On 4th July 2016 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill in Committee. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in support of an amendment from Labour Peer Lord Warner on corporate parenting. The amendment was withdrawn following debate. The Bishop said:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I also support this amendment. I apologise for not being here for day one* but at Second Reading I explained that I would not be able to be present last week. At Second Reading, there were a number of clauses—this is one of them—where I was concerned that the work of independent fostering agencies, adoption agencies and the voluntary sector as a whole, which provides increasing support to children in care and leaving care, was hardly noticed. We need to keep on top of that. We should not restrict its growth but we should ensure that it is joined up with what is required of statutory authorities and that quality remains high. In supporting the amendment, I hope consideration will be given to that area of work as well in any future redrafting.
*Note: During day one, amendments on a ‘national offer for care leavers’ and council tax exemptions for care leavers, both co-sponsored by the Bishop of Durham, had been debated.
The amendment text:
Clause 1: Corporate parenting principles
Amendment 29, Moved by Lord Warner
29: Clause 1, page 2, line 4, at end insert—
“( ) In discharging its responsibilities under subsection (1), the responsible local authority must—(a) ensure that all partner bodies responsible for health, housing, police, employment, education and training services are aware of the needs of children and young people for whom they are responsible; and(b) advise the individual children and young people concerned of the availability of services offered by partner bodies which meet their needs and assist them in securing such services.”
Introducing the amendment, Lord Warner said:
Lord Warner: The amendment does two things. First, it requires the local authority corporate parent to ensure that all the relevant services are aware of the needs of children and young people in care or leaving care. We know that many of these services, some of which were cited in our previous discussion, are not aware of the special needs of those in care or leaving care. History suggests that we should strengthen the obligation on local authorities to bring home to the other agencies the special needs of those for whom they are corporate parents. Because of the unfortunate timetabling of the Bill, I had little time to prepare the amendment. I know that some services have been omitted from it, but this can easily be rectified.
The second part of the amendment places an obligation on the corporate parent to make sure the children and young people for whom it is responsible know about the services available to help them make their way in the world. It also obliges the corporate parent to help these young people secure those services. I regard this second aspect as very important indeed. Public services can be very complex; they can be very siloed—as was said in our last discussion—and pretty inaccessible. Many of us, as experienced and knowledgeable adults, often struggle to penetrate public sector bureaucracies, so why should we expect these young people to do it without help? It is not good enough to await young people coming forward and asking for help, which they often do not even know about. I recognise that I may not have got the wording quite right and this amendment would need to be aligned with the other amendments to Clause 1 that I have mentioned. However, I hope the Minister will see merit in this amendment and will be willing to make an amendment of this kind to the Bill and possibly discuss it with some of us beforehand. I beg to move.