30 PLEDGES FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT FROM TOGETHER FOR CHILDREN https://article39.org.uk/category/general-election/

GENERAL SOCIAL PROTECTION

1. Incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child into UK law. UNCRC article 4 2. Recommit to end child poverty through a progressive taxation system and social policies which tackle structural inequalities. Implement the socio-economic duty in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010, which requires public bodies to work towards reducing inequalities arising from socio-economic disadvantage. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 23 and 27

3. Redress negative effects of Universal Credit: remove the five-week waiting time which has led to families living in debt, and withdraw sanctions which cause families misery and fear. Reinstate social security for all children: remove the two-child limit, under-occupancy charge (‘bedroom tax’) and the benefit cap. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 23, 24, 26 and 27

4. End discriminatory social security for asylum seeking families, ensuring equitable levels and the removal of the stigmatising and restrictive state (ASPEN) debit card. All children to have full and equal access to social protection (including health, education, social care) regardless of their immigration status. Abolish the policy of no recourse to public funds in its entirety for families and care leavers. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 18(2), 22, 24 and 26

5. Review the diversity, availability, resourcing and quality of education, health and social care services for children and young people in the community and away from home – encompassing NHS and local authority provision and the voluntary and private (for profit) sectors. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 20, 24, 28 and 29
Our focus is children’s social care though other services and areas of policy (education, health and social security for example) deeply affect the lives of children, young people and families. The changes we propose would give the most help to children and families presently in the greatest need. We recognise the time and cost implications of our measures, though believe they can be afforded and implemented with the right political will. Some of our very specific proposals inevitably require further discussion and consultation with those most affected.
These 30 pledges combine comprehensive measures to support families with vital improvements to children and young people’s care and protection within the community and especially for those who no longer live with their families. All of the pledges relate to existing obligations within the UNCRC; we have signposted the most pertinent articles accordingly.
6. Introduce a comprehensive children’s workforce strategy integrating health, education, social care and youth justice to ensure sufficient numbers and capacities to meet the needs and uphold the rights of children and young people within the community and in residential (including secure) settings. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 20, 24, 29, 37c and 40

7. Introduce a statutory principle of ‘close to home’ for children’s mental health in-patient services and other specialist residential provision. Ensure no child is forced to live many miles from home unless this is in their best interests, and their wishes and feelings have been given due consideration. Introduce statutory waiting times for children, young people and parents in need of mental health care, and provide information and assistance to help people access this support. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 9(3), 12, 20, 23, 24 and 42

8. Remove the ‘reasonable chastisement’ common law defence so that children have the same protection from assault as adults. UNCRC articles 3, 6, 12, 19 and 37(a)

9. Close child prisons, ensure children’s contact with the criminal justice system is a last resort and develop the capacity of local authority secure children’s homes for those children for whom it is unsafe, at the present time, to live within the community. Ensure no child is criminalised as a result of abuse and/or exploitation. To protect children from damaging contact with the criminal justice system, substantially raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 19, 20, 37, 39 and 40

10. Continue the UK’s commitment to the Dublin III Regulation. If leaving the EU, establish the agreements necessary to ensure that children seeking protection can be reunited with family in the UK. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 10 and 22

11. Review leave policies for children subject to immigration control and ensure the child’s best interests is a primary consideration in all decision-making, ending uncertainty and providing security of residence. European national children in the UK to be automatically granted settled status. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 10 and 22
FAMILY SUPPORT

12. Adequately fund local authorities to meet their statutory obligations in the Children Act 1989 (using calculations produced by the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and others). Accordingly, strengthen the capacity of local authorities to provide financial and other support to families to prevent children entering care, to prevent offending by children and to prevent children being deprived of their liberty – as the 1989 Act intended. Ensure that access to support services for vulnerable children, including those in kinship care, reflects their needs rather than being dependent on their legal status. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 9(1), 18(2) and 20

13. Amend statutory guidance to the Children Act 1989 to make it explicit that no child can be separated from their family and brought into the care system due to poverty or homelessness alone. Establish a national programme to support careexperienced young people who are becoming parents, with the aim of keeping families together. Introduce polices which keep families subject to immigration control together. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 9(1), 18(2), 20 and 26

14. That kinship care be actively explored for any child who cannot remain at home, with financial and other support for carers (and ensure local authorities are adequately funded to provide this support). As a minimum, grant kinship carers the same access to support as adopters, including the right to paid leave and opportunities for specialist training. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 18(2), 20 and 26

15. Reinstate and expand universal, nonstigmatising services for children, young people and their families – from early childhood through to young adulthood.
UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 23 and 31
INCLUSIVE EDUCATION

