Councils to be allowed to opt out of child protection laws

(69 Posts)
LadyConstanceDeCoverlet Tue 04-Oct-16 13:55:55

- and also legal requirements for care for disabled children. Information here - www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2016/09/30/councils-to-be-allowed-to-opt-out-of-child-protection-laws .

AIBU to ask people to join the campaign against it? togetherforchildren.wordpress.com/

crispandcheesesanwichplease Tue 04-Oct-16 15:26:20

Terrifying. Have just asked for my name to be added to the list of signatories. It's bad enough already with everyone working to the same legislation, different staff/different levels of experience/different understandings of procedures.

LadyConstanceDeCoverlet Tue 04-Oct-16 15:53:36

I've realised it may be helpful to add more information. In brief, there's a Bill going through Parliament, the Children and Social Work Bill, which includes proposals under which the Minister will be able to allow councils to opt out of most of their duties in relation to children's social care. In theory this is "to test different ways of working with a view to achieving better outcomes ... or achieving the same outcomes more efficiently." Councils could get exemptions for up to six years.

So that means that, say, you desperately need help with your disabled child, you think your council has an obligation to do a full assessment and provide care, but when you try to get help they tell you sorry, the law doesn't apply to them, they're exempt because they're thinking up spiffy new ideas and trying them out. Or someone who has just left care can't get any help, and ends up sleeping on the streets or forced into prostitution. Or someone reports a serious child protection issue to their council and they have no obligation to do anything about it because they're exempted from their child protection duties - and a child dies. Councils can opt out in whole or in part, so no-one will realistically have any idea of what law applies at any given time in any given part of the country. It's a recipe for chaos

The whole idea seems ludicrous anyway, and wholly unnecessary. Surely it is perfectly possible for councils to try out new ways of working without being exempted from their current duties? It's not as if they're that onerous anyway.

In addition to joining the campaign, please could people contact their local MPs about this?

justicewomen Wed 05-Oct-16 18:25:22

It is so disappointing that this is receiving so little attention from Mumsnetters. Anyone caring for a disabled child or who has any interest in child protection, do sign unto the campaign to oppose this at togetherforchildren.wordpress.com

LineyReborn Wed 05-Oct-16 18:27:33

Thank you for this information.

Absofrigginlootly Wed 05-Oct-16 18:34:11

Whaaaaaaaat??!!! Let me guess, the fucking Tories want to privatise child protection agencies too now?! Along with all social care, why does that not surprise me???!!!!!
What else can they possibly mean by 'different ways of working'.

I used to work in the community (HV team) and have worked in hospitals too... I can tell you this would be a DISASTER of monsterous proportions! It's hard enough as it is to try and get hospitals, GPs, HVs and Social workers talking to each other at the best of times... If they were all working for completely different and private organizations with completely different policies and procedures it was would impossible!

I can only conclude that the government is trying to take us back 120 years or so to the Victorian age so that the 'probs' can just live and work in their workhouses with no education, no healthcare, no social support network and no ope of escape. Well their little empires of industry become richer and richer. angryangry

Absofrigginlootly Wed 05-Oct-16 18:35:51

'Povs' not probs that was supposed to be

Absofrigginlootly Wed 05-Oct-16 18:43:51

Added my name and shared

Pengweng Wed 05-Oct-16 19:12:05

Bumping

justicewomen Wed 05-Oct-16 19:21:35

Do you think that Mumsnet could do a campaign around this issue? The reason I am so worried is that cash-strapped Councils have a real incentive to persuade the Sec of State to weakens their duties towards children. So many parents and children advocates are really concerned that they will not be able to force Councils to provide vital services.

Shallishanti Wed 05-Oct-16 19:30:52

this is very shocking
but I don't feel adding my name to that list is going to make much difference
is there an online petition or similar?

MrsHathaway Wed 05-Oct-16 19:34:33

I ... I ...

Child protection is a good thing and the best way to achieve it is to oblige people to act.

I'm sure all sorts of organisations would prefer not to have to bother.

Are we deliberately doing back to the 1970s? Children were all happy and safe then </sarcasm>

Arfarfanarf Wed 05-Oct-16 19:42:29

That is disgusting but i am honestly not surlrised. The fights i have to geta scrap of support for my childrenleaves me in no doubt how unimportant disabled children are and they are seen by las as a financial drain. They would like nothing more than a way to disregard them.

The list will not be as effective as a petition that has to be debated if it gets enough signatures.

WaxyBean Wed 05-Oct-16 20:17:04

What can we do to prevent this? Would writing to our MPs help - or has this already passed this stage (with little publicity as I wasn't aware of this) as it seems to suggest this is now being debated in the House of Lords?

Absofrigginlootly Wed 05-Oct-16 21:24:30

I've flagged it up to MNHQ who say they will look at it in more detail...

I know what you mean though about feeling like adding your name is nowhere near enough.

Why wasn't/isn't the press all over this?!

Why are we taking such huge steps backwards?!

Ideas what can be done???
I agree that a parliamentary petition maybe too late now? (But I'm Not sure how it works)

ChoccyJules Wed 05-Oct-16 21:31:20

This is terrifying. Signed and sharing wherever I can.

mrsglowglow Wed 05-Oct-16 21:33:19

Very worrying and appears a big step backwards.

missymayhemsmum Wed 05-Oct-16 21:46:08

Completely outrageous and will put vulnerable children more at risk. Surely anyone can see that this will make it much, much easier for abusers.

