1: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to assess and promote physical and mental health and emotional well-being
(1) Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (3)(b) insert —“(c) to assess and promote his physical and mental health and emotional well-being”.(3) After subsection (3C) insert —“(3D) Any assessment conducted under subsection (3)(c) of a child’s mental health and well-being shall be performed as soon as is reasonably possible after the child enters care and conducted by a health professional with sufficient mental health knowledge, skills and competence to conduct these assessments.(3E) Each clinical commissioning group must take steps to assist the local authority in its area in the exercise of its functions under subsection (3)(c).(3F) The clinical commissioning group for each area must appoint at least one registered medical practitioner and one nurse for the purpose of coordinating the discharge of the duty imposed by subsection (3E).””
My Lords, as I have said throughout the passage of the Bill, my aim is to secure practical improvements in the care and support that children entering care receive. We have such a responsibility to help improve the life chances of that most vulnerable group of children, given their troubled start in life.
On Report, I was very grateful when the noble Lord, Lord Nash, agreed to meet me to discuss my concerns about why the current approach to identifying and responding to the emotional and mental health needs of children in care is simply not working—a point confirmed in the Care Quality Commission’s report Not Seen, Not Heard earlier this year. I found my meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Nash, and Edward Timpson extremely helpful and constructive, and I was particularly grateful for the opportunity to hear direct from the two co-chairs of the expert advisory group set up by Ministers to develop care pathways for children with mental health problems. I look forward to their report, which is due in October 2017.
It was clear from that meeting that there was much that we agreed on, but there is no time to be lost. The Bill presents an excellent and timely opportunity to make further progress, given that children in care are four times more likely than their peers to have a mental health difficulty and 45% of children entering care have a diagnosable mental health condition—such as anxiety and depression, hyperactivity or an autistic spectrum disorder—a figure that rises to a truly alarming 72% for children entering residential care.
I listened very carefully to what the Ministers said, most particularly to their wish for flexibility and the ability to test approaches to improving mental health support for children in care. I understand why they do not want legislation that is overly prescriptive. I reflected very carefully on this, and my new amendment is cast very much in that light. In short, my amendment today seeks to ensure that local authorities, supported by clinical commissioning groups, assess and promote the mental health and emotional well-being of children entering care. It does not prescribe the time, form or manner of any mental health assessment, and provides for the appointment of a designated health professional, a designated doctor or nurse, to help commissioners to fulfil their responsibilities to improve the health of children in care, including their mental health and emotional well-being.
I want to stress a few points to address some concerns that I know have been raised. First, in this amendment I have sought to avoid prescription in terms of the nature, the timing and the staff who undertake the assessment—the who, when, how and where, if you like. I recognise that the expert advisory group is well placed to advise on such matters. My amendment is very much about the “what” and offers an important opportunity to ensure that the commitments made in Future in Mind—to address fragmentation, to support co-ordination and to intervene early to promote good mental health and prevent escalation to significant mental health conditions later on—are delivered.
Secondly, a physical health assessment is already in place. My amendment would simply result in an extension of its scope so that an initial mental health assessment was undertaken as part of the existing health assessment—that is, its scope would be extended to include both physical and mental health. It would not mean the introduction of a brand-new process, with the inevitable burdens attached.
Thirdly, the integrated approach that I am proposing would also avoid concerns that a separate mental health assessment might be stigmatising. It recognises the close links and interactions between physical and mental health—all part of parity of esteem, of course.
Fourthly, given the nature of the trauma that many children will have experienced before entering care, the initial assessment could be undertaken by a range of health professionals, including nurses, with appropriate training and knowledge of the emotional and mental health needs of this group of children, particularly such issues as attachment style. Of course, any more serious needs identified in the initial assessment could be referred to a more specialist clinician in the normal way.
Fifthly, there is no presumption that every child assessed will need a specific clinical intervention. For some it will be about emotional support, which may come from a teacher responsible for pastoral care, a social worker, some other form of therapeutic support, peer support, group work, school counselling and other ways of supporting emotional well-being and building good relationships. Of course, those assessed with higher levels of clinical needs may well need a clinical intervention and, indeed, should receive it as soon as possible to prevent further escalation.
I remain convinced that this approach would assist greatly with finding appropriate placements for young people, with the right support built in both for them and for foster carers and other support workers, and would therefore lead to greater placement stability, which is so critical to a good-quality experience in care. I am aware from my researches that a range of integrated assessment models are already being used in other settings, such as the CHAT model in the youth justice system, where all young people aged 10 to 18 entering secure accommodation are assessed for their mental health needs, or what is called the DAWBA model, which I will not spell out in detail but which can be used for a younger age group. I certainly would not wish to prescribe the appropriate model myself, but it must be child-centred and age-appropriate. Implementing this amendment would provide an ideal opportunity to test out such approaches.
In conclusion, the amendment, which has strong support from the children’s sector and three royal colleges, would ensure that the emotional and mental health needs of children in care are identified early and that they and those caring for them can receive the support required to meet their needs and prevent the current unacceptably high rate of escalation to mental health conditions, which can affect children long into adulthood.
I look forward to the Minister’s response and know that he shares my wish for further practical progress. I beg to move.
My Lords, briefly, I support the noble Baroness’s amendment, to which I added my name. I am very grateful to her for bringing this back and to the Minister for the good work that the Government are doing in this area.
I work with a number of people who have experienced care. In particular, I work with Dr Mark Kerr. He did not begin his education until he entered a young offender institution. He now has two degrees and recently obtained his doctorate. He is a great champion and academic working on the needs of young people in care and care leavers, and he always emphasises that mental health has been grossly underestimated in terms of meeting needs. If more young people are to be as successful as he is after coming out of care, we need to do far better at meeting their mental health needs. I am grateful for the work of the Minister and his colleagues in this area, but I think we need to support the noble Baroness if we are to make the difference necessary.
My Lords, I, too, added my name to the noble Baroness’s amendment, and I echo what she said about the many organisations which have supported it. Many times during the Bill’s passage, mention has been made of the postcode lottery regarding the performance of local authorities around the country. If this assessment procedure is adopted, who will perform the quality assurance of the delivery of the assessment around the country? It cannot be the expert advisory board, which has a completely different purpose.
My Lords, I, too, support the amendment, to which I added my name. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, on her persistence on this, which has been well recognised by those who work in the sector.
As a former director of social services, I think it is essential that we recognise the need to assess many of these children. That is not to say that large numbers of them will necessarily progress to the most demanding parts of the system, but we know that if you do not assess and pick these problems up early, they go in only one direction: they get worse. We end up with children who have already had a pretty tough time having to fight their way into a CAMHS system which is itself struggling to cope with the demands made on it. We need to give children coming into care, those who are looked after, a good shot at getting access to the services that they need.
I think that the amendment has met the Government’s concerns about flexibility, which were legitimate. This House and the Government have always argued for parity of esteem between mental and physical health. This is another piece of the jigsaw to try to ensure that.
