IF THIS WERE MY CHILD…A COUNCILLOR'S GUIDE TO BEING A GOOD CORPORATE PARENT.
In 2003 the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) brought out the above guide for city/county councillors explaining their legal responsibilities towards children in the care system.
The document was prepared in conjunction with the then Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and backed by Margaret Hodge MBE, Minister for Children, Young People and Families. It was then buried in a hard to reach place of a Government website. One of our IT professionals only managed to obtain the information after navigating umpteen confusing links.
It is a matter of fact that many councillors are quite unaware of their statutory responsibility towards children in the care of their Local Authority, and as the Government don't seem particularly moved to inform them this blog has taken up the challenge.
Part 1 of the information pack explains that some 93,000 children are taken into care every year in the UK (Government Figures). 4500 of whom are farmed out for adoption (Our Figures). The LGiU go on to explain that - "Looked after children are not the sole responsibility of social services". This is correct.
When a court makes an Interim or Full Care Order, both the parents and the Local Authority are said to share parental responsibility. Any practitioner of Family Law can substantiate this. However this is not what the LGiU are talking about, for they continue - "The council as a whole is the corporate parent, and councillors have a key role in that."
According to the LGiU being a good corporate parent means: accepting responsibility for children in the council's care; making their needs a priority and seeking the same outcomes for these children as for their own.
This is not merely advice; it carries the force of law: - "The Children Act 1989 says health, housing and education should also help social services look after children in care."
And after weighing in by saying you councillors must help, the LGiU then proceed to detail just how. In part 2 they say - "As a corporate parent, you have a right and a duty to question your authority. Your council's scrutiny and executive functions and processes also offer you avenues through which to act."
The basic thrust of the guide is to say you councillors have the same responsibility towards children in care as you do your own. Don't leave it to social services. Investigate the welfare of Looked After Children for yourselves using internal procedures.
And while your at it, how about those 4500 who are farmed out for adoption every year? Do you realise that many of them have loving parents who are fighting tooth and nail to get them back but having their Article 8 Right to a Family Life trampled on by the courts?