Inquiries by Local Authorities into representations

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:45 pm ar 21 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

The Children's Society is supportive in principle of the proposal in clause 111 to amend The Children Act to introduce time limits for the making of representations, however our support is conditional upon there being a number of exemptions which must be laid down in regulation. Children and young people have told us their views about this:

``There should be no time limit for young people who were in care''

``I couldn't complain when it happened, it was only later on I was able to say something''

Our practice and research with children in foster placements suggests they may not feel in a position to complain until they have left the placement. Equally complaints relating to pre and post adoption matters should be specifically included in the exemptions.

TCS supports in principle the proposal to amend The Children Act to provide for an informal resolution stage. In our experience children and young people want their concerns dealt with quickly and without resorting to a long investigation procedure. They want the matter to be considered, reviewed and discussed, and the situation to stop or change, or for someone else not to have to go through what they have been through. However in the context of safeguarding children and young people we are very concerned that the informal resolution stage is being progressed without any requirement for an independent element. In our view this could lead to children and young people not being heard; being ignored; and importantly having no confidence in the process.

``I want someone independent, like an advocate, right from the start''

``An advocate would, make sure they didn't talk me out of complaining''

TCS is very concerned that a statutory right to independent advocacy has not been included in this package of measures. Our practice suggests that the role of an advocate is crucial at the outset as children and young people have told us that at an early stage subtle pressure is sometimes put on them to accept situations even though they are not satisfied that the matter has been considered thoroughly and fairly. For those children and young people who have cognitive and or communication difficulties the complaints procedure is largely inaccessible without an advocate.

We believe it is essential that the informal stage is closely monitored, and that the requirements in relation to this should be set out in regulation. This should include ensuring that the 14 day time scale is kept to; that the nature of all complaints are logged together with their outcomes; that children and young people are asked about their view of the outcome and reasons for any withdrawal; and that further investigations are sought as appropriate even in those circumstances where a complaint has been withdrawn if the matter is of a serious nature.