With the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care published on the 23rd of May 2022, we thought it prudent to review the legal market in this area.
In the 10 years I have worked on the local government market, the need for childcare lawyers has never been higher. On average, we receive 3 new childcare lawyer or paralegal instructions per day. This is of course across the nationwide legal market.
The need for childcare lawyers and paralegals increased just after the first lockdown in 2020, when local authorities noticed an increase in cases of abuse for vulnerable children kept at home during the pandemic. Local authorities increased the requirement for locum lawyers during this period, to help keep case numbers at a safe level and to ensure they were processing cases within a timely manner. The safety of the children in their care- paramount.
To provide context, there are currently circa. 80,000 children in the care of local authorities in England. This figure will be 100,000 in a decade, if the current rate of growth of 2% a year continues. In the year to March 2021 there were 536 incidents in England involving serious harm to a child, where abuse was a factor. This was up 19% on 2019-20. The murders of Star Hobson & Arthur Labinjo-Hughes were among the 223 children who were killed. However, in the year 2021-2022, the number of serious incidents and deaths dropped. The strong public reaction to these cases, has in many cases obligated ministers to act, to ensure that where children are at risk of serious harm, social workers will step in.
The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care led by Josh MacAlister, sets our recommendations to the government on how children’s and their families interact with the care system and how it can be improved. Whilst there is no doubt councils want to do all they can to keep children safe, the report reflects on the issues that many councils have been raising for some time, including the need to further invest in early help for children and families. The Minister for Children and Families, Will Quince MP, outlined 3 priorities to improve children’s social care:
1. The first is to improve the child protection system so that it keeps children safe from harm as effectively as possible.
2. The second is to support families to care for their children, so that they can have safe, loving, and happy childhoods which set them up for fulfilling lives.
3. And the third is to ensure that there are the right placements for children in the right places, so that those who cannot stay with their parents grow up in a safe, stable, and loving home.
Josh MacAlister responsible for leading the report, stipulates that “Change is now both morally urgent and financially unavoidable. We have a stark choice: keep pouring money into a faltering system or reform and invest to improve people’s lives and make the system sustainable for the future,”
The recommendations made will require a huge amount of funding, but the government has responded to say that the report was the “start of a journey” and that they were ready to meet the challenge set by the review. With the cost-of-living crisis and various other economic and social factors facing families over the coming months, it is imperative these changes are implemented as quickly and effectively as possible to support councils in their vital work of keeping the most vulnerable in society safe.
If you would like to read the full report, please click the link below:
For more information about our work in the public sector, contact Zoe Alex on 020 7092 8000.