There have been 74 exchanges involving Nadhim Zahawi and the Department for Education
|Tue 23rd July 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (325 words)|
|Tue 16th July 2019||Early Years Family Support||3 interactions (1,950 words)|
|Mon 8th July 2019||Higher Technical Education Reform||25 interactions (2,098 words)|
|Tue 2nd July 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (255 words)|
|Thu 27th June 2019||Children’s Future Food Report||9 interactions (1,812 words)|
|Mon 24th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||46 interactions (1,157 words)|
|Mon 17th June 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (186 words)|
|Wed 12th June 2019||Inequality and Social Mobility||16 interactions (1,943 words)|
|Mon 10th June 2019||Murders in Northamptonshire: Serious Case Reviews (Urgent Question)||28 interactions (1,940 words)|
|Wed 8th May 2019||Children’s Future Food Inquiry (Westminster Hall)||10 interactions (1,624 words)|
|Mon 29th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||41 interactions (560 words)|
|Thu 25th April 2019||Children and Young People: Restrictive Intervention||3 interactions (1,348 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||Children’s Social Care Services: Stoke-on-Trent (Westminster Hall)||2 interactions (1,369 words)|
|Thu 21st March 2019||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||4 interactions (144 words)|
|Tue 19th March 2019||Children Act 1989: Local Authority Responsibilities||2 interactions (1,326 words)|
|Mon 11th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||27 interactions (632 words)|
|Wed 6th March 2019||Special Educational Needs: Wiltshire||2 interactions (1,409 words)|
|Tue 5th February 2019||Children’s Social Care: Rotherham||4 interactions (1,795 words)|
|Mon 4th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||28 interactions (587 words)|
|Thu 31st January 2019||Maintained Nursery Schools||13 interactions (2,003 words)|
|Tue 22nd January 2019||Pupil Referral Units||7 interactions (1,631 words)|
|Thu 17th January 2019||Children’s Social Care||7 interactions (1,763 words)|
|Wed 9th January 2019||Social Mobility: North-west (Westminster Hall)||8 interactions (1,689 words)|
|Mon 17th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||32 interactions (678 words)|
|Tue 4th December 2018||Out-of-area Education: Cared-for Children (Westminster Hall)||14 interactions (1,825 words)|
|Mon 12th November 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||23 interactions (382 words)|
|Tue 6th November 2018||Holiday Hunger Schemes (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (2,154 words)|
|Tue 16th October 2018||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (162 words)|
|Wed 10th October 2018||Nursery Sector: Sustainability (Westminster Hall)||17 interactions (2,798 words)|
|Thu 13th September 2018||Deaf Children’s Services (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (2,033 words)|
|Mon 10th September 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||42 interactions (968 words)|
|Thu 6th September 2018||Children in Need: Adulthood (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (1,689 words)|
|Wed 5th September 2018||Care Crisis Review (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (2,126 words)|
|Tue 24th July 2018||Family Hubs (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (1,649 words)|
|Thu 12th July 2018||Forced Adoption in the UK||9 interactions (1,234 words)|
|Wed 4th July 2018||Speech, Language and Communication Support for Children (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (2,412 words)|
|Mon 25th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||58 interactions (1,188 words)|
|Tue 12th June 2018||Care of Prisoners’ Children (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (1,787 words)|
|Mon 14th May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||47 interactions (802 words)|
|Wed 9th May 2018||Support for Deaf Children: South Gloucestershire (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (1,655 words)|
|Tue 8th May 2018||Children Missing from Care Homes (Westminster Hall)||2 interactions (1,539 words)|
|Wed 18th April 2018||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||6 interactions (234 words)|
|Mon 19th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||55 interactions (871 words)|
|Wed 14th March 2018||Allergy Awareness in Schools (Westminster Hall)||4 interactions (1,162 words)|
|Tue 13th March 2018||Social Workers (Westminster Hall)||11 interactions (1,586 words)|
|Tue 20th February 2018||Education (Ministerial Corrections)||3 interactions (181 words)|
|Tue 6th February 2018||Autism: Educational Outcomes||8 interactions (2,112 words)|
|Tue 6th February 2018||Free School Meals/Pupil Premium: Eligibility (Westminster Hall)||18 interactions (1,529 words)|
|Mon 29th January 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||55 interactions (718 words)|
|Fri 19th January 2018||School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill||14 interactions (1,244 words)|
|Tue 2nd February 2016||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (73 words)|
|Tue 2nd February 2016||Enterprise Bill [Lords]||11 interactions (1,142 words)|
|Wed 19th November 2014||Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill||2 interactions (212 words)|
|Mon 21st July 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (38 words)|
|Thu 26th June 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (56 words)|
|Mon 9th June 2014||Birmingham Schools||3 interactions (57 words)|
|Mon 24th March 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (73 words)|
|Thu 6th March 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (94 words)|
