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 Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top on young parents who are care leavers. The amendment was withdrawn following debate. The Bishop said:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I feel that I could already write the Minister’s response by saying that of course these needs are already met in Clause 3(5)(a) or (b), as the subsection refers to meeting “his or her needs”. However, when, year after year, report after report notes that these needs are not dealt with, surely we reach the point where they need to be specified—hence I support the noble Baroness’s amendments. The needs of these young parents have so consistently not been adequately met that we now need to specify them so that they are.
I would also comment that, on occasions, young men may also find becoming a parent a positive turning point. There is a need to support young men who are looked after and become parents who recognise that they have now come to a point of responsibility and they would like to step up to it. They also need support. I invite the Minister’s comments on that.
Text of the amendment:
Moved by Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top
61A: Clause 3, page 4, line 18, after “needs,” insert “including his or her needs as a young parent where applicable,”
In introducing the amendment Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab) said:
..One tragedy is that far too many young women who have been in the care system become young parents themselves…We know the reality from the social justice commission: that about one in 10 girls leaving care aged between 16 and 21 are either single parents when they leave or very quickly afterwards become single parents……These amendments are essentially about recognising that those leaving care—many of them are still children—and who are pregnant or have a young child demand a specific responsibility on our part, even if they have left care. …All these amendments really say is that this is a specific category to which the Government will have to pay attention. It can become a vicious circle if we are not careful. We know that they will need additional support in parenting, although that is not to say that some of them will not in the long term make good parents.
In responding to the amendment, the Minister, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, referred to the Bishops’ comments:
On the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham about young men, we recognise that programmes to support young fathers are underdeveloped. Having a child can be a catalyst for young fathers to turn their lives around. I will ask my colleagues in the Department of Health and back at my department to provide an update on services available to young fathers and will write to the right reverend Prelate.