@HLChildrenAct – The House of Lords Select Committee on the Children and Families Act 2014 has today (9 Mar) launched its post-legislative scrutiny inquiry into the Children and Families Act 2014 and is inviting written evidence contributions.
The central question to the committee’s inquiry is whether the Children and Families Act 2014 has achieved its aim of improving the lives of children and families, particularly the most vulnerable children and young people in society.
Topics the committee is seeking evidence on include:
- To what extent has the Act improved the situation for the most vulnerable children, young people and families in England?
- Is the Act enabling faster, more secure and stable adoptions which are in the best interests of the child?
- What has been the effect of the repeal of the requirement to consider ethnicity, religion, race, culture and language in England when placing a child for adoption?
- Have the reforms to the family justice system succeeded in making the system faster, simpler and less adversarial?
- Has the Act achieved its goal of improving provision for children with special educational and disability needs and disabilities?
- Have the reforms to childcare agencies and childcare provision introduced by the Act improved the quality and availability of childcare?
- Does the Children’s Commissioner have the correct remit and powers?
- Are the systems of shared parental leave, statutory shared parental pay and flexible working functioning adequately?
The committee invites written contributions to its inquiry from people of all backgrounds, particularly from often unrepresented groups including children and young people, by Monday 25 April 2022.
Baroness Tyler of Enfield, Chair of the Children and Families Act 2014 Committee, said:
“ The Children and Families Act 2014 has a significant impact on the lives of a great number of children and families. It affects the education and care children and young people receive, it can determine how family separation takes place, how those in care navigate and exit the system and what support is given to families.
“ The role of our Committee will be to take a holistic and in-depth approach to scrutinising the Act, with a particular focus on the adoption and family justice elements. We will explore whether the Act has achieved its aim of improving the lives of children and families, particularly the most vulnerable children and young people in society, and how well it has been implemented.
“To ensure that the work of our Committee is effective, it is important we are informed by as diverse a range of perspectives and experiences as possible. We would encourage people from all backgrounds to contribute to our call for evidence, particularly groups which are often under-represented, including children and young people.”
The Children’s Commissioner confirms 124,000 so-called ‘ghost children’
In a shocking new report today (9 Mar), more than 124,000 children have been confirmed by the Children’s Commissioner to be disturbingly still severely absent from education in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic – more than double the number from the 60,000 absent before the pandemic.
The issue of severe absence was something the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) first unveiled in July 2021, in Kids Can’t Catch Up. In this report, we warned that things would get worse if the government did not provide bespoke support for severely absent students.
Unfortunately, these figures out today show that our worst fears have come true, the number of severely absent children has continued to grow even as schools tried to return to normal in Autumn 2021.
We are therefore repeating our recommendation that the Government appoint 2,000 attendance practitioners to remove the barriers to engagement for severely absent pupils and get these children back to school as a matter of urgency.
Alice Wilcock, Head of Education at the Centre of Social Justice, said:
“Whilst we’ve been warning this problem has been getting worse for many months now, we sincerely wanted to be wrong. We anticipated severe absence could rise still further beyond the 100,000 from the Autumn 2020 data, based on what we’ve been seeing on the ground through our Alliance network of frontline charities.
“Given the scale of the problem, without bespoke support from the appointment of a substantial number of attendance practitioners, we struggle to see a pathway for how these children are going to be returned to full-time education.
“These kids are some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the country, so it’s a moral imperative that the Government acts further and with much greater urgency.”
- These children are some of our most vulnerable. As our recent research showed, the rate of severe absence is 3.4 times higher for children eligible for free school meals and nearly 8 times higher for children with diagnosed social, emotional, and mental health difficulties.
- Our education system does not have a handle on the number of children who are severely absent. The new severe figures collected by the Children’s Commissioner are the best estimates of recent data. Only half of all local authorities were able to share any figures on severe absence.
- Official government figures for severe absence in Autumn 2021 will only be published in May 2022, this amounts to a five-month delay in data collection. In this time, many severely absent children may disappear from school altogether. We’re acting far too slowly if we want to get these children back into the classroom.
- Recent measures announced by the Government to tackle attendance are welcome, but they fail to go far enough to reach the 124,000 severely absent children who are absent more often than they’re present in school. We must go further and offer practical support to get children back into school.
- The practical steps that the Government has taken so far, such as appointing attendance advisors, do not match the scale of need schools are seeing. The Department for Education has appointed just five attendance advisors to offer advice to schools and local authorities on how to tackle tackling absences. They will only be able to offer advice to tens of schools even though research from the CSJ has found that nearly 800 schools have an entire class-worth of severely absent children.
- We need a robust, evidence-based approach to reengage children who have become severely absent. We are therefore calling on the Government to appoint 2,000 attendance practitioners to remove the barriers to engagement for severely absent pupils and get these children back to school.