Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Children and Social Work Bill undermines disabled children`s rights

"Clauses 29-32 of the Children and Social Work Bill 2016 are the very definition of a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Through these clauses, the secretary of state hopes to acquire the power to exempt local authorities from the requirements of children’s social care legislation."

"The stated intention is to allow local authorities to ‘test different ways of working with a view to achieving better outcomes under children’s social care legislation or achieving the same outcomes more efficiently’."

"There is, however, little evidence that legislative requirements are posing a barrier to innovation by local authorities in the support provided to children and families as opposed to swingeing cuts to their budgets which are undoubtedly having such an impact. Even if certain legislative provisions are in fact preventing innovation, this cannot justify a power to exempt local authorities from the entire statutory scheme governing children’s social care."

"These clauses have generated real concern among a large number of individuals and organisations involved with children’s rights, who have come together under the ‘Together for Children’ banner to seek to have them removed from the bill. However, the clauses have not attracted the attention of the wider legal community in the way that they perhaps should, given they exemplify the ever increasing trend to concentrate power in the hands of the executive (see also the Great Reform Bill)..."

"If the clauses go through, the complex task of advising children and families as to their rights and entitlements will become virtually impossible. Every piece of advice will require a caveat ‘your child has a right to an assessment as a child in need, except they don’t because they live in Durham/Doncaster/Dudley’. Even worse, the secretary of state could choose to vary rather than disapply certain requirements, leading to even greater confusion. It is hard to think of anything which could more significantly undermine a culture of respect for children’s rights than a provision which allows those rights to vary on the basis of local geography."

"The clauses would be a bad idea at any time. At a time when local authorities are already struggling to provide the minimum required by the statutory scheme they are positively dangerous. How many ‘innovative’ proposals will be seen by children and families as simply cover for further cuts?"

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