Children Bill sets framework for reforms

Children’s Trusts will be “virtual”
organisations based on pooled budgets rather than new structures,
and will not mean any staff have to be transferred, it emerged last

The revised plans for Children’s Trusts were outlined in
the government’s introduction to the Children Bill, the
legislative framework for many of the reforms outlined in the Green
Paper Every Child Matters.

The  Bill, published last week, would provide the
“legislative spine” for far reaching changes in the way
public services deal with children, said children’s minister
Margaret Hodge. It applies in England only, except where the Welsh
assembly has asked for provisions to apply in Wales.

The Children Bill will introduce

  • Shared statutory outcomes for children across a range of 
    public services. These are: to be healthy, to stay safe, to enjoy
    and achieve, to make a positive contribution, and to achieve
    economic well-being.
  • A Children’s Commissioner for England, working towards
    the same set of outcomes, and reporting annually to parliament. The
    commissioner will not investigate individual cases, but will be
    free to report on any issue of concern.
  • A duty on local authorities to ensure robust partnership
    arrangements with  other local agencies to improve the well being
    of children in the area
  • Key statutory agencies must have regard to the need to
    safeguard and promote the welfare of children in discharging their
    normal functions
  • Statutory boards to replace Area Child Protection Committees,
    with duties to ensure the effectiveness of local arrangements and
    services to safeguard children.
  • Children’s Trusts will be  “virtual”
    organisations formed through the pooling of budgets to secure
    integrated commissioning of services rather than statutory
    organisations as such.  They will not necessitate structural change
    or staff transfers and although they are  “expected” in
    every area by 2008 and in most by 2006, these deadlines will not be
    subject to legislation.
  • A Director of Children’s Services in every local
    authority whose duties will cover as a minimum the responsibilities
    relating to children currently held by chief education officers and
    directors of social services. No deadline for appointments but
    expectation that all will have one by 2008. Flexibility about how
    duties are discharged. In Wales there will be a requirement to
    nominate a lead director for children’s services rather than
    appoint a single director.
  • Lead council member for children’s services to cover same
    span as director of children’s services.
  • Integrated inspection by Ofsted of children’s service
    within a new framework.
  • New powers of intervention in line with those relating to
    education where children’s social services are
  • Secretary of State can require databases to be set up locally,
    regionally or nationally to enable information about children to be
    shared between agencies, but only after secondary legislation which
    would have to be explicitly agreed by parliament.

The Bill also

  • gives local authorities a duty to promote the educational
    achievement of looked after children;
  • requires a stronger notification scheme for private foster
  • removes the current power to take children in breach of a Child
    Safety Order into care under a lower threshold than usual and
    extends the maximum duration of the order to 12 months.


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