Sad day for children’s rights

Members of Parliament on the Committee scrutinising the Children and Social Work Bill have voted to allow the exemption clauses back in. These will allow individual councils to be excused from any number of legal duties towards vulnerable children and young people for up to six years.

The Children’s Minister repeated today that the purpose of these ‘trials’ is to test whether duties could be removed across the whole country.

All of the Conservative MPs on the Committee voted with the Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson MP.

All of the Labour MPs voted against the Minister’s amendments, led by Shadow Children’s Minister, Emma Lewell-Buck MP.

The result was a 10-5 vote.

The Committee has published the evidence it received on the exemption clauses. It received 46 submissions. Of these:

  • 43 were AGAINST the clauses & 2 more expressed concerns about the clauses
  • 1 SUPPORTED the Government (from the Local Government Association)

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“We expected the clauses to be pushed back into the Bill, since the Government has a majority on the Public Bill Committee. That doesn’t take away the sadness and astonishment that children’s universal legal protection could be snatched away with such ease.

“The Together for Children campaign against these clauses continues to grow and we will not stop pressing for Green and White Paper consultation. That shouldn’t be asking for too much, when you consider that this is about the protection granted by Parliament over the past eight decades to the most vulnerable children and young people in our country.”

Also today, the Committee voted 10-5 in support of Government amendments to change the law so that looked after children who are locked up for welfare reasons can be detained under the Children Act 1989 in Scotland.

Such placements are occurring because there are not enough places in England (there’s been a 21% reduction in capacity between 2010 and 2016).

Article 39 opposes this major change to the law. We are supporting the Shadow Children’s Minister’s amendment which would bring an end to the powers in 2019. We believe this would give the Government enough time to resolve the apparent crisis in children’s secure care. 

OUR EVIDENCE TO PUBLIC BILL COMMITTEE – EXEMPTION CLAUSES (updated after discussion with the Department for Education, which confirmed the limitation of their revised clauses)

9 January Community Care piece on exemption clauses, by Article 39’s Director.