|Thu 8th November 2012||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (51 words)|
|Tue 11th September 2012||Higher and Further Education||18 interactions (40 words)|
|Wed 23rd November 2011||Economic Growth and Employment||20 interactions (122 words)|
|Thu 27th October 2011||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (72 words)|
|Tue 19th July 2011||School Funding Reform||3 interactions (33 words)|
|Thu 16th June 2011||Academies (Funding)||3 interactions (43 words)|
|Fri 13th May 2011||St George’s Day and St David’s Day Bill||34 interactions (2,128 words)|
|Thu 31st March 2011||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (64 words)|
|Mon 28th March 2011||Post-16 Education Funding||3 interactions (32 words)|
|Mon 21st March 2011||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (70 words)|
|Wed 2nd February 2011||Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Performance)||11 interactions (211 words)|
|Wed 19th January 2011||Education Maintenance Allowance||21 interactions (1,018 words)|
|Mon 18th October 2010||Education Policy||3 interactions (49 words)|
|Mon 5th July 2010||Education Funding||3 interactions (48 words)|
|Mon 21st June 2010||Free Schools Policy||3 interactions (33 words)|
|Wed 16th June 2010||Industry (Government Support)||17 interactions (1,278 words)|
It is a pleasure to respond to the debate on behalf of my party. I would like to thank the Backbench Business Committee and its Chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), for making time for this important debate, as well as the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) for their work. This is a serious and important debate. Now more than ever, we see that for some children, childhood hurts, with 2.3 million growing up with vulnerable backgrounds, including in families with the toxic trio of ACEs— domestic violence, addiction and mental health issues.
It has been a brilliant debate, with some fantastic contributions that were genuinely from the heart. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) talked about maintained nurseries. My good friend the Member for Manchester Central has shown great support and commitment to early years and always comes up with fantastic solutions to problems. Her Manchester example is exemplary. I thank her for her work on maintained nurseries—she has put fantastic pressure on the Minister—and the early years workforce academy.
The right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) focused on health visitors. She does brilliant work with the Women and Equalities Committee on shared parental leave, pregnancy discrimination and maternity discrimination. I will take this opportunity to make a plug for my “selfie leave” ten-minute rule Bill for the self-employed. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) has years of experience, and I was humbled by his contribution. He focused on adverse childhood experiences and called for joined-up solutions, which is exactly what we want. The scheme described by the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) was extraordinary, and I will definitely take it back to Batley and Spen. The numbers speak for themselves.
The hon. Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) talked about local examples and adoption support. As we heard from the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), fathers are often missed out. I am doing work on trying to get men into early years settings, so that fathers feel more comfortable taking their children into those settings and discussing parenting and so on. I apologise if I have missed any Member out.
We have had a fantastic debate. The contribution from the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire was exceptional. Her personal experience was very moving. I am sure that lots of people outside this building will find the fact that post-natal depression can happen to anyone very relevant, and I hope that it will encourage them to seek support. Today’s speeches show the determination and imagination that exists in this House to get the first 1,001 days of a baby’s life right, and we have heard about the extraordinary speed at which babies’ brains develop.
I would like to speak to the two Select Committee reports cited in the motion and then move on to explore some of the options available to us. The first is the report of the Science and Technology Committee called “Evidence-based early years intervention”. I was very interested in the report at the time of its release, and it was a privilege and pleasure to enjoy a thorough debate on the report in Westminster Hall in March. The right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) spoke with a great deal of wisdom in that debate. He had hoped to speak today, and his contribution is missed.
It is clear that there is cross-party consensus on the need for a data and outcomes-driven national strategy for early intervention. No matter how good the work that has been done by local authorities, that best practice should be spread across our country, and with technology, that should be easier than ever before. I share the disappointment that this key recommendation has not been accepted by the Government.
From reading the report, it is clear to me how important it is to share information. The fact that there has never been a tragedy in early life because too much information was shared speaks for itself. Unfortunately, we have seen how dangerous not sharing information can be. Much of this is because different agencies use different computer systems and different data handlers. We need a far better understanding of the principle of the Caldicott rules, sharing information when it is in someone’s best interests.
