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The publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is a welcome recognition that the care system is not working for too many children and young people.
Here at Blue Cabin, we’ve spent time discussing what the review means for the people we work with, including care-experienced children and young people, the adults in their lives, with fellow organisations which are part of Esmee Fairbairn’s Young People Leaving Care Learning Programme, and our local authority partners, with our Trustee, Sedil Kilic, commenting: “I am pleased to see that the final report of The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care accepts that change needs to take place, to improve the experience of children in care.
“The review identifies the current challenges professionals face ‘in recognising and unleashing the full potential’ of the relationships that the community and voluntary sector have with families.
“The review also recognises that, to revolutionise children’s social care throughout England, some of the recommendations will require an increased collaborative approach to reform the system. I am excited to see the role the review will play in ensuring better and more cohesive working.”
Overall, there are elements we welcome but also areas of concern. Firstly, we were glad to see:
We work in partnership with Nepacs and were pleased to see their work with care-experienced young men in prisons featured as a model of best practice. Our Creative Aid project, developed in partnership with Nepacs, aims to deliver a co-created programme with young men in Deerbolt Prison in the coming three years.
We have worked with those who are in special guardianship through our Feel Creative and Creative Life Story Work projects and see the need for recognition of their role and more targeted support for these families.
We also welcome the recommendation of Virtual Schools supporting care-experienced people up until the age of 25. We work in depth with virtual schools, and appropriate and well-costed funding will be vital to support the expansion of their already wide-reaching remit.
We have talked in depth about how the report recommends forefronting love and relationships.
The review says: “‘Love – is often missing in discussions about children’s social care but it is a word used with intent throughout the report.”
Blue Cabin is really interested in interrogating this more in depth; this is something we often discuss with our local authority partners. Love is a word Blue Cabin has never shied away from as an organisation. We describe our work in these terms regularly and Blue Cabin Associate Artist, Lisette Auton, has written a brilliant blog about this here.
There must be an understanding and acknowledgement by people in positions of responsibility and power about what conditions are needed for loving relationships – professional and personal – to exist and thrive within complex and demanding systems. A nuanced and bespoke approach is required here, recognising that human beings are at the centre of these systems.
Whilst we recognise the need for change, we know that any major restructure to the care system will take time and has the potential to cause upheaval for care-experienced children and young people. Will love be the lens through which restructures are planned and implemented? What impact will any restructuring have on the relationships that are being developed between care-experienced children and young people, and the adults in their lives? What will be in place to support the professionals – ensuring they can provide the continuity of loving relationships and environments whilst the systemic changes happen?
The review also says: “This is our chance to reshape the system by placing relationships front and centre.”
Relationships are at the heart of everything we do and are central to our work. We know that creativity has a fundamental role in enabling care-experienced people to build and develop relationships with others and Blue Cabin’s values describe the importance we place on this process.
We have a number of areas of work that already support the building of loving relationships, including our Creative Life Story Work programme in partnership with Darlington, Gateshead and South Tyneside Councils. We are keen to immerse ourselves further in the report, to understand how the recommendations will support care experienced people to experience loving and nurturing relationships. We recognise that the work we do will be more important than ever.
We also have other concerns about some elements of the review, including:
Our work continues.
Blue Cabin will continue to place the views and opinions of care-experienced people at the heart of our work, and we are in dialogue with care-experienced people, allies and local authorities about what the review means for them.
We’re also interested to hear from national organisations like Arts Council England, Youth Music and Local Cultural Education Partnerships on how the report will influence their work.