The Children and Social Work Bill 2016 - an opportunity we can’t afford to miss

Posted by Meredith Davis / Monday 13 June 2016 / Care leavers Early intervention Law Safeguarding
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Tomorrow the Children and Social Work Bill will have it’s the Second Reading in the House of Lords. Despite its name, Second Reading is actually the first time that members of the House of Lords will debate the new Bill.

Lords and Ladies, Barons and Baronesses will take part in the habitual, and sometimes heated, exchange between the red benches and the Government. They will talk about what the legislation is trying to achieve and highlight areas where they think change is needed.

What do we think that Lords should focus on during Second Reading?

In our view, Lords should tell the Government that although some proposals are welcome, it risks missing an important opportunity to address some big challenges facing the children’s social care system.

It is time to ask how we can do more as a country to identify and address children’s needs before they reach ‘crisis point’.

"If your referrals and cases are defined by firefighting, you end up spending 90% of your budget on crises, and round and round you go. Because your systems are geared up only to fight fires"

Dave Hill, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services

The Children and Social Work Bill 2016 is a chance to rethink children’s social care. We must move to a system where everyone works together effectively to support children at the right time.

From our experience working with children and families, we know that children’s needs don’t need to be life threatening to pose a high risk to their futures.

Too often children and young people are not helped early enough, unless their problems escalate. While going into in care is the right approach for some children, we need a system which helps children and young people as early as possible, not just a system which “fights fires”.

young people transition board away day

We also think that the Bill is a great opportunity for the Government to make it a core principle of our care system to help children and young people recover from past trauma and promote their emotional wellbeing.

We are working as a co-chair of the Children in Care Alliance to get the best possible legislation for children in care.

We are pleased to see the new ‘corporate parenting principles’ laid out in the Bill, particularly the focus on children and young people’s emotional well-being. But we think the Government can do better.

The Alliance wants to see in black and white a principle to promote recovery from past harm. Over 60% of children entering care do so because of prior abuse or neglect, and the trauma of these early experiences can have significant impact on the rest of their lives.

The Children and Social Work Bill could be improved to make a fundamental difference for children in care and care leavers. We hope that Peers and the Government are ready to listen, because this is a chance that we can’t afford to miss.

For more information on Action for Children’s views on the Children and Social Work Bill, including our joint statement with other children’s charities on section 15 of the Bill, see here.

You can also read our joint briefing with the Alliance of Children in Care and Care Leavers.