I now turn to the Health and Social Care Committee report on the “First 1000 days of life”, which is truly a fantastic report. It comes at a pivotal time for children, when, according to Action for Children and YouGov, two thirds of parents and grandparents believe, for the first time ever, that their children and grandchildren will have a worse life than they have had. There are children—so many—who are just not getting the best start in life. At the age of two, there is a six-month developmental gap between higher and lower-income families, with one in 18 two to four-year-olds experiencing mental health issues. When I read this report, not only did I think some of the recommendations were absolutely excellent, but it highlighted for me how many gaps there are in what we currently provide.
First and foremost, I pay tribute to the recommendations in the report, including that the Government should consider the needs of vulnerable families in all policies. This is an absolutely brilliant step forward if we can make that work. It is important for children and health, and it will also send a strong message about social mobility and social justice. I was really encouraged to see the work of the Better Start projects. I have been lucky enough to get to know the work of Better Start in Bradford and the way it works across the local area, with a focus on health and education, which is really encouraging. In fact, I was really lucky to join it for Baby Week last November. That weeklong celebration of babies was informative and enjoyable; I got to squeeze lots of babies, which is always a good bit of my job. I would like to applaud the National Lottery Community Fund for its vision in creating this programme.
As a last point on this report, I want to touch on health visits. The report recommends five mandated visits and an additional visit when the child is aged between three and three and a half. Visits are so important for the health of a child, but they also help professionals understand the home environment of the child so that they can identify children at risk and respond to their complex needs.
If we discuss the first 1,001 days of a child’s life, we must discuss Sure Starts and children’s centres. A number of interventions have pointed to the loss of Sure Starts and how they made a difference. We know these centres can be transformative—a place for help and advice when parents need them—but, more than that, they support parents in building a loving and nurturing environment for their children, as well as in building attachment and an opportunity for the caring and safe home that is so integral to much of what we are speaking about today.
Let me say, very briefly, that I was lucky to visit Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Newham, where the focus is very much on the attachment theory. It has one worker who stays with a child, goes to their home and supports them throughout their experience in the nursery. I was told, statistically, about the children who will not settle. At the end of the first term, 1% of children leave maintained nurseries. However, there is not the focus on attachment in private nurseries, and often 12% of children leave those settings after the end of the first term because they have not settled. Attachment works, and we certainly see good practice in maintained nurseries.
Centres help with supporting children to become school-ready—whether through direct learning in the centre, or via the centre supporting parents to read to and to teach their children. This work is needed now more than ever, as just 57% of children from poorer backgrounds are school-ready by the age of five, by comparison to 74% of their wealthier peers. This just does not feel good enough, especially when we consider the frightening rate at which Sure Starts and children’s centres have disappeared from our communities.
As we have spoken about data, it is important to say that although the Government’s own figures show that hundreds of Sure Starts have gone, analysis I would call precise puts at roughly 1,200 the number of them closed since 2010, and certainly services have been hollowed out in the Sure Starts that are still standing.
Putting the number of centres aside for the time being, analysis provided by Action for Children shows a worrying trend in the usage of children’s centres. It says that local authority spending fell by £327 million between 2014-15 and 2017-18, which coincides with a decrease in the number of children using the centres. That figure fell by 400,000, or about 18%. There has been no reduction in demand for support or in the need for support, so there is clearly a gap between the centres and the ability of families to access them. If anything, the rise in the number of children growing up in poverty can only impact on the pressure on those services. I am sure that concerns us all across the House. If we discuss an inter-ministerial working group or seek consensus on the early years of life, we must accept the reality of the situation for children’s centres. It is often grave because of a lack of funding, and we must try to work towards a national strategy that ends the postcode lottery of provision.
One policy I want to talk about is the 15 hours of free childcare available to disadvantaged two-year-olds. The policy is there to help those children with their development and support them on their education path. We must applaud the direction of this policy, but I must ask the Minister—perhaps he will have an opportunity to answer when summing up—why it is that three in 10 of these children are still not accessing the care they are entitled to. Is he assured that the Department is using everything in its toolbox to make sure that eligible children are identified and that their parents made aware of the entitlement and encouraged to take up the place? We know the difference it makes. We have heard about that from Members across the House today.
It is worth noting that the Social Mobility Commission recommends extending the offer of 30 hours of free childcare to cover households where one parent is working eight hours a week, rather than the current system where they must work for at least 16 hours a week. In the interests of social justice, I would prefer for the policy to be universally available, but I hope that the Government look closely at that recommendation. Social mobility has remained “virtually stagnant” since 2014 and inequality exists “from birth to work”. Those are not my words, but the words of the Social Mobility Commission. I know we can do more to reach out to vulnerable children and their families.