LadyConstanceDeCoverlet Wed 05-Oct-16 23:16:13

It will help to alert MPs, because this has to come back to the House of Commons after it has been through the Lords. I really hope the Lords will chuck it out, but it won't stay chucked out unless the House of Commons agrees.

BakeOffBiscuits Wed 05-Oct-16 23:20:41

Who is going to be responsible for the welfare of children, if not the council?confused

caroldecker Wed 05-Oct-16 23:40:37

here is a more balanced view in the Guardian about what the bill is trying to achieve.
They can only exempt them if they give better outcomes or the same outcomes more efficiently. It does not allow them not to provide support and services. the Guardian article shows some areas that could usefully change.

justicewomen Wed 05-Oct-16 23:56:12

One of the BTL responders to the article in the Guardian called caroline Willow wrote as follows:

"Clauses 29 to 33 (formerly 15-19) are unprecedented, because they seek to enable councils, individuals appointed by Ministers to drive improvements in local authorities, and the Secretary of State, to kick-start the removal of legal duties towards children in a particular area. Hitherto, Acts of Parliament placing social care duties on England's 152 local authorities have applied across the entire country.

If these Clauses pass, social care duties - and the concomitant legal rights of children and families reliant on social care services - will vary between local authorities. A child living in a children's home in Barnet could have a completely different set of rights and safeguards from those living in children's homes in Bradford or Brighton. This postcode lottery will apply to all other children's social care services, from child protection, to adoption and fostering, to services for disabled children and leaving care.

Like other statutory instruments, regulations removing legal requirements will be subject to the negative or affirmative resolution procedure in Parliament.

Under the negative resolution procedure, Parliamentarians have 40 days to object to the draft regulations. Alternatively, both Houses must formally approve the regulations if the affirmative procedure is being used. Regulations are very rarely rejected. The Hansard Society reports that, "Since 1950 the House of Commons has rejected just 11 instruments and the House of Lords has rejected 7 (2 of which were decisions to delay). This equates to 0.01% of the total...".

It is impossible to count the number of legal duties (and corresponding rights) under threat. Every single social care requirement put into primary or secondary legislation since the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act is endangered.

It's naive and misleading to present these requirements as top-down burdens. As Kathy Evans says below, social care duties frequently arise from innovation in local authorities and children's charities. She and I personally lobbied for a duty on social workers to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings when conducting child protection enquiries. This became law in 2004. Now it's on the hit list. In 1987, Leicestershire County Council appointed the UK's first children's rights officer, to promote and protect the rights of children in care. One of the role's key functions was to stand by children when they made complaints. I know about this first-hand, because I did the job in the 1990s. Since 2002, local authorities have been required to provide independent advocates to children who make complaints. This was a hard-fought for legal development, which children and young people campaigned for alongside charities and others. It will also be at risk if Clauses 29-33 pass.

Andy Elvin wants to pilot children in foster care not having social workers or statutory reviews of their care. Before his post was axed, the Children's Rights Director published his report of 10 years' worth of consultations with children living away from home. The importance of social workers shines through. It is now 71 years since 12 year-old Dennis O'Neill was beaten to death by his foster father. We should remember that social worker visits to foster homes, and statutory reviews of children's care, were two of the outcomes of the Monckton Inquiry, established after this boy's death. Moreover, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK in 1991, requires that the care and treatment of children placed away from home be periodically reviewed. These legal safeguards must be robustly defended. That doesn't stop us continuing to be creative in implementing them, of course.

Finally, if privatisation is such a no-go area, as Andy suggests, why hasn't the Government accepted the amendment to the Bill - tabled by Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Watson, Baroness Walmsley and the Lord Bishop of Durham - that would place the prohibition on profit-making in children's social care in primary legislation?

Check out the Article 39 website for regular updates on the Bill."

caroldecker Thu 06-Oct-16 00:24:08

Justice The legislation only allows changes if it improves care or provides more effectively.
Looking at social worker reviews of foster carers; AFAIK there is a legal requirement for, at least, annual reviews. In actuality councils therefore demand annual reviews for all, with no variance.
It may be more efficient to see some children in settled foster care, with experienced carers to be seen every other year, whilst other children in other circumstances are seen more often than annually.
This may provide better care for the same number of visits - breaching the law but still providing the 'right' level of service.

LadyConstanceDeCoverlet Thu 06-Oct-16 07:58:33

It isn't a realistic safeguard that exemption only applies if a council is aiming to improve care or provide it more efficiently. By definition, if they are trialling something different there is no guarantee that it will improve care. There is certainly no guarantee that anyone will check on that: the current appallingly bad implementation of the SEN provisions of the Children and Families Act 2014 demonstrates that this government has no interest in doing that.

The foster care example is a classic example of why this is a bad idea. Even experienced foster carers will sometimes have particular difficulty with some children, or will go through personal problems that mean they need support. By definition, foster children have already had massive disruption in their lives, we should not risk further disruption.

Most importantly, no-one has demonstrated why improvements can't happen alongside current duties, and no-one has demonstrated that there is a benefit in having inconsistent support all over the country.

Absofrigginlootly Thu 06-Oct-16 16:13:45

^^well said lady!!

That's the major flaw with the idea of trying out new ways of working... What if those new ways make things more unsafe for children, even in the short term. That's someone's life your screwing up while you tick your boxes to show 'innovation'.

"Yes we trialed less supervision and found that after 2 years more children were abused and dead. So we have concluded that is not a good idea." hmmconfusedangry

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