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Thursday, December 8, 2016
Caritas Social Action response to Children's Bill
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¬†Last Thursday, the Government published a Bill to introduce the biggest reform of children's services in a generation. Stephen Matthews, advisor on public affairs with Caritas Social Action (an agency of the Bishops' Conference), said: "We are pleased to see the Government is placing children and their families at the heart of this reform. We requested the inclusion of private fostering and adoption review panels and are pleased to see a postponed deadline for children's trusts, but these amendments still aren't as robust as we requested. Caritas will be calling on MPs to strengthen the proposals in this Bill to enable it to deliver for all children." The centrepiece of the new legislation is the introduction of a Children's Commissioner for England. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland already have Children's Commissioners, but it appears the Children's Commissioner for England will have less independence from government and less power to handle complaints by individuals or to support legal action on their behalf. It is essential that the Children's Commissioner has the appropriate power to be effective for vulnerable children and their families. The voluntary sector is a large provider of services for children and families. In the Government's response to the consultation from which this legislation is drawn, the desire for a vibrant voluntary and community sector involved in the design and delivery of services was evident, but this role is noticeably absent from the Bill. The only new money announced was £20 million in 2004-5 to prepare the professionals for changes in working practice. A £200 million lottery fund for young people was promised in the consultation paper last year and repeated by Margaret Hodge, the children's minister as she announced the Children Bill. This Bill must be supported in the next spending review by the allocation of appropriate resources required to implement all the proposed changes. Philomena Cullen, Caritas' Policy Co-ordinator, said: "The government's ambition is big but the current proposals in the Bill aren't strong enough to deliver. It is most important that any structural changes promote, improve and resource good professional practice in the provision and delivery of children's services, placing the needs of children and families at the centre. It is unfortunate that the only person actually tasked in the Bill with talking to children is the Children's Commissioner." Caritas ≠ social action is the Catholic Church's voice on social justice and care in England and Wales and is part of Caritas Europa. Caritas is a federation of organisations and individuals who are involved in the relief of poverty, the promotion of social justice; the care of children, young people and adults in need; and community development. As an agency of the Bishops' Conference they have been entrusted to carry out the social mission of the Church in England and Wales. For more information visit: http://www.caritas-socialaction.org.uk Source: CCS
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