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Directors of Children’s Services call for more fundamental reform to family justice system

It is clear – after the events of the last 18 months – that more fundamental reform is required to the family justice system than implementation of the March 2021 report of the President of the Family Division’s Public Law Working Group, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has said.

In its response to the independent review of children’s social care case for change, the ADCS said: “As the review enters its next stage, it must be cognisant of the pressures across the family justice system and the role of the judiciary and CAFCASS in shaping behaviours.”

The ADCS took part in the working group, which produced a final report with 47 core recommendations aimed at improving the system. The recommendations covered: support for and work with families prior to court proceedings; the application; case management; supervision orders; and S20/76 accommodation.

In addition, the working group made 15 proposals for longer-term change. These recommendations required (a) legislative changes to be implemented and/or (b) the approval of additional public spending by the Government.

Commenting more widely on the Independent review, ADCS President Charlotte Ramsden said: “The care review offers a once in a generation opportunity to make meaningful and lasting change for the children and young people who need help and support to thrive. The case for change highlights a series of very important issues that ADCS has been raising with government over the last few years such as the impact of poverty on children’s lives, reduced funding and the lack of coordination for child and family policy across government. It also identifies potential areas for further development of children’s social care for the future.

“ADCS has responded to the case for change setting out a clear, ambitious vision for the future of children’s social care that sits at the heart of our wider vision for all children. As leaders of children’s social care and the wider context, we recognise the importance of this, and of working with all partners who have a responsibility to come together to help deliver this for children. At its heart, we need the right system conditions that provide the environment for effective relational-based practice to flourish. This extends beyond children’s social care and includes wider children’s services as well as our partners, including the voluntary and community sector. We must meet the needs of children and families earlier to keep more families together but we must care for those who need to be in our care as if they are our own.  ADCS is committed to working collaboratively to bring about the change that is needed to achieve this. Our response sets out some of the areas of focus, potential reforms we believe are needed and opportunities that exist to deliver them.”

Ramsden added: “The review calls for a vision for children’s social care, ADCS members believe this must go further. We need a holistic national vision for children and childhood that clearly states the collective ambition, underpinned by a coherent and strategic cross-departmental long-term plan and resources, providing the connectivity and commitment at the national level that delivers for children.”

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