Children’s rights and COVID-19

Here we track the loss and dilution of legal protections for vulnerable children during COVID-19.

19 March 2020 – government publishes the Coronavirus Bill, which removes or dilutes the rights of: disabled children who are moving to adult services; young carers; and children with mental health disorders who are detained. Ministers are given the power to disapply or modify local authority and health commissioning body duties in respect of a child’s Education, Health and Care Plan. The Bill received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020, and became the Coronavirus Act 2020. We briefed MPs and Peers, urging them to make amendments which would have more tightly restricted the loss of rights; regrettably, these were not taken up.

23 April 2020 – government lays a statutory instrument before Parliament which makes around 100 changes to 10 sets of children’s social care regulations. 65 safeguards for children in care are removed or diluted – affecting, for example, social worker visits, six-monthly reviews, adoption and children’s placements outside their home areas.

There was no public consultation. The changes came into force the very next day. Article 39 is legally challenging these changes; our judicial review is due to be heard in the High Court on 27 and 28 July.

13 May 2020 – government lays a statutory instrument before Parliament which reduces the rights of children detained in juvenile young offender institutions relating to education, training, physical education, family visits, access to chaplains and religious services, and the adjudication process.

There was no public consultation. The changes came into force the very next day and exactly mirror those made in respect of adults detained in young offender institutions. Although they are linked to COVID-19, the changes apply until 25 March 2022. If you are aged under 18 and affected by these changes, or you are a parent, social worker or advocate with concerns, please contact us.

1 July 2020 – government lays a statutory instrument before Parliament which reduces the rights of children as young as 12 detained in secure training centres (one is run by G4S, the other by MTC) relating to education, activities, family visits, physical education and work to tackle offending behaviour. The accompanying Explanatory Memorandum states that children’s time outside their cells can be reduced to a minimum of 1.5 hours a day (from 14 hours).

There was no public consultation.The changes came into force the very next day. Although they are linked to COVID-19, the changes apply until 25 March 2022. If you are aged under 18 and affected by these changes, or you are a parent, social worker or advocate with concerns, please contact us.

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