Responses to bill

Overall the bill has been welcomed but concerns have emerged
including the independence of the commissioner. The postholder will
only be able to investigate individual cases of abuse of children
if directed by Department of Education and Skills.

“While we welcome the establishment of the children’s
commissioner, we have concerns over his or her independence and
whether the role will have the necessary investigative
powers,” said Martin Hazlehurst, national care leaving
advisory service manager for young people’s charity Rainer.

“The commissioner needs not only to consult with children and
young people – as stated in the bill – but also to
champion their rights.”

Welcoming the concessions over children’s trusts, president
of the Association of Directors of Social Services Andrew Cozens
said: “It is vitally important that local councils are given
the flexibility to achieve the goals set by the bill by working out
for themselves the most appropriate way forward.”

However, he was concerned that changes were expected to be achieved
within existing resources, and warned that it would be a
“tragedy” if the underfunding of the Children Act 1989
was repeated again 15 years later.

The Association of London Government was unconvinced by the
government’s new flexibility. Health and social care panel
chairperson Stephen Burke said the ALG was disappointed ministers
“considered it necessary to prescribe the role of
children’s director and lead member”, rather than
leaving it to authorities to decide the best response locally. He
plans to meet children’s minister Margaret Hodge to discuss
this further.

Local government union Unison welcomed the measures in the bill but
it called for more resources to implement the measures including
more and better paid staff.

Unison’s local government secretary Heather Wingfield said
that pay was a key issue and that councils are already spending
money on agency staff to fill posts rather than pay staff more.
“It would be a shame if any extra money were to be swallowed
up in agency fees instead of going to front-line child
protection,” she said.

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