Guest post: "The rights of vulnerable children must be protected, wherever they live"
Carolyne Willow says councils mustn't be excused from their legal duties to vulnerable children and care leavers
Director, Article 39
Posted on: Mon 17-Oct-16 14:50:31
(37 comments )
Councils say further cuts in children’s social care services would make it impossible for them to meet their duties laid down in law. But instead of granting additional funding, the government is proposing a change in the law that could see children lose safeguards and services.
Councils in England look after nearly 70,000 children. Most are placed in foster care and around 8,000 are in children’s homes, residential schools, hostels and custody. The amount councils spend on these children is falling. In July, a study for the government reported that spending on each child in care fell by 4% between 2010 and 2014. That’s remarkable given the high level of need that children in care often have - abuse and neglect are the most common reasons for them entering care.
The National Audit Office (NAO) reported days ago that the rate of children starting local authority protection plans has almost doubled over the past 10 years. Yet, the study cited above also found an overall 9% reduction in council spending on children’s social care services in the four years to 2014.
It is going to get worse. Research by the Local Government Association, published in June, tells of looming cuts of around 20% in children’s social care. But "the need to maintain a core statutory service leaves very little room for discretionary cost savings and efficiencies", the study’s authors observed.
These exemptions could span foster care, children's homes, leaving care, disabled children, children in custody and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
The Children and Social Work Bill, which reaches a critical stage in the House of Lords on Tuesday 18 October, allows individual councils to be excused from their legal duties to children and care leavers for up to six years. Every social care law passed by parliament since 1933 is affected. The process can be initiated by councils themselves; by individuals appointed by Ministers to drive improvements in children’s social care; and by the Secretary of State or her nominated person. Consultation with local agencies is only required in the first two scenarios. Nowhere is there a duty to consult children, young people and families.
This Bill appeared without any prior public consultation and it was not in the government’s election manifesto. There has been no evidence offered by the government to support its claim that legal obligations stop social workers helping children.
The plan is for government-funded ‘trials’ in single areas to test whether laws can be lifted across the whole country. During which time, children will be subject to a postcode lottery of legal protections (six years is a very long time for children), which flies in the face of last week’s NAO recommendation that the Government show “how it reconciles the variability [of] local thresholds for help and protection with its goal of all children having equal access to high-quality services”.
Facing opposition from Peers, social work bodies, trade unions, self-advocacy groups and NGOs, the Government has tabled two amendments. These do not diminish the danger. The first amendment stops the Bill from being used to expand profit-making in children’s services, though it will not halt outsourcing (the Government announced in the summer that it wants more than a third of children’s services to leave council control by 2020).
The Secretary of State’s duty to consult Ofsted’s Chief Inspector and the Children’s Commissioner has been tweaked in the second amendment. Instead of their views being sought separately, they will now sit on an expert panel with one or more additional members, and any written advice will be published. This will save on freedom of information requests, admittedly, but it could also prove convenient for Ministers who will no longer have to face potentially conflicting views.
At the end of last year, David Cameron announced six high-performing councils would be allowed “academy style freedoms” in children’s social care. This Bill allows all 152 councils in England to be excused from duties. These exemptions could span foster care, children’s homes, leaving care, disabled children, children in custody and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children - all involve children losing a safeguard or service. The Bill sets no limits on which legal duties may be changed or removed.
Thirty-three organisations and around 150 individual experts oppose the exemption clauses, and a public petition has opened on 38 Degrees. Please add your name to help defend national laws and obligations towards vulnerable children and care leavers.
Carolyne Willow is a registered social worker and Director of Article 39, a charity promoting and protecting the rights of children living in institutions
By Carolyne Willow
Already signed and shared on other social media sites. This terrifies me. Truly, truly terrifies me
Thank you very much for signing and sharing. Not enough people know about this Bill. No Green or White Papers: completely unexpected. The implications for children's rights and the rule of law are massive.
This terrifies me. Truly, truly terrifies me.
Me too. Where on earth is the media coverage of this?
Have signed and shared.
so bad in this day and age, poor kids, if they haven't had enough to contend with in their short lives.
Just signed and shared from 38 degrees email. Truly dreadful, this government seem to have no shame at all.
Thanks everyone for your support. We really appreciate it.
Signed. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
Signed and shared on Facebook. What's so alarming is that this is the first I've heard about it. Where's the press coverage?
Why are these things not in the press?!
Thanks mumsnet for highlighting
Because the Evans case conveniently clogged up the media?
Signed and shared. Truly worried about what will happen to these vulnerable children and young adults. Where is the press coverage?
This is a joke given HQ stance on disablism. And offensive.
Signed and shared. Shamefully, I had seen a few links to this already but hadn't actually read what's going on. So many depressing cuts and changes its hard to know which battles to fight at present.
Our council are completely restructuring how they make EHCP payments now, so even the precious few who have battled to get support are now having to battle to maintain it.
HQ. Could you please explain your brilliant guest post, as this is, with your official HQ stance on this thread www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/a2758924-supported-living-for-challenging-youngsters-being-built-next-door?msgid=64330806#64330806
Reposted from another thread as suggested by candy
Definition of irony
I fully support Auser's post.
Supported Living is for people who need support.
To start a thread saying what do I do about supported living being next door is intolerant.
For this to be condoned by MNHQ is unacceptable.
For MNHQ to say it's not disablist is at best coy and at worse ignorant. Disability comes in many guises.
For the two threads to be running simultaneously is breathtaking hypocrisy.
I want there to be some kind of irony award for this post running at the same time as the 'home for challenging youngsters' thread.
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