LGA briefing: Children and Social Work Bill

Remaining Stages, House of Commons, 7 March 2017

Key messages

  • We welcome the Bill's focus on support for children in care, including the provisions to clarify corporate parenting principles, create a clear local offer for care leavers and extend personal adviser support for all care leavers until the age of 25. However, any new burdens on local authorities must be fully funded with new money to ensure that resources are not diverted from other services for vulnerable children as these are already considerably over-stretched.
  • The provisions outlined in clauses 8 and 9 reflect existing good practice, ensuring that courts and social workers focus on children's long-term interests when planning care. The broader emphasis on permanence is particularly welcome, allowing placement decisions to be firmly based on the needs of individual children and young people.
  • We are pleased that the Government has listened to our call for sex and relationships education (SRE) to be made compulsory in all secondary schools. When designed and delivered effectively, evidence suggests that these lessons have a positive impact on pupil wellbeing and can be a valuable element of a robust local safeguarding strategy

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LGA Briefing, Children and Social Work Bill, Remaining Stages, House of Commons, 7 March 2017

Committee Stage, House of Commons, Tuesday 13 December 2016

Key messages

  • We welcome the Bill's focus on support for children in care, including the provisions to clarify corporate parenting principles, create a clear local offer for care leavers and extend personal adviser support for all care leavers until the age of 25. However, new burdens must be fully funded to ensure that resources are not diverted from other services for vulnerable children as these are already considerably over-stretched.
  • The provisions outlined in clauses 8 and 9 reflect existing good practice, ensuring that courts and social workers focus on children's long-term interests when planning care. The broader emphasis on permanence is particularly welcome, allowing placement decisions to be firmly based on the needs of individual children and young people.
  • The recent Wood Review recommends that the current system of serious case reviews be replaced by a more flexible programme of local learning reviews supported by a national panel to consider more serious cases. The LGA supports this general approach, but we are concerned that the Panel outlined in the Bill risks politicising the serious case review process.
  • Freedom to innovate can be a powerful tool in improving outcomes for children and young people, and we support the principle of allowing councils to shape provision around the needs of children and young people rather than the constraints of inflexible legislation.
  • We are pleased that the Government has listened to our concerns and made clear on the face of the Bill that these powers can only be used where the proposals are clearly demonstrated to be in best interests of children. The introduction of an expert panel to oversee these applications is an important safeguard, but we are concerned that there is currently no mention of local government expertise on this panel.

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LGA Briefing: Children and Social Work Bill, Committee Stage, House of Commons, Tuesday 13 December 2016


Second Reading, House of Commons, 5 December 2016

Key messages

  • Looked-after children (Part 1, Chapter 1): The LGA supports the Bill's strong focus on support for children in care, including provisions to clarify corporate parenting principles, create a clear local offer for care leavers and extend personal adviser support for all care leavers up until the age of 25. However, new burdens must be fully funded to ensure that resources are not diverted from other services for vulnerable children, which are already considerably over-stretched.
  • The provisions outlined in clauses 8 and 9 reflect existing good practice, ensuring that courts and social workers focus on children's long-term interests when planning care. The broader emphasis on permanence is particularly welcome, allowing placement decisions to be firmly based on the needs of individual children and young people
  • Child safeguarding (Part 1, Chapter 2): The recent Wood Review recommends that the current system of serious case reviews be replaced by a more flexible programme of local learning reviews supported by a national panel to consider more serious cases. The LGA supports this general approach, but we are concerned that the Panel outlined in the Bill risks politicising the serious case review process.
  • Different ways of working: Freedom to innovate can be a powerful tool in improving outcomes for children and young people, and we strongly support the principle of allowing councils to shape provision around the needs of children and young people rather than the constraints of inflexible legislation.
  • The powers set out by the Government should only be used where this is clearly shown to be in best interests of children. In light of the additional safeguards introduced by the Government in earlier stages of the Bill, we welcome the ability for councils to test the new ways of working and do not agree with the removal of the provisions altogether. However, we are pleased that provisions have been removed that extended these freedoms to third parties where a council is in intervention.
  • Regulation of social workers (Part 2): The LGA previously raised concerns that the new social work regulator would not have the guaranteed independence necessary to balance the needs of the public; requirements set by Government; the interests of the profession; and the organisational requirements of employers who will have overall management responsibilities. We are pleased the Government has addressed these concerns, but much will depend on how the regulator operates in practice.

