Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Anne Jackson (CSWB 48)

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

Abstract

From the point of a volunteer mentor, I explain the vital need for children, particularly those who are very vulnerable and looked after by my local authority, to have social care support provided as a statutory service.

1. I have been a volunteer mentor with the Somerset CC PROMISE( Now known as Route 1)mentoring and advocacy scheme for 8 years.

The scheme provides mentoring and advocacy support for vulnerable children and young people many of whom are looked after by the local authority .

2. I understand that the House of Lords voted in November to remove "innovation clauses" which would allow local authorities to be excused from their social care statutory duties to children and care leavers, and that there are now amendments tabled to the above Bill to reinstate the innovation clauses on a testing basis.

3. I believe that any weakening of statutory support even on a trial basis for these children and young people would greatly

reduce their safety and opportunities as they grow up.

4. I have supported as mentor a young woman from the age of 12 to, now, 20. I have witnessed the positive effects of, for example, the careful choice of foster homes including considerable expenditure on agency support as the best option for her, the regular meetings supporting and guiding her chaired by an independent expert, the guidance she has received post 16 with respect to housing, life skills. I have seen her, because of immaturity, making unsafe choices, but having the vital safety net of a social worker to help unravel problems. I am concerned that when she is 21, she will no longer have a right to that safety net. Thinking about her not having had the right to support both as a child and post 16, I can see that she may well have experienced even more trauma than she already has, may well have got into drugs or on the wrong side of the law, ended up rough sleeping with all the dangers that brings and eventually ended up costing the public purse much more.

5. Most children having had the benefit of a supportive and caring home with all the education into life skills and good decision making that can bring would not expect to be totally independent of family support with no safety net at 16, neither would their parents think it appropriate. The children I have met through the scheme have not had consistent support, guidance and teaching through their formative years ( though some foster carers have done sterling work in making up the deficit) and therefore are even less able to successfully fly solo than those who have.

6. I believe that far from excusing local authorities from responsibility for such children and young people, more should be required of them to help even up their life chances.

7. I am asking the Committee to not allow the exemption clauses to be reinstated.

January 2017

 

Prepared 5th January 2017