16. Make it unlawful for schools to exclude primary school children (fixed period and permanent). Establish a national initiative for achieving inclusion, backed up with resources. Replace the current Admissions Code and amend other national policies to end discriminatory practices in school admissions, exclusions and offrolling, especially against looked after children. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 23, 28 and 29

17. Review the impact of formal testing and assessment on children’s development (including their mental health), to move to a system which puts children’s interests first while continuing to hold schools to account. UNCRC articles 3, 6, 12 and 29

18. Review the support offered to children with special educational needs and disabilities, with a view to substantially increasing resources and the capacity of families and services to work together to ensure each child enjoys their rights to education, health and social care. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 9(1), 18(2), 23, 24, 28 and 29

19. Extend free school meals to all primary school children, and establish pilots of universal free school meal provision in secondary schools in the country’s most deprived areas. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 27 and 28
CHILDREN IN NEED OF PROTECTION

20. Ensure every child has access to an independent advocate so their wishes and feelings are understood and taken seriously. UNCRC articles 12, 13, 17 and 42

21. Ensure timely counselling or other therapeutic support is available to every child who needs it. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 24 and 39

22. Ensure homeless 16-and 17-year olds without the care of their family receive their entitlements to care, protection and support under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 and 20

23. Ensure semi-independent supported accommodation is subject to registration, regulation and independent inspection, and that providers are required to safeguard and promote each child’s welfare. Introduce a legal presumption that children in care stay in accommodation where they are provided care and support until at least 18, unless this conflicts with the young person’s wishes and is not in their best interests. Prohibit the use of semi-independent supported accommodation in all circumstances for children under the age of 16. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 20 and 39

24. Establish a national implementation team, with the requisite skills, authority and professional respect, to ensure the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse are acted upon. Prohibit pain-inducing and other forms of dangerous and harmful restraint techniques in all children’s settings as a matter of urgency. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 19, 24, 34, 35, 36, 37 and 39

CHILDREN IN CARE AND CARE LEAVERS

25. Put loving long-term relationships at the heart of the children’s care system – including children’s relationships with their brothers, sisters and extended families. Amend the third corporate parenting principle in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 (“to take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children”) by adding “including the changes care experienced people want to see in the care system”. Ensure social workers have the time and support to build and maintain meaningful relationships with children and young people. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 20 and 39

26. Extend the legal entitlement of ‘staying put’ to young people living in children’s homes to 21 years of age and ensure these arrangements are properly funded. Amend local authorities’ statutory obligation of maintaining and providing suitable accommodation by adding, “including the prevention of homelessness”. Existing statutory guidance ‘Extending Personal Adviser support to all care leavers to age 25’ and ‘Local offer guidance’ recognise that care leavers may benefit from a range of support services up to 25 years of age: amend this to similarly extend entitlement to independent visitors, independent reviewing officers and specialist services. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 20 and 39

27. Ensure individuals who were formerly in care have priority for assessment for support services including housing, mental health and drug and alcohol services, and finance local authorities to provide ongoing support for care leavers for as long as they need it. UNCRC articles 20, 24, 26 and 39
HUMAN RIGHTS AND CITIZEN PARTICIPATION

28. Put respect, equality and fairness at the heart of our public services, bringing an end to programmes and policies which demean and stigmatise communities. Invest in ‘active offer’ independent advocacy services across all public services, for all age groups, so that those in need do not stand alone. Create new spaces and legal arrangements so that children, young people and adults who need or use public services can lead and influence their design, development, delivery and improvement – at the local and national levels. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 13 and 42

29. Reinstate legal aid for advice and representation over all aspects of social protection, including family separation, housing, social security and immigration. Ensure non means-tested legal aid is available where serious human rights matters are under consideration, including inquests held after a child or adult has died in the care of the state. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 24, 26, 27, 37 and 39

30. Extend the right to vote to 16 and 17 year-olds. UNCRC articles 12 and 13

2019 Election What LSWG wants to see in Manifesto and policies

LETTER SENT TO THE MANIFESTO TEAM 

Dear Labour team and parliament colleagues with an interest in the future of social work and social care for children and adults

We are aware that the Manifesto will need to be tight, but backed by more detailed policy promises for a Labour government. This is a brief message to let you know that members of Labour Social Work group are ready, able and willing to provide detailed input to any briefings and party spokes-people on social work and social care issues that may arise during the campaign- either nationally or at constituency level.
Our over-arching point is that policies of a Labour Government on social work and social care for vulnerable children and for adults across the age and needs groups have the potential to undo much of the damage done to communities, families and children over the past 10 years of Conservative and Lib Dem governments

