Children and Famlies Bill

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES BILL PUBLIC READING (CF 03)

Summary of Comments

Background 

Under the auspices of the Chairman of Ways and Means, the House of Commons Scrutiny Unit administered a "Public Reading" of the Children and Families Bill, undertaken as a pilot. Members of the public were invited to comment on the Bill via a web forum hosted on the Parliament website. Forum users were encouraged to comment on specific Clauses or Schedules of the Bill but this was not mandatory. The forum ran from Wednesday 13 February to Tuesday 26 February and received 1402 comments, of which 1099 were published. [1]

The web forum has now closed but comments can be viewed at http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/public-reading/children-and-families-bill/

The Scrutiny Unit will be carrying out an evaluation of the pilot and would welcome feedback from Committee members, which can be sent to scrutiny@parliament.uk

Departmental officials will also be invited to participate in the evaluation.

About this summary 

This summary is intended to assist MPs on the Bill Committee by condensing the points raised by forum users into key themes and providing illustrative quotations. Only those Clauses which attracted significant comment have been included in the summary.

This summary follows the interim summary which was circulated to Members on Thursday 28 February and has been expanded to provide a fuller breakdown of the number of comments addressing particular issues. Owing to the diverse nature of comments and the fact that forum users were not required to stipulate which Clause they were commenting on, these figures should be used only as a guide. A more detailed commentary and analysis has also been provided.

Forum users were encouraged to read the Bill and the Explanatory Notes before commenting but there is no guarantee that they did so. The summary is intended to objectively reflect the comments made on the web forum and inclusion of a particular comment or viewpoint should not be taken to be an endorsement of its accuracy or validity.

Contents

Page

Part 1: Adoption and Children Looked After by Local Authorities 

 

Overview 

Total published comments on this Part of the Bill: 116 (includes comments on this Part of the Bill which were made in the "Additional comments" section of the forum).

The majority of comments in this section related to Clause 2 and objected to the removal of the explicit legal wording requiring an adoption agency to give due consideration to religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.

Clause 1: Placement of looked after children with prospective adopters 

(15 comments) This Clause received a mixed response, with some users opposed to the principle of fostering for adoption, some supportive, and others questioning how it would work in practice.

SD: "I don’t believe that children should be placed with prospective adoptive parents when there is still a possibility they might be going home. I think this is totally and utterly wrong."

Catherine W-M: "As an approved prospective adopter this clause gives me a lot of concern. If I also have to be an approved foster carer to be considered for this will I have to go through another approval process or will the approval process take longer? Currently, children who are being fostered usually have regular direct contact with their birth parents as there is still a chance that they may be able to return to them on a permanent basis. This arrangement would be very uncomfortable for both birth parents and prospective adoptive parents."

Cat S: "Fostering for adoption is an excellent idea, it could help prevent breakdown later on."

Particular concerns were raised about the implications of this Clause for kinship carers (e.g. grandparents)

Michael: "There is a serious risk that the primacy of 'fostering for adoption' may unintentionally exclude the possibility of kinship placements; these are often not available at the start of proceedings but emerge later, so may, in effect, be ruled out by this proposal."

MJ: "My concern is that kinship placements are not even mentioned in the bill and I feel it should be clarified in the bill that kinship options are to be thoroughly explored and that wherever possible prospective family and friends carers should be assessed BEFORE adoption is at all considered, the child's name is entered on the adoption register, and is removed hundreds of miles from its birth family so making contact difficult if not impossible, especially in the case of small babies. Please give all members of the birth family a fair chance and enough time to be assessed before stranger adoption is seen as inevitable for a child."

Clause 2: Repeal of requirement to give due consideration to ethnicity: England 

(71 comments) Most of the comments on this Part of the Bill related to this Clause, with the vast majority opposing the change. It is not clear whether they all understood that the intention of the Bill (as set out in the Explanatory Notes) is not to see a child’s race, religion and culture totally disregarded, but to remove any suggestion that these factors should be placed above the other factors that adoption agencies must take into account when reaching a placement decision.

H: "If no consideration is given to race, religion or culture then children will lose everything of their heritage...The clause is ill-thought through and shows no understanding of these children’s needs. It flies in the face of all research and takes us back 30 years in terms of our thinking and understanding of the needs of ethnic minority children."