My Lords, times without number during the Bill’s various stages, noble Lords from all quarters have highlighted the fact that children in care are four to five times more likely to have a mental health problem than children in the general population. We have advanced convincing arguments at each stage that there is a pressing need for all children entering care to be given the parity of esteem to which the noble Lord, Lord Warner, referred between physical and mental health assessments by appropriately qualified professionals.
We thought that the Minister was going down that track on Report when he tabled an amendment to Clause 1 to make it clear that all local authorities must promote both the physical and the mental health of children in care. That was certainly an important and welcome step, because the current system simply is not working. However, he was not willing to go what we regarded as the logical step beyond that.
It is fair to say that the Minister set out his reasons why he and his colleague, the Minister for Vulnerable Children, Mr Timpson, are not in favour of that. It has been argued that such a move would be too prescriptive in terms of when and how the assessment should be carried out and who might be qualified to do so. It has been argued that the assessment would be seen as potentially stigmatising, and it has also been said that it would cut across the work currently being undertaken by the Department for Education’s expert working group.
I do not think that any of those three holds water. I will not spend any time on the first two but in terms of the expert working group, it should be said that the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers, which has assiduously provided noble Lords with briefings on various aspects of the Bill throughout its progress, is concerned at the Government’s failure to fully support this amendment. That organisation has 24 members, 21 of which are charities actively involved in the sector, but it also includes the Children’s Commissioner for England, the British Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers.
All those involved in the alliance deal on a day-to-day basis with the mental health and emotional well-being of children in care. The alliance is a body of some substance, and it speaks with some authority. The Department for Education appears to acknowledge that, because the alliance is represented on its expert working group. While that group has the respect of most within the sector—noble Lords were certainly impressed when we met its co-chair, Alison O’Sullivan in September—it will not report until this time next year. As I said on Report, it means that many children will continue to have their mental health issues undiagnosed in the intervening period. Of course, it is not just the end of next year; it is the fact that when the recommendations come out and the Minister decides which to accept and implement, a suitable piece of legislation has to be found. That may not become available until after the next general election—and by that I mean the one scheduled for 2020.
We feel that that is much too far off into the distance. I remain at a loss as to why Ministers are not able to overcome their doubts and simply get on with filling what is palpably a serious gap in the services offered to children entering care. I know that the Minister has been considering representations made to him by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler. I am not alone in sharing her hope that he will have something positive to say in this area when he answers the debate, so that this matter, which has been discussed for too long, can at least move forward.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support my noble friend’s amendment and congratulate her on all the hard work she has done to ensure that the Minister listens to what she has said. I have visited many schools recently, and I am really surprised at the number of children, especially those in care, who are suffering from depression and anxiety. If we can do anything to make sure that no child slips through the net, it would be perfect, because childhood lasts a lifetime and we must give children the best start in the world—especially children in care, who need us to consider them.
My Lords, I am delighted that we have come so far in our scrutiny of this Bill and are now debating the final amendments. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that the collected efforts of this House in bringing together different views and meeting a shared position have paid dividends that we can see in the Bill now before us.
I thank noble Lords for their time, attention and scrutiny, not only during the debates but in the many meetings and exchanges of correspondence between us. I am convinced that the House will be sending a Bill to the other place that will help ensure that all children, whatever their background, get the best start in life. I am grateful for this further opportunity to consider how collectively we can do more to promote the mental health and emotional well-being of looked-after children. As the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, said, we had a positive discussion when the Minister for Vulnerable Children and I met her on 7 November along with the co-chairs of the expert working group. I am pleased that the co-chairs, Alison O’Sullivan and Professor Peter Fonagy, were able to give a full account of their work.
We have listened very carefully to the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness and other noble Lords, and have reflected on the informative debates in Committee and on Report. The way in which the mental health of looked-after children is assessed, and the timing and scope of those assessments, is one of the key areas within the expert group’s remit. The group is currently collecting evidence about approaches to assessment so that the assessment happens at the right time and with the right people involved. The group intends to consider the pros and cons of specialist assessment and the optimum method of assessment. Its work will specifically reference the Development and Wellbeing Assessment, the Comprehensive Health Assessment Tool, and the use of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
Our considered view, as I indicated on Report, is that we should not pre-empt the findings of the expert group. We need to let it develop its recommendations to be confident that we are making changes that will have the effect that I believe that we all, including the Department for Education, the Department of Health and NHS England, as well as noble Lords, want to see, and to which we are all committed. Of course, I completely understand the noble Baroness’s motivation: to ensure that opportunities to make progress are not lost ahead of October 2017, when the expert group is due to report, and I pay tribute to her for that. I am sure that the expert working group will want to engage with her and other noble Lords as it starts to consult expert witnesses.
I reassure the noble Baroness that we are not sitting idly waiting for the expert group to report. We are engaging with the Department of Health on its work with NHS England and Health Education England to identify how new training models for talking therapies might be expanded beyond healthcare services settings to, for example, school counsellors or those working in colleges. We are working with NHS England to roll out a new model of integrated mental health care in secure children’s homes to address needs holistically, co-ordinating the services of several providers. We have been testing the concept of a single point of contact in schools and CAMHS to improve collaborative working across schools and mental health services.
I also reiterate a commitment made on Report, which the Minister for Vulnerable Children has made to the Education Select Committee. The expert group plans to share the evidence base behind the chosen models and the pathway with interested parties, including noble Lords, in the spring. We are committed to acting on the findings of the expert group and will fully consider all the recommendations that it makes, including any recommendations that require legislation.
The amendment seeks to bolster what is already in Section 22 of the Children Act 1989, which places a general duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children. It is implicit that this means promoting their mental health and emotional well-being. Care planning regulations spell out what that means in more detail: undertaking health assessments that explicitly address mental and emotional health as well as physical health. I am very happy to revisit the relevant guidance and regulations to consider whether the terminology might benefit from being more explicit on the importance of mental health.
We had a helpful and constructive debate in Committee about strengthening the first corporate parenting principle in Clause 1 so that it included an explicit reference to mental and physical health. We have amended the Bill accordingly. In the accompanying statutory guidance we shall emphasise this further. Together with the principle that local authorities must have regard to the need to help looked-after children make the best use of services, it is a powerful lever to bring health to the table.
Alongside the work of the expert group, however, and given the importance of getting this right, I am very pleased to be able to tell the House that we will test new approaches to mental health assessments for looked-after children. We are in the early stages of working out what this should look like and we will want providers themselves, and children and young people, to help us develop and shape the model. We have not settled on the number of pilots, but our initial thinking is that between six and 10 would be sensible. Of course, we would want to ensure that they were representative in terms of factors such as urban and rural, and the characteristics of the looked-after population. What I can tell noble Lords today is that we plan to begin the pilots in April or May next year, and that they will run in parallel to the considerations of the expert working group. We intend to pilot mental health assessments as part of the existing health assessments that children receive when they start to be looked after.
