MPs vote to reinstate controversial exemption powers to social work bill

The controversial ‘exemption’ clauses to the Children and Social Work Bill have been voted by MPs to be reinstated.

The measures were removed from the bill in November when the government suffered a defeat in the House of Lords. They have been the subject of fierce opposition from campaigners and give the education secretary powers to exempt councils from certain statutory duties for up to six years. If the bill passes, councils will not be able to request exemptions from specific sections of the Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004. These include:-

  • Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 – the duty to provide appropriate services to children in need.
  • Section 20 – the duty to provide accommodation for children who appear to require it.
  • Section 22 – the duty to safeguard and promote welfare of looked-after children.
  • Section 47 – the duty to make enquiries and take action to safeguard or promote welfare of children at risk.
  • Section 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004 – the duty to make arrangements for promoting co-operation to improve wellbeing of children.

Furthermore, the amendments mean that local authorities will not be able to use exemptions to remove restrictions around contracting profit-making providers.

Despite opposition from Labour and shadow children’s minister Emma Lewell-Buck MP, MPs voted through an amended version of the proposals by 10 to 5.

A recent survey by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) found 76% of 1,000 social workers opposed the exemption clauses.

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