The shadow children’s minister has attacked the government’s “misguided” approach to children’s services and the Department for Education’s controversial “myth-busting document” published last year.
In a debate in parliament the Labour MP, and former social worker, Emma Lewell-Buck accused the minister of being “not too concerned about local authorities fulfilling their statutory duties towards children, as he recently argued that such duties are subject to local interpretation and disseminated a very dangerous myth-busting document advising local authorities to dispense with their statutory guidance”.
The minister, Nadhim Zahawi, asked Lewell-Buck to withdraw the comment and “correct the record” as he said it was “absolutely not true”, however she refused, arguing “what I am saying is already correct”.
The myth-busting document was the subject of fierce criticism after it was first published in June 2018, and this past month children’s rights organisation Article 39 has threatened the government with a judicial review over the document it argues could have harmful effects on families.
Lewell-Buck urged the minister to “withdraw that document and cease the repeated attempts to deregulate and wipe away hard-fought-for protective legislation for children”.
‘Piecemeal, misguided measures’
More broadly, Lewell-Buck said the government’s whole approach “lacks any cohesive strategy and is consumed with piecemeal, misguided measures”.
“Measures such as the What Works Centres, Partners in Practice, the discredited national assessment and accreditation system and the innovation programme are not yielding any positive changes, but so far have cost over £200 million, with at least £60 million going from taxpayers to private companies,” Lewell-Buck said.
Zahawi defended the government’s record, particularly with regard to its interventions in local authorities deemed ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.
“The first children’s services trust in Doncaster moved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’ in just two years. Just last week, Ofsted published an inspection report for Bromley…showing that its services are no longer ‘inadequate’ but are now judged as good.”
Previously, he has defended the myth-busting guide, arguing: “It seeks to clarify certain areas of the statutory guidance which practitioners had said were ambiguous or had given rise to incorrect assumptions about what is permissible.”