Duty of local authority in relation to previously looked after children

Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 13 December 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 3:15, 13 December 2016

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 4, page 5, line 35, leave out from beginning to end of line 4 on page 6 and insert—

‘(6) In this section—

“relevant child” means—

(a) a child who was looked after by the local authority or another local authority in England or Wales but ceased to be so looked after as a result of—

(b) a child who appears to the local authority—

This amendment, together with amendment 2, would extend the duty of a local authority under clause 4 (duty to provide information and advice for promoting educational achievement) to children who were adopted from state care outside England and Wales.

E

I spent a acceptable bulk of time accepting fun in 2016, fun that I badly bare afterwards activity so trapped and black for so abounding years. I anticipate mulberry outlet it's all-important to lose ascendancy every already in a while, or even already a week, because activity is so arid otherwise. Admitting oftentimes the end aftereffect of said fun isn't consistently positive, but the acquaintance is consistently account it. Every individual time. But judgement...

Submitted by Evan Loren Continue reading

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 32, in clause 4, page 6, line 4, at end insert—

“(d) returning home to the care of a parent.”

This amendment, together with amendments 33 and 34, would ensure children returning home after a period in care are afforded the same promotion of their educational attainment as those children who have ceased to be in care as a result of adoption, special guardianship orders or child arrangements orders.

Government amendments 2 and 3,

Amendment 33, in clause 5, page 6, line 36, at end insert—

“(d) returning home to the care of a parent.”

See explanatory statement for amendment 32.

Government amendments 4 to 6,

Amendment 34, in clause 6, page 7, line 46, at end insert—

“(c) was looked after by a local authority but has ceased to be so looked after as a result of returning home to the care of a parent.”

See explanatory statement for amendment 32.

Government amendments 7 and 8.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

Government amendments 1 to 8 would extend the remit of clauses 4 to 6 to include children adopted from the equivalent of state care in countries outside England and Wales. Clause 4 requires local authorities, through the virtual school head, to make advice and information available to parents and designated teachers in maintained schools and academies, for the purpose of promoting the educational achievement of children who ceased to be looked after by the local authority as a result of a permanence order. Clauses 5 and 6 place a duty on maintained schools and academies to appoint a designated teacher to promote the educational achievement of pupils. These amendments will extend these entitlements to children from other countries who are now in education in England and who were adopted from a form of care equivalent to being looked after by a local authority in England and Wales.

While it remains the Government’s top priority to continue to focus on support for children who are looked after by our care system, we understand that children adopted from similar circumstances in other countries are likely to face many of the same issues. In addition, they are living in a new country with a different culture and so they, too, are vulnerable. The Government acknowledged this earlier this year, when we opened up the Adoption Support Fund to these children and their families, giving them access to much-needed therapeutic services. So far there have been 40 applications to the fund from this group. The amendments acknowledge that, like children adopted in this country, children adopted overseas will often be coping with the emotional impact of trauma suffered in their early lives and that that can act as a barrier to their progress at school.

We know that there is an attainment gap for previously looked-after children in this country. It is, therefore, reasonable to deduce that that might also be the case for children adopted from elsewhere. There is, of course, much variation between the care systems in other countries so it is important that we ensure as much parity as possible with the eligibility criteria for children in this country who are eligible for the entitlements in clauses 4 to 6. I believe the amendments achieve just that.

A child who is cared for by a public authority, a religious organisation or charitable type of organisation before being adopted will now be able to access this support in school. The Government will set out in statutory guidance more detail on eligibility and the process for confirming such eligibility, so I hope hon. Members will support the amendments.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for South Shields for amendments 32 to 34, which would extend the duty of the virtual school head and designated teacher to promote the educational achievement of children who cease to be looked after because they returned home to the care of their birth parent or parents. I agree that children taken into care who later return to their birth parent or parents may also be vulnerable and need extra support in education. Many come from disadvantaged backgrounds and it is important that they and their families are given the support that they need.

Where a child ceases to be looked after because they return home, a child will be a child in need and a plan must be drawn up to identify the support and services that will be needed by the child and family to ensure that the return home is successful. That should take into account the child’s needs, the parenting capacity of those with parental responsibility and the wider context of family and environmental factors reflecting the child’s changed status. That would include how the parents can support the child to attend and do well at school and the virtual school head would be involved in those transitional arrangements.

