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House of Lords Podcast: adult social care, and children and families

8 December 2022

A man sits on a sofa speaking to his older father

This month we speak to two members who have been leading investigations into improving adult social care and how the government has incompletely implemented the Children and Families Act.

Listen from Friday 9 December or subscribe:

‘A gloriously ordinary life’

‘We cannot keep asking families and friends to step up and take more and more responsibility for the adult social care services, while denying them some basic rights in terms of fair benefits and fair access to work.’

First, we speak to Baroness Andrews, who has been chairing the Lords Adult Social Care Committee. The committee's recent report, titled 'a gloriously normal life' has just been published. It makes several recommendations on what the government needs to do to improve social care. Listen to Baroness Andrew's interview to find out what the committee found as it spoke to people with lived experience of caring or care, and what the committee now wants the government to do.

What we heard from carers was the privilege of caring and how much they got out of it, how much they'd learned, for example, from growing up alongside a disabled child or how much they had learned from seeing their parent become a slightly different person from the one that they had been brought up with. It was a positive experience in terms of love and duty for so many, but most had never had a choice, and what we looked at as a consequence of that is what is going to happen in the future when there will be two million people in the next decade aging without children.’

‘A failure of implementation’

‘Sadly, we found that, due mainly to a lack of real focus on implementation and monitoring the implementation of the Act, it's really been a missed opportunity. And so many of the reforms as envisaged, just haven't taken place or haven't had the desired impact.’

Then we speak to Baroness Tyler of Enfield. Baroness Tyler has chaired the Lords committee investigating the government's implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014. In this interview, Baroness Tyler explains how a lack of scrutiny has meant the Act has failed to achieve its desired purpose and what the government can do to fix it.

‘We feel it's been a real missed opportunity to improve help, support and protection, particularly for vulnerable children and their parents.’

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Transcript

Introduction

Amy:

Welcome to the House of Lords Podcast

Matt:

In this episode, we’re talking to two members of the Lords who have been chairing investigations into adult social care and implementation of the Children and Families Act.

Amy:

Hello, it’s December here in the House of Lords and, while we’ve had a little gap since our last episode but a lot has taken place in Parliament.

Matt:

Two different Prime Ministers have answered questions in the Commons chamber since we last spoke and there have been changes on the front benches in both Houses.

Amy:

And, of course, huge numbers of people from across the country as well as world leaders travelled to Parliament for the Lying-in-State of Her Majesty the Queen in September.

Matt:

Yes, Lying-in-State took place in Westminster Hall, which is the oldest part of Parliament dating back to 1097. The tradition of Lying-in-State taking place in Westminster Hall is more modern though, with the first being for Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone in 1898.

Amy:

And the King also attended Parliament to address both Houses as well as during the Lying-in-State.

Matt:

Yes, King Charles III has been a regular attendee at Parliament, accompanying the Queen at State Openings and he even made his maiden speech in the Lords Chamber as Prince of Wales. That makes him most likely the last monarch to have sat in the House of Lords before acceding to the throne. Although these were his first engagements as monarch in Parliament, he will of course continue to regularly attend to preside over State Opening from, we expect, spring next year.

Amy:

Next up, we’re going to be speaking to two members of the House of Lords who have been chairing special investigative committees. These are committees that are set up each year to look into a particular topic and make recommendations. So far we’ve had a report into tackling digital fraud and this week two reports have been released on adult social care and the government’s implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014.

Matt:

Yes, these committees are a bit different. While most Lords committees are cross-cutting compared to Commons committees that track specific government departments, these committees are formed based on suggestions made by members. Each year the House looks at a variety of proposals for investigations and around four are selected. First up, Amy spoke to Baroness Andrews about the work of the Adult Social Care committee, which she has been chairing.

Baroness Andrews on adult social care

Baroness Andrews:

Hello, my name is Kay Andrews. I sit on the Labour benches in the House of Lords, I have done so for some years now, and I've had the privilege of chairing the Adult Social Care Select Committee this year. Because it's a specialist select committee, we had a year to find a topic and put some work in which would help people outside the House of Lords understand how important the policy was and the sorts of policies that were being developed around it.

