For those interested in the issues surrounding child protection and the family justice system, this debate is not to be missed. It took place yesterday and the motion, brought by Labour MP, Stephen Twigg reads:
“I beg to move,
That this House
notes the updated statutory guidance to safeguard and promote the welfare of children published on 12 June 2012;
and calls on the Government to ensure that the needs of the child are at the centre of all assessments and decision-making processes regarding safeguarding, that appropriate information and guidance is provided to young people so they understand the risks of abuse and sexual exploitation, that all local authorities and decision-makers are upholding the highest standards when it comes to integrated care access and multi-disciplinary and multiagency working, and that early intervention programmes are promoted on the best available evidence, and to clarify who is responsible within Government for implementing the measures included in the new guidance.
Yesterday the Government published updated statutory guidance to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. I am sure that all parts of the House will welcome the opportunity to consider the Government’s proposals today. Our motion has been tabled to provide for such a debate, and it sets out five areas of concern.
Modern society places huge pressures on children and young people. Although the influences of adult life on children are not new, it is clear that the advent of social media, new pressures on parents and the increasing availability of sexual content are accelerating the process. The term “child protection” covers a wide spectrum of issues and crosses several Departments. From online grooming, child neglect and forced labour to the trafficking of minors, the challenge of ensuring that children get a safe and happy start in life has a moral imperative—a view that I know is shared in all parts of the House. However, it is not just a moral necessity we face: the long-term impact of child abuse—to take one important example—has been well documented. It is therefore critical that we invest in early intervention, not just for young children, but for older children as well, in order to reduce the long-term risks and costs.
It is one of the foremost duties of any civilised society to protect its most vulnerable members. It is clear that that duty was breached in the most horrific way in the recent case in Rochdale, and in the tragedies that befell Victoria Climbié and baby Peter Connelly. The Government were right to establish the Munro review, to provide a thoughtful, calm analysis of the challenges affecting the child protection system. I want to focus on the five areas that we have identified in the motion as being of particular importance, though I make no claim that they are fully comprehensive.”
There are some very interesting comments and observations raised in this debate. Of interest also, is the Consultation on statutory guidance to safeguard and promote the welfare of children:
Tim Loughton, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, launched the Consultation to reduce compliance within the sector and seek to give more power to frontline services. The Consultation will close on the 4th September, 2012.
The Consultation itself is divided into three main documents, and there is also a letter from Tim to the Director of children’s Services, which is well worth a read.
The path to reform is a dangerous and delicate one and the future of family law is in the hands of many. Exciting times, but uncertain ones.