Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Oliver Mills (CSWB 62)

Summary:

Exempting councils from their statutory duties will risk the welfare of the most vulnerable Children and Young People for the following reasons:

1. Those responsible for their welfare- families, elected members, social workers, other agencies, foster and adoptive carers must be crystal clear on their statutory responsibilities. Any local variation will introduce confusion and ambiguity.

2. Families and professionals move from council area to council area, and will have to be briefed where there are local exemptions.

3. Elected members in particular, who are not professionals but are held to account locally, will face an additional challenge in understanding their responsibilities where exempted from specific specific powers and duties. Current guidance, training and support provided by the LGA and others will have to be revised.

4. All history and experience tells us that quality and performance in children’s services can change quickly.

The proposed exemptions to the Bill should not be readmitted.

Submission:

1. I am a registered social worker with over forty years experience. From 1992 till 2006 I was Assistant Director, Director of Operations and then Strategic Director of Social Services in a large Shire County in England. From 2011 to 2014, I was the National Programme Director leading the introduction of the model of sector led improvement in adult social care, and until 2013 worked closely with the companion programme in children’s social care, the Children’s Improvement Board. I am one of a small number of registered social workers with an entry in Who’s Who. I also Chair the Trustees of Football Beyond Borders, a new charity which works with the most disadvantaged young people, including those at risk of becoming looked after, and another care and support Charity, mcch, which supports adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental illness, including support for disabled young people in transition to adulthood. Since 2014 I have been the Care and Health Improvement Adviser, applying the model of sector led improvement across the thirty four councils in the SE and SW, and working closely with my opposite number, the Children’s Improvement Adviser.

2. I am very familiar in using statutory powers in children’s services, managing social work staff, multi agency working, and advising and being held to account by elected members. I strongly support enabling council’s to use their resources to find innovative solutions in meeting children’s needs. However no one would suggest exempting any council from their responsibilities under the Care Act, Mental Capacity Act or Mental Health Act in adult social care, because it is so important that all those responsible for vulnerable adults should be crystal clear on their responsibilities and start from a common platform. Varying it from place to place, and for varying times, would simply raise unnecessary risks to the welfare of the most vulnerable children and young people, because those responsible for statutory duties would be faced with unnecessary additional policies and procedures which they would have to revise, promulgate and monitor.

3. From my direct experience from working I can say with certainty that any ambiguity in the use of statutory powers, however well intentioned, will create unnecessary risk, particularly at a time of growing demand and reducing resources. I hope the Government will reconsider putting back these exemptions.

January 2017

 

Prepared 9th January 2017