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LGA briefing - Children and Social Work Bill, Second Reading, House of Commons, Monday 5 December 2016


Third Reading, House of Lords, 23 November 2016

Key messages

  • Freedom to innovate can be a powerful tool in improving outcomes for children and young people, and we strongly support the principle of allowing councils to shape provision around the needs of children and young people rather than the constraints of inflexible legislation.

  • The powers set out by the Government should only be used where this is clearly shown to be in best interests of children, and an expert panel with strong representation from the sector and other key stakeholders would ensure this. In light of the additional safeguards introduced by the Government, we welcome the ability to test the new ways of working and do not agree with the removal of clause 29 during Report Stage.

  • We are pleased the Government listened to arguments made by the Local Government Association and stated that the expert panel reviewing freedoms to innovate would include representation from the voluntary sector, a practice expert, and local government.

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LGA Briefing: LGA Children and Social Work Bill, Third Reading, House of Lords, 23 November 2016


Report Stage, House of Lords, 8 November 2016

Key messages

  • Freedom to innovate can be a powerful tool in improving outcomes for children and young people, and we strongly support the principle of allowing councils to shape provision around the needs of children and young people rather than the constraints of inflexible legislation.
  • Powers in clause 29 should only be used where this is clearly shown to be in best interests of children, and an expert panel with strong representation from the sector and other key stakeholders would ensure this. In light of the additional safeguards introduced by the Government through amendment 61, we welcome the ability to test the new ways of working under clause 29.
  • An expert panel must include strong representation from the children's social care sector, which could be achieved through the sector-led Children's Improvement Board. As such we also support and amendments 60, led by Lord Warner and Lord Watson of Invergowrie, and amendments 62, and 65 led by Lord Watson and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.
  • We remain concerned that clause 32 gives the Secretary of State the power to remove legislative provisions from a local authority in intervention without any form of local democratic scrutiny or consultation with local partners. This runs counter to the Government's stated aim of using these innovation clauses to allow local practice leaders to design services around the needs of the children and young people that they know best. Therefore we urge the Government to accept amendment 66 to remove clause 32 from the Bill, led by Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Watson, Lord Warner and Lord Low of Dalston.
  • We are supportive of the Government's announcement in response to amendment 70, led by Lord Dubs, the Lord Bishop of Durham, Baroness Sheehan, and Lord Watson, that they will publish a strategy for safeguarding unaccompanied refugee children by May 2017. Local authorities already support over 4,000 unaccompanied children in England and are working with the Government to put in place arrangements for further children arriving in the UK via the Dublin III regulations and the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016.
  • The LGA previously raised concerns that the new social work regulator would not have the guaranteed independence necessary to balance the needs of the public; requirements set by Government; the interests of the profession; and the organisational requirements of employers who will have overall management responsibilities. We are pleased the Government has addressed these concerns, but much will depend on how the regulator operates in practice.

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LGA Briefing: LGA Children and Social Work Bill, Report Stage, House of Lords, 8 November 2016