Labour Social Work group members looked closely at the policies emerging from speakers at Conference.  We strongly support the policies on universal services, – income support, health, education. housing. And we especially support the determination in Andrew Gwynne’s speech to recommit to local government as the body accountable for delivering high quality and democratically accountable social work and social care services.  The direction of travel towards ‘in-sourcing’ social care services for adults and children is welcome, of cost for reasons of reduced costs as well as effectiveness. Well-funded local authorities must be accountable for ensuring that those who need social care services, whether to prevent their difficulties from escalating or when they reach crisis point and need care away from home, must be a high priority and these must be provided by public servants and a public service ethos, working collaboratively with those who need the services and colleagues in the health, education, housing, justice and social security services
With respect to social care for adults we are in touch with the Reclaim Social Care Group and support their policy statement which you have already received, though we would add detail re supporting the role of social workers.
With respect to children’s social care services we welcome Angela Rayner’s commitments on Sure Start and the youth service, but regret that there was no mention in the Conferences speeches of social work support and protection services to children in their own homes and to those in care or leaving care. We broadly welcome but would like to help with the detail of a policy to replace OSFTED as far as children’s services are concerned.
We will be looking at the policies underpinning the manifesto to see whether the lack of expressed commitment to children’s social care  is remedied. In particularly we will be looking for a  Labour commitment to improving  social work education and training at qualifying and post qualifying levels to avoid the high turn-over rates that are so damaging to those needing help. This includes a re-think about how government funding available for social work education is most effectively used.
We are aware that you are working to a tight deadline but end with
A PLEA  – WHEN MENTIONING THE PROFESSIONS WHO ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO NEED PUBLIC SERVICES, PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE OUT SOCIAL WORKERS.  IN PARTICULAR WE ARE KEY TO THE SUCCESS OF YOUR PLANS TO  REVITALISE  LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
Attached please find a more detailed agenda for Children’s services (which have sunk to a sorry level under the past two  governments)  prepared by Professor Ray Jones and also the 30  General Election Pledges sent to all parties by the Together for Children consortium, which we support as under-pinning principles for children’s services.
Every good wish for the election nationally and in constituencies

DETAILED POLICY PROPOSALS ON CHILD AND FAMILY POLICIES WRITTEN BY PROFESSOR RAY JONES 

SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS

Children’s social work and social care services have been damaged over the past 10-15 years, as a result of budget cuts especially to local government, but also through a series of unevidenced, and minimally debated government initiatives, mostly intending to open up policy formation and service provision to large private consultancies and private for profit service providers. Below are proposals from members of the Labour Social Work Group about detailed commitments which should be considered for inclusion in the  Labour Party Manifesto and policy for children’s social work and social care services. There is considerable support for each across the policy, practice and research communities as can be seen from the following recent official reviews and inquiry reports:

  • The Education Select Committee with its Conservative majority and chairs.
  • The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report on children needing support and care
  • The APPG on social work.
  • The National Audit Office inquiries on social work.

PUBLIC SERVICE PROVISION AND PRIVATISATION

  1. Labour will rescind the 2014 changes in statutory regulation introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Coalition Government which allows any organisation or company, including profit-making companies, to receive contracts and payments to undertake:
  • Children in need assessments and the setting and managing of children in need plans.
  • Section 47 child protection inquiries and the setting and managing of child protection plans.
  • Decisions to initiate care proceedings and the management of orders emanating from care proceedings.
  • Crucial decisions about the safety and welfare of children, and necessary involvement and intrusion into families, should not be undertaken outside of the direct accountability and transparency of local authorities. They are not functions and responsibilities to be managed by non-public for-profit or not-for-profit organisations where the contracting process creates complexity and opaqueness in accountability, where transparency is restricted by contracting out the services to non-public organisations, and where costs are increased by having to set, let and manage contracts.
  • Labour will also give notice that local authorities over a three year period should reduce their use of profit-making private foster care agencies and privately owned and managed children’s residential care which is syphoning as profit significant amounts from children’s services budgets.
  • The progress of local authorities to reduce their reliance on profit-making and profit-taking direct care services for children will be monitored through annual public reports submitted to the Department for Education, which will be renamed as the Department for Children and Education, and the Department for Children and Education will produce an annual overview report on the progress being made.

Within the annual public report from each local authority, and the annual overview report from the Department for Children and Education, there will also be an account of how local authorities are reducing over a three year period their use of social workers who are not directly employed by the local authority but recruited through private profit-making staffing agencies.The rationale and intentions of the commitments above are to:

  • Tackle the considerable sums of money which are intended to fund children’s social services which are seeping out of children’s social services as profits taken by private companies and their owners.
  • Increase the local authority immediate oversight of, and responsibility for, the safety and welfare of children and the care of children not living with their families.
  • Reduce the complexity and fragmentation which is increasing in the arrangements for children’s social services with the result that children in care are now often placed in foster and residential homes largely unknown to local authorities and the children’s social workers.

