In a society where numerous laws are created to protect people from one another, it is perhaps not a surprise that there will be some people who see certain laws as restrictive and preventing us from finding new ways of working. As an innovative nation there will always be times when we need to reconsider the best practice of last year and consider if a more radical way can be found to achieve the best for our nation. I am a big fan of innovation and as a general rule believe we need to consider new ways of working if we are to achieve the best outcomes for all on earth. Only yesterday a friend posted on twitter how he believes I “Thinks and works outside the box”. However if the relaxation of such laws puts people at risk who are otherwise in no position to protect themselves, then any innovation needs to be exercised in ways that does not threaten the safety net, designed to protect the most vulnerable.
Isabelle Trowler is the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, a role she was appointed to in September 2013. According to her Government biography:
“Since qualifying as a social worker in 1996, Isabelle has worked within the voluntary and statutory sectors both in education and social care settings, and in a variety of practice and leadership roles. Previously, Isabelle worked as the Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care in Hackney and later as Director of Morning Lane Associates. She co-founded a new model of delivering child and family social work in the UK called ‘Reclaiming Social Work’ and more commonly referred to as the ‘Hackney model’.”
She has recently spoken out in favour of a piece of legislation going through Parliament known as the Children and Social Work Bill. One of its elements is to enable local councils “to test different ways of working” within children’s services by exempting them from “requirements imposed by children’s social care legislation”. I personally believe Isabelle is wrong, that legislation that protects children, no matter how cumbersome should not be removed until we have something much better to put in its place. However she made a statement intended for those who work in the area of children’s social care
“Contrary to the media headlines, this is not some kind of sinister political plot to overthrow public authorities or a ruse to wipe out decades of children’s rights. Those of you who feel a little lukewarm about this part of the bill might want to warm up a bit, otherwise we may thwart unintentionally, great plans and ideas that your colleagues have about the need to free up this complex and resource-stretched system.”
I believe that we need people able to think out of the box when it comes to all manner of things relating to the impact of the state on our communities. However the problem with this piece of legislation is that once the exemptions are made available, people like Isabelle may not be around when someone takes exception to some element that is actually vital in saving the life or improving the life chances of children who are living on the edge of our society. Our recent history contains far too many examples of situations where children have been harmed despite the various agencies being aware of their vulnerabilities. If we are to remove statutory requirements, then this cannot happen in a relaxed and informal way. I have added my name to a list of people and organisations who oppose this element of the new bill, and I hope that long before the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, that this aspect is removed or dramatically changed. The organisations and names are on this website under the title Together for Children. You might wish to do the same.