Peers set to force concessions on proposals for information-sharing

Provisions in the Children Bill should specifically cover care
leavers, refugee and asylum-seeking children, young offenders and
people with learning difficulties aged under 25, Lords were due to
argue this week.

Attention must also be paid to ensuring services for disabled
children are improved, and that all children are given the same
opportunities, irrespective of race, gender, religion or family

The clarifications were among nearly 250 amendments to the bill due
to be discussed during its committee stage in the House of Lords
earlier this week, including several on the functions and
independence of the children’s commissioner and on plans for the
creation and use of databases.

Two-thirds of the 600 front-line workers and managers who responded
to Community Care‘s online survey last week remain
unconvinced the bill’s proposals would improve information-sharing
between children’s services providers. And, as Community
went to press, at least three Lords were planning to
oppose the inclusion of the section on information-sharing.

If the clause does survive, it is likely to be amended
substantially to include much more detail about the type of
information to be stored, how long it should be retained, when it
should be shared with a child or their parents, when and to whom
access should be granted or denied, how the information will be
kept secure and what penalties will be introduced for inappropriate

Lord Adebowale, chief executive of social care charity Turning
Point, has also called for a change in the bill’s wording so that
only the existence of “risk of significant harm” to a child is
recorded on any database, rather than “any cause for concern”. A
quarter of social care workers surveyed thought the system of
flagging up concerns as set out in the bill would be too sensitive
and lead to unnecessary referrals.

Considerable changes to the children’s commissioner’s powers and
remit were also due to be debated, as was an extension of the
co-operation clause to cover parents, school governors, the
voluntary and private sectors, and youth offending teams.

Peers were also set to consider an amendment calling for new local
safeguarding children’s boards to be chaired by council chief
executives, as originally proposed by Victoria Climbie Inquiry
chair Lord Laming.

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