Reforming children’s social care

The Government’s plans to reform children’s social care are set out in Stable Homes, Built on Love – the long-awaited response to the three independent reviews published in 2022 into children’s social care in England from Josh MacAlister’s review of children’s social care, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) market study.

Stable Homes, Built on Love consists of an implementation strategy and consultation on a children’s social care national framework and dashboard. The two documents together run to over 260 pages with the consultation open until 11 May 2023.

The plans are backed by £200m over the next two years, although the investment falls short of the £2.6bn called for in Josh MacAlister’s review which described the current system as requiring a ‘radical reset’.

The need for children’s social care services is rising, with “local authorities overspending and struggling to cope” says the strategy – there are 82,000 plus children in care in England, an increase of 21% since 2012-13. Local authorities spend £10bn per year.

Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education, writes in the Foreword to Stable Homes, Built on Love that “resources have become trapped at the crisis end of the system with not enough early support available…. We have not succeeded in making sure the right homes are available for children who need to come into care, meaning too many end up far from home and far from the people who are important to them.”

The strategy is set across six pillars of reform with each linked to the children’s social care national framework.

  1. Family help provides the right support at the right time so that children can thrive with their families
  2. A decisive 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 continuously learns and improves and makes better use of evidence and data

Of particular interest to readers will be chapter 5 looking at the care experience.

This chapter covers:

  • Review all standards of care, regulations and associated legislation
    • An expert working group has been set up which first met in November 2022
    • An aim will be to remove unintended barriers to ensuring enough of the right type of homes are available
    • A consultation is expected in the Autumn on standards of care
  • Financial oversight of the sector
    • Department for Education and Ofsted are to work with Department for Health and Social Care and CQC to learn from their experience in the adult social care market
    • They want to design a robust regime to serve as an early warning system
    • Developing an “effective and proportionate voluntary regime”, which “may support the transition towards a statutory function”
    • To enable close monitoring of the financial health of providers, allowing for greater financial transparency across the sector.
    • Seeking to bring greater transparency on ownership, debt structures and profit making across both independent fostering agencies and residential children’s homes (although they do say they will make an assessment on what impact changes in strategy have on capacity in the market and the costs of placements)
  • Co designing Regional Care Co-operatives (RCC)
    • A regional model for providing homes for children
    • To help commissioners of placements gain oversight and control of their regional market and ultimately, reduce placement costs by pooling resources and better predicting need in their local area.
    • Two pathfinders to work through implementation challenges before bringing forward legislation
    • Work with Ofsted on inspection arrangements for the RCC
    • Every ICB will have Executive Lead(s) responsible for Children and Young People, SEND and safeguarding

Many will be relieved to see the Government’s response about the windfall tax proposed in the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care:

“The CMA recommended against action that would limit prices or profits as that would likely exacerbate existing problems and drive supply from the sector. We believe a windfall tax would either result in providers exiting the market or it would lead to higher prices to cover the cost of the tax. The former would lead to fewer places at a time when local authorities are already struggling to find suitable places for children in care. The latter would result in higher prices being passed on to local authorities for future care placements. We recognise the concerns around profiteering and are seeking to rebalance the market through investing in foster care as set out above and through providing capital funding to help local authorities develop more of their own children’s homes, thus reducing their reliance on high-cost provision. In addition, our proposals on regional commissioning above will give regions greater buying power and put them in a stronger position when negotiating with private providers.”


There is much to be welcomed in the Government’s new strategy but it will take time for the reforms to materialise – in particular the impact of the RCCs.

Sadly, the increasing demand for children’s placements is driven by increasingly more complex cases and the rising number of looked after children. As we see from our daily work, commissioners continue to require the support and the investment of independent sector children’s home provision in the short to medium term.

If you are a commissioner, provider or investor who would like to discuss this further don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

Posted by


Mills & Reeve Sites navigation
A tabbed collection of Mills & Reeve sites.
My Mills & Reeve navigation
Subscribe to, or manage your My Mills & Reeve account.
My M&R


Register for My M&R to stay up-to-date with legal news and events, create brochures and bookmark pages.

Existing clients

Log in to your client extranet for free matter information, know-how and documents.


Mills & Reeve system for employees.