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.