Lawei B: "Being an adopted black child myself, living in England I feel it is imperative to place children within their cultural & ethnic setting! I feel this way because if a child is withdrawn from their culture or prevented from being raised without it, they become exposed to a high risk of not knowing or understanding where they actually come from, yes love and care can still be provided, however an authentic representation of original culture is key."

Enoch: "Cultural heritage and traditions are important educational systems or tools used by Africans and Asians to bring up and nurture their children... These all contribute to a child developing holistically, with a sense of belonging...These unique practices can never be replicated by people of different cultures."

Abdurrahman: "It is important for a child to be placed in a household that understands their cultural lifestyle and allows them to focus on stabilising their life instead of spending it explaining themselves to carers who may not have the same understanding as culturally/ religiously matched carers."

Cat S: "I believe that children should be placed in a family regardless of ethnic background and religion... In my opinion it is far more important that a child is placed in a family rather than languishing in care."

SMR: "It might still not be appropriate to place a black child with white parents in a rural village but this should be decided on a case by case basis and not covered by a blanket policy."

Mumdrah: "I think differences in cultural heritage should certainly not be a barrier to adoption, but should simply be a consideration in the matching process just like any other factor of need."

Clauses 7 & 8: Contact: children in care of local authorities and Contact: post-adoption 

(13 comments) There was no clear consensus on this Clause.

Xyz: "It is of the upmost importance that the healthy pre-adoption relationships of adoptees are given concrete and enforceable protection in law. Foster children often love people, and are loved; to pretend a child is a 'blank slate' and to fail to give their relationships protection in law is to say that everything they were and everything they had and everyone they loved is worthless."

Jayne S: "Having worked in child care for over 13 years, I see family breakdown in adoptive families, due to the children still having indirect or direct contact with the natural parents... I find people do not want to adopt due to not having control and having to interact with the natural parents."

Amanda B: "I feel it is very important to allow adoptive parents to make decisions alongside their adopted child and wider family about important family matters. This should include whether they wish to meet with their child’s birth family."

Michelle W: "The emotional and physical impact of contact with abusive or neglectful parents to children should be closely monitored. Contact should not be seen as a right of the parent but as the right of the child."

Part 2: Family Justice 

 

Overview 

Total published comments on this Part of the Bill: 121 (includes comments on this Part of the Bill which were made in the "Additional comments" section of the forum).

Most of the comments in this section related, either explicitly or implicitly, to Clause 11 regarding parental involvement. Many comments made broader observations about parental involvement following family breakdown.

Clause 10: Family mediation information and assessment meetings 

(19 comments) Comments on this Clause were fairly diverse, with little in the way of themes emerging.

Margaret P: "Mediation and assessment between parents before court proceedings should be made obligatory – would save a lot of court time".

Sue W: "I see, on the surface, no reason why there should be an opt out clause of a mediation information and assessment meeting. As I understand it, if DV is alleged, then this requirement is discarded. There is no threat to safety of any party as far as I am aware, as I understand the mediation information and assessment meeting can be attended individually if needs be."

Paul M: "The mediation process should be much more extensive. It should be a fact gathering exercise as well as an opportunity to provide information. It should be a two way process. The enormous benefits of mediation... will be missed."

Ian: "Adding the MIAM course may avoid unnecessary court room pressures but in doing so without the control and sufficient funding, abundance of trained mediators, it would no doubt mean huge delays outside of the court."

Maureen M: "Where is the right of the child to participate in the process that makes decisions about him/her. Parties in this context means the adult parties; provision must be made for the child to participate - mediation is not currently set up to include children - it is an adult centred process and therefore will lead in my view to the child's right being infringed. This is all meant to be about children and families but at times this is lost on process."

Clause 11: Welfare of the child: parental involvement 

(74 comments)The majority of comments on Family Justice related to this Clause. Many of them made wider points about parental involvement following family breakdown; these have been included in the tally above where they related specifically to shared parenting even if they did not comment specifically on the Clause itself. A significant number felt that the Clause did not go far enough in promoting the involvement of both parents in a child’s life.

Craig P: "The shared parenting clauses are a significant step forward in ensuring that most children whose parents divorce continue to have the support of both parents... the Minister needs to clearly set out what involvement is and when it will be restricted; and whether regulations or guidance will be used to give guidance to the courts."