 PERFORMANCE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES

  1. Labour will require the national children’s services inspectorate, OFSTED, to contribute to the continuing development and improvement of children’s social services rather than only to inspection and rating of services.
  2. Labour will require OFSTED to develop a plan and process where it has regular engagement with senior councillors and managers within local authorities to monitor and reflect with the local authority on its performance and progress, to advise on actions which might be necessary within the local authority, and where and when necessary to alert the Secretary of State for Children and Education to any significant concerns about how a local authority is fulfilling its children’s social services responsibilities.
  3. Where these concerns are of such a magnitude, and where the Secretary of State is not confident that they will be appropriately and positively addressed by the local authority, the Secretary of State will have the power to appoint through statutory regulation a person of sufficient seniority, experience and expertise to give direction and directives to the local authority on how it is to provide its children’s social services. In the first instance this will be for a period of three years, a period which might be extended.
  4. In exceptional circumstances where a local authority fails to follow the directives it is given the Secretary of State will have the power to remove the responsibility for the services from the local authority and to transfer the responsibilities for that area to another local authority.
  5. To assist local authorities, and especially local authorities of particular concern, to improve their performance, the Local Government Association will be funded through a Statutory Children’s Services Specific Improvement Grant to create a regional children’s services improvement service.
  6. Labour will cease the process of local authorities being required or choosing to contract their statutory children’s social work services outside of their management and control. Where local authorities have already taken this action, the local authority will be required to inform the Secretary of State for Children and Education how it will resume the direct management and control of these social work responsibilities at the end of the current contract with another body, or within three years, whichever is the shorter period.
  7. The manifesto commitments above in this section are to:
  • Make explicit that statutory children’s social work functions are a direct responsibility to be delivered by local authorities.
  • Make clear that where a local authority is not performing well enough in delivering these responsibilities the local authority cannot distance itself from the responsibilities by contracting them out to another body but must follow directives given on behalf of the Secretary of State to improve its performance.

SOCIAL WORKERS

  1. Labour recognises that the major issue for children’s and adults’ social services is not recruitment into the profession of social work but developing and retaining social workers post-qualification.
  2. Labour will continue with the generic university-based undergraduate and post-graduate degree-level integrated qualifying education for all social work students. This will aid retention as social workers with a generic first professional qualification will be able to remain in social work whilst, if they choose, changing career paths and service areas.
  3. Labour will introduce the regional oversight and planning of qualifying and post-qualifying social work education through regional social work education consortia to include as the statutory partners the local authorities providing personal social services in the region and the higher education degree providers.
  4. Each regional social work education consortia should review the pattern and sufficiency of social work education provision in its region and produce a plan as to how this is to changed or continued over the next five years. This should take into account the assessment by Social Work England of the quality of the current social work qualifying degree programmes within the region, and where these degree programme are a major resource in recruitment by neighbouring regions their consortia should be consulted.
  5. Other agencies employing social workers in each region should also be consulted about the plans for social work education in the region.
  6. Regional social work education consortia should also develop ‘practice education agencies’. These will be social worker employing services which provide a focus on social work education and will be the major resources within the region for the practice placements of qualifying social work students, and especially on their final qualifying placements. The ‘practice education agencies’ should be assessed and accredited by Social Work England.
  7. Labour will require Social Work England to produce national frameworks for post-qualifying education based on social work’s Professional Capabilities Framework and it is through post-qualifying education and qualifications, related to role responsibilities and career development, that specialisation will be recognised and promoted. This will assist career progression and retention.
  8. The development of post-qualifying education will receive funding through a budget managed jointly by the Department for Children and Education and the Department for Health (and Social Care) which will be created from the current funding being committed to the programmes providing specialist and restrictive initial social work qualifications for a relatively small number of social work students.
  9. Using this funding, Labour will also continue with payment of bursaries and course fees for social work students.

HELP FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

  1. Labour is very concerned that statutory social work and social services with children and families has become focussed on monitoring families and taking invasive and coercive action to intervene when there are significant child protection concerns.
  2. This intervention will remain necessary when children are at risk of significant harm, but Labour will want children’s social work and social services to be re-set, within the framework which is in place within the 1989 Children Act, to work in partnership with parents to assist them to care for their children well.
  3. It will re-route the funding allocated through ‘troubled families’ programmes to local authority children’s social services so that they can provide family assistance services, intensively provided when necessary, to work with families and other agencies to help maintain, and where necessary, improve the care of children.
  4. In particular, learning from the research on Sure Start and family centres, Labour will work with local authorities to provide help for families with young children and throughout a child’s childhood.