We believe that running pilots in a number of local authority areas, potentially on a regional basis, to look at how mental health can be better assessed as part of the wider health assessment, will be complementary to the work of the expert group. It will also help to inform the implementation of any of its recommendations. These pilots will also guard against treating mental health in isolation from physical health and ensure that we address the needs of the whole child in a holistic manner. While I am not in a position to give chapter and verse on the details of the pilots this afternoon, I want to put on record our intention to develop and pilot a model of a holistic health assessment.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about a postcode lottery and how we would quality-assure the delivery of these pilots is something that we will consider. It is an important point and we will ask the expert group to look at it. We will ensure that the pilots look at quality-assurance models to see how any assessment should be assured. The independent reviewing officers will also have a role in ensuring that plans deliver what children need.
I will say a personal thank you to the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, for her continued passion and commitment on this issue. I hope that the commitments that I have made today will provide sufficient reassurance for her to be able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Nash, for his response, which I thought was very positive and constructive. I know that he has listened very carefully to the arguments that have been put forward, both inside this Chamber and outside it—there have been, as others have said, a lot of people in the sector campaigning hard for further progress in this area. I was encouraged by quite a few of the things that the noble Lord said. I will not run through them all, but I noted in particular what he said about the further work to be done to guidance and regulations to more fully underline the importance of integrated assessments and of giving really good consideration to mental health and emotional well-being issues.
I am very encouraged by and was grateful to hear the commitment that he made today at the Dispatch Box, announcing that there will be, I think he said, between six and 10 pilots starting in April or May next year, to test out new approaches to mental health assessments for children in care. As he said, this will happen in parallel to the valuable and important work of the expert working group. I consider this to be a really important step forward, so I am very grateful to him and I look forward to making any contribution that I can to the development and implementation of these pilots. I thank him and all noble Lords who have participated in this discussion and I will say again how pleased I am by this progress. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Local offer for care leavers
2: Clause 2, page 2, line 39, at end insert—
“( ) relationships;”
My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, Clause 2 requires local authorities to consult on and publish a local offer for care leavers. The local offer will set out the services provided by a local authority to assist its care leavers as they move into adulthood and independent living. It should include services relating to health and well-being, education and training, employment, accommodation, and participation in society. On Report, noble Lords expressed concern that services relating to relationships were not included in this list. I recognise this concern and agree that strong and supportive relationships are critical to supporting care leavers to lead successful independent lives. I committed to consider in detail whether an amendment to the Bill would be the best way of securing the necessary progress in this area and, on reflection, we believe that it would. I have therefore tabled this amendment to add services relating to relationships to Clause 2. If local authorities believe that particular services may assist care leavers in or in preparing for adulthood and independent living, they will now have to publish information about these services as part of their local offer, alongside information about services relating to the other five areas stipulated in the clause.
The remainder of the amendments in this group should not, I hope, detain the House for too long. They are a set of technical and consequential amendments relating to Part 1 of the Bill. Amendment 7 allows regulations relating to local reviews of serious cases of harm and abuse that would otherwise be made under the negative scrutiny procedure to be made under the affirmative procedure. This will allow the Government to bring forward regulations relating to both local and national reviews for the House’s scrutiny in a single instrument, ensuring greater coherence and making best use of the House’s time. The other amendments create a new schedule to the Bill, which comprises changes necessary to existing legislation as a consequence of the substantive changes we have debated on the Bill.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for bringing forward this welcome amendment—Amendment 2. It follows an amendment I tabled in Committee and on Report, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern and my noble friend Lady Hodgson put their names. I am grateful to them for their enthusiastic support and for speaking so eloquently in the various debates. I tabled that amendment because it would remedy a serious omission in the list of the areas of support that local authorities are required to include in their local offer.
Recently, North Tyneside Council rallied staff across the authority to improve the employment outcomes of care leavers. Experience taught the council that it would need to be very intentional about ensuring that young people have at least one strong relationship with someone who genuinely and obviously thinks they matter. The council also knew that it would have to help them be part of a supportive network. This emphasis had to be explicitly stated if it was to become embedded in everyone’s practice.
There is a dynamic to this: it is not simply a case of providing young people with an adult who will keep in touch with them and to whom they can turn. Young people need to know how to maintain and grow relationships and how to work through conflict and avoid destructive feuds. Disruptions in attachment processes often lead to an understandable but ultimately vicious circle of an “I’ll reject them before they reject me” pattern of behaviour. Many long for independence far earlier than they can handle it because they do not want to be let down again. Furthermore, our individualistic culture seems to endorse the natural inclination to go it alone and avoid hurt. Not having relationships to draw on can also result in these young people being unbearably lonely, which can have severely negative effects on their health and well-being. It can undermine their education, their ability to maintain a tenancy or other accommodation and manage work, and their financial security. If they do not understand bills, they can easily get into arrears and debt, which can be quite terrifying. Such life skills often develop through a process of guided mastery—encouragement and guidance from someone who is genuinely concerned about them.
In summary, healthy and supportive relationships are fundamental to the other five areas included in the local offer. The Government’s amendment has the potential to tackle the haphazardness of current arrangements which mean that it is not automatic, and is probably highly unlikely, that young people will receive help and advice in the area of relationships.
Given the careful attention that the Minister and his team paid to this matter, I hope that this amendment is a portent of a more relational approach in many other areas of policy. Given the enthusiastic support from across the House that this amendment has received, I am sure that many other noble Lords would agree.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for his work and persistence in this area. I recall a 28 year-old woman with experience of the care system who recently married a lovely man, an accountant. She had had the most terrible start in life and never met her father until she was 16. She talked in public about her experience at university and the relationships she had with the women with whom she shared a house while at university, who visited her and comforted her when she often fell into depression and withdrew to her room and isolated herself. I commend the noble Lord for his perseverance on this matter. I am very grateful to the Minister for listening to him and bringing forward this amendment today.
My Lords, I welcome and support this government amendment. I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for pursuing this matter so very vigorously in Committee and on Report. “Relationships” is just one word but in my view it makes such a difference. If this amendment is accepted, as I hope it will be, it will enrich the Bill and make an immense difference to the lives of troubled children entering and leaving care respectively, if the measure is implemented in the way so many of us have argued for. It sends an important message to local authorities, professionals, social workers and others about the importance of relationships in children’s lives and what an important part of their practice it is.
My Lords, I too welcome the amendment. The local offer for care leavers and the corporate parenting principles are two of the most valuable aspects of the Bill to emerge. Of course, they were originally in the Bill and we have sought to improve them. The inclusion of the term “relationships” is certainly one of those improvements. I will add just one thing to what the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, said. The question of relationships is not just about having someone to whom the child or young person can relate but about having the ability and the knowledge to build relationships in his or her adult life so that, we hope, that can confirm stable relationships for them and their own children. I support Amendment 2 and the somewhat impenetrable Amendment 12, which is consequential, and the other consequential amendments which the Minister has put forward in his name.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Farmer for driving this point so forcefully and to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, and the noble Lord, Lord Watson, for their positive contributions to today’s debate. I also thank my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for speaking on this important issue on Report. I am pleased to have been able to respond positively to them and I hope noble Lords will welcome and accept the amendment.
