The Children and Social Work Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 19 May and will have a second reading on 14th June 2016. This is an important Bill. Read and follow progress of the Bill: here

You can download the Children and Social Work Bill: here

The Queen’s Speech briefing note, published by the government, can be downloaded: here

According to the briefing note:

“A Bill will be introduced to ensure that children can be adopted by new families without delay, improve the standard of social work and opportunities for young people in care in England.”

The briefing note sets out the purpose of the Bill to:

  • Help children leaving care make a good start in adult life, through a new ‘Care Leavers’ Covenant’ underpinned by a statutory duty requiring local authorities to publish the services and standards of treatment care leavers are entitled to.
  • Tip the balance in favour of permanent adoption where that is the right thing for the child – helping to give children stability.
  • Drive improvements in the social work profession via the introduction of more demanding professional standards, and setting up a specialist regulator for the profession.
  • Give frontline services more freedom to work together to safeguard children and trial innovative approaches to deliver more effective care.

Some key elements of the Bill:

Looked-after children and care leavers

  • Standards for how local authorities should act as a ‘corporate parent’ to support children in care and as they move into adult life.
  • Requirement on local authorities to consult on and publish a ‘local offer’ to care leavers, setting out the services they are entitled to.
  • Extension to the right to a Personal Adviser, someone who will make sure care leavers receive the support they need as they transition into adulthood, to all who want one up to the age of 25.

Adoption

  • Ensuring courts and local authorities take better account of a child’s need for stability up to the age of 18 when making decisions about their future.
  •   A duty on local authorities and schools to promote educational achievement for adopted children and those in the long-term care of family members or guardians.

Regulation of social workers

  • Specialist regulator for social work, to focus on standards and effective training and development.

Children’s safeguarding

  • Better protection of children by ensuring that lessons are learned from serious child safeguarding cases.
  • Support for innovation in children’s social care by allowing local authorities to pilot new, innovative approaches.

The remainder of the Bill covers devolved matters and applies to England only.

The briefing note refers to the following information as key facts:

  •   One in four prisoners have been in care. 70% of Britain’s sex workers have been in care, and a third of people in care become homeless in the two years immediately after they leave care.
  •   The number of looked after children has been increasing steadily to almost 70,000 last year. 10,000 children leave foster or residential care each year and 39% of former care leavers aged 19-21 were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 2015.
  •   Currently around 90,000 qualified social workers in England, of whom around 27,000 work in child and family social work. Sir Martin Narey’s 2014 review found that too many people were entering the profession lacking the knowledge and skills able to operate effectively.

Responses to the proposals

 

Read BASW response: here

BASW has also called for evidence on the role of the social worker in adoption. Read more: here

In a press release responding to the Queen’s Speech, Dave Hill, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said:

“The idea that the care system is a bad place to end up is in danger of becoming the accepted truth. This lazy generalisation does a disservice to the children and young people in care, the staff that work so hard to keep children and young people safe, and the foster carers who look after them. Changing this misconception is a priority for the Association and we stand ready to assist in the creation of a new narrative”.

Read the full ADCS press release: here

Cllr Roy Perry, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: 

“Adoption is not right for every child, but neither the local authority nor the court should shy away from making that decision when it is in the child’s best interests. Finding loving homes for children is one of the most important jobs that councils do, with local authorities at the heart of efforts to find permanent homes for some of our most vulnerable young people. The Government’s determination to drive longer term decision making through the court system is encouraging, as the recent decline in the number of children adopted from care will only be tackled through close working between social workers and the judiciary.

“However, we must take care that the ongoing focus on adoption does not distract from the importance of other types of long and short-term care for vulnerable children. Local and national government must continue to work towards improving the experience of all children in care – whether they are being looked after by friends or family, in foster care or a special guardianship arrangement, or in residential care.

Read the Local Government Association (LGA) response in full: here

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England published this press release:

“I very much welcome the announcement in today’s Queen’s Speech of new legislation to improve the lives and outcomes of children in care and care leavers.

“Although many children have positive experiences of the care system, it cannot be right that others continue to be failed by it. We have a duty and responsibility to nurture and protect children in care as we would our own children.

“The many children in care I meet and listen to consistently talk about their aspirations for the future, their need for better support when they leave care, and greater involvement in decisions that affect them. I look forward to promoting their views and experiences to help ensure that their voice is heard as the Bill progresses through parliament.”

Read at source: here

“The Prime Minister has just had the Queen say that Her Government will introduce legislation to “ensure that children can be adopted without delay”. It is a shame that the PM hasn’t spoken to the DFE as that is not in the Bill being published tomorrow.

Instead the DfE are sensibly introducing bill that will require LA’s to present care plans that take account of:

The impact of the harm the child has suffered or was likely to suffer
Current and future needs of the child resulting from said harm
The way in which the long term plan would meet these needs
All of this is eminently sensible and in practical terms it will raise the evidential bar for all care planning”.

TACT has said:

[…] DfE are sensibly introducing bill that will require LA’s to present care plans that take account of:

The impact of the harm the child has suffered or was likely to suffer
Current and future needs of the child resulting from said harm
The way in which the long term plan would meet these needs
All of this is eminently sensible and in practical terms it will raise the evidential bar for all care planning”.

Read TACTs response in full: here

CoramBAAF Director of Policy, Research and Development, John Simmonds, said:

“[…] ‘being in care’ is often associated with failure – poor outcomes for children across the board and comparable to the worst of what we see in young people – failure in education, employment, high rates of criminal activity, poor physical and mental health, homelessness. While the seriousness of these issues must not be ignored, the overall picture is more complex. Generally looked after children do much better than similar groups of children who are returned from care to their parents. The urgent question is what will improve where we currently are with the current system. That has been a long standing question and one to which there are still limited answers.

Read Coram BAAF full response: here

Isabelle Trawler tweets on the Queens Speech

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