IMPORTANT UPDATE: COVID-19

Children’s Minister, Vicky Ford, has failed to address serious concerns raised by Become, the national charity for children in respect of the emergency measures implemented at the start of lockdown.

In April, the implementation of Statutory Instrument 455 (SI455) removed the rights of children in care without scrutiny. Ford failed to address the use of these measures by local authorities and how the impact of SI455 is monitored. In a bid to afford overstretched children’s services more flexibility, the changes meant that it was no longer necessary for social workers to visit children in care on a six weekly basis. In addition, the changes also mean that children in care no longer have their care plans independently reviewed every 6 months. Local Authorities therefore no longer have to meet their statutory obligations, condemned as ‘deregulation on steroids’ by Carolyne Willow, director of the charity, Article 39. Willow also described it as an ‘outright assault’ on the safeguards of children.

Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield acknowledged that young people were now less protected, including from sexual abuse by grooming gangs. The emergency measures are currently due to stay in place until Spetember, however Longfield believes that they ‘should be revoked now’ on the basis that they are not ‘necessary or justified’.

Become are calling for SI455 to be withdrawn. They are pressing the government to monitor information about the use of the regulations to ensure accountability where the most vulnerable children have not been adequately protected.

Become have also stated that they have been inundated with calls from young people experiencing extreme challenges in light of COVID-19. This coincides with the recent report by Childhood Trust, which refers to the evidence of children developing serious mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress during the pandemic. The report also raises concerns about the lack of contact with teachers and GPs, both of whom have been trained to identify signs of abuse and neglect. This lack of contact, coupled with the decrease in visits by social services, means that vulnerable children are not receiving the same protection by services that they were pre-pandemic.

If you are or know someone who has been negatively impacted by the implementation of Statutory Instrument 455, our experienced Abuse team are here to help. For a confidential discussion, please contact the Ramsdens Abuse team on 0113 8871 834 or email natalie.marrison@ramsdens.co.uk.