A CUMBRIAN has led a “once in a generation” national review of children’s services and he believes Cumberland could pioneer a new way forward for council-run support.

Josh MacAllister, who lives near Penrith, has led the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.

Having interviewed families and workers in the sector, the review proposes a new-look system of children’s social care in the UK, unlocking the potential of communities, offering intensive early intervention to help families before they reach crisis point.

Mr MacAllister believes that the new unitary authorities in Cumberland and in Westmorland & Furness, are in a unique position to lead the way on this new approach.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “What we’ve seen across the country is that children’s social care needs a reset.”

Mr MacAllister said that the new Cumberland Council set to takeover on April 1, 2023 has a “clean slate” and can build a modernised service from the ground up.

“The review will mean a period of major change for social care anyway for the whole country. Cumberland has first mover advantage because it is already making some changes next April.

“If the council can seize that opportunity as something exciting to do things differently, they’ll be ahead of the game.”

“There are examples across Cumberland at the minute, both in what will be Cumberland and Westmorland, of community organisations that have a really good understanding of what families need in those parts of the county.

“Lots of these organisations, they know the people that are struggling in an area, they’ve got a good report with them. Finding ways for Cumberland to build out from the strength of community led organisations would be one example of a new approach.”

READ MORE: Changes afoot for children's services in Cumberland, Westmorland & Furness

Mr MacAllister said that there are times when a response from a group of local authorities is necessary but sometimes an ultra-local approach is the answer.

He said that this could involve “building a family help system where you understand what the headteachers are saying, what the GPs are saying, how many families would be eligible for family help and then building a really bespoke team.”

The independent review of service nationally has called for a less reactive approach, focussing more on early support for families when problems begin to present.

“In the last 12 years, we’ve seen a significant reduction on the amount of money spent on early help and supporting families at that earlier stage. The amount of money we spend on care and family help has increased.”

READ MORE: Cumbria Council officers work to keep victims of domestic abuse at home

Mr MacAllister said that early signs are often presenting in families but the service, frustratingly, is helpless without the resources to intervene.

The children’s services review calls for £2.6 billion in Government investment nationally to drive forward it ambitious programme of reforms over the next five years.