A bill which would allow local authorities to drop their child protection duties represents a “huge threat” to vulnerable children, a charity has warned.
Currently, every local authority must obey the Children Act 1989 which states that they have a duty to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children in their area. As part of this duty, local councils must investigate possible instances of ‘serious harm’, provide somewhere for looked after children to live and appoint people to represent the best interests of children in care.
However, Clause 15 of the Children and Social Work Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, would create the possibility for some local authorities to legally abandon these responsibilities. In order to secure such an exemption, a council’s application would first have to be approved by the Secretary of State after consulting with the children’s commissioner and Ofsted’s chief inspector.
The wording of the bill states that this exemption is designed to give councils the opportunity to “test different ways of working [towards] better outcomes under children’s social care legislation or achieving the same outcomes more efficiently”.
However, members of children’s rights charity Article 39 have not been convinced. Director Carolyne Willow claimed that the bill and, more specifically, Clause 15, has demonstrated that the government “is prepared to surrender hundreds of protections and entitlements that have developed over the past quarter century to keep children safe”.
She condemned the possibility that some local authorities will be “excused from meeting any of their legal obligations” to needy children.
Read the full text of the Children and Social Work Bill here.