In this blog, I don’t generally indulge in conspiracy theory. But it is difficult to see how the UK Government’s tenacious (some may say “irrational”) attachment to the controversial exemption clauses, just re-inserted into the Children and Social Work Bill, could be anything other than a hidden agenda.
The Government’s claim is that the clauses, which would allow ministers to exempt councils in England from some statutory duties for up to six years, are necessary to allow children’s services departments to dismantle bureaucracy and to experiment with new ways of working.
Anybody who thinks about it for just a moment can see that councils don’t need to be exempted from statute to get rid of red tape, most of which stems from custom and practice, not legislation.
Nor does the law need to be rolled back to permit experimentation and innovation. There are literally hundreds, nay thousands, of possible improvements to practice that could take place without a change in any legislation. Indeed, the Children’s Chief Social Worker herself, a fervent advocate of the exemption clauses, was recently reported as widely praising improvements which are said to have taken place in Hertfordshire, which she lauded as “incredible outcomes” and which she predicted might have a “profound” national impact. The county was, she averred, a “national treasure”.
Well, I don’t know what is going on in Hertfordshire (and I think I will await the formal evaluation before commenting) but if the Chief Social Worker thinks that it is so wonderful, then why on earth does she think it is necessary to start tampering with laws which most sensible people see as being necessary to ensure children’s rights? If they have managed to achieve the incredible in Hertfordshire without exemptions, then why not just commend that model to all and forget the dreaded clauses?