Children & Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Kirsty Walker (CSWB 21)

Children and Social Work Bill: power to test different ways of working (new clauses 2 to 9).

Summary

As a professional working with looked after children and care leavers for over 10 years in a further education setting I believe that there is no case to enact these exemptions and that it will lead to vulnerable children and young people being greatly disadvantaged.

1. Clause 2 would allow the SOS to exempt a local authority from requirements imposed by children’s social care legislation. This is a sweeping power which threatens to undermine the whole concept of children’s social care, and our responsibility to it. The assumed benefit in trialling new ways of working is vastly outweighed by the risk this poses to children and young people by picking holes in the safety net they have by law, and by subjecting them to a postcode lottery which could result in them being disadvantaged.

2. Whilst it is important to encourage vision and experimentation in ways of working with young people, this is not the way to do it. Children and young people will be at risk of being collateral damage should a new way of working not suit them. Every child in care is a human being with individual wants and needs, and they should not be used as variables in paper exercises and new practices without the safety net of legislation. There is no reason that I can see that new ways of working cannot be trialled within the current legislative framework using regulatory changes rather than exempting local authorities from the protection looked after children are entitled to. I have not been convinced otherwise by any of the examples offered by those with an opposing view.

3. Children in care can move between local authorities more than once in their lifetime. In our area there are very close boundaries between Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, Wirral, and Halton. Indeed, it can be the case that a family moves two streets away and crosses a local authority boundary. If some Las were to be exempted from legislation while others were not, this could cause untold confusion and chaos for a young person unlucky enough to be placed in this situation.

4. Such reckless toying with the rights of our most vulnerable young people should be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny and not placed in the hands of any individual. To even consider these clauses a society should be in a position where the care of it’s looked after children is impeccable in all instances. We are not in this position.

5. The risk is too great that a young person’s life will be changed irrevocably by someone who has never met them. If new ways of working cannot be achieved whilst maintaining the legislation which protects young people, then they are not good ways of working. There is too much room for nefarious undermining of a child’s rights by those who seek to profit from the social care system.

6. There is too much risk that local authority responsibilities could be outsourced to large charities, and even corporations. Looked after children are the responsibility of the state, and should not be seen merely as service users.

7. The haste with which this bill is being pushed through belies the huge significance it will have on looked after young people, who have not been consulted on it.

December 2016

 

Prepared 5th January 2017