Children & Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Michael Shaw (CSWB 26)

1. I am a trustee and volunteer with DASH (Destitute Asylum Seekers Huddersfield) which is a registered charity (no 1152854).

2. I am gravely concerned by the proposal in the Children and Social Work Bill which would allow Local Authorities to be excused, under certain circumstances, of what are currently statutory duties.

3. Whilst they form the minority of cases with which we deal, we do come into contact with families who have no recourse to public funds. One recent example is that of a single mother, a victim of domestic violence, with four children (aged 11, twins aged 10 and aged 4). We worked closely with our Local Authority (Kirklees) to secure support for the children under Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act. This is only one of several similar cases this year. We can only conclude that without such support, the children in these cases would have been destitute. In all the cases known to us this destitution has not come about through any failing on behalf of the parent(s); indeed, in every case we would describe the relationship between parent(s) and child as being loving and healthy. Hence, an outcome of the children being taken into care would have been totally inappropriate.

4. Further, with the changes to asylum support to be introduced early next year, although we are not, as yet, aware of detail, we are informed by the Home Office that new regime to be introduced (Section 95a Support replacing Section 4 Support) will fund even fewer asylum seekers than at present. These are asylum seekers whose first claim has been rejected. Many such asylum seekers formulate successful second (or subsequent) submissions as evidence becomes available which was not at hand when asylum was first claimed. Others cannot return to their country of origin because their safety cannot be guaranteed. It is highly likely that families now receiving Section 4 benefit will not qualify for Section 95a support, so increasing the number of cases to which I have refereed. If Local Authorities were exempted from carrying out assessments under Section 17 of the Children Act, children, with very supportive families, would be left homeless and without the minimum food and clothing.

5. My mind is horrified that the changes under consideration could result in children being left in destitution in one of the richest countries in the world. I might also raise the question as to how such negligence would tally with ‘British values’ seemingly being promoted by the Government following the recent report of Louise Casey. I call upon your committee to categorically reject the proposals which would allow exemption of any Local Authority from its current statutory duties.

December 2016


Prepared 5th January 2017