Brian H: "The Children and Families Bill represents a wasted opportunity to introduce a shared parenting culture into the UK."

Anthony: "The bill talks about the importance of both Parents SUBSTANTIAL involvement- but unless that is quantified, I believe very little will change, or there is certainly the scope for the Judiciary to ‘change very little’ if they don’t wish to. It does NOT want to be quantified in time, but it needs to be quantified in terms of the activities that a Parent can do with a child, which will be impossible if the time is not substantial."

Jonny: "As long as both parents are dedicated, caring and capable, I do not believe that any one parent is more important in a child’s life which is why I think the amendments to clause 11 would be so important."

David M: "The current proposals are the sole custody model of family law dressed up to look like something different."

Susan J: "There is a significant danger that shared parenting will be interpreted as 50:50 contact. A child could end up living in two houses and in two separate "worlds". A child needs one home, but with regular and frequent contact with the non-resident parent."

Bernie D: "I am a family mediator and I am worried about the message that the proposed legislative change re parental involvement sends out to parents in dispute. The risk is that parents’ needs become more important than the child."

Clause 14: Care, supervision and other family proceedings: time limits and timetables 

(6 comments) Comments expressed reservations about the introduction of a 26 week limit for proceedings. Some comments relevant to this Clause were made in the Adoption section of the forum.

Linda T: "I am concerned that the proposed 26 week timescale will result in decisions being made quickly that are not necessarily in the best interests of children. In my experience quick decisions in public law are likely to be cautious ones ie permanent removal of a child from their birth family. The courts rarely see the difficulties that follow the conclusion of proceedings, how long children wait for adopters, children drifting in long term foster care, the abuse children can suffer in adoptive and foster families."

CE Family Rights Group: "Whilst supporting the need for decisions to be taken within the child’s timescales and to avoid unnecessary delay, we are concerned that the proposed 26 week time limit on care proceedings cases will severely reduce the time available for parents to demonstrate their parenting abilities and will squeeze out potential family carers from being considered by the court because there will simply not be enough time to consider their application (and support needs) before the proceedings are concluded."

Dr B M: "The 26 week time limit is unrealistic, especially when the difficulties affecting the child/family, who may have been known to the local authority for many years, may be compounded by the failure of services. The court process may be the first time professional agencies are under as much scrutiny as the family are - and must live up to their promises."

Other comments 

6 comments related to the role of grandparents:

Anon Grandparents: "It matters for every child, where it is safe to do so, to have a loving relationship with their grandparents and extended family regardless of whether or not the grown ups around them, with the family have fallen out."

Part 3: Special Educational Needs 

 

Overview 

Total published comments on this Part of the Bill: 407 (includes comments on this Part of the Bill which were made in the "Additional comments" section of the forum).

This Part of the Bill attracted the highest number of comments. Many of these related to the Bill’s perceived limitations of scope and concerns about its implications for children with particular needs. A significant number of responses made detailed comments about specific Clauses.

Comments on this Part of the Bill were particularly difficult to categorise accurately as they often made general points cutting across a number of Clauses, or it was unclear exactly which Clause was being referred to. For this reason no statistical breakdown of comments has been provided for this Part of the Bill.

General comments on Part 3 

Many contributors felt that this Part of the Bill should encompass all children with disabilities and not just those with SEN:

Ron O: "I am especially concerned that the EHC Plans do not apply to children and young people who do not currently have an SEN statement. This misses a real opportunity for a more integrated approach across all disabilities."

Antony M: "I believe all young people with disabilities should be supported, and find it difficult to understand why only those with Educational needs are offered the facilities on offer."

Alan C: "I am deeply saddened to read that the Bill appears to indicate that only children with special educational needs, will be eligible to have an assessment and plan. This will miss out a very important group whom I met every day who have major health and social care needs but not major educational needs. This appears to be a step backwards, is unjustifiably "educationcentric", and should be rectified if the Bill is to do what it claims."

There were also concerns about the implications of the Bill for children who had been identified as having SEN but who did not qualify for an EHC Plan. Many of these comments related to children who currently receive support via School Action or School Action Plus, and a large number specifically mentioned provisions for children with dyslexia.

British Academy of Childhood Disability: "There is no detail as to how this group of children who are currently supported on School Action or School Action Plus stages will have their individual needs met or progress monitored. These children and young people are the overwhelming majority of those who have SEN and disabilities and this legislation must take them into account."

