Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the London Borough of Sutton


    —    The authority remains concerned about the introduction of independent social work practices. Other possible solutions to the problem of recruitment and retention of social workers, as well as ensuring that social workers can spend sufficient time with children, remain unexplored.

    —    There are issues of accountability that have not been addressed.

    —    There is a risk that such practices will add to bureaucracy rather than reduce it.

    —    There is no evidence that social care practices will solve the key issue of recruitment and retention of social workers.


    —    The proposed separation of the functions of the child's social work practice and the adoption agency will add to the difficulties in co-ordination and planning.


    —    We note the Children and Young Persons Policy Bill Paper: Friends and Family Care, which is associated with the Bill. We welcome efforts to support and clarify arrangements for friends and family care. However, we note the "current estimate is that there are approximately 200,000 grandparents raising grandchildren." It is noted in the Paper that there are no definitive figures for the numbers of friends and family carers in this country. The proposals for offering support, including financial support, are insufficiently clear. Proposals for amendments to Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 allowing ongoing financial support potentially expose local authorities to enormous cost and resource implications. If such children are to be Children in Need as defined by Section 17, then they will require ongoing social work support and review.


    —    We support the proposal that children should be placed within their local area and community. It is not helpful to define this in terms of the local authority area. Many of this authority's children are placed very close to their home but outside the boundary of the authority. This is an arbitrary manner of defining local area and it is possible that this will produce negative impacts.


    —    Please see comments regarding Section 8. Many children attend schools that are not within their own local authority. Therefore Sections 8 and 9 may be in direct contradiction. The best placement to access a local school may be in a neighbouring authority, depending on local transport links.

6.  SECTION 29

    —    We would support measures for foster carers to have recourse to some method of scrutiny of decisions. The model proposed mirrors that for adoption as established by the Adoption and Children Act 2002. In our view, this is not the most helpful model. Fostering is more complex. Foster carers may apply to different schemes that may require specific skills. There are differing approvals, for example with regard to numbers of children or appropriate age. The model does not lend itself to speedy resolution, even with the small number of adoption referrals. The numbers of fostering referrals are likely to be far higher. This is likely to lead to considerable cost. Other models should be considered.

  7.  We note with disappointment that there are no specific provisions in the Act regarding the health of looked-after children. We would support the amendment to the Bill proposed by Baroness Massey of Darwen, which is supported by the NSPCC, British Association for Adoption and Fostering, National Children's Bureau and the Who Cares? Trust. This will make the requirements of PCTs towards this vulnerable group of children much clearer.

January 2008

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