The Children and Social Work Bill - What it means for you

Our Registered Manager Tony Reflects on the changes that the Children and Social Work Bill will bring, and the effect that it will have on our carers and Social Workers

Children who come to the attention of social care services are the most vulnerable in our society, and deserve the highest standards. However, Ofsted report shows that a quarter of children’s services departments, 21 in total, are currently rated ‘inadequate’ while 43 require improvement. In poor performing authorities, weaknesses in leadership and management oversight, along with high caseloads, often mean children do not receive the right support at the right time. In high-performing areas, inspectors saw strong leadership, both at a political level and throughout the organisation. Leaders create the systems and culture that enable high quality social work to flourish, and understand the skills and qualities the workforce need to do their jobs well.  Once children are in the care system, they are often well cared for - it is children who have not yet entered the system because their needs have not been recognised, or whose support has been too superficial and ineffective, who need attention.

Last week the government published the Children and Social Work Bill – a set of legislation it hopes will drive up standards in the profession. The children and social work bill, promises key changes for children’s services. Under the bill, adoption would be prioritised over short-term foster care placements, and a new care leavers’ covenant would be introduced to provide young people leaving care with better support.

On behalf of the vast majority of children in Credo Care, who will spend their childhoods in loving, stable and secure foster families, we call on this government to be unashamedly pro-foster care as well.

The government  is also to potentially directly regulate, or set up a government-controlled body, for social workers. This would replace the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), an organisation financially and operationally independent, as social work’s regulator. The move would also hand government control of the conditions of registration and continued registration. Social workers could potentially face criminal offences for misconduct. The bill allows for a set of criminal offences to be introduced for social work misconduct. The offences could apply to practitioners who fail to comply with restrictions on registration or in cases where social workers facing fitness-to-practise cases fail to attend hearings or provide evidence in their defence.

The bill allows the government to ‘exempt’ local authorities from legal duties under certain pieces of children’s social care legislation, including some sections of the Children Act 1989 and the Children Act 2004. The freedoms can be applied for up to six years.

CoramBAAF has set out its opposition to proposals that could see Clause 15 of the Children and Social Work Bill used to disband adoption and fostering panels and relax the assessment process for children being placed with family and friends foster carers.

One proposal was the disbanding of adoption and fostering panels. Lord Nash suggested that these ‘add little value and can often delay the process of approving prospective carers’. In CoramBAAF’s view, this reflects a long standing attempt by the government to remove panels from the fostering and adoption approval process, only avoided as the result of overwhelming opposition from practitioners in the sector as expressed in consultation responses in 2011 and again in 2013. Now it seems that the plan is to disband panels in the use of the powers proposed by Clause 15 and in a piecemeal fashion. 

CoramBAAF could not be more opposed to this plan; believing that adoption and fostering panels play a crucial role in helping to decide whether someone is suitable to foster or adopt or that a child should be matched with prospective adopters. It is hard to think of a more important decision for a vulnerable child, and it is one that benefits enormously from the careful and independent scrutiny that panels provide.

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