In September 2022, we posted our response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England that launched in 2021.

NIVN contributed to the Children’s Social Care Review by providing evidence and insight from IV professionals, volunteers and care-experienced children and young people, in addition to evidence from our Freedom of Information data requests and reports (2016, 2019, 2022). 

We collaborated with the Care Review team to hold online focus groups for IV professionals, volunteers and young people in care. The purpose was to consult on the Case for Change report, the care review’s early thinking about what needs to change in the children’s social care system. Over 70 participants in total reflected on the value IV relationships bring and changes that need to take place to the care system to build, not break relationships. 

The majority of our children have been through trauma, the role of an IV is key to helping build resilience. They are a trusting adult that provides consistency and real friendship. The role is all on the young person’s terms, they choose who their IV is, they choose the activities, they choose what to talk about, they choose when they meet, they choose when to end the relationship, this is all empowering.” – Independent Visitor Professional.

A snapshot from our 2023 Annual Conference for IV professionals across England and Wales.

The review’s Final Report published May 2022 recommended that local authorities “rethink how to deliver their Independent Visitors schemes by working within their communities to develop a community based befriending and mentoring programme that is not time bound, is responsive to the needs of children and young people and allows natural relationships to flourish” (page 151). The Care Review placed particular emphasis on developing services that promote long term relationships for both children in care and care leavers. As a whole, the review placed love and relationships at the centre of social care reform. 

The Children Act 1989 provisions for IV statutory entitlement up to the age of 18 years only. The NIVN Right Friend Campaign launched in 2020 called for a statutory extension of IV services to care leavers. This would help to reduce social isolation and support positive pathways to adulthood. This ambition is reflected in the growing number of local authorities that extend provision beyond 18-years, as evidenced in the NIVN Data Report 2022. Throughout the care review, we invited the government to work with us to enshrine the rights of both children in care and care leavers to an IV, in law and statutory guidance. 

Stable Home, Built on Love: Implementation Strategy and Consultation aims to set out the direction of travel for the children’s social system and establishes six key missions. Mission 1 states that by 2027, “every care-experienced child and young person will feel they have strong, loving relationships in place” (page 94). The document recognises Independent Visitor friendships as an important way for these children to safely form new, stable, safe relationships with adults outside of the care system. 

The Government states: “We will increase the accessibility and take-up of the Independent Visitors offer by working with the sector to reinforce current good practice and developing standards for Independent Visitor services” (page 95).

So what’s next?

As a network, we are working with the Department for Education to achieve this mission. We want to ensure that more children in care have access to high-quality IV friendships. To do this we will support the Department for Education to: 

  • Review current provision across the country.
  • Create and advisory group with sector representatives to look at findings.
  • Consider what new National Standards should like, building on the existing NIVN National Standards.
  • Launch the formal consultation by the summer of 2024.
  • Publish new Standards by March 2025.

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