Home / Insight / Stable Homes, Built on Love – The Government responds to reviews calling for reform to children’s social care

Stable Homes, Built on Love – The Government responds to reviews calling for reform to children’s social care


On 8 February 2023, the Government produced a report following three independent reviews into the care system:

  • the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care;
  • Child Safeguarding Practice Panel’s review into the deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson; and
  • the Competition and Markets Authority review.

These three independent reviews showed the current care system to often be fragmented and struggling to meet the needs of children and families across England. The Government has launched its proposed strategy for reform in children’s social care within the report ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love’ which was published on 8 February 2023.

The Government states that their strategy is to focus on what really matters to children, which is “family, love and a safe, stable and reliable place to call home”. The strategy is supported by a £200m investment over the next two years.

The report sets out six pillars of their approach towards children’s social care, and a number of measures to support or implement each pillar:

  1. Family Help provides the right support at the right time so that children can thrive with their families
  2. A decisive and multi-agency child protection system
  3. Unlocking the potential of family networks
  4. Putting love, relationships and a stable home at the heart of being a child in care
  5. A valued, supported and highly skilled social worker for every child who needs one
  6. A system that continually learns and improves and makes better use of evidence and data

Some of the key measures announced in the strategy to support these pillars include:

  • Providing additional and better support to families at an early stage, partly through a pilot of a new early Family Help model for families across 12 local authorities, with a £45m investment to test this new approach.
  • Where a child is at risk of harm, early intervention will take place to protect them.
  • A Child Protection Lead Practitioner role will be introduced to work with other services such as the police to better identify and respond to risks of harm to children.
  • Encouraging agencies to work together in a fully integrated way so as to improve their responses. This will be supported by the new Child Protection Lead Practitioner roles.
  • Utilising family networks by supporting the kinship care system. There will be £9m invested in kinship care, including exploring the possibility of a financial allowance for kinship carers.
  • Recruitment and reform for foster carers to ensure that there are enough of the right homes for children who need them. Children are to be placed close to their family, friends, communities and schools wherever possible – something that kinship placements will also help with.
  • The care system will recognise the importance of ambitions for children in care and care leavers so that they are supported, able to thrive and achieve in adulthood. This is a reflection of the findings of ‘The Big Ask’ survey, which showed children in care often feel underestimated.
  • Restrictions on the use of agency social workers so as to improve cohesion and retention of social workers, and to reduce the outlay of local authorities who spend significantly on agency workers.
  • Recruitment of up to 500 new child and family social worker apprentices.

The majority of these proposals will be evaluated over two years before being rolled out more widely.


While the reforms have largely been welcomed, they are less extensive than the 80 proposals for reform backed by £2.6bn over 5 years that was called for in the Independent Review.

Key figures within the sector – including Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Independent Review – question whether the strategy goes far enough to reduce the number of children coming into care and to resolve the issues around recruitment and retention of social workers and foster carers.

There have also been criticisms on the extent of funding allocated to the proposed reforms. The Local Government Association notes that: “The funding announced, while helpful, falls short of addressing the £1.6bn shortfall – estimated prior to inflation – required each year to simply maintain current service levels.”

On a similar note, the Shadow Minister for Children & Early Years Helen Hayes has criticised the strategy stating that “the measures announced … fall far short of the ‘radical reset’ of children’s social care called for”.


The Government is consulting on many aspects of their report. The consultation closes on 11 May 2023 and a further response is expected in September.


It is clear from the three independent reviews that reform is necessary to children’s social care and the current system is not sufficiently protecting children or ensuring that children in care are given the best opportunities. Keoghs has previously provided commentary on the problems facing children’s social care:  Spotlight on Children's Services in the pandemic | Keoghs.

Perhaps unsurprisingly amidst the cost of living crisis, the level of funding recommended by the Independent Review has not been allocated to the reforms. This limits the extent of the reforms and results in a package that is not as extensive as that recommended by the review.  

Ultimately it is hoped that these measures will improve the lives of children in care and go some way to resolve the issues highlighted in the Independent Review. We await detail of the final reforms later this year following the consultation that ends in May 2023.


Anna Churchill

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