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Children and Families Bill a ‘Missed Opportunity’

The Labour Member of Parliament for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham MP, told the House of Commons that the Government should think again about some of its key reforms to children and families policy if it is to deliver the reform that is needed.

In a speech during the Second Reading Debate of the Government’s new Children and Families Bill, Alex also criticised the Government to scrap School Action and School Action Plus which were designed to help children with limited Special Educational Needs.  The Government proposes a single SEN stage which will exclude many children from the extra help they need.

Whilst accepting there were some good changes proposed in the Bill, he said it had a long way to go. It currently fails to provide a national framework of minimum standards for local offers, arguing that a greater degree of guidance from the Government would improve accountability and set higher standards for local councils to fulfil their obligations to children under the new system.

Alex pointed out that parents who have children with SEN are concerned that current problems will not be solved without a single point of accountability for parents seeking redress.

Alex said:

“This bill is a mixed bag and a missed opportunity. While some things are welcome, like the strengthened Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the some elements of adoption reform, it misses key opportunities to strengthen the institutions that vulnerable children and families rely on.

“This Bill is notable less by what is in it and more by what is not. It is a Bill about vulnerable children and families, but it says nothing about the problems facing young carers, trafficked and migrant children, and children who have been abused and ill-treated. I hope the Government will work with campaign groups and the Labour Party during the Committee stage of the Bill and bring the change that children and families in Stockton need.”