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Guest post: "The rights of vulnerable children must be protected, wherever they live"

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MumsnetGuestPosts · 17/10/2016 14:50

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.

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

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Sgoinneal · 19/10/2016 13:17

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Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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CandyMcJingles · 19/10/2016 13:31

Free speech is important.

Discrimination is illegal.

If you can't see the distinction I suggest you seek professional guidance pronto.

Discrimination is not always overt.

Entrenched disablism is covert.

Still illegal though.

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DianaMitford · 19/10/2016 15:04

And yet social workers waste precious time and their lamentably few resources pursuing utterly ridiculous cases. I have seen this happen too many times.

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CandyMcJingles · 19/10/2016 15:11

Diana I don't understand (I have a social care background). Please could you explain further?

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Sgoinneal · 19/10/2016 15:37

This reply has been deleted

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CandyMcJingles · 19/10/2016 16:54

Well I set up a thread on chat about why do people say I am wrong when I can see disablism and they can't?
I genuinely wanted to know.
I wanted advice, support and to see it from a different perspective,
All the things MN say other posters can do.
I can't find it now, it's not on my TIO and I don't get deletion messages.
No email.
I assume I've been deleted. Very speedily.

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DianaMitford · 19/10/2016 16:56

I have been the victim of a malicious complaint and it took a year for me to clear my name, during which time I was hounded by social workers, the subject of two meetings involving teachers from my children's school, police, etc. I wasn't listened to or believed when I told them the true state of affairs.

The facts:

I have two daughters, 9 and 14,
I am a single parent with an extremely good relationship with both fathers.
I chose a flexible job that I do from home precisely so I can be here for the children. I take them to school each day and collect and in the event that they're ill, they stay at home.
They eat a varied, very healthy diet; all meals are cooked from scratch.
They are happy, healthy children who are secure in their life.

I didn't find out for about 8 months what the actual allegation was against me which was like swimming in glue trying to defend myself. I had a social worker interviewing my children at school repeatedly, visiting me once a week when it was the holidays, I was dragged through these meetings being called a liar and told that they knew my children better than I did. They phoned my doctor to have access to medical records, they monitored my Facebook unbeknown to me - all in all there was a huge amount of time and energy invested in precisely nothing. It absolutely sickens me to think of all the children who don't have a secure home life, who aren't fed a meal when they get home, who have to fend for themselves, who have parents dependant on drugs or alcohol. Those are the children that need the time and resources that were devoted needlessly to me.

I told them time an

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DianaMitford · 19/10/2016 17:04

Posted too soon.

That's the bulk of it. It was appalling and has left me emotionally scarred. I ended up filing a complaint against one lady and she still tried to turn up to my house! Meanwhile the girls and I were spending the summer with our ponies and dogs enjoying the countryside we are privileged to live in.

I was innocent of what had been alleged, they never had a scrap of evidence to back up their assertions and consequently tried endlessly to try and catch me and the girls in a lie.

From speaking to others I have learned that I am far from the only one to suffer this kind of treatment. I was an easy target, that's what I believe was at the heart of it.

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CandyMcJingles · 19/10/2016 23:53

Diana that sounds terrible and I hope you e had and got the support you need I rl to deal with it.

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DianaMitford · 20/10/2016 09:07

Thank you Candy. No support, no, but I'm a tough old bird Wink

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article39 · 23/10/2016 13:03

So grateful to all those who have signed petition so far. We are close to 99,000 signatures - in 9 days. Thank you. Please keep sharing.

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ShamuChakerabarti69 · 01/11/2016 14:22

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Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

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