NB: There is shedloads of proof from an infinite number of cases of children removed from decent responsible families to show councils do not follow the laws + guidelines in place anyway + haven’t for years!
Councils to be allowed to opt out of child protection laws
“A child could find themselves with a very different entitlement to care and support to their friend in a neighbouring town.”
Friday, 30 September 2016 10:53 AM 8
By Sara Ogilvie
When should an obligation not be obligatory? If the government has its way, it’ll be whenever it relates to 80 years of essential child protections enshrined in UK law.
The Children and Social Work Bill has been working its way through the House of Lords with little fanfare. But among its proposals is a deeply worrying measure that not only shows a breath-taking contempt for democracy and the rule of law, but which could put vulnerable children across the country at serious risk of neglect and abuse.
Under the proposals, councils will be able to opt out of vital duties under almost every single law covering children’s social care since 1933. This will affect more than eight decades of legislation, some of which was created in response to the most tragic cases of state failure like that of Victoria Climbié and Baby P.
Individual local authorities would be able to ask the education minister to exempt them from having to comply with any aspect of children social care law “to test different ways of working with a view to achieving better outcomes… or achieving the same outcomes more efficiently”. An exemption would be granted for up to three years – and could then be extended for another three.
This means protection could soon vary wildly across the country, creating a postcode lottery in which a child could find themselves with a very different entitlement to care and support to their friend in a neighbouring town.
The ramifications and moral dubiousness of leaving vulnerable young people, care leavers and disabled children without vital legal protections in the name of achieving “outcomes more efficiently” are obvious, in particular given the precarious financial situations of many local authorities.
But just as worrying, is the ease at which they will become reality. The Bill will give near unfettered power to the secretary of state for education, who will be able to create regulations exempting authorities without requiring full parliamentary examination or consulting experts working on the ground like carers, independent experts, social workers or other service providers.
For a minister to be able to amend primary legislation by creating regulations at the request of local councils allows the subversion of the rule of law and proper parliamentary process. It would reduce the extent and intensity of scrutiny applied to each application. Deeply unacceptable in a democracy in any case, but all the more disturbing when you consider what’s at stake here.
Take the Children Act 1989 as just one example of the many laws that could fall foul of this proposal. It places a duty on local authorities to investigate when a child is suffering significant harm. It also sets out the requirement to provide children in need with day care. Other regulations essentially prohibit profit-making companies running child protection and other key services. None of those would be protected under this new regime.
Underpinning the specific obligations and entitlements in the children’s care legislation affected here is the Human Rights Act (HRA). In the context of child protection, social care, and children with disabilities, it protects the right to life, to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and respect for private and family life.
The HRA requires public bodies, including councils, to take positive steps to protect these. Any exemptions which undermine these obligations risk violating vulnerable children’s fundamental rights and puts the government in breach of the HRA and the European Convention on Human Rights. Of course, this is the same government that continues to threaten to repeal the HRA, raising the possibility that children will be left without both human rights and other legislative protections that are currently enforceable in UK courts. This jeopardises centuries of progress to ensure children are properly protected by the state, no matter where they happen to live.
Liberty and 39 other organisations and experts in social care – including Article 39, the British Association of Social Workers, the Howard League for Penal Reform, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood and Women’s Aid – are calling on the government to now think again.
The rights of children and young people should sit front and centre of all legislation, policy, guidance, and practice. If Theresa May really is intent on fighting injustice, as she claims, then she should begin by scrapping this astonishingly dangerous and undemocratic plan.
Sara Ogilvie is the policy officer for Liberty.
The opinions in politics.co.uk’s Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners
Adoption facts and figures [to March 2015]
England (these National Statistics relate to looked after children in England for the year ending 31st March 2015)
Looked after children
There were 69,540 looked after children on 31 March 2015, compared to 68,800 in 2014.
•The majority of looked after children (61%) are looked after by the state due to abuse or neglect.
•The majority of children (73%) are from a White British background.
•52,050 (75%) were in a foster placement.
•5% of the children looked after were under the age of 1.
Adoptions from Care
There were 5,330 looked after children adopted during the year ending 31 March 2015, an increase of 5% between 2014 and 2015.
53% (2,800) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2015 were boys and 47% (2,530) were girls.
•4% (230) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2015 were under 1 year old.
•76% (4,050) were aged between 1 and 4 years old.
•19% (990) were aged between 5 and 9 years old.
•1% (60) were aged between 10 and 15 years old.
•None were aged 16 and over (to nearest 10).
•83% (4,400) of looked after children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2015 were white.
•11% (580) were of mixed racial background.
•2% (120) were Black or Black British.
•2% (90) were Asian or Asian British.
•1% (50) were from other ethnic groups.
•2% (100) were other (refused or information not yet available).
1,930 (36%) of the 5,330 children adopted during 2014-15 were part of a sibling group.
Adoption Register for England and Wales
A total of 282 children were matched between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015.
The Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)
An independent body set up by the Department for Education and Skills, adoption applicants in England can apply to the IRM for a review of their adoption agency’s determination not to approve them as adopters or to withdraw their approval.
Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014, the IRM accepted 16 applications from adoption cases. The IRM made a positive recommendation in eight (50%) of the adoption cases, and in six of these the agency agreed with the IRM.
Adoption reviews overwhelmingly concerned issues of suitability arising from assessment.
Northern Ireland (these National Statistics relate to looked after children in Northern Ireland for the year ending 31st March 2015)
Looked after children
2,875 children were looked after on 31st March 2015.
52% (1,498) of children looked after on 31st March 2015 were boys and 48% (1,377) were girls.
•4% of children (112) looked after on 31st March 2015 were under 1 year old,
•20% (581) were between 1 and 4 years old.
•34% (958) were aged between 5 and 11 years old.
•24% (693) were aged between 12 and 15 years old.
•18% (530) were aged 16 and over.
Adoptions from Care
•89 looked after children were adopted in the year ending 31st March 2014 (up from 88 in 2012-13 and 60 in 2011-12).
•53% (47) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2014 were boys and 47% (42) were girls.
•The average age at adoption was 4 years 4 months (down from 5 years in 2012).
Scotland (these National Statistics relate to looked after children in Scotland on 31st July 2014)
Looked after children
15,580 children were in the care of local authorities on 31st July 2014 (a 3% decrease since 2013).
Of the children looked after in 2014:
•27% (4,144) were looked after at home and 36% (5,533) were looked after by foster carers.
•The rates of looked after children per 10,000 under 18 years is 150.
•53% (8,285) of children looked after were boys and 47% (7,295) were girls.
•3% (434) of children looked after on 31st July 2014 were under 1 year old.
•18% (2,821) were aged between 1 and 4 years old.
•37% (5,818) were aged between 5 and 11 years old.
•30% (4,629) were aged between 12 and 15 years old.
•11% (1,647) were aged 16 or 17.
•1.5% (231) were aged between 18 and 21 years old.
•89.5% (13,950) of children looked after on 31st July 2014 were white.
•1.5% (235) were of mixed ethnicity.
•0.5% (81) were Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British.
•0.6% (95) were Black, Black Scottish or Black British.
•0.5% (73) were from other ethnic groups.
•7.4% (1,146) were of unknown ethnic origin.
Adoptions from Care
•337 children who ceased to be looked after in the year ending July 2014 were adopted.
•373 adoptions of children by non-relatives were registered during 2013*.
•489 adoptions of children were registered in 2013 (includes step-parent (20%/ 97), grandparent(s) (<1 15=”” 333=”” 4=”” adoptions=”” and=”” br=”” no=”” other=”” relation=”” s=””>•74% (364) of adoptions registered in 2013 were by couples and 26% (125) by single adopters.
•3% (14) of all adoptions registered in 2013 were by same sex couples.
*Statistics on adoptions in Scotland are provided by the Registrar General for Scotland, which registers adoptions under the
Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 (previously the Adoption of Children (Scotland) Act 1930).
Children’s Social Work Statistics 2013-2014 (Scotland but some data in additional tables covers all countries)www.scotland.gov.uk
Vital Events Reference Tables 2013: Section 2: Adoptions and Re-registrationswww.gro-scotland.gov.uk
Wales (these National Statistics relate to looked after children in Wales for the year ending 31st March 2015)
Looked after children
A total of 5,617 children were in the care of local authorities on 31st March 2015, down by 128 (2.2%) on the previous year.
•5% (290) of children looked after on 31st March 2015 were under 1 year old.
•18% (995) were aged between 1 and 4 years old.
•24% (1,350) were aged between 5 and 9 years old.
•36% (2,040) were aged between 10 and 15 years old.
•17% (940) were aged 16 and over.
54% (3,020) of children looked after were boys and 46% (2,595) were girls.
Adoptions from Care
385 children were adopted from care during the year ending 31st March 2015 compared to 345 in 2014 (a 10% increase) and 329 in 2013 (a 15% increase to 2015).
48% (185) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2014 were boys and 51% (195) were girls.
The average age at adoption in the year ending 31st March 2015 was 3 years 3 months.
•*% (*) of children adopted in the year ending 31 March 2015 were under 1 year old.
•81% (310) were aged between 1 and 4 years old (down from 84% in 2014).
•18% (70) were aged between 5 and 9 years old (up from 14.5% in 2014).
•*% (*) were aged between 10 and 15 years old.
•*% (*) were aged 16 years and over.
•(* = suppressed to prevent disclosure, less than 5 children).
91% (350) of adoptions during the year ending 31st March 2015 were by couples and 8% (30) were by single adopters. 8% (30) of all adoptions during the year ending 31st March 2015 were by same sex couples.
Adoption and children in state care across England: get the data: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/sep/26/adoption-and-care-statistics-england?intcmp=239
How have the numbers and rates of adoption and local authority care in England changed since 2011? Get the data More data journalism and data visualisations from the Guardian