Informing Parliament

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has held eight meetings over the summer:

  • Monday 28 April: The Children and Young Person’s Bill with Speaker Kevin Brennan MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)
  • Tuesday 6 May: Disabled Children and Young People and their Families with Speaker Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families)
  • Monday 12 May: Education and Skills Bill with speaker Jim Knight MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners
  • Tuesday 20 May: The Children’s Workforce: the Voluntary Sector with speakers Maggie Jones (NCVCCO) and Elaine Pearson Scott (Positive Parenting and Children
  • Tuesday 10 June: Child Trafficking with Jenny Pearce (Professor of Young People and Public Policy, University of Bedfordshire), Simon Chorley (Stop the Traffik) and Chris Beddoe (ECPAT UK)
  • Tuesday 24 June: The Children’s Workforce – Youth Justice with David Monk (Youth Justice Board) and Mike Thomas (Association of YOT Managers)

The reports on the two final meetings will be published in the September issue.

Monday 28 April: The Children and Young Person’s Bill

Kevin Brennan MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families) set out key measures in the Children and Young Person’s Bill, which is due to begin its passage through the House of Commons. He said that reforms in the bill are built round four central principles:

  • Good parenting for everyone in the care system – with a duty on the Secretary of State to promote the well-being of all children, including care leavers;
  • Uncompromisingly high ambitions for children in care, including reducing the gap in attainment between them and their peers – for example, by putting the role of designated teacher on a statutory footing;
  • Making the voice of the child central – with measures to strengthen the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and reserved powers to make them completely independent at a later date if the new measures prove ineffective; and
  • Making sure there is stability in every aspect of the child’s experience by setting out the considerations local authorities should take into account when placing a child including education, sibling relationships and staying near home.

Discussion following the Minister’s speech centred around:

– calls for a system of independent advocacy;

– disabled children in long-term placements far from home;

– children’s rights;

– looked after children in custody; and

– mental health services and support.

Tuesday 6 May: Disabled Children and Young People and their FamiliesLord Adonis (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families) updated attendees on the Government’s current activity for disabled children and young people and their families. The Minister provided an overview of developments since his appearance at a meeting of the Group last year, including:

  • £430 million for new services for disabled children
  • New provisions in the Children and Young Persons Bill providing for regulations that will set national minimum standards for short breaks services, to come into force in 2011
  • Launch of the three-year short breaks pathfinders; definition of the ‘core offer’ standards for services for disabled children and their families
  • The establishment of the Communication Trust and the Autism Education Trust, which are looking at the development of best practice in teacher training and
  • The introduction of an SEN improvement test in local authorities.

Attendees debated a variety of issues including:

– teacher training;

– bullying;

– educational materials;

– looked after status for disabled children in long-term placements away from home;

– advocacy; and

– transition issues.

Monday 12 May: Education and Skills Bill

Jim Knight MP (Minister of State for Schools) spoke to the Group about the Education and Skills Bill on Monday 12 May. Attendees raised concerns with the Minister around measures in the Bill which would introduce sanctions for 16 to 17 year-olds who do not engage in education and training, with the Minister arguing that a system of compulsion was necessary to ensure that the Government reached its aim of having 100% of young people participating up to the age of 18.

Other issues raised included:

  • The involvement of children and young people in decision-making in schools;
  • Ensuring the availability of a range of education and training options;
  • How the new requirements would apply to those volunteering overseas;
  • Special educational needs and
  • The implications for 16 and 17 year-olds excluded from education or training settings.

Tuesday 20 May: The Children’s Workforce – the Voluntary Sector

Maggie Jones, (Chief Executive, National Council for Voluntary Child Care Organisations (NCVCCO)) talked about the opportunities and difficulties faced by the children’s voluntary sector workforce, and Elaine Pearson Scott (Executive Director, Positive Parenting and Children) demonstrated what these issues meant in practice for voluntary organisations working directly with children and families.

  • They said that the voluntary sector is very positive about Government initiatives to improve children’s services, of which workforce development is a key part.
  • This agenda provides a range of opportunities for the voluntary sector workforce, in particular: enhancing skills; a greater and more positive profile for the workforce; and integrated services bringing greater understanding across sectors and flexibility for staff to move across sector boundaries.
  • However, Maggie and Elaine highlighted the key challenges facing the voluntary sector. These centred around the sector’s role in delivering public services, which requires it to keep up-to-date with the breadth of the children’s services agenda and the range of organisations involved.

Tuesday 10 June: Child TraffickingJenny Pearce (Professor of Young People and Public Policy, University of Bedfordshire) told the meeting that child trafficking is now a global market similar to the drug markets, with high, medium and low levels of operation.

  • Trafficking happens not just for sexual exploitation, but also for domestic servitude, benefit fraud, and criminality.
  • Research into the subject is limited and not sufficient enough to establish the prevalence of child trafficking.
  • Activity to address the subject has tended to be ad hoc rather than part of a Government strategy.
  • She emphasised the fact that the trafficking of a child is not a ‘one off’ event, but part of a process, which might begin with the child wanting to escape from something in their own country, and then getting moved around a number of different countries.

Simon Chorley (Policy Officer, Stop the Traffik) spoke about children and young people themselves being part of the global movement against child trafficking, by becoming activists. He also emphasised the need for co-ordination and co-operation between agencies and good information for frontline staff.

Chris Beddoe (Director, ECPAT UK) called for a stronger protection framework to address child trafficking.

  • She pointed out that trafficking out of the UK is also a problem. The country is now being used as a transit point, and we are not monitoring children going out of the country well enough.
  • She said that there are also gaps in legislation, especially around babies and infants who are used in benefit fraud.
  • While there are so few prosecutions for child trafficking, trafficked children are being prosecuted and convicted themselves for offences committed under duress, and the Crown Prosecution Service advice on this is being ignored.

Tuesday 24 June: The Children’s Workforce – Youth Justice

David Monk (Head of Practice Framework and Innovation, Youth Justice Board) said that there are about 10,000 paid employees and a further 10,000 volunteers working in the youth justice system in England and Wales, which creates a very varied workforce. He outlined the three phases for developing this workforce.

  • The first phase introduced the National Qualification Framework which was established in 2006 and is now well rooted in higher education, with practice certificates and gateway routes into getting qualifications.
  • 2006-2008 saw the second phase of improving qualifications, with the Open University becoming the main provider, drawing on their excellent reputation and social work expertise.
  • The third phase is set out in the 2008-11 strategy, which includes three themes: maximising web-based learning to make training easily accessible; engaging with managers in youth offending teams (YOTs) and secure establishments; and preparing managers and the workforce for the big changes emerging from the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.

Mike Thomas (Association of YOT Managers) said that

  • Making sure that Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) continue to be multi-agency teams – involving health, education, police and social services practitioners – is key, and that secondments are central to meeting this aim.
  • When YOTs were first being established, secondments were common. However, there has since been a tendency for staff to stay with the YOT at the end of the secondment, and they start to see themselves as youth offender workers, rather than specialists in health or social care.
  • This means we are now getting a professionalised youth offending workforce instead of the original intention of having a multi-agency team with current experience from across different sectors.

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