Storing up trouble: NCB report exposes major failures in the system

In September 2017, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) launched an inquiry into the causes and consequences of varying thresholds for children’s social care. The Inquiry’s findings are published in the report ‘Storing up trouble: a postcode lottery of children’s social care’.

This vital document exposes major failures in the system designed to support families and children. The main concerns raised:

ā€¢ Thresholds for child protection or enabling access for support are often too high and thresholds vary significantly between local authorities
ā€¢ Children in need of a child protection plan are, in 2/3 of cases, being left vulnerable to continued abuse or neglect
ā€¢ Only a ā€œsmall proportionā€ of resources is spent on early help and family support
ā€¢ Families and children in need experience a high turnover of social workers assigned to them

A persistent theme in the report is that support often comes very late, i.e. when a child is at risk of being taken into care. This increases cost to the state and delays the opportunity to relieve suffering. ā€œToleranceā€ for early help is ā€œbased on resourcesā€ ā€“ there is simply not enough capacity in the system.

One major conclusion that we can draw is that short term failure to offer appropriate services leads to long term increased cost and more children suffering the impact of developmental trauma and needing more complex services later on.

The report acknowledges (without specific reference) that there is often a combination of Adverse Childhood Experiences present for children in need of early help.

Help us help children and adults recover from early developmental trauma ā€“ a right acknowledged by the United Nations and signed by the U.K. under the UN Convention on the rights of a child.

Turning Childrenā€™s Lives Around

At our latest Best Practice Forum in June 2018, our keynote speakers Richard Cross (Head of Assessment & Therapy for Five Rivers Child Care) and Alison Hodgetts (a Registered Clinical Psychologist) gave a talk entitled ā€œTurning Children’s Lives Aroundā€ – overcoming the impact of childhood adversity through therapeutically focused integrated care.

The presentation focused on the Five Rivers model of ā€˜trauma and attachment informed careā€™ and the knowledge, organisational structures and supports that are required to ensure good outcomes.

Five Rivers Child Care is a social enterprise that has been dedicated to addressing the impact of abuse, trauma and neglect for almost three decades.

The care provider has made significant investments into developing knowledge and understanding about what works in accurately identifying the needs of the child or young person. This has ensured the right therapeutic environment to meet the needs of children and young people who have experienced trauma.

Richard shared how this unique approach was embedded across Five Rivers Integrated services of Education, Care and Assessment & Therapy – and how a partnership with researchers from University College London and The Anna Freud Centre was successfully developed.

Richard and Alison further explained how Five Rivers Integrated case management maximises the use of the assessment comprising ā€œthree key strandsā€ (attachment, trauma and disassociation). The approach aims to transform and maximise the impact in responding to the emotional needs of the child or young person.

Fountain House, a Five Rivers residential facility, has developed an attachment and trauma informed residential therapeutic environment. Richard explained that this approach has demonstrated how it can ā€˜transform childrenā€™s livesā€™ by minimising the impact of their traumatic experiences as they developā€™.

Concluding the talk, Richard made an important point to the audience, that ā€˜the integrated model provides the glue and a shared understanding helps people to connectā€™. Summing up the necessary steps to develop an integrated service, he stated that the following key areas were essential to successfully delivering this model:

1. Develop a relationship-based therapeutic model
2. Capture the hearts and minds of the workforce
3. Help children and staff to understand what is happening
4. Provide training and a toolkit for staff
5. Develop a supportive culture for staff
6. Undertake a full assessment of the child/young personā€™s past experiences and current issues to identify their needs

The Earl of Listowel thanked them for their presentation and the audience then took the opportunity to ask questions.

Our Speakers

Richard Cross is Head of Assessment & Therapy for Five Rivers Child Care – an innovative and progressive social enterprise dedicated to ā€˜Turning childrenā€™s lives aroundā€™ who have experienced trauma, abuse and neglect. His focus is on ensuring the development of effective identification of need (assessment) and deliverer of therapeutic interventions that make the difference.

