Now MPs must stand up for vulnerable children as the Government ploughs on with this dangerous plan

Posted by Sara Ogilvie on 07 December 2016

Children’s rights campaigners, social workers and hundreds of thousands of members of the public breathed a tentative sigh of relief when Lords took a stand against dangerous Government plans to let councils opt out of eighty years’ worth of child protection laws.

We hoped the Education Secretary would see sense and axe the proposals once and for all. Sadly not.

On Monday, the Children and Social Work Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons – and the Government announced it would be bringing back the plans.

Education Minister Nick Gibb acknowledged the House of Lords had been “unhappy” and “wary”. But he insisted the proposal was a “grassroots” power, adding: “We appreciate that this is a new way of working for Government”.

Doublespeak

In fact, Lords had been more than “unhappy”: they voted by a clear majority to remove the proposals from the Bill.

And to brand these powers – which would let local authorities excuse themselves from their legal obligations to some of the most vulnerable children in society without full parliamentary scrutiny – as a “new way of working” is quite the understatement.

Lord Ramsbotham – who led peers’ calls to ditch the plans – called them “the usurpation of the proper parliamentary process.”

And it’s unclear who exactly the Minister was referring to when he labelled them “grassroots” – since the vast majority of social workers (90 per cent) oppose them, and 69 per cent think that they will put more children at risk.

Growing opposition

But many MPs did join the ranks of the Lords, social workers, expert organisations and more than 100,000 petition signatories who have united in their concern and condemnation of the plan.

Former Conservative Children’s Minister Tim Loughton warned the Government: “I caution them to extend the period of reflection before they hurry into repeating what was clearly a mistake.”

Labour’s Diana Johnson raised the suspicion that cost-cutting was the real motivation behind the plan. The City Council in her Hull constituency, she said, was “not asking for powers to innovate, it is asking for proper resources to provide the services that young people need”.

Emma Lewell-Buck – herself a former social worker – promised to fight the Government: “Vulnerable children are not to be used as market experiments, and any child protection strategy that requires the dispensation of the law to achieve it is counter-productive and downright dangerous.”

Add your voice

Closing the debate for the Government, Edward Timpson pledged to push forward with the new powers, with “additional safeguards”.

But this scheme is fundamentally unsound and dangerous – and tinkering around the edges won’t protect children whose rights are cast aside.

It’s now for principled MPs to stand up for the rights of some of our most vulnerable children and young people and stop this plan once and for all.

You can add your signature to the hundreds of thousands of others telling the Government to scrap this plan – and Liberty and Together with Children will continue to do everything we can to stop it in its tracks.