Labour’s Children’s Services spokesperson, Cllr Martin Donaghy, is calling on Bolton Council to put pressure on the Government to restore immediately safeguards to vulnerable children that were severely weakened when lock down began.
Responding to serious concerns expressed by the Children’s Commissioner, Cllr Donaghy said “ I’ve contacted the relevant officers at the Council to express my deep concern about the relaxation of the rules and the effect this could have on vulnerable Bolton children.
“The changes, which have been described as ‘unjustified’ by the Children’s Commissioner, means that children across the UK are now less protected than they were 60 years ago, including from sexual abuse.
“There seems to be little or no evidence to suggest that these protections needed to be relaxed in the first place; there was no parliamentary discussion and no consultation took place before the changes came in.
Decades of evolving legislation designed to protect young people were cast aside in a knee jerk decision.”
Martin added “Yes, we are living in difficult times, and yes staff also need to be protected from the virus, but some things are just not worth the risk, and the full force of the protection measures should be restored immediately.”
Labour MPs have forced a Commons debate on the controversy, protesting that ministers had “not produced any evidence” to show the relaxations are needed.
Some of the changes the Government is proposing:
* Allowing social workers to contact children living in care, or privately fostered, as soon as “reasonably practicable” – rather than within one week initially, and every six weeks for the year after that
* Relaxing requirements to review care plans – depriving children of the opportunity to raise concerns and have them independently scrutinised
* Allowing children to be locked up in care homes if they are showing symptoms of coronavirus – without, it is feared, clear guidance for monitoring this
* Scraping monthly independent visits to children’s homes – and twice-yearly Ofsted inspections – provided “reasonable endeavours are made”
* Removing the requirement for independent panels to approve foster carers and adoption placements
* Allowing local authorities to approve anyone as a temporary foster carer who meets requirements – rather than only someone connected to a child, such as friends or family.