Amendment 2 agreed.
3: Clause 2, page 3, line 34, leave out subsections (8) and (9)
Amendment 3 agreed.
4: After Clause 9, insert the following new Clause—
“Chapter 1: consequential amendments
Schedule (Part 1 of this Act: consequential amendments) contains amendments consequential on this Chapter.”
Amendment 4 agreed.
Clause 12: Functions of the Panel
5: Clause 12, page 12, line 8, leave out subsection (2)
Amendment 5 agreed.
Clause 15: Local arrangements for safeguarding and promoting welfare of children
6: Clause 15, page 13, line 33, leave out subsection (2)
Amendment 6 agreed.
7: After Clause 27, insert the following new Clause—
“Regulations under provisions inserted by sections 12, 15 and 16
In section 66(3) of the Children Act 2004 (regulations subject to affirmative procedure), after “12B(1)(b)” insert “, 16B (whether alone or with regulations under section 16F), 16E(3)”.”
Amendment 7 agreed.
Clause 28: Abolition of Local Safeguarding Children Boards
8: Clause 28, page 20, line 5, leave out subsection (2)
Amendment 8 agreed.
9: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—
“Chapter 2: consequential amendments
Schedule (Part 1 of this Act: consequential amendments) contains amendments consequential on this Chapter.”
Amendment 9 agreed.
10: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to have due regard to United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(1) A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions relating to safeguarding and the welfare of children, have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.(2) For the purposes of this section—“public authority” has the same meaning as in section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, and“United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” has the same meaning as in section 2A(2) of the Children Act 2004.”
My Lords, in addressing the House on Amendment 10, I disclose my interests as president of the Weidenfeld Fund, which focuses on bringing children of Christian faith to this country using resources provided by Jewish members of the community here. I also refer to my membership of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which recommended the amendment we are considering.
On Report, the focus was on a similar amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, who also supports this amendment. She was supported by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham, the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd. That amendment was not moved and is not being pursued today. Amendment 10 makes it clear that all it requires is that when public bodies perform their functions, the authorities have to take into account the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In opposing both amendments on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Nash, displayed his customary eloquence in his enthusiasm for the United Nations convention. He said:
“Since the summer, the Government have reaffirmed their commitment to the UNCRC through a Written Ministerial Statement from the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families. This reinforced our view that to achieve implementation of the UNCRC, every department across Westminster must be proactive in considering children’s rights in policy-making”.
I agree, and the objective of the amendment is to ensure that that happens. The Minister referred to a letter from the Permanent Secretary to his counterparts across government, challenging them and all their officials,
“to keep the principles and conventions of the UNCRC at the centre of their policy-making and implementation, and to engage children and young people in the process”.
He also referred to talking to the Children’s Commissioner,
“about how she might hold government to account in this respect”.
He expressed gratitude to noble Lords for tabling the amendments to which I have referred, and indicated:
“There are a number of additional steps we could consider, and we are keen to explore the benefits of the different potential approaches before deciding what further action might be taken”.—[Official Report, 8/11/16; col. 1089.]
Having regard to those remarks, I suggest that it is surprising that the Government are not welcoming this amendment enthusiastically and with open arms. It would place a minimum responsibility on the Government and require them to do no more than have,
“regard to the United Nations convention”.
On Report, the explanation the Government advanced for not accepting the amendment was that they believed the best way to promote children’s rights was to listen to children and to act in ways that best meet their needs. In the Minister’s words:
“A duty alone will not do that, and risks practitioners focusing on the wording of the legislation rather than on practice”.—[Official Report, 8/11/16; col. 1089.]
Although I fully appreciate that there are good reasons for a Minister to focus on practitioners listening to children, I do not accept that the amendment could have the risks to which he refers in what the Government are commendably seeking to achieve. In addition, I suggest that the Government are failing to give sufficient weight to the adverse consequence of the impression that will be created by their opposition to the amendment when both the Government of Scotland and the Government of Wales have already exercised their delegated powers to give some statutory recognition to the convention. Those Governments say that positive results are being produced from the action they have taken, as one would expect, and we would like to see similar positive results here.
Earlier, the Government indicated that they do not wish to encourage a box-ticking approach to the convention, but again I question why it should be thought that this amendment will encourage such an approach. On the contrary, by giving statutory recognition to the convention in domestic law, the amendment would give it a higher status than it has at present. That increase in status would underline the admirable policy to which the Minister has eloquently referred while at the same time avoiding the risks that could follow in failing to accept the amendment. These are times when children need every bit of protection that can be provided. Organisations that seek to improve the position of children in this jurisdiction would be greatly encouraged by the Government demonstrating their commitment to the principles set out in the convention, in the way the amendment would achieve.
On Report, my noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead drew attention to the fact that the Supreme Court, during his period as a justice of that court, always paid close attention to the convention. In addition, he drew the House’s attention to the Court of Appeal case of P-S (Children) in 2013, EWCA, Civil Division 223. In a judgment in that case, Sir Alan Ward indicated that it was appropriate for a child to be allowed to give evidence in our domestic courts because of Article 12 of the UN convention, although the convention is no part of the domestic law of this country. Like any other treaty, the convention is binding on the Government in international law but is not part of our domestic law unless it is incorporated into domestic law by statutory authority. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who cannot be here this afternoon, stated that,
“it would seem far better that England and Wales should follow the example of Scotland and legislate to put the matter beyond any doubt”.—[Official Report, 8/11/16; col. 1087.]
I strongly endorse those words and hope that the Government will listen to them.
The Government should not miss this opportunity to give limited recognition to a convention that seeks to achieve exactly the same results as they do. Parliament in Westminster should be as committed to the protection of our children as the parliaments in other parts of the United Kingdom. One is bound to inquire whether any other statutory vehicle could be used in the near future for this purpose. So far, I have not been able to ascertain the existence of any other such statutory vehicle.
On 16 November, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights wrote to the Minister in the other place. Today, we received a response—it was not positive. In the committee’s letter we referred to the fact that the amendment had attracted cross-party support at Report. We asked the Minister to set out the Government proposal that makes the committee’s recommendation unnecessary, including precisely how the Government will bring about the change the committee has asked to see, the timetable on which they propose to make the change and, if legislation is required, when that will be brought forward. The response we received today did not deal with the matters to which I have just referred with any clarity at all.
In addition to the views of the Joint Committee, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has also confirmed that this amendment is needed. In these circumstances, surely the Minister can give us the reassurance we are seeking: that in due course, statutory recognition will be given to the convention so that it becomes part of our domestic law and can benefit our children in the way that it cannot at this stage. I beg to move.
