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Written Statements

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 14 January 2016

Written Statements

Thursday 14 January 2016

Cabinet Office

Government Consultation Principles

Today, I am publishing a revised set of Government consultation principles. These principles are intended to produce clear guidance to Government Departments on the conduct of consultations. They have been amended in the light of comments from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, and demonstrate the Government’s desire to engage more effectively with the public.

We will use more digital methods to involve a wider group of consultees at an earlier stage in the policy forming process. We will make it easier for the public to contribute and feed in their views, and we will try harder to use clear language and plain English in consultation documents.

We will also reduce the risk of “consultation fatigue” by making sure that we consult only on issues that are genuinely undecided.

A copy has been placed in the Library, and can be found online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consultation-principles-guidance

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Education

Children's Social Care Reform

I am today announcing a series of changes that will radically transform the children’s social care system.

Social workers change lives. They have the ability not just to improve the circumstances of vulnerable children but to change them, and therefore their futures, entirely. That is why supporting social workers, and giving them the tools they need, is a priority for this Government. We must give every child the best start in life and make sure that every child can fulfil their potential—regardless of the circumstances they were born into. And we must make sure our support for the most vulnerable is at the heart of that commitment.

I am, therefore, announcing that:

With the support of my colleague the Secretary of State for Health, it is our intention to establish a new regulatory body for social work to drive up standards with a relentless focus on raising the quality of social work, education, training and practice in both children’s and adult’s social work. It will also set standards for training and oversee the rollout of a new assessment and accreditation system for children and family social workers. Over time, it will become the new regulatory body for social work, in place of the Health and Care Professions Council. It is our intention to bring forward any necessary legislation when parliamentary business allows.

We want to raise the quality of social work and overhaul social worker education and practice to improve the recruitment, retention and development of social workers. We are doing this by providing definitive statements on the knowledge and skills that social workers should have and display at three important levels, approved child and family practitioner; practice supervisor and practice leader and we are rolling out a national, practice-focused, career pathway through the development of an assessment and accreditation system based on the highest levels of skill and knowledge. Schemes like Teach First have helped transform teaching into one of the most prestigious and high status professions in the country, and we must now do the same for social work. And that is why we will be investing a further £100 million into Frontline, and into our specialist course, Step-up.

I am also granting three further councils—Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Islington—freedoms to innovate, to improve frontline children’s social work and to develop new systems of delivering social care and trialling new ways of working with families. These new councils will join the six areas that are already part of the programme, as announced by the Prime Minister in December last year—North Yorkshire, the tri-borough authorities (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea), Leeds, Durham and Richmond and Kingston.

In addition, Government funding of up to £20 million will be made available for a new “What Works Centre”, with the aim of making sure social workers and others across the country are able to learn from the very best examples of frontline social work. The new centre will run from later in the year.

Supporting social workers, and giving them the tools they need, is a priority for this Government and a personal priority for me as Secretary of State. These reforms are about getting it right for social workers, so that social workers can get it right for our most vulnerable children and families.

Copies of my speech and the paper “Children’s social care reform—A vision for change” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 January and I will attend the General Affairs Council on 18 January. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council will be chaired by the Dutch presidency. The meetings will be held in Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Council

The expected agenda for the Foreign Affairs Council will include Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. The Jordanian Foreign Minister will attend lunch where discussion will focus on Syria, Iraq, Daesh.

Syria

Ministers will exchange views on the International Syria Support Group meeting in December and the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2254, as well as the prospects for the talks between the Syrian parties in early 2016 and the situation on the ground.

Iraq

Following the FAC conclusions on Iraq agreed at the December FAC, Ministers will have an opportunity for an in-depth discussion of the political and security situation in Iraq. This will come at an important time, given the recent capture of the town of Ramadi from Daesh. We expect the discussion to focus on what more the EU and member states can do to support long-term security, stability and prosperity in Iraq. We will also use the opportunity to look forward to the review of the EU ISIL/Syria/lraq strategy to be completed in March.

Jordan

Ministers will be joined for lunch by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, Mr Nasser Judeh. Jordan is a key ally in the fight against Daesh, and is host to over 630,000 refugees from the Syria crisis. At the upcoming Syria donor conference the UK aims to secure increased international support to Jordan’s long-term economic resilience and stability. Ministers will discuss measures that the EU can take and the full range of regional issues.

Ukraine

Ministers are expected to exchange views on Ukraine’s reform programme and agree a set of priorities that will direct the work of the EU’s support group to Ukraine. We also expect Ministers to discuss what further support the EU can give Ukraine for the implementation of its reform programme, including on strategic communications.

General Affairs Council

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 18 January is expected to focus on the presidency work programme and preparation of the European Council on 18 and 19 February 2016.

