Government to revive controversial ‘exemption’ plans in social work bill

Children’s minister says proposals will be re-tabled in “much altered and improved” form following House of Lords defeat

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Photo: Nadezhda1906/Fotolia

The government will revive controversial proposals in the Children and Social Work Bill that were thrown out by the House of Lords last month.

Peers voted to delete the so-called ‘innovation’ clauses from the Children and Social Work Bill. But the government will table amendments this week to re-instate the proposals in what ministers labelled a “much altered and improved” form.

The original proposals allowed councils to apply for exemptions from children’s social care law to “test new ways of working”.

The government said the powers would allow services to cut red tape and safely trial innovations. Opponents, including Labour and a coalition of more than 30 organisations, claimed the measures threatened legal protections for vulnerable children.

In a piece for Community Care, children’s minister Edward Timpson said he recognised the concerns raised over the clauses and a “much altered and improved” set of proposals would be submitted.

He said: “These powers will give local authorities an opportunity to try different ways of delivering better services to children, while maintaining their fundamental rights and ensuring they still receive the services they need.

“Some commentators have suggested that the power to innovate would place children at risk. This is simply wrong. The whole point of the power is to improve services for children.”

Carolyne Willow, director of children’s rights group Article 39 and a leading member of the Together for Children coalition opposing the innovation plans, told Community Care “it was difficult to imagine” how ministers could amend the clauses so that they safeguarded the legal protections applying to all children.

“We wait to hear the government’s plans without any sense of optimism. The LaingBuisson report released at the end of last week is clear that companies are willing to play the long game in the wholesale outsourcing of children’s social care services. Deregulation is surely part of this long game.

“With such massive opposition and concern about the potential impact on the country’s most vulnerable children, you have to wonder why ministers are intent on pushing this through without any public consultation.”

The government amendment will be considered by MPs, with the bill beginning its passage through the House of Commons today.

9 Responses to Government to revive controversial ‘exemption’ plans in social work bill

  1. Sean Hayes December 5, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    The Children and Social Work Bill :The House Of Lords voted against Clause 29 of this proposed legislation that if enacted would allow Local Authorities to Contract Out of Established Childrens Legislation and Safeguarding Arrangement in order to allow for ‘Innovation”.

    May I draw your attention to the . Laing Buisson and Cobic report . **http://www.article39.org.uk/news/2016/12/02/secret-report-on-future-of-childrens-services-finally-published/ . Unfortunately as I am sure you will appreciate that last thing a business would want is an Independent t mechanism a such as the National IRO service with associated children’s legislation and other perceived obstacles to innovation such as Childrens/Human rights to stand in the way of multinational without borders business deals, where rich profits are to me made from the exposing already vulnerable and exploited children to be further exploited within global markets, by the very social workers and others that are supposed to be protecting and looking after them.

    May I also draw your attention to some research I undertook in 2011 regarding the Impact of the Commodification of Looked After Children with in Social Welfare Markets that address’ the key Ethical Issues regarding such proposals.

  2. Anita Singh December 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    There has already been huge sums of money spent on extensive and significant consultation and clear recommendations made by Prof. Eileen Munro. Why have we spent so much money, only to completely ignore her recommendations and advice? Despite the desperate need to cut the layers upon layers of bureaucratic bull@!%? we still cannot sneeze without filling out a bloody form for it. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING has been done to empty the social work basket of this ‘work’. This anally retentive self-justification, mostly generated by senior managers, has got to stop if social workers are to be enabled to create the time to do some real work with families. Direct face-to-face work is much more likely to lead to safer practice than the current situation.

  3. Anita Singh December 5, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    Just to add, that social workers do not need to be privatised to make them cost effective, just reduce the bureaucracy and they will be more productive. And in any case it is more or less privatised, as some teams can be made up almost exclusively of locum social workers who flit in and out due to the high level of burnout – mainly caused by too much bureaucracy and not enough good quality support from management, because they too are preoccupied with justifying themselves electronically!

    • LYNDSEY KRAMER December 14, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

      They’re trying to privatise education through using the ‘locum’ method as well, with an over- reliance on supply teachers. It underminds professionalism and job security whilst supporting private enterprise over social provision. It is of course, the citizens using the increasing less socially provided provision who lose out the most. And you are right, management are desperately trying to justify themselves electronically plus, I’d add, whilst trying to make the books balance with impossibly limited finances.

  4. Ray Jones December 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    The four leading news stories in Community Care today reinforce the considerable concerns about the government’s intentions for children’s social work and child protection services. First, the government despite almost universal opposition is ploughing ahead with its so-called ‘innovation clauses’ which would enable children’s rights and service responsibilities to be abandoned.