Mary M: "It is unclear what support will be available for the very many children currently on School Action and School Action Plus. Whatever replaces this should be available to children in early years settings too. Early intervention makes a huge difference to educational and social outcomes."

Claire D: The bill also ignores what will be done to identify and care for children who do not qualify for a EHC plan (similar to statements now) . Most dyslexic children will not qualify for an EHC plan (ie. those on School Action and School Action Plus). It is very important to ensure that teachers are trained appropriately to help these children.

For more comments on the Bill’s approach to children with health or social needs please see the "Additional Comments" section on page p20 of this summary.

Clauses 25-26: Education, health and care provision: integration and joint commissioning 

There was support for the principle of integration and joint commissioning but some doubt about how effective it would be in practice. In particular, a common refrain was that joint commissioning arrangements would be undermined by the lack of a statutory requirement for Health bodies to provide the support identified (this point was also raised in connection with the Clauses on Education, Health and Care Plans).

Kathryn M: "I am sure joint commissioning of services is likely to have a positive effect."

Ron O: "I welcome the emphasis on a more consultative and joined up approach to provision but feel too much of this is aspirational and requires more accountability."

Alex S: "There may be a new statutory duty on joint commissioning... However there is no legally enforceable way for any of the health and social care provision so commissioned to be provided under the EHC plans. Therefore it is a burden without benefit."

Mary M: "I welcome more joined up working but am concerned that the Bill is weakly drafted. To be effective Health and Social Care should have a statutory duty to deliver the support mentioned in a child's EHC plan, in the same way as education is."

Clauses 30-32: Information and advice 

This section, and in particular Clause 30 relating to the Local Offer, attracted a great deal of comment. The main issue raised was the requirement for a local authorities to publish information about what services they "expect" to be available for children and young people with special needs, which was considered to be insufficiently robust.

Ms B and Mr D: "We believe that there needs to be a DUTY TO PROVIDE what is set out in the local offer. This will allow parents and young people to challenge local authorities if the local offer is not delivered."

Andrew K: "The provisions on the Local Offer need to be strengthened as suggested by the Education Select Committee in December 2012. Merely requiring local authorities to set out what they "expect" to be available hardly amounts to a revolution in parental choice and control."

Ramandaeep K: "My biggest concern is the use of the word "expect" with regards to the LA publishing a "local offer"... I'm afraid that we all have expectations but they are very rarely met in terms of SEN provision."

Nesty B: "The Local Offer given by the LA does not appear to be enforceable but only needs to publish what it expects to be available. What if this is not sufficient for the child's needs? Will the LA be able to say they cannot support a child."

Ian N: "There should be a national offer, setting out basic minimum requirements that every child can expect to get. This is particularly important for deaf children where there is currently a massive postcode lottery."

Clause 36: Assessment 

This Clause was criticised for failing to set out minimum timescales for assessments to be carried out, with many feeling that it was a step back from the existing statutory timescales. Contributors also questioned whether assessments would be carried out with appropriate expertise. Some comments recognised that further details could be provided in Regulations.

Lesley H: "My worry is that Clause 36(3) will mean there is no time limit to assess a child's needs meaning that there is a huge delay in receiving any help they are entitled to."

Ian F: "I hope the Minister can provide reassurances that the Bill and Regulations would include: (a) clear timescales for local authorities to respond to requests for an assessment and (b) clear information on how EHC assessments should be conducted and how EHC plans should be set out."

Linda P: "Parents respond very positively to the knowledge of the time lines for statutory assessment. It helps them to manage often very challenging circumstances at home. Parents’ anxiety could be increased if they do not know how long the assessment process will take. The impact of these anxieties will be felt by the child and could have an adverse effect on the child."

Nesty B: "Loss of requirement for minimum level of professional evidence to be collected during the assessment process could make it very easy for LA's not to ask for evidence from more expensive professionals such as Educational Psychologists."

Dr Jill H: "The Bill removes: the requirement for LEAs to stick to time limits in which they must act; the requirement to follow a prescribed form of assessment ;and the requirement to collect a minimum level of professional evidence. These changes to the current situation mean that LEAs will be able to delay making decisions about SEN for as long as they want and set their own agenda as to what provision they will make; this can only disadvantage children with special educational needs."

