Former social worker Lewell-Buck resigns as shadow children’s minister

Former social worker one of four Labour frontbenchers to quit after defying party on second referendum vote

Image of Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields
Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields

Emma Lewell-Buck last night resigned as shadow minister for children and families after defying the Labour party line during a series of votes on Brexit.

Lewell-Buck was one of five frontbenchers – the others were Justin Madders, Yvonne Fovargue, Ruth Smeeth and Stephanie Peacock – to quit after the party whipped MPs to abstain from voting on an amendment, put down by the new Independent Group, to call a second referendum. Lewell-Buck and the four others voted against the amendment, which was defeated by 334 votes to 85. Smeeth went ahead of the vote while the others were asked to resign by party leaders.

A former social worker, Lewell-Buck, the MP for South Shields, described her introduction to child protection work at Sunderland council as a “baptism of fire” in an interview with Community Care.

Lewell-Buck’s departure leaves both the government education ministers and Labour’s shadow ministers without a social worker influence.

Lewell-Buck had been in her shadow ministerial role since October 2016 and had been a staunch critic of the government’s austerity policies and their impact on children and families.

She criticised education secretary Damian Hinds after he took on his role and issued a statement which failed to mention his responsibilities for children’s social care.

Government ‘unconcerned with councils fulfilling statutory duties’

Earlier in 2019 she attacked children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi for being “not too concerned about local authorities fulfilling their statutory duties towards children” in a debate that touched on controversial ‘myth-busting’ guidelines published by the Department for Education (DfE) last year.

During the exchange Lewell-Buck said the government’s overall approach to children’s social care “lacks any cohesive strategy and is consumed with piecemeal, misguided measures”.

Last month Lewell-Buck sought answers from Zahawi on the performance of fast-track social work training provider Frontline, which revealed that no money has been clawed back from students leaving the programme early, and that  the DfE “does not monitor operational data such as Frontline staff numbers, their qualifications and turnover”.

Lewell-Buck’s former boss Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, paid tribute to her on Twitter in the wake of her resignation.

“Emma was a superb Shadow Minister for Children & Families and worked so hard in her remit. Emma made a principled stance and did what she believes is right by her constituents,” Rayner wrote.

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7 Responses to Former social worker Lewell-Buck resigns as shadow children’s minister

  1. Ray Jones March 15, 2019 at 11:32 am #

    This is crazy! Emma has been a terrific champion for children and families and for social work. She has been committed in challenging awful government policies creating increasingly severe and extensive poverty and has been wise and informed during the debates on the Children and Socisl Work Bill and since on government actions which are undermining social work and social workers. Her forced resignation should be much regretted. Children’s social services will now have a lower political profile from Labour in Parliament at a time when the children’s minister continues to deny the funding crisis which is overwhelming social workers and others.

  2. The Prince March 15, 2019 at 1:51 pm #

    Sad day indeed

  3. Jane Tunstill March 15, 2019 at 3:55 pm #

    I completely agree with everything Ray says ………….a really bad day for children and families , and a very sad one for those of us in social work who have valued her understanding, knowledge and commitment to having decent childrens services and tenacity and courage in challenging the governments rejection of these ideas. Cant help but think its a very good day for the conservative government . I wish Labour Party leaders would respond helpfully !

  4. Sandra March 15, 2019 at 6:50 pm #

    This is truly sad. Who will we have now. It’s hopeless.

  5. Carline Benoit March 16, 2019 at 7:57 am #

    Very sad to her that Emma Lewel-Buck has resigned. Who will challenge the government now with her level of understanding of what Children’s social services required. Her bold stance when she stated that the current policies “lacks any cohesive strategy and is consumed with piecemeal, misguided measures” was true. We have lost a champion.

  6. Andrew Foster March 16, 2019 at 7:55 pm #

    Emma’s choice shows again the impermanence of ‘conviction’ and the rancid arrogance and disregard which politicians consistently display towards the social care profession. All very poor, sadly, yet oh so predictable. Me, me, me, me, etc……..self-serving and egotistical. Good luck, Emma, when you ultimately pick up your P45.

  7. Paul March 19, 2019 at 10:05 am #

    As an experienced social worker with over 30 years of qualified wxperience in the profession I would certainly challenge the idea that Labour have been a positive force for sociam work. Under the mast Labour governments social work as a profession was brought to its needs – the emlhasis on procedure from government with added bureacracy that you see in a nanny state culture plus the increase in managerliasm led to social workers being de-skilled and effectively prioritisong admin tasks.

    It was only after the conservative / libdem coalition came into power in 2010 that we saw common sense being brought back theough people like Munro who were inventing anything new – just saying what others had been wanting to het across for years.

    Under Thatcher – despite the rhetoric that social work wasn’t valued we had the barclay report that positioned social worker reaffirmed the impkrtance of sociam work and reaffirmed them as middle managers in terms of admin support. We have seen that support decline as much under Labour as the conservatives. The fact is that alongside the armed forces – social work had more resources pumped in to it than any other pbjc service durong the Thatcher era.

    It seems odd to me that someone like Emma who is haed as someone who champions social work (not quite sure how lkng she was a social worker) chooses to resign her position over an issue that has nothing to do with sockam work. That is hardly putting the profession at the centre of her thinking.

    Instead it has simply brought the profession into the brexit argument – which is unprofessional and not social work but something else now.