Amy:

Baroness Andrews welcome to the podcast. The committee that you chair has been looking into adult social care, as you said, and it's just released its report "A Gloriously Ordinary Life." Could you tell us a little bit about why you chose that title?

Baroness Andrews:

Oh, that's such a good question to start. We took evidence on adult social care, and in particular we were looking at the relationship between the unpaid carer and the people that they support and look after, whether they're young working adults or elderly people. And we took evidence from a very wide range of people because this was not an area which has actually been covered very much before, although there's been a lot of work and interest recently in aspects of adult social care.

And some of the people we took evidence from were what we call expert witnesses, and sometimes they were carers and sometimes they were disabled people, they described to us what they really wanted from adult social care. And the one phrase that came out so strongly, 'We want to live a gloriously ordinary life.' And we all thought in the committee that just said it all, the sort of lives that we take for granted, because they are so ordinary in many respects, and yet which are outside the reach of many people because they have to cope with so much in their daily lives to enable them to get on with their lives.

Amy:

And why is the committee looking at this now?

Baroness Andrews:

Well, again a good question because it's very timely and you might be forgiven for asking, 'Well when so much is being discussed about adult social care, why did you take it on?' And we were aware of that because there has been a lot of interest in, for example, adult care, social care white paper, and there has been a lot of concern about what happened to residential care during the pandemic and the shortage of care workers. But nobody has actually looked at what is happening to the unpaid carer and their families and friends they take care of, and how all this change and scarcity of resources really bears down on them. So that was what we decided to do, and to look at the invisibility of those parts of the adult social care system, particularly unpaid carers and their families and friends who haven't had much attention.

Amy:

And what's the committee found?

Baroness Andrews:

Well, we found indeed that there was a huge range of invisibility and people spoke very openly to us about that and what it meant, everybody from directors of adult social services, local governments, carers themselves, people from the charitable sector and the agencies working with disabled people, and they all said, 'Sometimes we really feel forgotten, even though there is a set of services available to us, very few people seem to understand what it means in terms of the difficulties we have in accessing the right services, the sufficient services.' And we know, for example, because of cuts in local authorities that there are enormous amounts of delay and difficulty now in the system that has been made a lot worse since the pandemic, which has got worse this year.

One of the most appalling statistics I think is that in the first three months of this year alone, 2.2 million hours of care were lost because of the shortage of staff and we know that adult social care is short of 165,000 workers. And these are skilled and compassionate workers who find the levels of pay are simply not adequate enough to live on. So obviously they go and find other jobs and one of our recommendations is we should look at the pay and conditions of social care workers. But what we also found is that we were right to look at invisibility, we were right to look at the situation of unpaid carers, and people were asking for the same things. They were asking, obviously, for better financial settlement, something that was realistic in terms of what was really needed because of the difficulty of accessing assessments and services. They were asking for more choice and control over their lives so that they didn't always have to immediately rely on their family and friends, so that they could choose a personal assistant, for example, somebody outside the family to care for them.

They were asking for not a national care service like the health service, but national infrastructure and support and visibility. For example, as we recommended an adult social care and support commissioner to whom they can go, to whom... who will represent them and advocate for them and challenge the system. They were asking for a better deal for carers and for better benefits, because these are the lowest benefits available, and for carers leave because people who care often try to hold down a job at the same time. And carers leave has been promised, but it hasn't been delivered. And they were asking for all the things that had been promised and which they were so pleased about in the Social Care Act of 2014 to be made real, and those were some of the key recommendations that we made.

Amy:

So you mentioned the sort of invisibility felt by a lot of carers and the report says that our understanding of adult social care as a society is partial and often flawed. Did the committee explore why that might be the case?

Baroness Andrews:

Yes, we did, and we could have spent a lot more time on that because it's a really interesting question. Because in comparison with the NHS for example, people have a very, very vague idea on what adult social care is about. And partly it's because historically it was not part of the original NHS settlement because in those days, 1945, people, the demography was different. Women didn't work, people with disabilities didn't sadly live as long and we didn't have an aging society. We have all that now. And in particular an aging society imposes its own demands and strains on social services. So we don't... we're not as familiar with the adult social care service as we are with the health service. We use the term collide and I think we do collide with it.

