Tag Archives: duties

The plan to let councils opt out of child protection – are your children safe with the Tories?

"The Bill does not require any consultation with children, care leavers or families before the removal of legal duties" [politics.co.uk]

“The Bill does not require any consultation with children, care leavers or families before the removal of legal duties” [politics.co.uk]

No – they aren’t.

Here is just some of the evidence from an article on politics.co.uk – I urge you to read the full article as well.

In a recent House of Commons debate on social work reform, children’s minister Edward Timpson MP called for “a debate based on facts, not on unfounded propositions”. He was speaking about the clauses in the Children and Social Work Bill which, if passed, will permit individual councils to be excused from legal obligations to vulnerable children and care leavers.So let us focus on those facts. Here are seven for starters.

FACT 1: The government has plans to ‘academise’ children’s social care. In December 2015, the then prime minister, David Cameron MP, said six of the country’s best local authorities would be given “academy style freedoms” in children’s services. Clause 29 of the Children and Social Work Bill allows every council in England to ask to be excused from legal obligations. Clause 32 permits the secretary of state to remove duties from struggling children’s services, even when a council hasn’t asked for it.

FACT 2: Our country’s most vulnerable children and young people rely on social care duties for protection and support. Deregulation in social care involves exponentially more risk than in education.

FACT 3: There is no evidence that legal duties get in the way of innovation in children’s social care. Councils can already innovate.

FACT 4: Parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions will be weak. Parliament has very limited powers when it comes to statutory instruments (which is the form exemption orders will take).

FACT 5: There was no consultation before this Bill was introduced into Parliament. The Bill does not require any consultation with children, care leavers or families before the removal of legal duties.

FACT 6: The government is keen to create a ‘market’ for children’s services, but not to share its market-scoping report.

FACT 7: The government is ploughing ahead with ‘Takeover Trusts’ in children’s services without any evidence they work better for children. It states that the Bill will not lead to more profit-making in children’s social care services and has tabled an amendment to that effect. But there is no empirical evidence that children benefit from social care services moving away from local councils.

Source: The truth about plans to allow councils to opt out of child protection laws

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Conservatives: Exploiting hardworking people

140214intern

Exploitation: The logo on the cups says, “Conservatives – for the privileged few” – and the intern carrying them isn’t included.

“We’re all in it together” are we, George?

The Conservative Party represents “fairness”, “for hardworking people”, does it, David?

It seems not – if we are to judge the Conservative Party by its actions, rather than its words.

Yesterday a website focusing on graduate careers blew the full-time whistle on these deceptions, exposing how the Tories have been briefing MPs and candidates on ways to avoid paying the minimum wage by exploiting the perceived differences between volunteers, interns and paid employees.

The article on Graduate Fog said a memo circulated to Party members was advising them to start calling their unpaid interns ‘campaign volunteers’, in order to evade “potential hostile questioning” about exploitative business practices.

The Conservative Party has denied doing anything wrong by providing advice on ways its members may avoid paying the minimum wage.

It would have been better for the Party spokesperson to deny that Conservatives have been wrongly recruiting people as employees – under the umbrella title of ‘interns’ (which means nothing in UK law), while treating them – for payment purposes – as volunteers.

But that was impossible because it is exactly what has been happening – as the memo makes clear.

Look – here it is:

140214interns1

140214interns2

Graduate Fog kindly published it for us all to examine.

The part that blows the gaff is a “suggested template reply” for “hostile questioning” about the issue of “recruiting unpaid interns”.

Clearly, this is what Conservative chiefs want to avoid.

Clearly they would not have gone to the effort of circulating a memo if NOBODY was “recruiting unpaid interns”.

So there is a clear implication that some Conservative Party MPs and prospective Parliamentary candidates, in fact, have been “recruiting unpaid interns” – and illegally exploiting them by demanding that they carry out the duties of employees.

The tone is clear from the get-go: The Conservative Party is running scared.

Members are told that people working in an unpaid capacity are no longer to be described as ‘interns’ – they are ‘campaign volunteers’ from now on because, that way, there is no obligation to pay them.

Conservatives are advised not to pay anything at all to these ‘volunteers’ – even expenses – as this could lead to them being classed as ‘workers’ and establishing ‘mutuality of obligation’. This would be equivalent to payment for services rendered – and the ‘volunteer’ would therefore be classed as a ‘worker’, requiring payment for services rendered, at the minimum wage or higher.

From now on, the memo states, recruitment adverts should be “appropriately worded” – meaning there must be nothing resembling a “formal job description”. This means references to “work”, “worker”, “hours” of work, “tasks” the ‘Volunteer’ will be “expected” to perform, and “expenses” are all out.

Instead, Party members are advised to use words like “volunteering”, “volunteer”, “campaigning administration”, and “help” – and to describe functions carried out by the “volunteer” as “the kind of activities it would be great to get some help with”.

This advice would not be necessary if Conservative Party MPs and prospective Parliamentary candidates had not been illegally “recruiting unpaid interns”.

For the interns themselves, this should be terrific news: There can be no requirement for them to turn up to work, and no disciplinary measures may be taken against them if they don’t. They may come and go as they please and do not have to conform to any set working hours. Nor may they be expected to perform any specified duties.

If the Tories want people to do that kind of work, they can pay for it like everybody else.

… although the minimum wage probably won’t be enough.

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Coalition policy success: 80,000 children homeless for Christmas

shame

Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.

The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.

More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.

To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.

This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.

Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.

One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”

Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.

More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.

And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.

“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.

He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”

Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.

“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”

Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.

Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.

Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”

But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.

We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.

The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.

So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.