Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A High number of care applications for children ~ Universal Credit ~ Working Together

The number of care applications for children continues to be high.  Local Government Lawyer highlights the numbers: 998 in February 2013; 925 in March and 11,055 in a 12 month period. The article does not look at the reasons for this.  No doubt, the current economic climate is playing a part and support for families in difficulty is becoming thin on the ground as reductions to local authority budgets bite ever deeper.   In many families where children are considered to be at risk of 'significant harm' (Children Act 1989 s31) there are adults with drink or drug dependency and with lack of basic skills such as budgeting income.  The system of benefits is being reformed and, in Greater Manchester, we are seeing the beginnings of 'Universal Credit' - (Dept. of Work and Pensions).  I wonder what impact this will have on children?  Will the receipt of a single payment be just that bit too tempting for some parents?

There is
an Evaluation Framework for Universal Credit and it will be interesting to see how this is implemented.  The information 'on the ground' is that local authorities seem to know very little about just how the DWP will evaluate the changes and whether there will be information sharing between DWP and local authorities.  Universal Credit will go live nationally in October 2013.  Universal Credit will replace income-related JSA, income-related ESA, Income Support (including SMI), Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

The UK Human Rights blog has drawn attention to the March 2013 edition of 'Working Together to Safeguard Children' - see Human Rights have disappeared from Working Together.   The March 2013 guidance is here and the 2010 guidance is here.  The absence of guidance on applying convention rights is to be deplored and devalues the document but it remains unlawful for public bodies to operate incompatibly with convention rights - Human Rights Act 1998 s.6.

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