Care Crisis Review

A sector-led review of the rise in applications for care orders and the number of children in care

Applications for care proceedings in England and Wales are at record levels. This is one factor contributing to the rise in the number of children looked after in the care system, now at the highest level since 1985.

This seven month sector-led review into the care crisis engages with, and is supported by stakeholders within the child welfare and family justice system. 

Read our summary here

The review will:

  • examine the reasons for the rise in care proceedings and number of children in care
  • at all times retain a focus on achieving the best outcomes for children and families
  • take account of the current national economic, financial, legal and policy context that impacts on families and on local authority and court practice
  • aim to identify specific changes to local authority and court systems and national and local policies and practices that will help safely stem the increase in the number of care cases coming before the family courts and the number of children in the care system.

We are facing a crisis and, truth be told, we have no very clear strategy for meeting the crisis.” 

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court


Purpose of the review

  • To identify specific changes to local authority and court systems and national and local policies and practices that will help safely stem the increase in the number of care cases coming before the family courts and the number of children in the care system.
  • To do so in a way that retains focus on achieving the best outcomes for children and families and takes account of the current national economic, financial, legal and policy context that impacts on families and on local authority and court practice.

Why a sector-led review?

  • The crisis has an impact on children, young people and families and on those working in the child welfare and family justice systems.
  • All stakeholders have knowledge and expertise about the service responses that can make a difference to children and families and may help to safely avert the need for care proceedings.
  • There is a groundswell of opinion that those most affected by the crisis should take a combined lead in promoting ways of supporting families to avoid problems escalating.

Strands of activity

  • Collating evidence on the drivers for the increase in care proceedings.
  • Scrutinising research findings about the policies and practices that may safely lead to reductions in care applications and children coming into or remaining in care.
  • Calling for information and emerging evidence about effective approaches (used by local authorities, courts and voluntary organisations) to engaging positively with families at an early stage and enhancing the chances of resolving family difficulties.
  • Consulting with children, young people, parents and kinship carers.
  • Consulting with sector leaders and legal and social work practitioners in England and Wales, to explore and prioritise actions for change.
  • Reporting, with recommendations, on ways of reducing demands on the family justice and child welfare systems and improving outcomes for children and families.

Arrangements for the review

  • Scheduled for November 2017 to June 2018.
  • Funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
  • Facilitated by Family Rights Group.
  • Chaired by Nigel Richardson, recently retired Director of Children's Services, Leeds City Council.
  • Scoped and planned by family justice and child welfare stakeholders.
  • Advised by a Stakeholder Group and academics.

Future activities

  • December-March: Call for information and emerging evidence about effective approaches to engaging positively with families at an early stage and enhancing the chances of resolving family difficulties.
  • January – March: Survey for legal practitioners.
  • January 2018: Roundtable events in Wales and London.
  • February 2018: Structured consultation events with children, young people, parents and kinship carers.
  • End February 2018: Report on the causes of the crisis.
  • April 2018: consultation events on options for change.
  • Early June 2018: Launch of report.
  • 3 Stakeholders meetings: Late January/February; April; Early June.

Stakeholders and Advisers

The Stakeholder Group

Nigel Richardson, former Director of Children’s Service, Leeds City Council (Chair)
Ben Ashcroft, Care experienced and Founder of Every Child Leaving Care Matters
Cllr Judith Blake, Leader, Leeds City Council and Chair of Core Cities UK
Professor Karen Broadhurst, Professor of Social Work, Lancaster University
Beth Cape Cowens, Child Care lawyer and FRG Trustee
Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive, Cafcass
Angela Frazer-Wicks, Family Rights Group’s Parents’ Panel & Co-Chair of Your Family, Your Voice Alliance
Professor Judith Harwin, Professor in Socio-Legal Studies, Lancaster University
Dez Holmes, Director, Research in Practice
Tony Hunter, Chief Executive, SCIE
Ian Keating, Principal Policy Advisor Children and Young People, Local Government Association
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England
Kevin Makwikila, Member of Family Rights Group's Parents' Panel
Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane, a Lord Justice of Appeal in England and Wales
Mel Meggs, Deputy Director of Children’s Services, Rotherham MBC
Alison Michalska, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and Corporate Director of Children and Adults, Nottingham City Council
Alice Miles, Director of Strategy, Children’s Commissioner for England
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division
Alasdair Smith, Director of Children’s Services, LB Southwark
Rachel Wardell, Corporate Director of Communities with Responsibility for Children and Adult Services, West Berkshire Council (and lead for ADCS on workforce development)
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board and Leader of the LB Islington
Sue Williams, Director of Family Safeguarding, Hertfordshire County Council


Advisers to the Review

Professor Janet Boddy, University of Sussex
Professor Karen Broadhurst, University of Lancaster
Tracey Budd, Programme Head (Justice), Nuffield Foundation
Alex Clark, Secretary to the President of the Family Division
Professor Judith Harwin, University of Lancaster
Dr Lisa Holmes, Deputy Director, Rees Centre, Oxford University
Professor Joan Hunt, Cardiff University
Professor Kate Morris, University of Sheffield
Dinithi Wijedasa, Research Fellow, University of Bristol
Teresa Williams, Director of Social Research and Policy, the Nuffield Foundation


Facilitators of the Review

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, Family Rights Group
Dorit Braun, Project Manager, Family Rights Group
Pam Ledward, Principal Social Work Adviser, Family Rights Group
Caroline Lynch, Principal Legal Adviser, Family Rights Group
Mary Ryan, Lawyer and Consultant, Ryan Tunnard Brown
Caroline Thomas, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Stirling
Jo Tunnard, Consultant, Ryan Tunnard Brown

How to get involved

Please send in the following and any suggestions by 15 January 2018, earlier if possible.

  • Any additional evidence you have about the drivers for the rise in care proceedings and number of children in the care system
  • Any research findings that you know of about policies and practices that may safely lead to reductions in care applications and children coming into or remaining in care

The dedicated email address for the review is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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