Clauses 37-49: Education, health and care plans 

A significant proportion of comments on Part 3 of the Bill related to the introduction of Education, Health and Care Plans.

Many users commented on the scope and application of EHCPs – these comments often reflected broader points about the scope and application of the Bill which have been covered under the "Additional Comments" section of this summary on p20).

The extent to which health and social care would be under a duty to make the provision set out in an EHCP was a key concern:

Louise C: "I am completely frustrated that yet again Education will be seen as the big brother and healthcare/social care will be the poor relation - why can we not have accountability from these two sectors? What is the point of an EHCP if we cannot enforce provision???"

Jonathon S: "I welcome more joined up working but am concerned that the Bill is weakly drafted. To be effective Health and Social Care should have a statutory duty to deliver the support mentioned in a child's EHC plan, in the same way as education is. Our experience is that where there is no statutory duty it doesn't happen."

Ken: "There is a real risk the EHCP will simply become statements but known by another name. Why is there no legislation to ensure health and social care provision is provided the same way education provisions is... A real opportunity lost here."


There was praise for the EHCP’s comprehensive 0-25 approach, but also some questions about what this would mean in practice:

Wendy M: "Does this apply to all ages? My son is in special school until 19, what happens after he reaches 19?"

J A: "Although the intention of the legislation is to support young people from the age of 0 to 25, there is some ambiguous language in the Bill which could give LAs the opportunity to avoid planning educational outcomes for the over 18s. Many of our younger learners desperately need those extra years to achieve. The language must be tightened up to ensure that the Bill’s aims are met and that those aged 18-25 are not let down."

Libby H: "Clause 36: There is some mention here of young people over the age of 18, but I don’t think it’s entirely clear – and I hope it will be made absolutely clear - that local authorities should, in special circumstance, provide for people up to the age of 25."

Several forum users commented on Clause 48 (Personal budgets):

Miss S: "Personal budgets are a good idea but depend upon an accurate assessment of need by the LEA in the first place."

Jonathon: "We participated with our young child who has Down Syndrome in a pilot Personal budgets scheme with our LA. It was very good. They gave us the money and we spent it wisely and we accounted in detail for all expenditure. Then they took it away again and now we have to fill in endless forms, on a fortnightly basis to get respite."

phil: "I remain unclear to what extent personal budgets would be used in securing educational provision... is it envisaged that a budget could be allocated eg for a family to employ a teaching assistant directly?"

Ian N: "Personal budgets come with a range of risks. I am most worried about the risk that a personal budget for some parents risks draining funding away from existing services. This would end up reducing choice for some. Clause 48 needs some safeguards on the face of the Bill to protect against this."

Clive I: "I would want a lot more work to be done on personal budgets before implementing for two reasons - firstly some parents whilst wanting this provision may not be able successfully to broker in all the services needed - secondly personal budgets may mean that specialisms in place locally may no longer be viable if not used by all."

Nicola G: "I am extremely concerned too about proposed personal budgets/ direct payments... There would appear to be nowhere near enough evidence from the Pathfinders as to how they will work in practice. How will the bill ensure that a direct payment is sufficient to pay for provision?"

Clauses 61 – 64: Special educational provision: functions of governing bodies and others 

Most of the comments on this section related to the requirement in Clause 61 for governing bodies and others to use "best endeavours" to secure special educational provision, particularly in the context of dyslexia.

David B: "It was hard enough to get help for all of my dyslexic children under the current regime making it so that this is now a best endeavours requirement, seems like a completely backwards step."

Inge H: "I believe that it should be the duty of the school and the local council to secure special educational provision for their students rather than simply use "best endeavours" which permits the school to sidestep its responsibilities to dyslexic students. Schools must provide - rather than simply try to provide - services for dyslexic children."

Part 4: Childminder agencies etc 

 

Overview 

Total published comments on this Part of the Bill: 285 (includes comments on this Part of the Bill which were made in the "Additional comments" section of the forum).

Almost all of the comments in this section were from childminders who opposed the introduction of agencies. Some comments suggested that the contributor thought that childminders would be forced to register with an agency. Others recognised that registration with an agency would be optional under the Bill’s provisions, but were nonetheless opposed to the proposed changes.

