The College of Social Work condemns ‘unworkable’ children’s bill

Government will hear the 26-week target for care cases and 'foster to adopt' provisions risk undermining professionals and failing children

The children and families bill could lead to poor social work decisions, undermine professionals and damage the state’s relationship with families, the College of Social Work and the Family Rights Group claimed today.

The organisations have written a joint parliamentary briefing urging the government to reconsider parts of the bill, which is currently making its way through parliament.

Among their concerns, the organisations believe the bill undermines the role extended family members can play in children’s care by emphasising the importance of ‘fostering to adopt’ schemes – placing children with foster carers who can go on to adopt them.

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They also warned the controversial 26-week target for care cases risks social workers making the wrong decisions about children’s care. It could supersede professional judgement and work against children’s best interests, they claimed, calling for an ammendment to make it easier for social workers to recommend extensions to the deadline in some cases.

As a result, both organisations have concluded the bill is “unworkable” in its current form. They want it ammended so local authorities are legally required to explore family placements before a fostering for adoption placement is made. Suitable and willing relatives, like grandparents, should also be prioritised above adoption, the organisations said.

“It is critical the current reforms support relatives and friends to come forward at an early stage so that they can be assessed as potential carers,” the briefing stated. “The current foster for adopt proposals could squeeze out such family placements.”

It continued: “There is a genuine risk that the proposed [26-week target] could result in too much focus on procedure and not enough on the welfare of the child.”

The groups also pointed out many social care professionals do not support the target. “[We] urge parliament to pause and reflect on the wisdom of including the 26-weeks target in primary legislation, potentially jeopardising children’s welfare, against the advice of many professionals in the field.”

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