    Second, we now know that this is opposed by the majority of children and families principal social workers, and last week the big children’s charities, the NSPCC and Action for Children, expressed their concerns.

    Third, the government at the end of last week published the report it commissioned, overseen by a panel including its chief social worker for children, on how to create a market place for statutory children’s services outside of local authorities.

    Fourth, the children’s minister continues to mislead by stating that these outsourced services cannot be contracted to profit-making companies, when in 2014 he changed the regulations to explicitly allow that these companies can be contracted to provide these services, albeit that they have to set up not-for-profit subsidiaries from whom they would then make their money.

    And finally, with no prior information to the public or those working in children’s services, he will be introducing in Parliament new clauses to the Children and Social Work Bill, in essence allowing no comment or briefing on these new clauses before they are considered by MPs. This is no way for a responsible government to behave and reinforces concerns about the government’s agenda and intentions. Justine Greening, as the new secretary of state, deserves the time to reflect and consult before being bounced into promoting this badly drafted legislation she inherited from her predecessors.

  5. James December 5, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

    The law protects children but the high thresholds, endless paperwork and no money put children at risk.

  6. Longtime SW December 6, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    What seems to be being missed here is that it is nothing to do with red tape – it is about opening up public services to profit (by the back door or otherwise) where the priority will be to shareholders not the children that are supposed to be protected.

    We are talking about children who have or are at significant risk of permanent harm or death – anyone who has been before a family court will know that the threshold has to be reached before a case is even heard – before that threshold, the Court demands that the issuing authority has complied with it’s duties under Statute(s).

    What is being proposed is that exempted (private) organisation(s) will not have to comply with Statutes – how does this meet the duty to protect and prevent harm or serve Children in Need (s17 CA 1989) if organisations don’t have to comply with the law?

    We should be very afraid – it will not be Capita, Virgin Social Care, KPMG, or any other organisation sniffing around, that will be blamed when children die it will be you Ms./Mr. Social Worker. Don’t expect them to defend you when you are pilloried.

    BTW – I wonder how many of the proposers of this amendment/bill have a current or future financial interest in this bad law being passed? Only asking . . . . .

    • Anita Singh December 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

      Longtime SW, I agree that we should not be able to privatise through the back door or exempt private organisations from statutory duties. However, HCPC clearly dictates you are responsible for your practise and look at the number of fitness to practise hearings to see how this works out.

      Furthermoer, the explosion in care applications, which was originally thought to be a reaction to Baby P, has continued unabated, perhaps because in the Baby P case it was not only SWs but also senior managers such as Sharon Shoesmith that was sacked and for once the responsibility for the decisions was appropriately placed with senior managers. Then look at the response ever since to the number of care applications!

      The wish to privatise and then exempt private organisations from statutory duties, may be an attempt to bring down the continued rise care proceedings being issued, something that they have not been able to do since Baby P. Yes, the blame will probably be placed at the door of social workers alone, yet again.

      • Longtime SW December 7, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

        Hi Anita – as you probably have guessed I have been a while now in social work – mostly frontline except for 3 years as an immediate line manager for frontline workers.

        Can I say that my comments were not attempting to shift away from our own responsibility for standards but, like it or not, one of the points I was making was that, whatever the reasons for the increase in the number of cases in proceedings, in all the time I have been involved in the family court system, there has not been a time when cases, (my own and colleagues), have not needed court oversight at the initial stage if Care Proceedings have been started.

        I fully accept that once the initial evidence has been tested at those initial hearing(s) that there may be times when the issues can be dealt with outside the court arena or adjourned to a later date for consideration as to different/alternative solutions/resources.

        However – we should never lose sight of our responsibility for and to those who have the least or no power over decisions made for or on behalf of them – PR does not mean Parental Rights it means Parental Responsibility – the child has their own individual rights, parents have responsibility for ensuring those rights are respected and protected – this includes the responsibility to ensure they are free from avoidable harm, suffering, injury or even death. If that responsibility is faulty or damaged in parent’s hands then the state has a Duty in law to step in.

        There is a real fear that absolving private organisations of that Duty/responsibility, allowing them to side step the legal safeguards that are currently in place, (and make public organisations accountable for their actions), will encourage the private sector to make profit their priority and not our children.

        We should resist what has and is happening in the NHS and adult social care sector.

        Finally, if this Govt have their way, who or what will be left to pick up the pieces when these organisations walk away, as they surely will, when they realise that the sums of money availiable don’t add up? Where is the money going to come from to set this in motion? Why not give it to the public sector instead of cutting back early intervention services, staffing levels, support services?