Politicians urge end to ‘horrendous’ handcuffing of children in care

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Social Work Recap is a weekly series where we present key news, events, conversations, tweets and campaigns around social work from the preceding week.

From a campaign to ban the handcuffing of children in care to a new blueprint for reforming adult social care reforms, here’s what you might have missed this week in social work:

Politicians call for ‘horrendous’ practice of handcuffing children in care to end

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Politicians have launched a campaign to end the “horrendous” practice of handcuffing children in care while in transport.

The MPs, peers, MSPs and Senedd members have forged a cross-party alliance in support of the Hope instead of Handcuffs campaign to ban the practice, other than in exceptional circumstances, and improve monitoring.

Currently, some private transport providers used by councils restrain children in care with handcuffs while moving them between settings. However, the issue’s true scale remains unknown as providers are not currently required to record handcuffing instances.

According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a child should only be restrained when there is an immediate threat of injury to themselves or others, and only as a last resort.

One care-experienced person, who had been restrained at 13 when moving between homes, called the experience violating.

“It’s hard to describe just how scared I was. I was cramped up in this car for six hours – every time I tried to stretch out, they restrained and physically pinned me down. I told them I’d done nothing wrong but nobody listened and I was treated like a criminal.”

The new alliance is calling for all four UK nations to introduce regulations to ensure restraint is used only as an absolute last resort and instances are recorded and monitored by local authorities.

Read more on this story in The Independent.

Care system ‘constantly failing’ children by moving them miles from home

A 22-year-old care leaver has warned that the care system is “constantly failing” children by moving them to placements far from home.

At 15, Jade was moved from Lewisham, in South London, to a children’s home in Blackpool, hundreds of miles away from family and friends. Today she’s advocating for children in care’s rights by telling her story.

“I don’t feel like I ever fully settled into Blackpool. I just coped,” she said in an interview with Children and Young People Now.

“I could scream and shout about how I don’t want to be in Blackpool and shouldn’t be here, but unfortunately that’s how the system’s been created. Young people in the system, we don’t always get a say in how our own lives turn out, which is so unfair.”

In Blackpool, Jade said she “missed a lot” and was forced to grow up a lot more quickly than her peers. She is now urging the government to “do better”.

“These decisions to move us are made because it costs less, but you need to think about the impact on young people’s lives,” she said.

“Wake up, this is serious.”

She is part of charity Become’s Gone Too Far campaign, which is calling on government and local authorities to address the shortage of local placements and stop moving children many miles from their homes.

“Being moved away, often at short notice, to an area you don’t know at all has a massive impact on children,” said Katharine Sacks-Jones, chief executive of Become. “Young people tell us they feel lonely, isolated, and their schooling is often disrupted as a result of the move.”

In response, the Department for Education said that, at present, children should be placed within 20 miles of their homes. It added that its strategy to reform children’s social care would result in a placement model that would “keep more children close to home networks”.

Safeguarding review finds “systemic failure” tied to five-month-old child’s death in Surrey

A safeguarding review into the death of a five-month-old twin from Surrey has found “systemic failure” and “a lost opportunity” to assess risks to him.

“Baby Acer” died from a cardiac arrest in January 2021 while in a baby bouncer in the living room where he slept with his twin and mother.

His death came after social services had been involved with his family for 14 years. His siblings had been on three child protection plans and three child in need plans, all under the category of neglect.

Lead reviewer Moira Murray highlighted the “short-sighted” and “unwise” decision to close the family’s case in March 2020 and the “lost opportunity” to conduct a pre-birth assessment of the mother to determine safeguarding risks.

The review said that the mother’s medication and drug use “was known to impact her ability to stay awake and alert to the babies’ needs”.

She was also dyslexic and had difficulty reading, and had told Murray that her “level of understanding of what was being explained to her may appear to be greater than it was in reality”.

“If the case had remained open there would have been the opportunity to continue to monitor the children and risk assess mother’s behaviour during her pregnancy and after the birth of the twins,” the review said.

However, it recognised the “significant impact” that Covid had on this case, “particularly on the delivery of training to practitioners”.

The report further stressed “the continued need to remind carers about the risks associated with co-sleeping, and the importance of effective multi-agency communication and practice throughout, particularly when assessing the impact on chronically neglected children”.

Find out more from Surrey Live.

Think-tank publishes blueprint for adult social care reform for Labour

old man receiving social care

Photo by Dragana Gordic/ AdobeStock

A Labour-commissioned blueprint for reforming adults’ services in England through a national care service was issued this week.

The Fabian Society report, commissioned by UNISON and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, made 48 recommendations, setting out a roadmap for an incoming Labour government to create a national care service.

The report said publicly-funded provision was currently “often patchy, impersonal and inadequate”, with “poor pay and conditions” driving record vacancies, people receiving services paying “punishing” charges and unpaid carers “bearing the brunt of the system’s failures”.

The society said its proposed model would:

  1. Make support available to everyone, regardless of means, and at an earlier stage in the development of their needs than now.
  2. Provide stronger, enforceable rights, for example, for people receiving care to choose where they live and for carers to access breaks.
  3. Replace postcode lotteries with consistency of provision under a single ‘national care services’ brand, shared by government, councils and independent providers.
  4. Introduce a sector minimum wage and terms and conditions, with pay parity achieved over time with the NHS.
  5. Reduce charges over time for care and support.

Tweet of the week: It is Carers Week!

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