Like other children who are disadvantaged, these children’s needs should be met by mainstream education services. Many will be eligible for additional educational entitlement such as free early education from the age of two and the pupil premium, which provides extra help and support through additional funding for early years settings and schools. Most importantly, these children will continue to have their birth parent or parents who, with the encouragement of schools, should play a full part in their child’s education.

Children who are looked after who cannot return to their birth parents face very different challenges. They are among the most vulnerable in our society because of the neglect and abuse suffered in their early years but also because they have to build new relationships and attachments with new carers. Leaving care through, for example, adoption means children have to start again to begin a new life with new parents or carers. We owe it to the child and the child’s new parents or carers to continue to provide support, whether in education by retaining access to the virtual school head or in other areas to give them the best chance of building a new life that is happy and fulfilling.

We must take care not to dilute the virtual school head’s role as the corporate parent for looked-after children in education to the extent that they are spread so thinly that they have little impact. Virtual school heads want to build their capacity to ensure that they can do justice to their role and ensure that every child under their wing gets the support they need through the pupil premium plus and the work of the virtual school head. I hope, on that basis, that the hon. Lady will not press her amendments.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)

I welcome the Government amendments—something I hope to do again during the passage of the Bill. We welcome the fact that, when the Government see that the Bill is incomplete or that there are obvious or indefensible omissions, they take necessary steps to rectify them, and we will always support them in that. I hope that we will be able to support the Government at other points during the passage of the Bill.

Extending the provisions of clauses 4 and 5 to apply to children who were previously in state care outside England and Wales is a welcome move. I am sure that the Minister agrees with me that all children, whatever their background, who either need or are leaving care deserve the best opportunities available. Ensuring that those who were previously in care in other countries will receive some of the support outlined in the Bill is a good first step towards ensuring that all looked-after and previously looked-after children get the care that they need. I am sure that the Minister has seen that colleagues and I tabled a number of amendments to the Bill based on those principles, including amendments that would ensure that services provided were in keeping with the UN convention on the rights of the child, and that unaccompanied refugee children were given the support that they need.

If the Minister is serious about the principles that his welcome amendments to clauses 4 and 5 lay out, and wants to support all vulnerable children and give them the opportunities that they need, we will perhaps see him and his colleagues agreeing with us a lot more in Committee.

Let me turn to my amendments. Amendments 32 to 34 would amend clauses 4 to 6 to ensure that children returning home who have ceased to be looked after receive the same educational advice and information as those who cease to be looked after as a result of adoption, special guardianship orders or child arrangement orders. A lack of educational achievement is one of the biggest obstacles for children who have experienced the care system. Children who are or have been in care are one of the poorest-performing groups, in terms of educational outcomes. Research undertaken by the national pupil database found that children in need—a category that includes the children who have returned home—tend to require even more encouragement and support when it comes to educational attainment. Those children were found to be more likely to have special educational needs and poor attendance, and to have more exclusions and progressively poorer relative attainment as they went through school, than children actually in care.

In 2011, 39% of children leaving care in England returned home. There are more than 10,000 children in that situation. Children in need are also more likely to be permanently excluded than those in care. It is absolutely vital that children who have been previously in care and return home are properly supported to succeed at school. Children who may have moved into the care system and back out of it will have experienced changes of placement, and may have also changed schools.

Although we recognise the importance of making provisions to promote the educational attainment of those children who have ceased to be in care as a result of special guardianship, child arrangements or adoption, the Bill does not go far enough in meeting the needs of those children who have been in care and have returned home. It cannot be right that those children who have been adopted or have found permanence through special guardianship are afforded different rights from those children who have returned home. I will therefore press amendments 32, 33 and 34 to a vote.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment proposed: 32, in clause 4, page 6, line 4, at end insert—

“(d) returning home to the care of a parent.”.—(

This amendment, together with amendments 33 and 34, would ensure children returning home after a period in care are afforded the same promotion of their educational attainment as those children who have ceased to be in care as a result of adoption, special guardianship orders or child arrangements orders.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 6, Noes 10.

Division number 5 Christmas Tree Industry — Duty of local authority in relation to previously looked after children

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment made: 2, in clause 4, page 6, line 13, at end insert—

“(8) For the purposes of this section a child is in “state care” if he or she is in the care of, or accommodated by—

(a) a public authority,

(b) a religious organisation, or

(c) any other organisation the sole or main purpose of which is to benefit society.”.—

See the explanatory statement for amendment 1.

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5