When we are in some sort of distress as a last resort, when situations have changed and got worse, when we're suddenly caring for a parent who's deteriorated quickly, for example with dementia or when there's a sudden chronic illness develops in a spouse or a child, and suddenly we need help but we don't know where to go and get it. And we are not familiar with it, and many people, the people who really know about it, the people who actually use the services themselves. And that's why all those community based support services as well as the good social care workers themselves are so critical in making it possible for people to find what they need and what they're entitled to. But it's really difficult and we heard so many stories of how complicated and exhausting the system was. And while we haven't come up with a perfect solution because there isn't one single solution, we have made recommendations about how that can and should be improved.

Amy:

And you touched on cuts to services. The report also says that spending on adult social care services dropped 12% between 2010-11 and 2018-19. What impact would you say that's had?

Baroness Andrews:

Well it's had a range of impacts because it's coincided, of course, with an increase in demand, partly as I say, because we're living in an aging society and also partly because none of the things which we should have done years ago, like provide accessible adaptable housing so that people can stay at home or come back to a place of safety in their home when they've been in hospital should have been done and none of those things were done. So the impact for example, is that there's a huge waiting list of people waiting for assessments, and now many local authorities are saying they can only assess people with very specific conditions. We've seen with the best will in the world, social workers not able to offer the sort of positive and enabling services which they'd like to offer except the bare minimum.

And what it's done, and this came across very clearly, I think it's created a climate of fear for many people because quite a few people in our evidence session said, "Well, I'm really scared to go and ask the local authority for an assessment because I might end up with something worse. They might ask my father to give more hours of his time. They might take away something which I've actually had in which I rely on because we can't afford it anymore." So there is that sense that you're living in a very precarious situation, and one of the big impacts has been that the direct payment system, which has been in place for many years, which has never really been rolled out effectively because it depends on the recruitment and to an extent the participation and training of personal assistants themselves, as I said, because of the general economic climate, many people don't want to do this job and there's a terrific turnover in personal assistants. So even people with settled arrangements are finding it very, very difficult to find people that they can rely on to stay with them and work alongside them.

Amy:

You mentioned that you were speaking to the people directly affected by these issues. Was there anybody else that you heard from during the inquiry?

Baroness Andrews:

Well we heard from the then chair of the Health and Social Services Select Committee from the House of Commons, now the Chancellor, for example, and he was passionate about the need to support social care. I mean we quote him extensively in the report as saying how vital it is for the health and capability of the health service. The health service cannot do its job unless there's a strong adult social care sector around it and supporting it. And we can see that every day now in waiting times of ambulances, of people who can't leave hospital, and there's a knock on effect across the health service, so he said basically his committee had recommended an additional seven billion pounds a year, which we didn't actually recommend as boldly as that.

We also took evidence from people in local authorities who were doing things differently. For example, in places like Wigan and Somerset where they have worked out a better way of delivering the services, either through by training social workers in different sorts of skills and approaches or by developing services in the community, which can act as a sort of first port of call. There are lots and lots of terrific examples up and down the country, and the trick is actually to enable all this good practice to be spread, universalised. And that's again, something we have addressed. Not easy to do in a climate of austerity, but really important that the best practice can be shared.

Amy:

And how has the experience of committee members helped during the inquiry?

Baroness Andrews:

Well, it was very interesting because one of the things we first asked each other was what experience do you have of caring? And I think every single one of us had had some experience, either of spouses who become more dependent or siblings and parents, elderly parents, of course, nearly all of us have had experience of that. And across the committee there was a lot of expertise in housing, in local authorities, in mental health. So we were... I wouldn't say we are experts by experience in the way that people we spoke to and listened to are, but there's certainly a lot of experience across the committee, yes.

Amy:

And you mentioned before unpaid carers. Could you tell us a bit more about what the issues are there?

Baroness Andrews:

Yes, there's one generic issue, shall we say, which is that if you become an unpaid carer, often you don't have much choice because you are the person in the front line. You may be a daughter or son or a parent looking after a child who's been disabled from early years, you may be a young working adult who looked after a friend or a parent.  

