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MPs who are act as Ministers or Shadow Ministers are generally restricted from performing Commons initiatives other than Urgent Questions.
Lord Laming has not been granted any Urgent Questions
Lord Laming has not been granted any Adjournment Debates
Lord Laming has not introduced any legislation before Parliament
Lord Laming has not co-sponsored any Bills in the current parliamentary sitting
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a market study in March 2021 exploring the lack of availability and increasing costs in children’s social care provision, including children’s homes, and fostering. It examines concerns around high prices paid by local authorities and inadequate supply of appropriate placements for children. The interim report was published on 22 October 2021 and noted that some relevant parties had expressed concerns around the level of profits made by large private sector providers of children’s homes. It considers the profit levels to be a symptom of the underlying problem of insufficient supply of appropriate places and the difficulties local authorities have in engaging effectively in this market.
The full report, including any recommendations, will be published by the 11 March 2022.
In addition to the CMA market study, the independent children’s social care review is taking a fundamental look at the needs, experiences, and outcomes of those supported by children’s social care, and what is needed to make a real difference. The review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform systems and services, with the aim of better supporting, protecting, and improving the outcomes of vulnerable children and young people.
The government will respond to both sets of recommendations after the respective reviews have concluded.
The interim report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is welcome but we are not waiting for the final report before acting. Every child in care deserves to live in accommodation that meets their needs and keeps them safe. Councils are responsible for providing suitable, safe accommodation for vulnerable children in their care. As part of the Spending Review, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced investment of £259 million to help them meet this duty, by increasing the number of places in open and secure children’s homes. This builds on work that has already started to maintain capacity and expand provision in existing secure children’s homes, alongside new capital funding to help councils create new homes. We have also consulted on national minimum standards for any unregulated provision accommodating 16 or 17 year olds
The government is also undertaking a widescale review of children’s social care, taking a fundamental look at the needs, experiences, and outcomes of the children it supports, and what is needed to make a real difference. The review will be bold, broad, and independently led, taking a fundamental look across children’s social care, with the aim of better supporting, protecting and improving the outcomes of vulnerable children and young people. The review will be evidenced based and bring together a broad range of expertise.
The department is engaging with the CMA and the independent review of social care, and will respond to both sets of recommendations when available.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a market study in March 2021 examining the lack of availability and increasing costs in children’s social care provision, including children’s homes and fostering. The CMA will examine concerns around high prices paid by local authorities and inadequate supply of appropriate placements for children. Its interim report was published on 22 October and its full report, including any recommendations, will be published by 11 March 2022.
The department welcomes the findings from the CMA’s interim report but will wait for the final report and recommendations before setting out our response.
The government is clear that children in care and care leavers deserve places to live that meet their needs and keep them safe, and local authorities have statutory duties to ensure this. It is unacceptable for any child to be placed in a setting that does not do this, for any amount of time.
The government has consulted on reforms to the use of unregulated independent and semi-independent provision. This includes banning the placement of children under the age of 16 being placed in these settings. Children of this age need care and should be placed in a children’s home or foster care. We are clear that independent and semi-independent provision can be the right option for older children, if it is high quality and meets their needs. We are, however, concerned that provision is not always as good as it should be, which is why we have consulted on new national standards regarding provision for 16 and 17 year olds.
If an unregistered children’s home – a setting that should be registered with Ofsted as a children’s home but is not – is operating, it is doing so illegally, and Ofsted has powers to prosecute these providers. We have consulted on giving Ofsted additional powers to take earlier enforcement action against illegal unregistered providers.
We will be responding to this consultation, and setting out our plans for next steps in due course.
Local authorities have statutory duties to ensure that care placements are made with consideration of the needs and risks of individual children. This extends to the use of unregulated provision. Local authorities must carry out checks on this provision to ensure that it meets the needs of children and keeps them safe. We are also aware that, due to capacity issues, some local authorities have found it difficult to locate suitable placements for children with the most complex needs. As my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced on 25 November 2020, the government will provide £24 million in 2021-22 to start a new programme to maintain capacity and expand provision in secure children’s homes. This will provide high-quality, safe homes for some of our most vulnerable children and will mean children can live closer to their families and support networks, in settings that meet their needs.