In conclusion, of course we all want every single baby to have the best start in life and we accept that the challenges are great, but there is good work and innovation happening across our country. We have heard about it from many Members across the House. With initiatives such as Sure Start and children’s centres, the advanced knowledge we have about health outcomes and the support of Parliament, we should be able to strive for the very best. It will require determination and significant resource, but if the next Prime Minster wants to build a legacy, I hope that he pays attention to today’s debate and puts the first 1,001 days of a baby’s life at the heart of his agenda from day one in office. As we have discussed in many previous debates, if billions can be given to businesses and wealthy individuals then I know that every single Member who has spoken in this debate will want assurances that money will be set aside to rebuild services for our most vulnerable children.
It is fantastic to see you in your place for the final bit of the debate, Mr Speaker. I can paraphrase what it has been about as “all you need is love”, and I know that you would subscribe to that yourself. It has been an incredibly positive and optimistic debate.
The hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton)l and I have worked on this for years. Members throughout the House are determined to see every baby get the best possible start in life, and ultimately that is all about love. It is about attachment, about good early-years services, and about the Government working in a joined-up way. My hon. Friend the Minister has made huge strides in showing his personal commitment to progress in that regard, but I urge him, and the Government, to demonstrate that final commitment to getting the excellent work done by the inter-ministerial group over the line, so that we really do give every baby the best possible start in life.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House believes there is now overwhelming evidence of the importance of the first 1001 critical days of a new baby’s life in determining his or her lifelong physical and emotional wellbeing; notes the work of the Inter-Ministerial Group led by the Rt. hon. Member for South Northamptonshire, the Thirteenth Report of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, HC 1496, on First 1000 days of life and the Eleventh Report of the Science and Technology Committee, HC 506 on Evidence-based early years intervention; and calls on the Government to take strong and decisive action immediately to ensure that every baby gets the best start in life.
I thank the Minister for giving me advance sight of his statement following on from the media coverage today.
Last year, the Secretary of State made a speech at Battersea power station, which foreshadowed the Government’s announcement of this review today. Since 2010, Labour has said repeatedly that vocational and technical education must be put on an equal footing with academic routes to get the high-skilled workforce that we need. That imperative, given Brexit, has now accelerated, so we welcome the Government’s statement, but while we welcome the words, a lot of the details are still lacking. Will this be an entirely new suite of qualifications, or a rebadging of existing ones? Will the Minister confirm whether the Government are unveiling a plan to rebrand the existing qualifications rather than actually delivering meaningful policy change, and where do degree apprenticeships fit in with this?
The Department’s own policy paper acknowledges that Britain’s departure from the EU and the end of free movement may also accelerate demands for higher technical skills, so does the Minister agree that the reckless no-deal policies advocated by both candidates for his party’s leadership would damage our economy and create even greater skill shortages? Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, has said that
“we’re nervous that the focus on reforming qualifications … could divert attention from the post-18 review recommendations”,
which Mark Dawe at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has echoed. Can the Minister tell the sector which of these recommendations his Department will implement?
All year, Members from across the House have been telling the Department that FE funding has fallen to critical levels. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found it was £3 billion down in real terms between 2010 and 2017-18. Will the Minister commit urgently to a funding uplift to ensure those world-class colleges and providers can produce the skilled workforce we need? Is the Department proposing a national approval of qualifications, and will those qualifications be given additional funding?
The Minister talks about the role of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and of the Office for Students in his consultation, but with resources already stretched and concerns from the sector about delays in standard approvals and registration, how does the Minister envisage the IfA taking on this extra responsibility? What additional resources will be allocated to it? Will the IfA or the OfS be in the driving seat on delivery?
The Minister said that improving information, advice and guidance would be crucial to deliver the skills base we need, but how does the Department intend to do this with no extra resources available? This morning, the Secretary of State told The Guardian that he would be happy for his own son, aged nine, to take one of the new HTQs. Is it therefore not imperative that we start looking at and talking about information, advice and guidance in schools at a much earlier age—at just that sort of age—to spark inspiration and aspiration in technical careers?
What will be the status of the qualifications getting swept up in these changes? Will the Department ensure that qualifications are not just future-proofed but back-proofed? I ask because the Department tells us that mature students make up the majority of current higher technical students, and in 2015 over half of all HT students were studying on a part-time basis. Can we be clear that these qualifications will not be junked by the Government and employers if they have to retrain?
The Labour party has been developing our national education service and lifelong learning commission with the principle of progression at the heart of skills policy. To do that, we must have a proper feeder process for social mobility and social justice. This comes substantially through level 2 apprenticeships, but we have seen a 21% drop in them recently. How will the Department address that and get people to these higher-level qualifications? The Secretary of State says that students will move on from T-levels to a higher technical qualification, but can the Minister or the Secretary of State, who have failed so far to outline how students will transition from GCSEs to T-levels, tell us how students will move on from T-levels to HTQs?