So our system of adult social care is dependent basically on families and friends stepping up. Now once you do that, the consequences are if you try to hold down a job, it becomes very difficult unless you've got extremely good employers who subscribe to a set of principles about supporting carers in the workplace, which some do, and we reference that. We heard from people who had extremely professional jobs, lawyers, academics, who just had to give up. We heard from people for whom the expense of caring and the uncertainty of income and having to give up their jobs meant they'd lost their home. I mean that's the very sharp end. But day to day, when you're a carer of somebody who is severely disabled, for example, you need more heat, you need a special diet, you need special transport, but whoever you're caring for actually needs more above and beyond what you would normally provide for a family.

It's more expensive and therefore you rely heavily on what you can obtain, and when the carer's benefit, which is only £69 a week, hedged about with conditions like how many hours you work and how much you can earn before you get that, it's pitiful. And so many people spoke of being on the margins of poverty. So that is one thing that came across powerfully, and that's not news. I think everybody probably knows or understands that. But the other thing was ill health. When you're looking after somebody night and day or you can't go out easily to get any fresh air, can't go out for respite, can't go out to have fun, to be with your friends, it takes great toll on your own health, on your mental health, on your sense of your own freedoms and capacity, and on your physical health. So we heard a lot about that. And of course the tension of knowing that if you become ill, what's going to happen to your mother? What will happen to your sister. 'If I get ill, who's going to look after them?' So that combination of mental and physical health is a real issue.

Amy:

What can the government do to fix these issues?

Baroness Andrews:

Well, we have said... well first of all, we haven't ignored A, that we are in a recession and a very difficult economic climate. Secondly, we haven't ignored the fact that the government has actually addressed some of this in the social care white paper, but this is a bit vague. So what we're saying is basically we do need a funding settlement for adult social care, which recognizes this is an investment in a service which enables people to care and work, saves the country money, puts more people back in the workplace, helps the country to grow stronger and more resilient, as well as the service itself being more resilient, will attract people into it and help to solve the recruitment problems and the retention problems, and of course support the health service. So it is a no-brainer in terms of the economic benefits it brings.

So we've said that and we've also talked about a clear national plan for a workforce strategy. Now those are big issues. I've talked about the adult social care commissioner. I also talked about the need for the whole social service. So think again, along with the rest of the country, about what is it we can expect from, and should be able to expect, from adult social care. And this is where the title comes in, again, not the minimum, not a default position where you're just given what you can manage on or what keeps you just about alive, but a system which enables you to live a productive life, 'a gloriously ordinary life', which demonstrates what adult social care can achieve. We had one person who said to us, it's not quoted in a report because it was said informally, and he said, "Severely disabled, the health service saved my life. Adult social care enables me to live it."

And that's the point. So our recommendations cluster around that. For example, we talked in relation to carers, people who they look after as well, about giving a genuine choice and giving genuine control over what they can actually achieve and what they need to do then. And we talk about housing, for example, the need for prioritizing accessible housing and the assistive technology, liberating technology. And in terms of carers, we've got a series of specific recommendations, easier access to and an increase in carers' allowance, more flexible support for carers for work, including the implementation of what they were promised and carers leave, and more support, and this is critical, from health and social care professionals to help them through the system, to identify them in the first place, make sure they get the benefits they're entitled to, make sure the person they're looking after and supporting gets what they're entitled to, and wherever possible treats them as an equal partner in that process with the real skills and understanding and not somebody who is just an additional nuisance.

Amy:

Do you see the autumn statement having any impacts on this?

Baroness Andrews:

Yes, of course, in the sense that chancellor was quite clear that he wasn't going to impose the cap on residential care because he thought the money was best spent in putting it into the community care system for care packages in the community. We put out a press notice from the committee, you may have seen, which said we understand that in principle, but it's no substitute for predictable, sustainable, and fair planning for adult social care, which enables people to plan for the long term and make the right decisions.

And it's not fair if you are robbing part of the system, in this case actually you are not honouring your promises to people who have to pay for residential care the way they do, and using that money for another underfunded part of the system. And then we raised lots of questions about well, where is this money going? What did he mean by care packages? Why 200,000? What's the evidence? What is it going to look like? What difference will it make? We asked him, for example, of all the sums of money in the adult social care white paper, for example, £500 million on training of the workforce. Well, what's happening to that money? Is that money going to be held? Will it be lost? Will it be compromised or reduced in some way? So lots of questions we've asked about exactly how that money is going to be spent.