The multi-agency statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) makes explicit the legal requirements and expectations on individuals, agencies and organisations to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It sets out that, as well as threats from within their families, children may be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation from outside their families. Assessments of children in such cases, who are referred to local authority children’s social care, should consider whether wider environmental factors are present in a child’s life, and are a threat to their safety. This should be considered when determining what support and accommodation should be provided. The guidance specifically highlights the risks to children of child sexual exploitation, and from exploitation by criminal gangs such as county lines.
the government is providing councils with an additional £1 billion for adult and children's social care in every year of this parliament. This is on top of the continuation of the £410 million social care grant next year. Funding for children’s social care is not ringfenced, allowing councils to spend based on local need and priorities, including on family support and preventative services.
This government has also made a commitment to continuing and improving the Troubled Families Programme. £165 million has already been made available for the Programme to be extended in 2020-21. This will ensure that more families get access to the vital early support they need to overcome complex problems such as anti-social behaviour, mental health issues and domestic abuse.
Conducting a strip search is an operational matter for the police. Strip search is one of the most intrusive powers available to the police and its use should not be a routine occurrence.
Any use of strip search should be carried out in accordance with the law and with full regard for the dignity and welfare of the individual being searched – particularly if the individual being searched is a child. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Codes of Practice govern how the police should deploy this power.
If the police judge it operationally necessary to strip search a child, this must be carried out by officers of the same sex, in private and with an appropriate adult present unless both the child and the appropriate adult agree otherwise and in line with safeguarding procedures.
During the pandemic our priority has been to protect children in custody and the staff who support them. While the measures we have put in place have been successful in doing this, they have also necessarily, but regrettably, resulted in more limited regimes for young people, who now spend on average around five hours out of room each day in our under 18 Young Offender Institutions (YOIs).
Following the national restrictions announced in January, we have been able to maintain ‘face to face’ education and social visits in the youth estate (to take place virtually where possible). Average daily time out of room for children in YOIs has been largely increasing month on month since July and as of April, the daily average figure was the highest since March 2020, the start of the pandemic.
We have continued to support regular phone calls with additional free phone credit and access to video calls to help children keep in touch with their families. We have also continued ‘SECURE STAIRS’ - a trauma-informed framework of integrated care jointly led by the NHS and the Youth Custody Service (YCS). This provides the foundations as to how the YCS works with children and has adapted its approach to meet the needs of children at this time. We have regularly communicated with staff and children to ensure they are aware and understand the reasoning as to why such measures have had to occur, with HM Inspectorate of Prisons acknowledging positive communication from managers in their published scrutiny visit reports.
Given the uncertainty this period has presented, it has also been encouraging to see that levels of self-harm have fallen during the COVID-19 period, as reflected in latest published statistics (with the annualised rate of self-harming per 100 children and young people in the three months to December 2020 falling by 56% compared to the same period last year).
We are also carrying out work to ensure that lessons learned from the COVID-19 period are taken into account going forwards, and the YCS has commissioned a programme of research, in collaboration with academics, to evaluate and learn lessons from the impact and response to COVID-19 with the results used to further inform recovery planning.
This Government is clear that probation services must improve. Our reforms will build on the changes introduced by Transforming Rehabilitation, while addressing the challenges in the system. We are simplifying responsibilities for public, private and voluntary sector probation partners. This means the National Probation Service (NPS) delivering robust supervision of all offenders, the private sector continuing to drive innovation in sentence delivery, and greater voluntary sector involvement in rehabilitation. Our changes will allow each sector to play to its strengths, deliver more investment in skilled probation staff, and ensure stronger supervision and support for offenders.
We will set out further detail on the operating model for the future system shortly.