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Court of Appeal rules that Education Secretary acted unlawfully in removing safeguards for children in care

In a judgment given today (24 November), the Court of Appeal has unanimously declared that the Secretary of State for Education, @GavinWilliamson, acted unlawfully in failing to consult the Children’s Commissioner for England and other children’s rights organisations before making “substantial and wide-ranging” [79] changes to legal protections for England’s 78,000 children in care.

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, responding to the Court of Appeal ruling that the Education Secretary acted unlawfully in removing safeguards for children in care at the start of the pandemic, said:

“We told the Education Secretary time and time again to consult properly on this dangerous and unnecessary attack on children’s rights, but unfortunately he did not listen.

“This ruling is further proof of Gavin Williamson’s staggering incompetence. He must now come to Parliament and apologise for acting unlawfully and letting down the most vulnerable children.”

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, today (Tuesday) delivered a speech, “A better care system”, setting out her vision for the future of children’s social care.

The speech looks ahead to the independent review of children’s social care which is expected to be announced shortly by the Government.

The Children’s Commissioner lobbied the main political parties to include a commitment to a review in their 2019 election manifestos.

Today’s speech makes the argument that while the current system does protect and provide stability to many of the children who enter it, it is also failing thousands of children. The Children’s Commissioner warns that without significant reform and investment more and more children will fall through the gaps in the system, putting them at risk of exploitation and disadvantage.

The speech makes a number of proposals for ensuring the care review delivers lasting change for children in care.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“We want every child in care  to grow up in safety to be healthy, thriving adults. The Education Secretary has been clear that no child should be denied the opportunity for a loving, stable family life, or be ‘bounced around’ the care system in accommodation that does not meet their needs.

“We are supporting councils to meet the increasing challenges they face as a result of the pandemic and we are placing social workers into school to help teachers notice the signs of abuse of neglect more quickly. But we are also addressing underperformance where it exists, and our bold, broad and independently-led Care Review will support improvements to children’s social care.”

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