Amy:

And now the report's out, what happens next?

Baroness Andrews:

Well, part of the thing that we really want to do is to help change the nature of the debate so that we don't always see social care as something to flinch from or something to be obsessed by because it's clearly seen or described as broken. We want it to be something that the country takes absolutely as great service and a great national asset. So part of that is about recognizing what it can do, and that's exactly why we chose the title we did.

Part of it actually is about challenging government now to really be serious about this, and not least actually to put into practice what it promised eight years ago in 2014, actually, in the Care Act, which is a great piece of legislation which has never been realised. Also, to recognise that we cannot keep asking families and friends to step up and take more and more responsibility for the adult social care services, while denying them some basic rights in terms of fair benefits and fair access to work. And then of course, we do want the whole issue of choice and control to be firmly in the centre of the agenda, not just in the design and delivery of services, but also in the training of social workers in the future.

Amy:

Baroness Andrews, thank you for joining us on the podcast.

Baroness Andrews:

Thank you.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield on the Children and Families Act

Amy:

And next, Matt and I spoke to Baroness Tyler of Enfield about the Children and Families Act committee that she has chaired. This committee has been set up to look at how the government has implemented the law since it was passed in 2014. Here’s what Baroness Tyler had to say.

Baroness Tyler:

Hello, my name's Claire Tyler. My formal title is Baroness Tyler of Enfield, and I've been chairing the Lords select committee conducting post-legislative scrutiny on the Children and Families Act 2014 this year.

Amy:

Baroness Tyler, you've been chairing the Children and Families Act Committee, which has recently released its report titled, 'A Failure of Implementation.' What has the committee found?

Baroness Tyler:

The committee's found that essentially, the Children and Families Act was a very important piece of legislation. Indeed, it was designed to be a landmark piece of legislation giving greater protection to vulnerable children and more support to families. But sadly, we found that, due mainly to a lack of real focus on implementation and monitoring the implementation of the Act, it's really been a missed opportunity. And so many of the reforms as envisaged, just haven't taken place or haven't had the desired impact.

Amy:

And you said that it was supposed to be a landmark piece of legislation, so could you tell us a little bit more about what it actually set out to do when the Act was introduced?

Baroness Tyler:

Sure. It was a very, very wide ranging piece of legislation, seeing what additional help and support could be offered, particularly to vulnerable children, to children in care, children being adopted, children going through the family courts perhaps when their parents were separating, children with special educational needs and disabilities as well as help for parents who were trying to balance work and family life. So it was a very wide ranging Act, indeed.

Amy:

And it became law in 2014. So what's happened in the last eight years since then?

Baroness Tyler:

Well, I think there has, some of it has been implemented, other bits haven't. But, there's been very little focus by government on looking at what's actually happened, very little collecting of data, very little sort of scrutiny on whether the parts of the act that have been implemented have been achieving their desired purpose. And so that's why I think we feel it's been a real missed opportunity to improve help, support and protection, particularly for vulnerable children and their parents.

Amy:

And is it just the Lords that undertakes this kind of post-legislative scrutiny?

Baroness Tyler:

No. I mean, both the Lords and the Commons undertake post-legislative scrutiny in different ways. Usually, that involves looking at an act like, as we did in the context of a wider inquiry. And it's important I think to point out that the Commons Education Committee did look at special educational needs back in 2019, but only the Lords has dedicated committees for post-legislative scrutiny. And of course there maybe say one a year devoted to post-legislative scrutiny so it can't in any way match the number of acts which are published each year. So there's a really big sort of imbalance between the number of acts which receive sort of post-legislative scrutiny and the number of acts on the statute book.

Amy:

And what do you think are the benefits of that kind of scrutiny?

Baroness Tyler:

Well, I think it's really important because it tells you whether the reforms introduced in the act were the right ones, whether they've actually succeeded in helping solve the problems which were identified by the Act, how well it's been implemented, if anything was missing from the Act, whether bits of the Act are now sort of out-of-date or need an updating and whether there have been any unintended consequences of the Act.

Amy:

And of course, a big part of a committee's work is hearing from a range of people, taking evidence. So how did the inquiry work? Who did you hear from?

