A leading professor, whom the government had consistently relied upon for support, publicly withdrew this after meeting Carolyne.
A Bill was introduced into the UK Parliament in May 2016, which would have allowed councils in England to opt-out of their children’s social care statutory duties for up to six years. For those local authorities already struggling to meet their children’s social care obligations, the UK Government sought powers to compel them to do so. These clauses were intended to test whether individual duties could be removed from all local authorities in England. Eight decades of legal protections were put into jeopardy.
Article 39 and Carolyne Willow as its Director convened campaigners and charities to resist the changes. A joint letter was published in a national newspaper. Carolyne then gathered together and co-ordinated a disparate group of more than 50 organisations, from UNISON to Liberty, and many more individuals to established a coalition, ‘Together for Children’, to fight the clauses.
Carolyne received support through a campaign website and petition which attracted over 108,000 signatures. The House of Lords voted to delete the clauses with Peers accusing the government of subverting Parliament’s constitutional position. However, a revised set of clauses was voted into the Bill when it reached the Commons.
Carolyne and others prepared evidence for Parliament – of 47 submissions, only one supported the government. A leading professor, whom the government had consistently relied upon for support, publicly withdrew this after meeting Carolyne. Two weeks later, the then Education Secretary added her name to opposition amendments to delete the clauses altogether.
The campaign achieved its aims, in March 2017.
Article 39 continue to convene ‘Together for Children’ as a network of concerned organisations and experts to defend legal protections. From this, other campaigns have arisen – including the #ScrapSI445 campaign, where nearly 60 organisations and hundreds of care-experienced people, social workers and others working in the children’s social care sector have joined together to demand the withdrawal of a statutory instrument which removes and dilutes 65 safeguards for children in care. The government’s actions are also subject to a legal challenge from Article 39.
Having clear goals, shared values and an ability to communicate complex information succinctly have all been critically important to date. Above all, fantastic collaboration, relationship-building and collective perseverance through difficult and sometimes painful setbacks is key.
Who else was involved?
There are countless others to credit for Together for Children and offshoot campaigns, including Ann Haigh, Anna Gupta, Ben Twomey, Brid Featherstone, David Graham, Delma Hughes, Gill Archer, Ian Dickson, Jacki Rothwell, Jane Tunstill, Jenny Molloy, John Radoux, John Simmonds, Jonathan Stanley, Joy Bradley, June Thoburn, Kady Murphy, Karen Goodman, Kathy Evans, Lynn Brady, Mark Kerr, Martha Cover, Mohamed Mohamed, Nushra Mansuri, Pete Bentley, Ray Jones, Sam Turner, Sara Ogilvie and Sue White.
Credit must also be given to all the organisations who have stood together in calling for the withdrawal of Statutory Instrument 445 (as well as Article 39): The 4Front Project; Association of Independent Visitors and Consultants to Children’s Services; Association of Professors of Social Work; Become; British Association of Social Workers England; The Care Experienced Conference; The Care Leavers’ Association; Centre for Justice Innovation; The Centre for Outcomes of Care; Centre for Welfare Reform; Children England; Children’s Rights Alliance for England; Coram; Coram Voice; Child Rights International Network (CRIN); ECPAT UK; Howard League for Penal Reform; Hull Homeless Community Project; Include Me TOO; INQUEST; Jamma Umoja Residential Family Centres; Just for Kids Law; Kinship Carers UK; Legal Action for Women, co-ordinators of Support Not Separation Coalition; Liberty; Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit; Mind; National Association for Youth Justice; Nagalro, the Professional Association for Children’s Guardians, Family Court Advisers and Independent Social Workers; National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers; Napo Family Court Section; National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care; National IRO Managers Partnership; NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service); Nest Support and Care Ltd; Oasis Project; Picturepath; Play Connects; Refugee Council; Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP; Safe Ground; Siblings Together; Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, network of single mothers; Social Pedagogy Professional Association; Social Work Action Network; Social Workers Union; Social Workers Without Borders (SWWB); SPACE (Stop & Prevent Adolescent Criminal Exploitation); Special Guardians & Adopters Together; Standing Committee for Youth Justice; Together for Migrant Children; Together Trust; UNISON; VoiceAbility; Young Lives Foundation; Young Roots; Youth Access; Youth Legal & Resource Centre; and Youth Practitioners’ Association.