Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (CF 115)

This submission is from the Faculty of Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) is the leading medical authority on mental health in the United Kingdom and is the professional and educational organisation for doctors specialising in psychiatry.

1.2 The Faculty of Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability aims to actively engage its nearly 2000 members in expanding knowledge about the psychiatry of intellectual disability and in the development of policy that promotes the well-being of people with intellectual disabilities.

2. Summary

2.1 The Faculty of Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability has concerns about the Children and Families Bill in relation to the lack of support for vulnerable adults who have had their children taken into care or adopted, and how people with learning disabilities or communication difficulties will be supported to access the family justice system and understand processes such as mediation.

2.2 We are also concerned that children with disabilities (particularly autism) are more likely to be excluded from school, and that children with special educational needs are being excluded from school for periods of time without going the engagement of a proper process or informing the local authority.

3. Part 1 of the Bill

3.1 We are concerned about how health and social care services will be encouraged to support vulnerable adults who have had their children taken into care or adopted.

3.2 There is a recognition across professional groups that there are vulnerable women, for example with learning disabilities and/or mental health needs who have a young child taken into care several times without having had support, for example being given contraceptive advice. (Ref. 3 Dec 2012 Family Justice Council Annual Debate "Women who have children removed to care, year after year, are being failed by a system unable to respond to them as vulnerable adults needing support in their own right.")

4. Part 2 of the Bill

4.1 With regard to Part 2 of the Bill we are interested to know how people with learning disabilities or communication difficulties will be supported to access the family justice system and to understand processes such as mediation.

5. Part 3 of the Bill

5.1 We are concerned that there is nothing in the Bill that addresses the fact that children with disabilities (particularly autism) are more likely to be excluded from school.

5.2 There is also nothing in the Bill  to address the concern that children with special educational needs are being excluded for periods of time without going through a proper process or informing the local authority.

5.3 We would refer the Committee to "Falling Through the Net," [1] the report of a survey by the charity Contact a Family carried out between November 2012 and January 2013. This found that 53% of families who responded had had to collect their child from school because the school did not have enough staff to support them, and that 22% of the responding families had a child illegally excluded from school every week, 15% on a daily basis.

5.4 It is also unclear what support will be provided to help children with learning disabilities, and parents with learning disabilities, to understand and take part in processes such as appeals and mediation.

6. The Faculty would be pleased to provide further evidence in relation to these issues should this be helpful to the Committee.

April 2013


[1] Falling through the net - I llegal exclusions, the experiences of families with disabled children in England and Wales (2013), a vailable at: http://www.cafamily.org.uk/media/639982/falling_through_the_net_-_illegal_exclusions_report_2013_web.pdf

Prepared 26th April 2013