4th August, 2021 3:13 pm
Children’s rights campaigners have raised concerns that reforms to children’s social care proposed by the Care Review could be rushed through before the next general election.
The fears have been raised by campaign group Article 39 following comments made by Care Review chair Josh MacAlister last month.
The review was launched in January this year and is due to conclude within 15 months, with recommendations expected to be presented to ministers in Spring 2022.
MacAlister admitted, during a podcast interview last month, that the review’s timeframe “is quick” but said there was a need to “seize the agenda” and give the government the “opportunity to implement and deliver change before the next election”.
“There is a political reality to the fact that we’ve got a parliament. The government has got a majority. We could get some important work done in this parliament, some of which might involve legislation,” he said.
“If we took two to three years, any hard work on the review would deliver a set of recommendations that could be given to government and there isn’t a window of opportunity to do anything with it before the election and then it’s into a new parliament. By that point politics has moved on.”
He added that “there is some real urgency” to reforming elements of care based on the review’s initial findings.
Article 39’s director Carolyne Willow wrote to children’s minister Vicky Ford last month seeking reassurances “that the usual democratic processes will be followed should the children’s social care review recommend changes to legislation”.
“Josh MacAlister’s reference to the Conservative Party’s majority sounded loud alarm bells since it suggested ministers may fast-track his recommendations straight to a Bill in Parliament, rather than following the accepted process of public consultation on options for legislative change,” said Willow.
“These are ordinarily set out by government in Green and White Papers. His statement also further undermined any semblance that this process is seeking cross-party consensus.”
In her response Ford said that the government recognises “the importance of engaging with a wide range of stakeholders in this process and will follow any appropriate parliamentary process for the implementation of any recommendations”.
She added: “I want to fully grasp this opportunity to drive change and make a real difference to the lives and outcomes of vulnerable children and their families.”
But Willow said that Ford has still not “confirmed there will be appropriate and adequate government consultation on any proposed changes to legislation”.
“Ministers and the review chair have consistently described this as a once-in-a-generation process which will lead to radical and bold change to our country’s arrangements for supporting families and protecting and looking after children, as well as supporting adults who were in care as children,” said Willow.
“This makes it even more vital that any proposed changes to the Children Act 1989 and any other legislation are subject to robust scrutiny and a wide range of expert analysis and advice.”
In June the Care Review laid out its priorities for reform to children’s social care in its first report the Case for Change.
It describes the current system as “shaky” likening it to a “30-year-old tower of Jenga held together with Sellotape”.
Source: Children & Young People Now
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