My Lords, I strongly support this amendment and very much regret that the Government have failed in their promise to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, that action would be initiated across Whitehall before this Third Reading to consult on how the public duty to have regard to the UNCRC, which is what our amendment asks for, would affect the work of government and the well-being of children. We were promised that that work would start, with particular regard to the possibility of introducing either the Scottish or Welsh model of protecting children’s rights, before today. As far as we have been informed, it has not. That is why we are justified in bringing this amendment back at Third Reading. We still need clarification on whether and when the Government intend to keep that promise and how Parliament will be informed of their progress.
When in doubt, I always return to the convention itself. It may be informative to remind your Lordships of what we have been bound by the convention to do for the past 25 years. Article 4, on the protection of rights, states that the Government,
“shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources”.
That is not unreasonable. Article 20 states:
“A child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment”—
the children we are talking about in the Bill—
“or in whose … best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State”.
That is another very relevant article. We feel it is very important to the scope of the Bill to put a duty into primary legislation to ensure the delivery of these rights.
In Scotland they have a very specific procedure, which I have read, to make sure there are impact assessments at every level to ensure that these rights are delivered. We have not got that in England yet. That is why the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its report in June this year, in general comment number 9, recommended that we:
“(a) Introduce a statutory obligation at national and devolved levels to systematically conduct a child rights impact assessment when developing laws and policies affecting children, including in international development cooperation”,
“(b) Publish the results”.
As to its general comment number 14 in its 2013 report on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration, the committee recommended this year that we should, first, ensure that this right is appropriately integrated and consistently interpreted and applied in all legislative, administrative and judicial proceedings and decisions as well as in all policies, programmes and projects that are relevant to and have an impact on children; and, secondly, develop procedures and criteria to provide guidance to all relevant persons, and so on.
The case is made by the convention under the UN committee for our amendment. We signed up to that convention 25 years ago and, although we have made some progress, there is a great deal further to go, especially in relation to children who are particularly vulnerable because they are in care or have recently left care.
If the Government will not accept this amendment and insist on pursuing a non-legislative approach to children’s rights, will the Minister commit to introducing a child rights framework across government and assure us that the impact of such a framework will have the same effect as the due regard duty?
Three hours ago I received a short statement—one paragraph—from the Minister, Edward Timpson, referring to his commitment to the convention. It says:
“The possibility of extending this to legislation is still under review. No decisions have been taken about this and officials are continuing to explore the pros and cons”.
He went a little further in a letter to Harriet Harman—a copy of which I have received and which has been mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf—and said:
“We are now planning a programme of action which will build awareness and lead to greater consistency in the way in which children’s voices and views are heard, and policy developed across Whitehall”.
Will the Minister set out how and, importantly, when this framework will be introduced to ensure that children’s rights are not kicked into the long grass once the opportunity presented by this Bill has passed? I hope the Minister can give this specific information about the Government’s actions and plans.
My Lords, I warmly support the amendment. I declare an interest—I am half English and half Scottish. The Scottish half of me is delighted and proud that this is on record in the legislation of Scotland. I am unhappy—I have an internal conflict—in the English half that we have not yet reached that point of enlightenment. I would like that internal conflict reconciled as quickly as possible.
However, there are other issues of a more profound nature. In this House, of all places, we take the rights and interests of children extremely seriously. Many noble Lords are personally caught up in work associated with the well-being of children. Any convention, of itself, cannot provide what is necessary, which is an operational and real culture that self-evidently demonstrates at every level of society and in all its actions that children have the rights and priority needs to which the convention refers. The convention is there to underpin what should be a culture. Of itself, the convention cannot be a substitute for the culture. It provides an important underpinning of the culture and is a strong ally of those who want to build up that culture, rather than having it as an additional burden to be taken into account by people who are doing their job. It should be central to their work and it is well expressed in the convention.
There is another reason that motivates me to speak to the amendment. I find it reassuring that we have repeatedly been told that in the context of Brexit the British Government are determined that we should continue to be an international player in the world’s society. Everyone knows that Britain played an active and imaginative part in ensuring that the convention came about. Our credibility in international affairs lies not just with the rhetoric that is undertaken at the diplomatic level on these matters, but in the degree to which what is achieved in those diplomatic circles is reflected in action and commitment in our society as a whole. We undermine our role in international affairs if we become a sort of representative of the speakeasy club where people say nice things and make nice conventions but do not do anything about them in terms of their implementation.
I am not suggesting that we do not do anything because that would be ridiculous. A great deal of good work goes on in government circles. However, the amendment is extremely helpful and pertinent, and I can only say to the Minister that looking at it from the point of view of those outside the Government, if they do not endorse the convention when it has been incorporated in, for example, Scottish law, it is inevitable that there will be a suspicion that for some reason they find it difficult to do and about which they have reservations in terms of the challenges we face. If that is the case we ought to have it out in the open, but I hope that it is not. I therefore hope that the Minister can meet the spirit of what is being argued for in this amendment.
My Lords, I support this amendment and I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has just said. One other way of looking at the convention is that it acts as a useful nudge for people to remember what it is that they ought to have in mind.
The year 1989 was extremely important because not only did we pass the Children Act, it also saw the United Nations convention. It is extraordinary that for some reason this country, England, is lagging behind Scotland and Wales which have managed to put it into their primary legislation while we are failing to do so. When I was a judge I tried a great many family cases. Whenever I heard a case relating to children, of course I took the United Nations convention into account, and I always thought it rather odd that there I was, applying the statutory law of the Children Act and going outside it to apply the United Nations convention that for some reason the Parliament of our country was not prepared to pass as part of English law. Here we are, all this time later in 2016 and we have fallen behind the smaller parts of this wonderful United Kingdom. It really is about time that we caught up and I find it extraordinary that the Government are not welcoming this with open arms.
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment and the arguments that have been put so far. I will not repeat what I said on Report but I did raise two questions that I did not feel were answered. I asked the Minister to spell out what further evidence, beyond the evidence we have from the experience of Scotland and Wales which we have heard a little about today, the Government need to convince them of the practical value of such a duty. They have been arguing that they do not see what the practical value is. I also asked what evidence they had that it would produce box-ticking rather than cultural change. What the Minister did say was quoted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, earlier and I shall repeat it:
“We believe that the way to promote children’s rights is for strong practitioners locally to listen to children and to act in ways which best meet their needs. A duty alone will not do that, and risks practitioners focusing on the wording of the legislation rather than on practice”.—[Official Report, 8/11/16; col. 1089.]
Of course a duty alone will not do that, but surely practice underpinned by a duty is more likely to be good practice than practice that is not underpinned by a duty. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, I am surprised and disappointed that the Government are so resistant to what is, as he put it, such a minimal responsibility that will be placed on them. As we said, it sends out all the wrong messages as to this Government’s commitment to the UN convention.
It is good to hear that the Government have said they are still considering this issue. Given they know that there is so much support in this place it is a shame they have taken their time considering it, but can we have a commitment that when the Bill goes to the House of Commons, a clear statement will be made by the Minister there as to what will be done to reflect the very strong views expressed in this House and which I am pretty sure will be expressed in the other place also?
