Campaigners have warned the children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi that recommendations from the government’s fostering stocktake would “greatly weaken legal protections” for vulnerable children and young people if enacted.
Together for Children, a group of charities, professional organisations and academics formed in opposition to proposals in the Children and Social Work bill, has warned that five recommendations made by the fostering stocktake last month would require changing the law in a way that may not be compliant with human rights law.
“They each advocate a dilution of legal safeguards; together they communicate a lack of understanding for the origins and importance to children’s welfare of existing policy,” the group warned in an open letter to Zahawi.
The recommendations criticised by the letter were:
- That automatic delegated authority to carers apply to children under section 20 arrangements
- That authorities be able to choose one social worker to manage foster family’s in long-term placements, rather than the current practice which sees a child and foster carers have separate social workers
- Allow local authorities to scrap the Independent Reviewing Officer role
- Assess and consult on the value for money of fostering panels
- Local authorities should not presume that keeping sibling groups together is in the best interest of the children.
The letter was signed by 43 organisations and academics, including the British Association of Social Workers, Article 39, CoramBAAF, Unison and The Fostering Network.
It argued that it appeared “dishonourable” that three of the recommendations, which were debated as possible uses of the exemption clause during the passage of the bill, had appeared again in the stocktake.
“When the former secretary of state for education Justine Greening abandoned plans to permit local authorities to opt-out of their statutory duties in children’s social care, the department issued a statement saying it had ‘listened to concerns’,” the letter said.
It called for Zahawi to reject the five recommendations highlighted by the group, and said it was committed to working with the Department for Education on the interests of children, young people and families.