Clause 73 and Schedule 4: Childminder Agencies 

Independence 

(71 comments) A recurring theme throughout the comments received was that childminders feared that agencies would lead to a loss of their independence. Comments emphasised that the flexibility, individuality, and control afforded by the existing model of self-employment was highly valued.

Sandra S: "I have worked really hard to become established with a brilliant ofsted grade... I am proud of my business and what it represents there is no way I will give all of this to an agency - an agency who will tell me, a self-employed person - how to run my business and in turn take all of the credit for my hard work."

C M: "I certainly do not want to be told how to run my business by an agency and have to adopt their documentation. I am self employed because I can run my own business successfully and because I want to set my own terms and conditions."

Daisy: "I have been a childminder for many years. I do not want to be part of an agency, I offer a tailored service to all my parents, I value my independence, being able to run my business for to best suit my parents and myself."

Marie L: "Childminders build a very close personal relationship with the families they work with. The essence of making a child fell safe and secure (an essential basis for future learning) depends on this close bond forming – how will this be possible if the arrangements are carried out by a third party?"

Two-tier system 

(19 comments) Some comments expressed concern about the introduction of a "two tier" system:

Tim H: "Childminder Agencies... will bring in a two tier system where low quality minders are stuffed to the rafters with children that are placed with them by a money grabbing agency, while high quality independent miders struggle to attract clients."

Jackie N: "As an independent childminder, I am worried about the risk of a two tier system where the independent childminders are unable to access affordable training that is required by Ofsted."

Duplication 

(29 comments) Comments questioned whether agencies would duplicate, or replace, the role currently played by local authorities and other organisations. Most of these comments expressed satisfaction with the existing system and did not support change:

Kerry W: "What is it that an agency can offer that the local authority can't?...perhaps it would be more practical to offer more support to the local authorities where they are struggling to support their Early Years workers".

Karen P: "There are plenty of support networks currently in operation across the country notably through Local Authorities - these should be utilised properly and uniformly without the need to create an expensive and bureaucratic agency system."

Rebecca M: "Most of the operations proposed for agencies are already adequately fulfilled by local authorities, the Family Information Service, Local cm groups, NCMA Local etc. Although support may be patchy and inconsistent in some areas I do not see how the creation of agencies would resolve this issue...Surely Government would be better looking at ways to strengthen existing services rather than demolishing them and starting again".

Nikki R: "As far as I can see they [agencies] are replacing the role of the former Early Years teams... but instead of being free they are charging a fee."

Costs 

(42 comments) Many contributors argued that the introduction of agencies would lead to increased costs:

Julia: "I feel that the introduction of childminder agencies would reduce parental choice and would make for a system of higher childcare fees for the parents as both they and the childminder would almost certainly be expected to pay for the running of these self-funded organisations."

John E: "I and many other childminders are concerned that if we are to register with an agency and they take our fees for providing such services that costs to both ourselves and parents will be increased considerably."

Margaret: "Using agencies to run childminders is just going to add a middle man to the process, how can that possibly reduce costs?"

Ofsted grading process 

(37 comments) Comments queried how inspections would work under the agency model and what implications there would be for the grading of childminders:

Tersia B: "I do not like the idea of being inspected as a group by an agency, this would mean that "lower" graded childminders could be graded higher than they really are and "Outstanding" childminders being downgraded due to other childminders."

Gillian T: "I feel it is in the best interests of children for the actual provider to be inspected. Agencies will just dilute this process and there is a danger that less satisfactory providers will fall through the net."

Carol: "I'm not going to risk my outstanding grade by joining an agency that will be graded on a few who could be only satisfactory and I'm not letting all my hard work give someone a grade they don't deserve."

Clause 74: Inspection of providers of childcare to young children 

(18 comments) There appeared to be some confusion about this Clause, with some forum users appearing to believe that a fee would be charged for all inspections. Those comments which addressed charging a fee for inspections or re-inspections carried out at the provider’s request were generally supportive of the Bill’s approach:

Laura H: "I agree with this and it will help to improve quality, many providers want to make improvements and are capable of doing this, rather than waiting four/ five years to be re-inspected."

Neil B: "I agree with clause 74 around re-inspection fees and see this as a potential improvement to the current system."

Parts 5, 6, 7 & 8 

 

Overview 

Very few comments were received on these Parts of the Bill. They have been briefly summarised below.