My Lords, I, too, strongly support the amendment, but as a sceptical old Whitehall warrior, I will open up an issue that may suggest it is not the Minister and his colleagues in his department who might be the villains in this area, but other interests across Whitehall. As I understand it, if the Government accept the amendment they will then have to accept amendments relating to all the other services that are of concern to children. It would be very difficult for them to accept the amendment if they have reservations about the cumulative effect of implementing the convention in this way through statute for all the services that may affect children.
My suspicion about Whitehall, because I am of a suspicious nature given my background, is that there are problems around an impact assessment on what the implications of all this may be. Instinctively I feel that somewhere in this mix are our old friends at the Treasury and the control of public expenditure. They are often to be found when we have these long periods of inaction in any particular area. Some of the areas where children could be seriously affected—clean air, benefits and access to health services to name but a few—go much wider than the scope of the Bill.
I do not expect the Minister to divulge the workings of government, but can he throw any light on whether it is necessary to provide across Whitehall an impact assessment on what the costs of implementing this through statute would be? Do the processes by which these things have to be agreed across Whitehall have any chance of being agreed before the Bill completes its passage through Parliament?
My Lords, I support everything that has been said and pick up on the words of my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf. It is very sad that the last two reports of the UN committee coming to this country have started with the words that they regret that so little has been done to implement the recommendations they made five years earlier. If, as my noble and learned friend has suggested, the convention or the causes should be made the centrepiece of cross-government action in this area, then there is a solid basis for all affected ministries in Whitehall to rally round and make certain that their contribution to what is required is not criticised the next time the committee visits.
My Lords, I do not think that we should worry too much about my noble friend Lord Warner’s point, to which I shall return—the Cross Benches are not always at one on these matters. I have not spoken on this Bill before, but felt I had to intervene because in 1989 I was with Save the Children and remember the excitement at the convention and the Children Act that followed it. Save the Children was already translating those duties into its own policies and activities and it must be horrified that they have not been extended into all government services. We have already heard evidence from CRAE—the Children’s Rights Alliance for England—and UNICEF that statutory child rights duties have a real impact on children’s lives. Perhaps I may quote just one sentence from its briefing, which states:
“A child rights framework such as would be created by this amendment will embed the CRC in children’s services and within other public authorities working with children and families no matter where they are, and enable public authorities to better safeguard, support, promote and plan for the rights and welfare of children in their area”.
My noble and learned friend said that the amendment would place a minimal responsibility on government. Surely we are convinced by that and not by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Warner.
My Lords, the noble Baroness cited articles from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. One article which is very important to me is Article 39, which sets out the right for children who have suffered trauma, whether through war or through family abuse, to receive therapy and all the support needed to recover from such trauma. That article speaks directly to the amendment tabled earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler. If this amendment had been incorporated into legislation 10 years ago, perhaps we would not now be discussing how we have ignored the mental health of looked-after children during the past 10 years. We would have respected the UNCRC and already delivered the services. I am grateful for the sympathetic message that the Minister of State for Children, Edward Timpson, has given the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.
My Lords, as the House will know, we on these Benches have given our support on this important issue both in Committee and on Report. We strongly agree with the principle that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child should be incorporated into statute. We support the call for this from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, and agree with the strong case put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and other noble Lords today and at previous stages. We fully understand why the amendment has been put forward today.
However, we do not support the case for incorporating the amendment at this late stage in the Bill. Instead, we would prefer discussions and work to continue through to the Commons stages. Noble Lords have heard from Ministers during debate on the Bill that the Government are committed to the UNCRC and are working on their response to last year’s UN committee report on the rights of the child and on addressing the serious concerns raised by it.
We understand that they have also said that they are “sympathetic” to the Scottish model of legislation, placing a duty on Ministers to report on impact and improvements to children’s rights, and have begun discussions with both the Scottish and Wales devolved Governments on their experience of how the different models of legislation recently adopted in their respective countries are operating. They are also having discussions with the Children’s Commissioner and have underlined to government departments across Whitehall and to local authorities and other public bodies that consideration of children’s rights should be at the centre of policy-making and implementation.
However, we do not have from the Government a comprehensive and clear plan and programme of how this work is being brought together into a coherent, proactive strategy for addressing the UN committee report’s concerns and for taking this work forward. The Government urgently need to commit to this, with clear proposals and timescales, particularly for evaluating how the Scottish and Wales models are working and for full consultation with local authorities and other public bodies on how they might implement the “have regard” or the “reporting” duties. Obviously, ongoing dialogue with UNICEF and CRAE is vital, as is discussion on the legal issues and implications underlined by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf.
The Government cannot just keep referring to the need to avoid bureaucracy and tick-box assessments—we all want to do that, and we do want that sort of approach from the Government in how they respond to the UN committee. What we need instead is a strategy that will achieve consistency and action across government and local authorities and address the huge variation across the country in how outcomes and impact on children’s rights are currently assessed.
There is already strong evidence that the measures taken in both Scotland and Wales are having a meaningful and practical effect on children’s lives. We know that this is how the change in mindsets and culture that we all want can be brought about. I look forward to hearing from the Minister how the Government plan to take this work forward in the light of today’s discussion on the amendment so that progress can be made before the Bill commences its Commons stages.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for this amendment and for raising this important matter of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am also grateful for the contributions to today’s debate from the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Wheeler, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Earls, Lord Sandwich and Lord Listowel, and the noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Judd. We had a helpful discussion of the issue on Report, and today’s discussion has been helpful as well. There is a lot of common ground between us though perhaps we take different approaches over what needs to happen next and what could have the most impact in changing culture and behaviour and improving the way we consider children’s rights in policy-making.
Let me start by again emphasising the Government’s commitment to children’s rights. No one questions the importance of the UNCRC and we are fully committed to giving due consideration to the articles when making new policies and legislation. We are equally determined to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children. Nothing could be more important.
As noble Lords are aware, this commitment is already enshrined in existing legislation and statutory duties. The Children Act 1989 and the Children Act 2004 set out a range of duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Specifically, Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 places duties on a range of organisations including local authorities, the police, health services and a variety of other agencies to ensure their functions and any services that they contract out to others are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. In 2013, we issued statutory guidance to directors of children’s services which requires them to have regard to the general principles of the UNCRC and ensure that children and young people are involved in the development and delivery of local services.
In addition to legislation, a range of monitoring practices is also in place. Through the single inspection framework, Ofsted assesses the experiences of children and young people, tests the thresholds for providing help, care and protection, and evaluates the quality of this support. This reporting process is independent. Forcing local leaders to produce similar five-yearly reports is unlikely to offer the same level of scrutiny. Of course, we should not forget the role of the Children’s Commissioner. The Children and Families Act 2014 gave the Children’s Commissioner the explicit function of promoting and protecting the rights of children, having particular regard to the UNCRC and making sure their best interests are brought to the attention of decision-makers, both locally and nationally.
