A debate in the House of Commons to discuss the relaxation of several legal duties designed to protect children in care takes place this week.
The legal amendments, entitled, “The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020“, which are also sometimes referred to as Statutory Instrument 445, were pushed through during the Coronavirus outbreak, though it is unclear who requested the changes, and why.
Several of the amendments are considered to be controversial because they remove vital safeguarding protocols for children in care, such as a reduction on duties for fostering services to notify Ofsted of criminal convictions and infectious diseases, and protections for children placed out of their local area with strangers.
The amendments have concerned several politicians and child welfare organisations, who are also calling on the government to annul the Instrument and re-instate all available protections for children in care.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer launched an Early Day Motion in May calling on the government to scrap the amendments. The Motion garnered 37 signatures from Labour, Lib Dem, Green Party and Democratic Unionist Party Members. No Conservative MPs signed the Motion.
Article 39, a charity which fights for children’s rights inside institutional settings like care homes, launched a legal challenge against the Department for Education last week to force the government to reinstate the protections.
The charity, which has set up a crowd funding page for its legal challenge, has now raised £1,140, with 28 days left to reach its £8,000 target. A petition also launched by Article 39, calling on Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to withdraw the amendments has gathered over 6,000 signatures.
The House of Commons debate is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, and a briefing paper on the amendments has been made available by the House of Commons Library.
The paper offers information about the amendments, comment from children’s organisations on the legislation and references parliamentary committees who have commented on the Statutory Instrument.
The page for the debate says, “The Joint Committee sought to draw “the special attention of both Houses to these Regulations on the grounds that they require elucidation in three respects and are defectively drafted in one respect” and the House of Lords Committee expressed “regrets that the Children’s Commissioner, amongst others, was not consulted and that guidance was not published earlier” on the regulations.”
The debate will take place after noon, on 10 June.