Children’s Social Care - A Strategy for Renewal?

United Kingdom

The Department for Education has announced the government’s plans to transform children’s social care centralising families in future reform. In February 2023, the government published the Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy, “Stable Homes, Build on Love” which is open for consultation until 11 May 2023[1]. The strategy responds to recommendations made by 3 independent reviews: the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel into the tragic murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson[2], and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)[3]. The strategy is backed by £200 million investment over the next two years is to transform the current care system to focus on early family support and reducing the need for crisis response. The strategy aims to lay foundations for whole system reform by addressing urgent issues now and subsequently establishing national direction for long-term change. For example,12 local authorities will be backed by £45 million to provide local early help and intervention to keep families together, embedding a best practice model that will later be shared more widely.

The strategy recognises the need to expand and strengthen the children’s social care workforce and renders plans to increase the numbers. The government is to boost social worker recruitment by supporting local authorities to recruit up to 500 new child and family social worker apprentices. In Autumn 2023, there will also be consultations launched on the new Early Career Framework aiming to ensure social workers have the knowledge and skills necessary to support and protect children. Further, there are also plans to establish a National Workload Action Group to tackle social worker workload from early 2023. Within the 2 years of this strategy, the Early Career Framework should be through testing by early adopter local authorities and published, alongside the National Workload Action Group identifying and addressing unnecessary workload pressures.

Parallel to the strategy's plans for increasing and retaining the workforce, there is also concern raised regarding the overuse and reliance on agency social workers. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care published in May 2022[4], notes that the rate of agency work in children’s social care is at 15.5%, double the rate of adult social care. The latest workforce data also shows that around 2.6% of social workers moved from permanent local authority employment to agency roles in 2021 alone. At present, there are limited rules and recourse to control how agency social workers are employed, and local authorities are using agency workers to fill urgent vacancies at a higher price. To combat this, in early February 2023, the government published a second consultation inviting views on a set of national rules on the engagement of agency social work resources[5]. The consultation covers price caps on what local authorities may pay for agency workers, post-qualified experience needed for an agency assignment, use of project teams, references, notice periods, movement between agency and substantive roles, collection and sharing of pay and agency data, and adherence of procurement routes with national rules. The government aims to set clear expectations about how local authorities should use agency workers through the proposed national rules and to establish price rates on the amount local authorities can pay agency workers per hour. This is intended to bring agency worker pay in line with local authority employees, reducing the spending on agency workers so it can be invested in children and family services. The government are keeping further actions under review, including potential legislation to prevent local authorities from using agency social workers, and options to regulate and inspect suppliers of social workers[1]. The strategy aims that in September 2023, national rules for agency use will be published and will be in place by Spring 2024[2].

Additional measures announced in the strategy include investing £9 million in kinship training and support offered for all kinship carers, and investing £30 million in family finding, befriending and mentoring programmes to support children in care and care leavers to find and maintain relationships. The government aims to respond to consultations on the implementation strategy for strategic reform, the Children’s Social Care National Framework, and proposed reforms to the agency market by September 2023.

As the consultations remain open for comments, we are awaiting to see whether the strategy’s reforms will develop positive change in the running of children’s social care. However, the extensive in-depth strategy recommendations illustrate promising plans to protect and retain the workforce in children’s social care and thereby better safeguard those who use the services.

If you are a health, social care or education provider and require advice and assistance please contact us. We are monitoring the development regularly and our team are on-hand to assist with your regulatory queries.

 Article co-authored by Heather Flaherty, Solicitor Apprentice at CMS Manchester

[1] Children's social care: Stable Homes, Built on Love - GOV.UK (

[2] National review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson - GOV.UK (

[3] Children's social care study - GOV.UK (

[4] Realising-the-potential-of-the-workforce.pdf (childrenssocialcare.independent-review.UK)

[5] Child and family social worker workforce - GOV.UK (

[6]  Children's social care stable homes built on love consulation (

[7] Children's social care stable homes built on love consulation (