He is a UKCP, EAP, WCP registered Psychotherapist and Child Psychotherapist who has worked with children, young people and adults who have experienced trauma since 1991. He has sought to support the development of a range of relationally based therapeutic programs to improve outcomes for maltreated children e.g. New Zealand advanced EQUIP program (2002), Adapted SOTP for adolescents (1998) and piloted a trauma informed approach across 16 residential homes (2007 ā€“ The Sanctuary Model). He is a member of the European Society for Trauma & Dissociation (ESTD) and a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD).

Alison Hodgetts is a Registered Clinical Psychologist who has worked with children, young people and their families over the last 10 years, both in the NHS and privately. The focus of her clinical work has been with children and young people who are fostered or adopted; providing assessments, therapy and consultation, as well as training carers, parents and professionals.

Her professional interests include Attachment Theory, Developmental Trauma and attachment-based psychotherapy. She has completed her Level 2 Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) training and is working towards completing the DDP practicum. Alison joined Five Rivers 12 months ago and works with the Fostering teams in the West Country.


Campaigners call for new vision for children in care

Campaigners call for new vision for children in care

The Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers is calling for a clearer definition of what care is aiming to achieve. The group wants a statement in law defining theĀ principal aimĀ of the care system for those children who spend a significant time in care, as promoting psychological healing from past harm, building resilience and achieving wellbeing.

In order to achieve this change a new framework is required to measure how all children and young people are coping in care which can be used to hold local authorities to account.

ā€˜A new visionā€™ is published at a time when the care system continues to fail too many children, despite the evidence that care can be the right option and can provide the security, stability and love that children need.

The Alliance is also calling for:

  • Greater support and training for primary carers and key workers in childrenā€™s homesĀ – so they can help children overcome past experiences and build positive relationships.

  • Mechanisms for assessing the quality of care from the childā€™s perspectiveĀ – and accountability when a placement doesnā€™t work for them.

  • Measurement of childrenā€™s wellbeing and progress throughout their care experienceĀ – rather than one-off outcomes, so we understand when children are doing well and when they need more support.

  • Care that meets the day-to-day emotional needs of childrenĀ – but with timely access toĀ specialist mental health supportĀ if needed.

  • Continued support when young people leave careĀ – so they are not expected to become independent earlier than their peers.

Enver Solomon, Director of Evidence and Impact at the National Childrenā€™s Bureau and co-director of the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers said:

ā€œThe care system is not just about removing children from harmful situations and putting a roof over their heads. Many children in care have been seriously abused or neglected, and rely on local authorities as corporate parents to help them get back on their feet. Ultimately, the care system should help children overcome their past experience and forge the lasting and positive relationships that we know are vital to their future wellbeing.ā€

Emma Smale, Head of Policy and Research at Action and co-director of the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers said:

ā€œCare is the right option for many children and young people. It can provide them with the love and warmth that they need to have happy and secure childhoods.

ā€œBut, despite the collective efforts of national and local government, the focus on the best outcomes for children has been lost.

ā€œThe impact of traumatic experiences like severe neglect and family breakdown is enduring. Yet too many young people say that the reasons they come into care are not addressed. It is time to renew our efforts for children in care and care leavers.ā€

The Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leaversā€™ ā€˜A new visionā€™ is available atĀ Ā

A Young peopleā€™s version is also available.

The Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers is comprised of:

A National Voice

Action for Children

British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF)


British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

Children England

Coram Voice

Family Rights Group

Institute of Recovery from Childhood Trauma

National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (NAIRO)

National Childrenā€™s Bureau (NCB)


National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS)

Office of the Childrenā€™s Commissioner


The Care Leaversā€™ Association

The Childrenā€™s Society

The Fostering Network

The Princeā€™s Trust

The Who Cares? Trust

Together Trust

Young Minds