Influencing the national agenda
This has been an action packed few weeks.
Family and friends care guidance
Following years of lobbying by Family Rights Group and the Kinship Care Alliance, the Government has now issued statutory local authority guidance on family and friends care. The guidance requires all local authorities to, no later than 30 September 2011, publish a policy setting out their approach towardspromoting and supporting the needs of children living with family and friends carers. Whilst the guidance is a step in the right direction, FRG will continue to campaign for a national support system that meets the needs of all children who are unable to live with their parents. Click here to read the guidance.
Munro review on Child protection
In our submission to the review FRG welcomed much of Munro's work to date but emphasises that protecting children must involve putting in place a support structure that enables families to be able to take responsibility for their children's safety, including:
- preventative steps and services to stop problems escalating into child protecting concerns; and
- assisting families to recognise and take ownership of the plans necessary to keep a child safe, in order to avoid unnecessary care proceedings.
Moreover, the recommendations of the Munro review need to be consistent and seamless with the recommendations of the Family Justice Review. Click here to read FRG's submission
Interim Family Justice Review
There is much that's positive in the interim review of family justice review which was published earlier this month, including proposals for specialist family judges. We are however very worried about:
- The proposal for reduced court scrutiny of care plans e.g. plans for sibling placements.
- The absence of concrete proposals to work with families pre care proceedings including the lack of emphasis on alternative dispute resolution to avert the need for such proceedings, similar to that being proposed for parents in private law proceedings.
Following our initial written and oral evidence to the Review last year, we will be drafting our response to the interim report by 1st May 2011. We welcome your views which you can make by posting on our facebook page or emailing Cathy Ashley (Chief Executive, Family Rights Group) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reform of legal aid
Both FRG and the Kinship Care Alliance have made submissions to Government in response to their consultation on reform of legal aid. We have expressed our
considerable concerns that the proposed limitation of the scope of public funding to exclude private law children's applications unless there is domestic violence present, does not appear to take account of the impact on family and friends carers who are applying for a legal order to take on the care of children who are at risk of harm and often on the edge of care. We have also written on behalf of the Kinship Care Alliance to Jonathan Djanogly MP, Minister at the Ministry of Justice requesting an urgent meeting. Click here to read FRG and the KCA's submissions.
Please also do contact your MP to highlight these concerns.
Welfare Reform Bill
Family Rights Group and Grandparents Plus has been working with members of the Kinship Care Alliance to brief MPs and to draft amendments to exempt family and friends carers from the requirement to seek work if they are raising a child who is 5 years or over and also from the welfare benefits cap. We are emphasising that the impact of the Bill, as currently drafted, could be to make it financially impossible for some relatives to come forward to raise children who would otherwise be in care. We had a productive meeting with Priti Patel MP and will continue to press these points. Again please do contact your MP to raise this issue– if you would like to read more click here.