Peers have voted to remove Clause 29 from the Children and Social Work Bill. The Minister, Lord Nash, also indicated the Government would take out Clause 32.
Article 39 has been campaigning since the Bill was introduced in May to have these exemption clauses removed.
Clause 29 allows local councils to ask the Secretary of State to be excused from any of their legal duties in children’s social care legislation, dating back to 1933.
245 Peers voted in support of Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment to delete the clause from the Bill, and 213 backed the Government.
Clause 32 empowers the Secretary of State to impose legal opt outs on struggling councils, without any local consultation or agreement.
At the end of September, Article 39 was one of the founders of the Together for Children campaign, which seeks the removal of the exempton clauses. The campaign now has 43 organisations as members, and around 150 individual experts have signed up. Our 38 degrees public petition was close to 105,000 signatures at the time of the Lords vote.
We are absolutely delighted that the vital rights of children and care leavers have been defended. Our Director, Carolyne Willow, said:
“Today’s vote is an incredibly strong affirmation of children’s rights and the unique role Parliament has in creating, revising and strengthening children’s law.
“The fundamental flaw with Clause 29 was that it allowed highly vulnerable children to have different legal protections on the arbitrary basis of where they happen to live. Peers have determined this to be unacceptable.
“We hope the Government will now listen and respond to the huge opposition its plans have provoked. The very worst response to this defeat would be for Ministers to simply reinsert the Clause when the Bill enters the Commons.”