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Government set to drop controversial 'exemption clause' from Children & Social Work Bill

Children & Young People Now has today reported that the government is set to scrap plans to allow councils to apply for exemptions from social care legislation. 

The Children and Social Work Bill, which is currently going through parliament, contains a controversial "exemption/innovation" clause which would enable local authorities in England "to test different ways of working with a view to achieving better outcomes under children's social care legislation or achieving the same outcomes more efficiently".

Since the draft Bill was published, children's rights organisations have expressed fear that this will lead to variation in child protection (a postcode lottery), confusion where providers operate across local authority boundaries, weakening of child protection and potential privatisation of services.

But according to Children & Young People Now, the government has agreed to remove the proposals from the Bill by scrapping clauses 32, 33 and 34. The decision follows amendments which were tabled by Labour's shadow children's minister, Emma Lewell-Buck.

A source told CYP Now  that the government's climbdown was prompted by a meeting last week between Education Secretary Justine Greening, children's minister Edward Timpson, and chief social worker Isabelle Trowler. The meeting was apparently attended by a delegation of opponents to the proposals including child protection expert Lord Laming, former children's minister Tim Loughton and Conservative MP Kelly Tolhurst.

According to the source:

"The delegation made absolutely clear that the clause was not needed, the timing was inappropriate, and it would be resisted in the House of Lords. The government should sign [Emma Lewell-Buck's] amendments today. It looks as if the message has at last got through."

Once the government has signed the amendments the proposals will be formally removed from the legislation when the Bill is at report stage in the House of Commons on Tuesday (7th March).

The government's U-turn has been welcomed by children's rights practitioners and campaigners across the country. 

Carolyne Willow, director of children's rights charity Article 39, a member of the Together for Children coalition of organisations opposing the proposals, said: "This is extraordinarily excellent news for children and young people across the country."

"Their legal protection will now remain intact, wherever they live and whoever looks after them. What a fight it has been to defend these fundamental rights, but how wonderful it is that ministers have done right by children and young people."


children, children and social work bill, communitycare, community care & health