Plan to fix children’s social care has ‘no vision’ and ‘no ambition’ – Labour

Labour has condemned the £200 million package of measures to fix children’s social care, insisting the plan has “no vision” and “no ambition” for the most vulnerable children.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan made a statement in the Commons, detailing the Government’s response to the year-long review, chaired by Josh McAlister, on children’s social care in England.

The plan – which follows criticism of the safeguarding system after the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson – will see early interventions for families with addiction, domestic abuse or mental health problems to help them stay together where possible.

Responding to Ms Keegan in the Commons, shadow education minister Helen Hayes (pictured) said: “I pay tribute to social workers, foster carers, kinship carers, youth workers, directors of children’s services and all who work with the most vulnerable children and their families and advocate for them, and especially those who use their own often painful experiences of the care system to give voice to the needs of others.

“But across the country they will be left asking of today’s plan: is this really it?

“While some additional funding is welcome, this is not the radical reset the review demanded and which we need.”

The McAlister review put forward more than 80 proposals to reform the system, backed by a call for £2.6 billion in funding over five years.

Ms Hayes added: “There is no vision for the direction of children’s social care, there is no ambition for our most vulnerable children, there is no cross-cutting commitment from the top of Government to deliver better for every child and every care-experienced person in every part of our country.

“This Government has spent months legislating to restrict the fundamental rights to protest and to strike but has chosen not to make time to legislate to strengthen protections for children.”

Ms Keegan stressed the reforms were only “the start of the journey”.

“There’s many people who have had good intentions in this area, and there’s many initiatives that have been started after every review, and there’s many things that have been tried and there’s many things that haven’t worked.

“Evidence-led is what we need. We need to really understand these very complex cases, very complex situations, and we really need to have evidence-led to see what really works,” she added.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Munira Wilson echoed the Labour frontbencher’s claims, telling the Commons: “When the Secretary of State says she’s rising to Josh McAlister’s challenge, and he recommended a fundamental reset, and her announcements are frankly a piecemeal approach, which barely commit about a 10th of the money that he was suggesting is needed, I’m afraid these announcements, while there are good intentions behind them, barely scratch the surface.”

She told MPs she was “deeply saddened”, adding: “I suspect in her heart of hearts, the Education Secretary is also saddened that the Treasury has bound her in this way.”

Meanwhile, Conservative former education minister Edward Timpson urged Ms Keegan to be conscious that in 2014 “we had another £200 million innovation programme”, with a number of important projects proving to offer “positive outcomes for many children”.

He highlighted the importance of not “reinventing the wheel over the next few months and years in trying to understand what we already know”.

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