Blog post by Cathy Ashley (Family Rights Group), Karen Broadhurst and Claire Mason (Centre for Child and Family Justice Research Lancaster University)
Drawing on the findings from our Nuffield Foundation funded project Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings, The Family Rights group, on behalf of the Your Family, Your Voice Alliance and the Alliance for Women and Girls at Risk (Agenda), mounted a concerted lobbying campaign to amend the Children and Social Work Bill so that “Local authorities must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide a counselling service and commission specialist therapeutic support for the parent or guardian” where their child had been permanently removed from their care. Briefings were drafted for parliamentarians which incorporated findings from our research as reported in our blog of 1st March 2017.
Following a first hearing in The House of Lords the campaign groups were forced to narrow their focus in order for the amendment to remain ‘in scope’. Thus the amendment proposed focussed on seeking support for parents who are themselves a looked after child or care leavers.
The amendment was tabled at report stage in the House of Commons by David Burrowes MP (Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate). It was supported by a cross-party group of MPs including the Labour front-bench and Liberal Democrat MPs.
Whilst not accepting the necessity of amending primary legislation Edward Timpson MP, the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, did express his sympathy for the objectives of the amendment and agreed to amend local authority statutory guidance on care planning to explicitly reflect the needs of parents in this situation. It is hoped that the Government will now hold a public consultation before issuing revised statutory guidance.
The Lancaster University research team will continue to work with Your Family, Your Voice Alliance who will persist with their campaign to secure therapeutic support and counselling for all parents who suffer the trauma of having a child removed from their care. Whilst this first attempt did not change primary legislation an important first post has been reached.
The project’s latest publication Birth Parents and the Collateral Consequences of Court-ordered Child Removal: Towards a Comprehensive Framework has just been published in International Journal of Law, Policy and Family.
The project’s final report will be launched by The Nuffield Foundation later this year.