Baroness Tyler:

Well, given we were covering a very wide range of issues, we tried to hear from as many witnesses as possible. We had some 44 witnesses I think, who were sort of experts in the field be it adoption, be it the family court, be it special educational needs or mental health. We issued a call for evidence and we received more than 150 written evidence submissions. But most importantly, we wanted to talk directly to members of the public who have been directly affected by the way this Act has been implemented or hasn't. So for example, we visited a school and a special educational needs center. The committee spent a day in the family courts in Oxford, an afternoon looking at mental health services, they're called CAMH services, at the Mosley Hospital in Camberwell. And we also had round table discussions with birth parents, separately with adoptive parents and from different parts of the country, with young people with direct experience of the family justice system, with people working in mental health services and we also conducted an online survey. So within this sort of fairly limited time of the inquiry, and taking account of the fact that there were still Covid restrictions in place for some of the time, we did as much direct engagement as we possibly could.

Matt:

Okay. So the committee's taken all of its evidence and obviously published a report. What were the committee's main conclusions and recommendations?

Baroness Tyler:

I think, well first of all, and very importantly, we recommended that we want the government to start taking post-legislative scrutiny more seriously. And we feel that this starts by defining how success will be measured when any bill is drafted and improving the way that data is collected. So it is possible actually to make an assessment of the way legislation has or hasn't been implemented. We've made a raft of specific recommendations in the areas that I've already mentioned, particularly to do with adoption, family justice and employment rights. So we've made a number on adoption. We are calling for a national digital system to help with safe post-adoption contact to replace what we felt was a very out-of-date paper-based letterbox system for children who've been adopted to keep in touch with their birth parents. We've recommended a task force be set up to address directly the very worrying disparities we found on race and ethnicity in adoption. Reporting directly to the Secretary of State to try to reduce, for example, the time it takes children from ethnic minority backgrounds to be adopted.

We've called for more support for what's called kinship care, which is when children aren't formally adopted or with what's called a 'special guardianship order', but where they are being looked after more informally by family members. Which is a good solution in some situations, but doesn't have the degree of help and support, particularly for those relatives who are giving the kinship care. In the family courts, we've said we want to see the government put a much stronger focus on reducing the delays. There was something introduced in the Act called the '26 Weeks Target', which was for cases that would be completed going through the family courts. That's to do with when children are being taken into care. And we have said that the government needs to immediately come up with a plan, an action plan to show how we are going to get back to much closer to that target.

Because the last time that target was hit was in 2016, so a long time before the pandemic. And those delays in the family justice system are really important for children, particularly younger children. Having to hang around for a year or more to find out what's happening to them can have a massively adverse effect on children. We also want to see better advice and support for separating couples and we've recommended that there should be an impartial information website available. But also a new general advice appointment available to everyone as universal entitlement to replace what are called current mediation information meetings, for which there is low take up, and they don't seem to be working well. And really what we're trying to achieve here is that separating parents can consider all the means available to them to try to resolve their disputes, which isn't just mediation there are other ways of doing it, and seeing if it is possible to avoid actually going to court. And finally, we have some important recommendations to do with flexible working and having a bigger ambition really for paternity leave with the eventual aim of a dedicated allowance of paternity leave for fathers, which we think is really important to help with family life and also to help fathers bond with their children.

Matt:

The report talks about the benefit of early interventions. Could you explain a little bit more about what you mean by early intervention and what that might look like.

Baroness Tyler:

I mean, I think we came to the clear conclusion that, particularly in matters to do with children, young people, that early interventions generally result in better outcomes. And if you don't intervene early on, perhaps with a mental health issue, problems in care, in adoption, then the need for really high cost interventions later on when perhaps children and families are at crisis point is really just a bad use of money when you could have intervened earlier on at a smaller cost. You could have averted that sort of crisis point from actually arising. So we are very strongly in favor of taking action when a problem first arises. And we were very taken with a statistic that we heard from Anne Longfield, the former children's commissioner who told us that there is what's called a 'disadvantage gap' that a child has at the age of 16, and that 40% of that has already happened by the time the child arrives at school at the age of five.