Presidency Work programme

The Dutch presidency commenced on 1 January. The Dutch Foreign Minister, Albert Koenders, will set out the presidency’s programme and priorities for the current semester. The programme is based on the presidency trio programme, developed jointly with Slovakia and Malta, but will focus on four main themes: jobs and growth; labour mobility; the Eurozone; and a Union of freedom, justice and security.

Preparation of the February European Council

The GAC will prepare the agenda for the 18 and 19 February European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The draft February European Council agenda covers: the UK’s EU renegotiation, migration, and economic issues.

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Home Department

Immigration Detention: Vulnerable Persons

The Government are committed to an immigration system that works in Britain’s national interest, and commands the confidence of the British people. Coming to the United Kingdom to work, study or visit is a privilege, not an unqualified right. Accordingly, the Government expect anyone who comes to the UK to comply with their visa conditions and, if they do not, to return home voluntarily at the first opportunity.

We have put in place a robust legal framework, which prevents the abuse of appeals procedures and encourages timely and voluntary departures by denying access to services, such as bank accounts, rental property, the labour market and driving licences, to those with no right to be here. Where individuals nonetheless fail to comply with immigration law, and refuse to leave, we will take enforcement action to remove them from the UK. Where it is necessary for the purposes of removal, and taking into account any risk that an individual may abscond, this will involve a period of detention—which of course can be avoided if the individual departs voluntarily. The Government are clear that in these circumstances it is in the public interest to detain and remove such individuals, and the vast majority of those in detention are, accordingly, those who have made their way to the United Kingdom unlawfully or breached their conditions of entry, have failed to make their case for asylum, or are foreign criminals.

It is a long-established principle, however, that where an individual is detained pending removal there must be a realistic prospect of removal within a reasonable time. Depriving someone of their liberty will always be subject to careful consideration and scrutiny, and will take account of individual circumstances. It is vital that the system is not only efficient and effective but also treats those within it with dignity and respect, and takes account of the vulnerability of those detained.

It is against this background that in February last year the Home Secretary asked Stephen Shaw to conduct a review of the welfare of vulnerable individuals in detention. His review is being published today (Cm 9186). It makes recommendations for operational improvements, for changes to the policy on detaining vulnerable people, and for changes to the provision of healthcare services in detention. Copies have been laid in the House. The Government are grateful to Mr Shaw for his review, welcome this important contribution to the debate about effective detention, and accept the broad thrust of his recommendations. Consistent with our policies, we will now take forward three key reforms, working across Government and the national health service and with private sector providers.

First, the Government accept Mr Shaw’s recommendations to adopt a wider definition of those at risk, including victims of sexual violence, individuals with mental health issues, pregnant women, those with learning difficulties, post-traumatic stress disorder and elderly people, and to recognise the dynamic nature of vulnerabilities. It will introduce a new “adult at risk” concept into decision-making on immigration detention with a clear presumption that people who are at risk should not be detained, building on the existing legal framework. This will strengthen the approach to those whose care and support needs make it particularly likely that they would suffer disproportionate detriment from being detained, and will therefore be considered generally unsuitable for immigration detention unless there is compelling evidence that other factors which relate to immigration abuse and the integrity of the immigration system, such as matters of criminality, compliance history and the imminence of removal, are of such significance as to outweigh the vulnerability factors. Each case will be considered on its individual facts, supported by a new vulnerable persons team. We will also strengthen our processes for dealing with those cases of torture, health issues and self-harm threats that are first notified after the point of detention, including bespoke training to GPs on reporting concerns about the welfare of individuals in detention and how to identify potential victims of torture.

Second, building on the transfer of healthcare commissioning in immigration removal centres to the NHS, and taking account of the concerns expressed by Mr Shaw about mental healthcare provision in detention, the Government will carry out a more detailed mental health needs assessment in immigration removal centres, using the expertise of the Centre For Mental Health. This will report in March 2016, and NHS commissioners will use that assessment to consider and revisit current provision. In the light of the review the Government will also publish a joint Department of Health, NHS and Home Office mental health action plan in April 2016.

Third, to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the detention estate, and in response to Mr Shaw’s recommendation that the Home Office should examine its processes for carrying out detention reviews, the Government will implement a new approach to the case management of those detained, replacing the existing detention review process with a clear removal plan for all those in detention. A stronger focus on and momentum towards removal, combined with a more rigorous assessment of who enters detention through a new gate-keeping function, will ensure that the minimum possible time is spent in detention before people leave the country without the potential abuse of the system that arbitrary time limits would create.

The Government expect these reforms, and broader changes in legislation, policy and operational approaches, to lead to a reduction in the number of those detained, and the duration of detention before removal, in turn improving the welfare of those detained. Immigration enforcement’s business plan for 2016-17 will say more about the Government’s plans for the future shape and size of the detention estate.

More effective detention, complemented by increased voluntary departures and removing without detention, will safeguard the most vulnerable while helping control immigration abuse and reducing costs.

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