Report stage, House of Lords 18 October 2016

Key messages

  • The LGA supports the Children and Social Work Bill's strong focus on improving support for children in care, including provisions to clarify corporate parenting principles, create a clear local offer for care leavers and extend personal adviser support for all care leavers up until the age of 25. Any duties to co-operate, such as those proposed in amendment 7, should be reciprocal, with local government, health partners, and the police all working together to protect and support looked-after children in an area.
  • All new duties on local authorities must be fully funded to ensure that resources are not diverted from other services for vulnerable children, which are already considerably over-stretched. Universal, nationally set standards must not constrict councils' abilities to meet the needs of their local population of care leavers. As such, we are concerned about the implications of amendments 12 and 13.
  • The Department for Education already collects a considerable quantity of performance data from local authorities. Rather than introducing a new data collection regime, as proposed in amendment 35, we would urge the Department to undertake a review of the many separate major statutory returns that children's services departments are currently required to complete to ensure that this data is relevant and will be used to best effect.
  • We support amendment 54 led by Lord Nash and share the concerns of Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, Baroness Walmsley, and the Lord Bishop of Durham in amendment 33 that the introduction of a perceived profit motive into decisions about our most vulnerable children and young people risks undermining public confidence in this challenging work. Independent providers play an important role in aspects of children's services provision, but there must be greater regulation to prevent negative commercial practices that increase the cost of services and reduce the funding available to help looked-after children.
  • A more flexible approach to multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and local learning reviews, as set out in the Wood Review, is a positive step. However, the arrangements in clauses 15 to 22 must involve all relevant partners, focus on systemic improvements that can be made, and be fully funded.
  • Freedom to innovate can be a powerful tool in improving outcomes for children and young people, particularly in a climate of rising demand and reduced resources. The LGA does not oppose the additional freedoms available through clause 29; however, we understand the need for greater safeguards to be introduced. We therefore support amendment 59 led by Lord Nash, introducing an additional level of parliamentary scrutiny to the process. However, we would like to see further detail on how the Government intends to evaluate the effectiveness of freedoms once granted.
  • We also support amendment 61 led by Lord Nash and amendments 60, 62, and 65 led by Lord Warner and Lord Watson introducing an expert panel or independent reviewing panel. However, such a panel must include representation from the children's social care sector, ideally through the sector-led Children's Improvement Board.
  • We are particularly concerned that clause 32 allows for the Secretary of State to relax regulations for third parties where a local authority is in intervention without any form of local democratic scrutiny or consultation. Therefore we strongly support amendment 66 lead by Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Watson, and Lord Warner to remove clause 32 from the Bill.
  • The LGA supports amendment 70 led by Lord Dubs, the Lord Bishop of Durham, and Baroness Sheehan, which would require the Government to publish a strategy for safeguarding unaccompanied refugee children. Local authorities already support over 4,000 unaccompanied children in England and are working with the Government to put in place support for further children arriving in the UK in the coming weeks, both via the Dublin regulations and the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act.

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Committee Stage day 4 and 5, House of Lords, 11 July 2016

Key messages

  • We are concerned that the national panel outlined in the Bill is too closely controlled by the Secretary of State and risks politicising the serious case review process. As such we support Baroness Meacher, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville's intention to oppose the question that clauses 11 to 14 stand part of the Bill.
  • A more flexible approach to multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and local learning reviews, as set out in the Wood Review, is a positive step. However, changes are needed to amendments 113 to 126 led by Lord Nash in order to ensure that the new system is effective in protecting children, involves all relevant partners, and is fully funded.
  • Freedom to innovate can be a powerful tool in improving outcomes for children and young people, particularly in a climate of rising demand and reduced resources. Corporate parenting principles should continue to apply to local authorities or specified persons exempted from social care regulations. We support amendment 132 led by Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.
  • We are particularly concerned that clause 18 allows for the Secretary of State to relax duties on local authorities in intervention without any form of local democratic scrutiny. Therefore we support Lord Watson of Invergowrie, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Ramsbotham's intention to oppose the question that clauses 18 stand part of the Bill.
  • The new social work regulator must have guaranteed independence in order to balance the needs of the public; requirements set by Government; the interests of the profession; and the organisational requirements of employers who will have overall management responsibilities. We support amendment 136 led by Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath which would require the regulator to be independent.

