Sector fears limited input as green paper plans placed on the fast track

The social care sector fears that proposals in the children’s green
paper could be rushed through too quickly because of the
government’s intention to push ahead with legislation early next

It comes as the Department for Education and Skills confirmed this
week that there were “no plans” for the vision of children’s
services in Every Child Matters to be developed into firm proposals
in a white paper.

In effect, this means the current consultation period is the only
chance the sector will have to influence the government before a
parliamentary bill is introduced, dispensing with the second
opportunity that is usually allowed.

Although the move has not surprised many organisations, it has
raised concerns. “You have to wonder whether there will be real
consultation,” said Helen Goody, social affairs and health
programme manager at the Local Government Association. “The
government has said it will listen, but it appears that this is
being pushed ahead very quickly.”

Caroline Abrahams, director of public policy at children’s charity
NCH, said it was important that any bill should be drafted “very
carefully” because “children’s bills don’t come along very often”.

It is likely the government will include in the Queen’s Speech in
November plans for legislative changes so that some of the
proposals can be implemented.

But the sector believes more lengthy discussions are needed on some
complex ideas, such as the creation of a new director post with
overall responsibility for children’s education and social

The LGA and Association of Directors of Social Services have
written to children’s minister Margaret Hodge expressing their
concerns over the post.

ADSS president David Behan said it was important to strike the
balance between “getting on” with implementing changes and ensuring
they weren’t “rushed through too quickly”.

Hodge told a children’s trust pathfinder conference this week that
the green paper was “the first word but would not be the last”,
admitting that the pace of change was “too fast for some, but too
slow for others”.

Hodge added that every area would be expected to have a children’s
trust by 2006, dismissing any suggestion that children’s trusts
would not be mandatory.

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