately addressed so we decided it would be inappropriate for us to nominate young people we work with or support”.

Brigid Robinson, director of Coram Voice, says that while her organisation did ask members if they wished to be nominated, she argues that “this should not be the only mechanism for consulting with young people”.

Kinship also shared the opportunity with members, describing the opportunity as “no different from any other”.

“We always support kinship carers to use their expertise and experience to influence the changes kinship families tell us they so desperately need,” says a charity spokesperson.

At the time of going to press, none of the charities asked to nominate care-experienced young people were aware of anyone applying to be on the board while the DfE says it is yet to recruit anyone with care experience.

National Implementation board membership

High-profile sector figures have been named by the Department for Education as members of the National Implementation Board.

Schools and childhood minister Kelly Tolhurst replaced former minister for children and families Brendan Clarke-Smith as chair when she was appointed in September (see Analysis).

Other members include children’s commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Steve Crocker and chief social worker for children and families Isabelle Trowler.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Jill Colbert, chief executive of Together for Children and director for children’s services in Sunderland, Tom Riordan chief executive of Leeds City Council and Sir Anthony Finkelstein, president of London’s City University and a computer scientist, also sit on the board.

Care Review chair Josh MacAlister will “where relevant, attend board meetings and provide advice to government on translating the review into an action plan”, according to a DfE spokesperson. MacAlister told CYP Now he has “no involvement” in the recruitment process.

CYP Now Digital membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 60,000 articles
  • Unlimited access to our online Topic Hubs
  • Archive of digital editions
  • Themed supplements

From £15 / month


CYP Now Magazine

  • Latest print issues
  • Themed supplements

From £12 / month