However, we would fully accept that there is more to do to embed the UNCRC in policy and practice. Across the UK, there are differing approaches to securing ministerial commitment to the UNCRC. Scotland and Wales have both gone down the route of putting a duty on their Ministers in regard to children’s rights and the UNCRC. In Westminster, our prime objective is to bring about sustained change to the culture that does more than force officials and practitioners to take greater account of the UNCRC—the noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to this. We want policymakers and others to see the value of the UNCRC in their everyday work. Only last month, Minister Timpson spoke at a parliamentary event and—as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, mentioned—laid a Written Ministerial Statement reinforcing the message that, to achieve implementation of the UNCRC, every department across Westminster must be proactive in considering children’s rights in policy-making. As the noble and learned Lord also mentioned, the DfE Permanent Secretary, Jonathan Slater, wrote to his counterparts across government, challenging them to keep the convention at the heart of their policy-making and implementation, and to engage children and young people in the process.
We are determined to follow this through with a number of measures designed to embed children’s rights across Whitehall and beyond. These include introducing a programme to raise awareness of UNCRC among civil servants, with an understanding of what it means to have regard to the articles when carrying out public duties in relation to children. The programme will include a new core learning and development offer through Civil Service Learning, and an offer through the policy profession led by the director-general for children’s services and the chief social worker. This work will begin in January 2017 with the learning and development offer in place within six months. This goes further than we have gone previously in making training an integral part of Civil Service development. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, believed that we had promised to start this earlier. I understand that we committed to look at all the options, including the models adopted by the devolved Administrations. We have had information from Scotland and Wales and are considering it. I hope the noble Baroness is reassured by my statement that we will start this programme in January.
We also have a commitment to work with the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its plans to develop a template for child rights impact assessments and on any associated guidance and good practice. We will host a round table in January next year with a range of stakeholders, including UNICEF and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, to explore how we can develop a framework for this work. We will make sure there is input from those with experience and expertise who can support us to change behaviour and culture and promote children’s rights in policy-making at both local and national level. We will work with UNICEF and others to spread best practice from local authorities which have a good track record in promoting children’s rights and articulate the principles and values associated with that practice. At the next review of the statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children, we will consider how the underpinning principles can be strengthened to reflect children’s rights, and we will, of course, continue to discuss and review progress with relevant non-governmental organisations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked about evidence. As part of our consideration of implementation of the duties in Wales and Scotland, we will be considering the impact on children of policy-making. We know that UNICEF and others have some rich evidence, and we have asked them to provide it to us for further consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, asked about impact assessments. There is already a strong recommendation within the Cabinet Office guidance to carry out impact assessments for new legislation.
I hope this reassures noble Lords of our wholehearted commitment to children’s rights. We will continue to observe and assess the results of the various approaches to implementing the UNCRC and will be very pleased to involve noble Lords who wish to be involved in that ongoing work. I appreciate the arguments that noble Lords have used to support the amendment, but I hope that our firm commitment to the UNCRC and our plans further to promote and embed it will convince the noble and learned Lord that his amendment is unnecessary.
I thank the Minister for that response and I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, whose support I found essential during earlier events, especially when visiting Ministers about this matter. I pay particular attention to what the Minister said. As he spoke, I was very much reminded of what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said about the importance of the convention underpinning what the Government are doing, which we applaud. Does the Minister still not think that instead of underpinning the convention he might be undermining it unintentionally? I hope he will take that thought away and that by the time the matter arrives in the other place the Government will have had a rethink on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 10 withdrawn.
11: After Clause 53, insert the following new Clause—
“Review by independent person
(1) The Secretary of State must commission an independent person to—(a) review the operation of this Part during the review period, and(b) send a report to the Secretary of State on the findings of the review.(2) In carrying out the review the independent person must consult representatives of social workers in England and anyone else that the person considers appropriate.(3) On receiving the report the Secretary of State must lay it before Parliament.(4) The Secretary of State must also lay before Parliament a response to the report.(5) The review period is 5 years beginning with the day on which section 33(1) comes fully into force.”
My Lords, during our debate on Report, I signalled my commitment to table an amendment that ensures that an independent review of the provisions in Part 2 takes place. Amendment 11 meets that commitment. On Report, noble Lords spoke of the need to ensure that these provisions remain fit for purpose. I agree—in fact I believe I astonished the noble Lord, Lord Warner, with that agreement—that it is crucial that these provisions bring about the reforms that are needed and that they remain fit for purpose.
This amendment ensures that an independent review is undertaken within five years from the point that Social Work England becomes fully operational. The review will be able to cover all aspects of Part 2 of the Bill. Those undertaking the review must consult with representatives of the social work profession and anyone else that they consider appropriate. Following the review and discussions with Members in the other place and noble Lords, the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Health will be required to publish a response to the review.
As noble Lords are aware, to ensure the effective operation of Social Work England and that robust independent oversight measures are in place, the Professional Standards Authority will undertake independent reviews on how Social Work England discharges its functions. This new amendment further strengthens the independent scrutiny of Social Work England.
My Lords, I have recovered from my astonishment at the Minister’s concession on Report. I am delighted to support this amendment, which is far more elegant than the one that I produced.
While am on my feet, I thank the Minister for all his efforts throughout the passage of the Bill and for the constructive way in which he has approached what has sometimes been a robust approach from some quarters of the House to some of his proposals. That has always been done in a thoughtful way, and I am grateful to him, to Edward Timpson and to his officials for the way that they have approached the Bill and the amendments we have proposed.
Before I sit down, in listening to the debates on the importance of personal relationships, it occurred to me that he might draw the importance of personal relationships to the attention of those Ministers who are interacting with their counterparts in Europe because there could be some useful lessons to be learnt from the debates in this particular House.
My Lords, I do not think I will follow that comment.
If the noble Lord, Lord Warner, was astonished, I was certainly very pleased with the way in which the Minister acknowledged on Report that this is an important issue. I welcome the amendment. I take the opportunity of thanking the Minister, the honourable Edward Timpson in the other place and officials in both the Minister’s department and the Department of Health for the tremendous amount of work they have done in response to the issues raised. We are very satisfied with the outcome.
My Lords, we are all aware that social workers play a critical role in our society. It is in order to protect the public that we need a strong bespoke regulator committed to the social work profession. With noble Lords’ assistance and engagement, I am confident that we have arrived at a strengthened position and an improved model for the new regulator.
I believe the provisions in Part 2 of the Bill will lead to the establishment of an effective and successful bespoke regulator for social workers, with appropriate independence from government and clear oversight from the Professional Standards Authority. It is right, though, that these provisions be reviewed, and this amendment will ensure that that happens. I therefore hope noble Lords are able to accept this amendment. I am pleased that we are able to finish on such a positive note.
Before I sit down, I take this opportunity to say a few words of thanks to the House. Your Lordships’ House has been unwavering in the rigour and attention to detail that it has brought to bear as we have debated the Bill. I know that on occasion there has not been as much time as noble Lords would have liked to consider the provisions of the Bill before they have been debated, and I know that I have made further demands on noble Lords’ time through meetings, briefings, letters and policy statements. I can only apologise and say how grateful I am for the efforts that have been taken to bring the House’s expertise fully to bear on these matters.