A review of these qualifications is welcome but, given existing take-up failure with advanced learner loans, there is no guarantee it will be a game changer. How will the Government make it possible for institutions to get the staff they need to deliver more level 4 and level 5 qualifications? If T-levels are going to be a feeder into them, who is going to teach them: existing FE, school, college or training staff, recent providers, or perhaps graduates doing crash courses in T-level teaching?
This announcement will require a big infusion of money beyond the existing £500 million by 2022 and a whole new approach to prioritising continuous professional development for FE staff, which the Government have consistently ignored, will be needed. The Department’s policy paper says that providers struggle to recruit and retain staff, so when will the Department address the fact that FE lecturers and other staff have seen their pay fall by thousands of pounds a year in real terms since 2010 and are still being paid thousands of pounds less than their colleagues teaching in schools?
I thank my hon. Friend for his statement. I very much agree that we have to make sure that employers, families and those who might take these qualifications will understand that we are making the greatest advance perhaps not in the last 70 years—perhaps in the last 110 years, since people like William Garnett started getting technical colleges going all over the country.
I hope that we will avoid the mistakes that were made a few years ago in the recognition of training centres, where Worthing College and Northbrook College, which is now part of the Met, in my constituency were disqualified from recognition because some stupid question had a tick-box exercise where, if the right word was not included, the college was disqualified. In the same way, no college in Birmingham was approved. That had to be put right. We have to watch what the apparent invigilators are doing and make sure that they see common sense in all they do.
Lastly, my hon. Friend’s advisers ought to look at the words by Graham Hasting-Evans of the charity NOCN in FE Week today about the importance of making sure that the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has the capacity to do the job it is being asked to do.
The Minister acknowledged that take-up of higher technical qualifications is lower in this country compared with our international competitors. I commend him for the statement and its curriculum objectives, but would he acknowledge that the low take-up is not just a result of the curriculum but is about a deep-seated cultural resistance to young people going into technical education? It needs buy-in from parents, teachers and the careers service, and the capacity of further education to deliver. Will he undertake to ensure that those issues are addressed as well?
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. John Ruskin said that the value of learning is not in what one gains from it, but what one becomes by it. People, through the acquisition of practical accomplishments and skills, grow and add to the nation’s productivity. I simply say to the Minister these two things. First, the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Gordon Marsden) is right about the pathway from entry-level practical skills through to higher-level qualifications. Secondly, good existing qualifications such as the HND and BTEC must be valued, because they are well understood by employers, learners and providers alike. I hope that, in this review, we will not end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and we will take account of all the good work that is done in our FE sector.
I welcome the Government’s efforts on higher technical education and their attempt to provide different qualifications as alternatives to university education. Renaming this form of education is intended to assist employers to understand the qualification. However, it may cause greater confusion for employers, because naming them “technical” qualifications does not take into account the fact that some subjects studied at this level are in the creative arts and are not defined as technical. Has the Minister taken that into account?
I very much welcome the work that the Department is doing in this important area of education. Last Friday, I visited Midland Group Training Services—MGTS—in Redditch, which has just been awarded a contract from Morrisons to train all its food technology engineers across the country. That is a major coup for our area. Does the Minister agree that it is really important that technical education responds to digital and creative needs, which are ever changing? How will we meet that challenge in the future?
Following on from the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) about how we encourage more people to participate in technical education and obtain the qualifications, what specifically does the Minister think we need to do about the fact that we still do not have enough girls and women taking up technical subjects? We are missing a huge pool of very good people who could make a career in technical subjects.
Technical qualifications are absolutely vital, and I welcome the Government’s move down this road. In South Dorset, or Dorset as a whole, we need a centre of excellence in which these technical qualifications can be taught. Weymouth College, on which all the young in South Dorset and around rely, simply does not have the facilities. What we would like, please, is a new centre, and that costs £18 million.
May I draw the Minister’s attention to the final question asked by the shadow Minister, my fellow Fylde coast MP, which was about the challenges in the FE sector in recruiting and retaining staff? I know from my recent visit to Lancaster & Morecambe College that FE colleges are really struggling to compete with other potential employers, which are not just schools in our area, but higher education institutions. What will the Minister do on that, and how can he address these concerns of the FE sector, in which pay has been held back since 2010?
My hon. Friend will have seen the announcement last week by Jaguar Land Rover of a massive new investment in the Castle Bromwich branch near my constituency. It is a real vote of confidence in our nation, despite Brexit. However, JLR needs an enhanced skills base. