Child Protection – where’s it headed?

Interesting. In the Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect consultation it is claimed that ‘this Government is leading work to make improvements across every area of the child protection system.’

Yet we have the Children and Social Work Bill, currently being debated, which proposes to allow Local Authorities to opt out of their current statutory duties as embedded in our child protection legislation.

So presumably that means that, should it become law, the legislation around what happens when a young people is taken in to care and is living in the care system can be ignored. Worrying when it is widely known that children in care underachieve on every level and are significantly more likely to enter the criminal justice system.

At the moment, the Local Authority, during decision making, has a duty to consider the wishes and feelings of the child in care. There are rules around how often he/she should be seen by a social worker. There are rules around planning and review of the child’s situation. For example, every six months, there should be a review of a child in care’s care plan ie his or her placement, physical and therapeutic needs, schooling, contact with siblings, physical and mental health needs etc. This is chaired by a person independent of social services and provides a safety net in ensuring the child’s needs are being met. As importantly, it provides for accountability and a mechanism in ensuring that the child in care’s voice is being heard. By being exempt from legislation, these and numerous other issues could negatively impact on the child.

The idea behind the Bill is that this opting-out will allow innovation and will cut back on bureaucracy and that may well be right in part. However, with a massive increase in care proceedings and the likely resulting increasing care population, it is crucial that certain fundamental rights, such as the right to be consulted and heard, should be consistent and present for every child in care regardless of how services are delivered.

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