Part 5: The Children’s Commissioner 

5 comments

Three of the five comments on this part of the Bill were from organisations (Save the Children, the British Humanist Organisation, and the Alliance for Reform of the Children’s Commissioner) and set out their detailed response to this Part of the Bill. The two comments from individuals related to the importance of promoting the existence of the Commissioner amongst children, and concerns about the victimisation of children whose parents make complaints to schools.

Part 6: Statutory rights to leave and pay 

9 comments

Three of the comments in this section were strongly in support of the measures proposed in this Part of the Bill. Other comments raised concerns about the requirement for leave to be taken in blocks of one week and the perception that fathers could not take leave until six weeks after the baby’s birth.

Part 7: Time off work: Ante-natal care etc 

2 comments

Both comments in this section argued that the right to take unpaid time off to attend ante-natal appointments should not be limited to two appointments.

Part 8: Right to request flexible working 

2 comments

Both of the comments in this section felt that the Bill would reduce the right to flexible working and were critical of this.

Additional comments 

 

Overview 

Total published comments in this section (excludes those relating to specific Parts of the Bill which have been included elsewhere in this summary): 152

The web forum also invited forum users to submit additional comments on any Part of the Bill which was not covered elsewhere in the forum (in practice this was only Part 9: General Provisions), or on anything that they felt should have been included in the Bill, but had not been.

Many of the comments in this section did in fact relate to specific Parts of the Bill and have been taken into account when compiling the appropriate section of this summary. The majority of the remaining comments related to perceived omissions from the Bill, in particular the lack of provision made for children with health conditions which affected their schooling. A number of these related to specific health conditions such as allergies (44 comments) and diabetes (39 comments), and a further 51 comments made more general points about schools’ responsibilities for children with health conditions..

Provision for children with health conditions 

Kay R: "Most schools produce a health care plan but these are not rigorous enough. In my school, there is dispute over whose responsibility it is to complete the plan (GPs, nurses, teachers) resulting in a delay of action

· School inspectors should look at how a school supports children with health conditions and what outcomes those children have, as part of well-being indicators. Health and safety for these children should be addressed by Ofsted.

· All school staff, even in high schools where numbers are high, are enabled to support children with health conditions through appropriate training and support. All staff should be made aware of who these vulnerable children are.

· NHS bodies and local authorities have a statutory requirement to help schools fulfil their responsibilities to keep these children safe, acting in loco parentis."

(The comment above is representative of many others in setting out the specific requirements that it was argued should be included in the Bill)

Allergies

Maxine Z: "As a parent of a child with a nut allergy, it is essential that schools are required to have policies in place to care for children with allergies, the number of which are increasing each year. Staff need to be properly trained to deal with allergic children, not only with regard to handling medical emergencies but also to prevent allergic reactions occurring. In this regard, local authorities/ofsted should be placed under a legal obligation to advise schools as to the best practice for handling allergies and to monitoring that schools are adhering to these policies. Every child, whatever their state of health, is entitled to feel safe at school."

Perry W: "My daughter has life threatening allergies. She has this school year started pre-school which has caused my wife and I untold anxiety as there is no standardised policies around allergies. We have visited local schools and their allergy policies are dependent on the individual beliefs and knowledge of the headteacher, which range from well informed to completely ignorant. The school she now attends is supposedly 'nut free', however, staff are undereducated about allergy issues. school nut policy is not adhered to consistently. National policies are needed to keep allergy suffering children safe."

Diabetes

Rebecca: "The Bill needs to be more inclusive of children with medical conditions in schools - particularly children with type 1 diabetes. Children are still being discriminated against; excluded from school and school trips; not being supervised with a potential lethal medicine because nobody wants the responsibility; care plans not being adhered too and the list goes on...More needs to be done regarding awareness for teaching staff and SEN to fully incorporate type 1 diabetes as an educational need as well".

Young Carers 

11 contributors commented on the lack of provisions in the Bill to support young carers:

Nikki p: "Where is the support for children who are caring for a parent or sibling with health problems? They miss out on education and social opportunities and can be adversely affected for life."


[1] The forum was pre-moderated and comments were read by House of Commons staff before being approved for publication. Comments which did not comply with the forum discussion rules were not published; the majority of these rejected comments were duplicate identical comments submitted by multiple users.

Prepared 6th March 2013