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House of Lords, Committee Stage day 2, Monday 4 July

Key messages

  • All new duties on local authorities must be fully funded to ensure that resources are not diverted from other services for vulnerable children, which are already considerably over-stretched. Universal, nationally set standards must not limit councils' abilities to meet the needs of their local population of care leavers. As such, we are concerned about the implications of amendments 30, 32 and 34, 43, 44 and 48.
  • Finding loving homes for children is one of the most important jobs that councils do. Where adoption is the right choice for a child, neither the local authority nor the court should shy away from making that decision, and proposals in the Children and Social Work Bill to drive longer term decision making through the court system are encouraging, as close working between social workers and the judiciary is vital. However, safeguards are needed for amendments 91 and 92 to ensure that maintaining relationships with wider family members is in the best interests of the child.
  • We share the concerns of Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, Baroness Walmsley, and the Lord Bishop of Durham that the introduction of a perceived profit motive into decisions about our most vulnerable children and young people risks undermining public confidence in this challenging work. Therefore we support the principle behind amendment 95.

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House of Lords, Second Reading, 14 June 2016

Key messages

  • Clauses 1 to 7: The LGA supports the Bill's strong focus on support for children in care, including provisions to clarify corporate parenting principles, create a clear local offer for care leavers and extend personal adviser support for all care leavers up until the age of 25. However, new burdens must be fully funded to ensure that resources are not diverted from other services for vulnerable children, which are already considerably over-stretched.
  • Clauses 8 and 9: The provisions outlined in clause 8 reflect existing good practice, ensuring that courts and social workers focus on children's long-term interests when planning care. The broader emphasis on permanence is particularly welcome, allowing placement decisions to be firmly based on the needs of individual children and young people.
  • Clauses 11 to 14: The recent Wood Review recommends that the current system of serious case reviews be replaced by a more flexible programme of local learning reviews supported by a national panel to consider more serious cases. The LGA supports this general approach, but we are concerned that the Panel outlined in the Bill is too closely controlled by the Secretary of State and risks politicising the serious case review process.
  • Clauses 15 to 19: Freedom to innovate can be a powerful tool in improving outcomes for children and young people, particularly in a climate of rising demand and reduced resources. However, the range of legislation potentially exempted by the Bill is currently very broad, and we would encourage Peers to explore whether sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure decisions are always made in the best interests of children. We are particularly concerned that section 18 allows for the Secretary of State to relax duties on local authorities in intervention without any form of local democratic scrutiny.
  • Part 2: Social work regulations will depend on the implementation. A balance needs to found between sufficient regulation to provide public assurance and encouraging experienced social workers to remain or return to the profession. An overly-onerous system could deter good people and prove bureaucratic for employers. We are concerned that the system outlined in the Bill places regulation of the profession under direct government control, removing the independence necessary to win the trust of social workers and the public.

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House of Lords, Committee Stage day 1, 27 June 2016

Key messages

The LGA supports the Children and Social Work Bill's strong focus on support for children in care, including provisions to clarify corporate parenting principles, create a clear local offer for care leavers and extend personal adviser support for all care leavers up until the age of 25. Amendment 47 led by Lord Wills, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath would make personal advisers available for all care leavers unless they opt out, rather than on request.

We support the intention behind amendments to extend corporate parenting principles to other agencies, including amendment 2 led by Lord Ramsbotham, amendment 3 led by the Earl of Listowel, amendment 4 led by Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and amendment 5 led by Baroness Tyler of Enfield.

All new duties on local authorities must be fully funded to ensure that resources are not diverted from other services for vulnerable children, which are already considerably over-stretched. Universal, nationally set standards must not constrict councils' abilities to meet the needs of their local population of care leavers. As such, we are concerned about the implications of amendments 30, 32 and 34, 43, 44 and 48.

Finding loving homes for children is one of the most important jobs that councils do. Where adoption is the right choice for a child, neither the local authority nor the court should shy away from making that decision, and proposals in the Bill to drive longer term decision making through the court system are encouraging, as close working between social workers and the judiciary is vital. However, safeguards are needed for amendments 91 and 92 to ensure that maintaining relationships with wider family members is in the best interests of the child.

We share the concerns of Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, Baroness Walmsley, and the Lord Bishop of Durham that the introduction of a perceived profit motive into decisions about our most vulnerable children and young people risks undermining public confidence in this challenging work. Therefore we support the principle behind amendment 95.

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7 March 2017