This Week in Westminster – 12th February 2021
Parliament went into recess yesterday so MPs will have travelled back to their constituencies to spend a week…continuing to do everything virtually!
Kerri Prince, BASW UK Public Affairs Lead, provides an update from Westminster
Despite much of Parliamentary activity being virtual, this has not slowed down the legislative agenda. The Government are pushing ahead with their many consultations being of key interest to BASW and its members. We will submit a response to the Independent Human Rights Act Review, for which we held a joint session with the British Institute for Human Rights to upskill our knowledge ahead of writing our submission. In case you’ve missed it, other consultations going on are a review of the Mental Health Act, and the England Children’s Care Review for which BASW England Professional Officer Rebekah Pierre has written a fantastic piece on.
In Parliament, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill is in ‘ping pong’ stage and amendments are being made between the House of Lords and House of Commons. One of the most controversial parts of this Bill is how children can be used as ’spies’, with the Government putting forward an amendment to quieten opposition to children acting as Covert Human Intelligence Sources. The amendment means that a risk assessment must be carried out, that an appropriate adult will be present in all meetings in relation to authorisation, and that it is not reasonably foreseeable in the circumstances that any harm to the young person would be a result of the authorisation.
We are increasing our presence in Parliament, with Work and Pensions Select Committee Chair Stephen Timms MP using a BASW UK briefing on poverty in Parliament, and Baroness Donaghy in the House of Lords making similar points. Engaging with Parliamentarians is a significant part of securing our ability to influence politicians and decision-makers, and getting mentions in Parliament is sign that our efforts are working.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Work which we act as the Secretariat for is currently drawing up plans for its activity this year, with David Simmonds MP and Barbara Keeley MP elected as Co-Chairs a few weeks ago.
You may have been aware that the Government have released a Health and Social Care white paper which will transfer more powers to the Secretary of State by formally bringing together NHS England and NHS Improvement into a single legal organisation. In theory, this could make it easier to hold Government accountable on what happens in our health service. But some of the finer detail poses questions about the type of powers that the Secretary of State will have and how they will be used. For example, the Secretary of State will be able to make direct funding to social care providers in emergencies. There needs to be more clarity to define what an emergency is, whether this process will be transparent, and monitored to make sure it isn’t used a political sweetener.
It also needs to be made clear that this white paper does nothing to address the social care crisis that the sector is experiencing. Is reorganisation the priority right now when social care desperately needs a long-term strategy and funding? BASW Chief Executive Dr Ruth Allen will be giving her thoughts on the contents of the white paper and what this mean for social workers next week.
When this white paper turns into legislation that goes to Parliament, there will be plenty of opportunity for BASW to take part in that discussion and try to influence decision-makers.
It will be quiet next week, but Parliament will return on 22nd February with a General Debate on COVID-19.