Wednesday 24 April 2024
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Councillors put politics aside to prevent discrimination against care leavers

Councillors from all three groups put their political differences to one side to push through a motion supporting people who started their lives in care.

Nottinghamshire County Council approved a motion aimed at giving protected characteristics to care leavers across the county.

This change, which is similar to protections for disabilities, race or sexual orientation, will prevent people who were in care from being discriminated against in later life.

The motion, proposed by the Independent Alliance, was almost rejected over concerns about its wording.

The political group had proposed introducing the protected characteristic “until as such time as it may be introduced by legislation”.

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But the ruling Conservatives said they could not support the motion with this wording over concerns about the move ever becoming part of national law.

In the full council meeting on Thursday (January 19), Councillor Ben Bradley (Con), the council’s leader, said he agreed with 95 per cent of the contents of the motion.

He said: “I hate to be the one to bring what is a very good and useful conversation back to a point of legal detail, but legal detail is nonetheless important.

“We work very hard to support our care leavers.

“The premise behind the motion that one day care experience will be a protected characteristic is sadly not right.

“Care experience is not by legal definition a protected characteristic.

“By adding care leaver to the Equality Act, you open up the whole range of life experiences to that legislation. You bring into the scope of that bill every experience under the sun.

“That’s the Government’s view and my view.”

The meeting was briefly adjourned while the Tories, Labour and the Independents worked together to amend the motion.

The lines about introducing the protected characteristic until “it may be introduced by legislation” were removed and the motion was eventually unanimously approved.

It came following campaigning from Terry Galloway, a Nottinghamshire man who experienced care in his youth and stayed in more than 100 different places.

He has called for greater action from local councils and has successfully helped Nottingham and Ashfield councils to approve similar motions, as well as others across the country.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I’m absolutely delighted. I didn’t think it was going to happen because the administration indicated it wasn’t going to vote for it.

“It went on and they found a way through.

“I’m just so grateful to the Ashfield Independents, the Labour Group and the Conservative Party for seeing sense and voting this through.”

Cllr Daniel Williamson (Ind), who proposed the motion, praised Mr Galloway during the debate and gave him credit for bringing it forwards.

He said: “I’m very glad the administration has found a way and we’re able to come to an agreement and support this motion.

“People have given thanks to me, the three group leaders, but don’t thank us – we are a vehicle.

“The voice and the agency of this motion rest purely with Terry Galloway and, when this is all said and done, it’s all down to him.”

Speaking during the debate, Cllr Michelle Welsh (Lab), who represents Arnold South, said supporting the motion was the “right thing to do”.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we simply don’t do enough to protect children in care,” she added.

“To not support this, would quite frankly be unacceptable in my world and I would question anyone’s priorities for the children of Nottinghamshire if you don’t put your hand up and support this.”

By Andrew Topping and Anna Whittaker 

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