Conservatives pull motion to protect people in care at eleventh hour after concerns

County Hall, West Bridgford.
County Hall, West Bridgford.
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

A motion to make sure those who have experienced care are given additional protections has been pulled by Nottinghamshire County Council’s Conservative administration over fears it did not go far enough.

Terry Galloway, who campaigns for better rights for those who have lived in the care system, has been attempting to get councils across the country to adopt better protections.

Local authorities, including Independent-controlled Ashfield District Council, have been passing motions to make being care-experienced a ‘protected characteristic’ as a result of his work.

This means the council has a responsibility to ensure their lives are not impacted by their circumstances, with former looked-after children previously having trouble finding homes, jobs and opportunities later in life.

Mr Galloway has been attempting to get the County Council to pass a similar motion, but says the authority created one which is “toothless” and would not give people who are care-experienced protected status.

He feared the administration had been “playing party politics over lives of children in care” in trying to push a motion over the line before any other political party.

The motion was set for discussion on Thursday, November 24 at Full Council, but it was withdrawn on November 23.

Councillor Chris Barnfather, business manager for the Nottinghamshire County Council Conservative Group, said: “The motion was intended to enshrine the ethos of recognising that ‘care experienced people’ have and may continue to face significant barriers throughout their lives and that additional consideration should be offered to them, that their needs and indeed those of any vulnerable person, should be at the heart of all our decision making and that we should actively seek out their views when developing new policies.

“Despite no other political group at Nottinghamshire County Council having submitted a request to debate this matter, regrettably Mr Galloway does not feel that this motion goes far enough in its current form, without the wording including ‘support treating care experience as a protected characteristic in equality impact assessments’.

“Indeed, he has written to the council requesting that in the absence of this phraseology being included within the motion, that he would prefer that the administration withdraw their motion and not debate the matter at their meeting on 24th November 2022.

“Whilst the council fully understands the importance of the term ‘protected characteristic’ to Mr Galloway, the term itself is a statutory definition predicated upon an individual’s personal physical and/or emotional characteristics rather than their life experiences and having consulted with relevant government agencies do not feel that the term is appropriate in the circumstances as outlined.

“Therefore, in accordance with Mr Galloway’s stated wishes, we have taken the decision to withdraw the motion from the agenda.”

Following the decision by the Nottinghamshire Conservative Group to withdraw their own motion, Labour Group Leader Kate Foale added: “Having had confirmation this afternoon that the Conservative Group have withdrawn their own motion on care experienced people, following the publicly reported criticisms of its wording and lack of firm commitments, I believe the right decision has been made.

“I am a bit confused as to how the Conservatives got themselves into this situation.

“The motion referenced ‘seeking out and listening to’ care experienced people, but given the publicly reported criticisms their motion received from notable campaigners on the issue, it’s clear that they didn’t listen as well as they perhaps might have done in this instance.

“The Labour Group will bring an improved version of the motion back to Full Council in January with the vital areas which were missing, such as the acknowledgement of protected characteristics for care experienced people, included at the heart of the motion. I will also be meeting with care experienced people prior to ensure that it has their support.”

Mr Galloway says he was pleased the motion was withdrawn so it could be revised.

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