And I think that just demonstrates actually, the need for early interventions. But we've got some very specific examples, which we were very concerned about children being unable to access mental health support until they were already self-harming or in some cases even attempting suicide, when it was absolutely clear that the waiting lists were far too long, the threshold for eligibility was far too high. So we felt that the government really needed to take urgent action there. And also examples of adoptive parents, adoptive families not receiving the support they needed to ensure stability. So there was no support available until the placement was at risk of breaking down. Then there's other examples as well, but we just felt that early intervention was a sort common theme running right the way through our inquiry.

Matt:

Just to take you back briefly to you mentioning the lack of focus on implementation and obviously, the report, is called I think, a Failure of Implementation. What's your sense in evidence gathering of the government's appetite to basically get serious about better implementation?

Baroness Tyler:

Well, I mean, one of the things that we thought so obviously pointed to a lack of focus on, it was the fact that the government, which is required to produce a post-legislative memorandum between three and five years after any given act receives Royal Assent, unless it's found to be totally unnecessary, and this should include an assessment of how the act has worked in progress. Now, often that just doesn't happen. So eight years on when our inquiry was set up, we had to request this post-legislative memorandum. I don't think it would've happened unless our inquiry was set up. And in far too many places it simply said, "We don't know. We don't collect data. We don't know the impact that this has had."

So I think it's really, really critical that the government takes post-legislative scrutiny far more seriously. And I could think that would start when a bill is being drafted, by defining how success will be measured and particularly improving data collection. I mean, again, the lack of data in all the areas we looked at was another really, really key, crosscutting theme. So I think there's a lot more that the government could do to ensure that once acts get on the statue book, something actually happens and people's lives are improved because that's usually the intention of these pieces of legislation, particularly the sort of legislation I've been talking about. It's to improve people's lives and it's just such a missed opportunity when that doesn't happen due to a lack of focus.

Matt:

As I say, the report's been published now, what are the next steps? What happens next? And how hopeful are you that we see some improvement?

Baroness Tyler:

Well, I am hopeful that the government will take our report very seriously. I'm very much hoping that I will be able to have meetings with the relevant ministers after the report and that they will listen to what the report has, what the committee has, said, and will start to indicate how they will respond. Formally, government is required to respond within two months, and that's when you get really the first idea of how the report has been received. We'll also have at some stage, we'll have a debate on the floor of the House in the Lords or in Grand Committee. And we've had very, very engaged committee members from all parts of the House and I know that they will be working very hard to ensure that the messages of the report are put across and carried on in their own work, both in the chamber and outside. And then later down the line, we'll have the opportunity to bid for the report to be followed up by the Liaison Committee in a short followup inquiry, specifically to see what progress has been made on addressing our recommendations. So there's quite a lot to do and we are determined that our report doesn't sit on the shelves and gathered dust.

Matt:

That's fair to say the report being published is just the start rather than the end of a process.

Baroness Tyler:

I think that's very, very fair to say, that there'll be a lot to do. My experience of working on select committees and indeed chairing a select committee in the past is that sort of the followup, the serious followup work takes a year or two after the report is actually published.

Matt:

And has the changes in the machinery of government and the ministerial changes, of which there've been quite a few, has that had an impact on the committee and the followup the committee expects to see?

Baroness Tyler:

Yes, I think it has. Indeed, I think two of the three ministers who gave us evidence only a few months ago are no longer in post. And the committee felt that the whole issue of the incessant churn of ministers in recent years had a really adverse effect on the focus of this act and the way it had been implemented. There are actually some figures in the report about the numbers of ministers that have occupied each of those key posts since the act was put on the statute book and it is a very high number of ministers indeed. And we were particularly concerned, for example, things like the Family Justice Board, which was set up to try to really improve timeliness in the family courts and get people to really focus on this 26 Week Target, which is chaired by a minister, I think in the last couple of years as one of our witnesses told us, it's been a different minister each time that board has met. So that's why we've recommended that there should be a senior independent chair of the Family Justice Board in order to provide some real continuity and focus.

Matt:

Baroness Tyler, thanks for joining us today.

Baroness Tyler:

Thank you very much.

Amy:

And that’s it for this episode of the House of Lords Podcast. If you’d like to find out more about committees in Parliament, you can also check out Committee Corridor from the House of Commons. Find out more and listen at parliament.uk or wherever you get your podcasts, which is also where you can find previous episodes of ours.