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MPs ignore severe child protection warnings from large body of experts, says Together for Children

Campaign group publishes synopsis of expert advice

A new report, from Together for Children, says that a large body of experts has warned Members of Parliament of the grave danger of undoing decades of legal protection for vulnerable children and young people. This advice, the campaign group says, was ignored by the Committee of MPs debating the Children and Social Work Bill, which contains radical opt-out clauses allowing individual councils to be excused from child protection and welfare duties. The report is here.

The Committee invited expert submissions before it voted on the clauses last month.

Together for Children has released a synopsis of the expert advice. This brings together all of the evidence for the first time, and shows:

This was the first public consultation on the Bill. There were no Green or White Papers, and no consultation has taken place with those who will be directly affected – including children living in foster care, children's homes, disabled children, young carers and young people who have left care.

The radical opt-out plans were rejected by the House of Lords in November 2016. The following month, Children's Minister Edward Timpson MP tabled amendments to reinstate the controversial clauses, and these were passed on 10 January, on a 10-5 vote split along party political lines.

The campaign group says that none of the ten Conservative MPs who voted to reinstate legal opt-outs referred to any of the expert warnings submitted to the Committee.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said:

"It is scandalous that the Government continues to ignore vital evidence at every juncture – wilfully placing cost-cutting ahead of the rights and safety of our children.

"Its blind commitment to effectively dismantle almost a century of crucial child protection laws, against the wishes of professionals on the frontline, experts, Peers and the public, serves shames on our great democracy.

"These proposals are fundamentally dangerous and will expose vulnerable young people to the risk of abuse and neglect – principled MPs have no option but to shut them down."

Judith Timms OBE speaking on behalf of Nagalro, the professional association of children's guardians appointed by the courts to advise on children's welfare, said:

"Children's rights shouldn't depend on their postcode. It is both unworkable and unethical. If these exemption clauses continue to be pushed through, our country's most vulnerable children and young people will no longer have any certainty that the law will protect them. It is unacceptable that our members should be required to represent the interests of children in different ways depending on where they live, or have to keep children and the courts updated on which local authorities have opted- out of which legal duties and obligations."

For the report, click here. For further comments, click here.