I also thank my ministerial colleagues, particularly of course the Secretary of State and the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, who will now be taking the Bill on its next steps. I join noble Lords today in thanking officials, and I shall certainly take back their kind words to everyone involved in the department. In closing, I note the co-operative approach that has been taken on all sides and thank the House again for its constant efforts to find common ground in the best interests of all our country’s children.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I, too, should like to say a few words about the Bill, as it proceeds to another place. First, I record the thanks of these Benches for the advice and support supplied by the clerks and the Public Bill Office. It is not often that a Lords starter Bill moves down the Corridor containing such a plethora of changes from the form in which it was introduced to your Lordships’ House six months ago. To some extent, that is a reflection of the form in which it was received—which, noble Lords may recall, prompted Labour to take the unusual step of submitting an amendment on Second Reading regretting that Part 2 was bereft of detail, a fact drawing criticism from both the Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee.
Since then, a significant number of concessions have been achieved from the Government—by my calculation, a total of 15, including the one today on mental health assessments. That demonstrates three things: first, that we can achieve progress not just by voting, because only one of those issues was resolved by a vote; secondly, that preparing reasoned and well-researched amendments can and does improve legislation; and, thirdly, which may well be regarded as a concession from me, that when they have got it wrong, the Government are on occasion capable of admitting as much.
I should like in passing to draw attention to the work involved in preparing amendments and arguments. If I may be slightly light-hearted, I believe that neither of the Ministers served as Opposition Front Benchers, so they may not appreciate that we on this side research and write all our own speeches—that applies to the other parties and the Cross-Benchers as well, of course. Unlike Opposition MPs, we do not have any staff. My noble friends Lord Hunt and Lady Wheeler and I had only one legal and policy adviser assigned to work with us on the Bill, Molly Critchley, who worked tirelessly on our collective behalf and deserves much of the credit for the manner in which it has been possible to strengthen the Bill.
Noble Lords opposite may think that I am using this as a platform to plea for parity, not perhaps of esteem but of resources—actually, I would quite like parity of resources; I am sure we all would. Perhaps Ministers will feel able to take that up and advocate it in the corridors of power. That is not part of my speech, but let me indulge in a little wishful thinking.
Returning to more serious matters, today the Bill is in a much improved condition. I will not list the concessions, but I welcome the fact that the Minister has been willing to listen. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Warner: the meetings that the Minister and his officials have set up have been of value. That was shown particularly in the part of the Bill pertaining to social workers, to which Amendment 11 refers. I do not think it is unfair to say that the position of the regulator and the review are both now far removed from the Government’s original plans.
These and many other developments are all to the good, although I have to say that they once again highlight the fact that the Government continue to rush out Bills that lack proper thought or preparation. That is evidenced in this case by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Nash, has himself introduced more than 150 amendments, several of them containing new clauses. The Government could have avoided much of the pain that they have suffered had they undertaken meaningful consultation with the relevant, very interested sectors which have contributed behind the scenes to the Bill’s progress.
As the Bill is prepared to move to another place, we at this end of Parliament can point to a strong example of what we do well in your Lordships’ House and why it is more necessary now than it has ever been.
My Lords, before the Minister finally resumes his seat, perhaps I may say how grateful I am to him for his consultation. For instance, there was a meeting yesterday with Damian Hinds, the Minister of State for Employment, about our concerns about sanctions for care leavers. Make no mistake: the Bill will make a difference on the ground for young people with the worst start in life. For that, I am very grateful to the Government, the Minister and his officials and colleagues.
Amendment 11 agreed.
12: Before Schedule 1, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULEPART 1 OF THIS ACT: CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTSPART 1AMENDMENTS RELATING TO CHAPTER 1Local offer for care leavers
1 In Schedule 1 to the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (social services functions of local authorities), in the table, at the appropriate place insert— “Children and Social Work Act 2016 Section 2 Local offer for care leavers.”
“Children and Social Work Act 2016
Local offer for care leavers.”
5 In paragraph 1(1)(g) of Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (kinds of support for which certain people are ineligible), after “23C,” insert “23CZB,”.6 In section 83A(5)(a) of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (apprenticeship offer: application to persons provided with support under Children Act 1989)—(a) for “21” substitute “25”;(b) after “23C” insert “or 23CZB”.PART 2AMENDMENTS RELATING TO ABOLITION OF LOCAL SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN BOARDS7 In Schedule 1 to the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (social services functions of local authorities), in the entry relating to the Children Act 2004—(a) for “13 to 16” substitute “16A to 16Q”;(b) omit “targets for”;(c) omit “, and to Local Safeguarding Children Boards”.8 (1) Section 83 of the Children Act 1989 (research and returns of information) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), in paragraph (aa), for “of Local Safeguarding Children Boards;” substitute “of—(i) the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel;(ii) safeguarding partners (within the meaning given by section 16E(3) of the Children Act 2004) in relation to local authority areas in England;(iii) child death review partners (within the meaning given by section 16Q(2) of the Children Act 2004) in relation to local authority areas in England;”.(3) In subsection (2) omit paragraph (aa).(4) In subsection (3) omit paragraph (c) (and the “and” before it).9 (1) Section 31 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 (supply of information concerning deaths of children) is amended as follows.(2) In subsections (2) and (4), for “appropriate Board” substitute “appropriate authority”.(3) In subsection (5), for “Subsection (6) applies” substitute “Subsections (5A) and (6) apply”.(4) After subsection (5) insert—“(5A) Where the registrar’s sub-district is in England, the registrar must, before the end of the required period, secure that the appropriate authority is notified—(a) of the issuing of the certificate; and(b) of the registrar’s belief and the grounds for it.”(5) In subsection (6)—(a) at the beginning insert “Where the registrar’s sub-district is in Wales,”;(b) omit “Local Safeguarding Children Board in England or”.(6) In subsection (7)(c), for “subsection” substitute “subsections (5A) and”.(7) After subsection (8) insert—“(8A) The child death review partners for each local authority area in England must—(a) make arrangements for the receipt by them of notifications under this section; and(b) publish those arrangements.”(8) In subsection (9) omit “Each Local Safeguarding Children Board in England and”. (9) Subsection (10) is amended as follows.(10) In the definition of “the appropriate Board”—(a) for “Board” substitute “authority”;(b) in paragraph (a), for “the Local Safeguarding Children Board in England in whose area” substitute “in relation to a register kept for a sub-district in England, the child death review partners for the local authority area within which”;(c) in paragraph (b), at the beginning insert “in relation to a register kept for a sub-district in Wales,”.(11) At the appropriate place insert—““child death review partners” has the meaning given by section 16Q(2) of the Children Act 2004;”.(12) Omit the definition of “Local Safeguarding Children Board in England”.”
A privilege amendment was made.
Bill passed with amendments and sent to the Commons.