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Department withdraws ‘myth-busting’ guide to council duties to vulnerable children

The Department for Education has withdrawn a ‘myth-busting’ guide to council duties to vulnerable children and young people after a charity applied for judicial review, it has been reported.

Article 39 claimed that the document contained numerous inaccuracies and risked vulnerable children and care leavers losing vital support.

The charity said the guide advised local authorities that they were legally permitted to reduce and remove support from children in long-term foster care, children who run away or go missing from home or care, children who are remanded to custody and young people who have left care and are still living with their former foster carers. 

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said: “It’s deeply disappointing that the Children’s Minister didn’t respond to our serious concerns months ago but what matters is that the document has now been withdrawn and the risks to children and young people minimised. We are relieved and delighted that children’s rights have prevailed.

“There is of course the possibility that social workers and local authority managers have already used the guide and we hope that councils will quickly review and rectify any removal or reduction of support.”

Article 39 said the DfE had committed to notify local authorities and others that the document had been withdrawn.

The Department also confirmed that any plans to issue a similar document in the future would follow a consultation process that includes Article 39, relevant organisations and children and young people who may be directly affected.

Oliver Studdert, solicitor at Simpson Millar, representing Article 39, said:“It is absolutely right that this guide has been withdrawn. It is unfortunate that it has taken the issuing of court proceedings to achieve this, but it is reassuring that the Secretary of State has now acknowledged the concerns of Article 39 and other charities and experts concerning the removal of vital statutory safeguards for vulnerable children and care leavers.”

Simpson Millar instructed Steve Broach and Khatija Hafesji from Monckton Chambers.

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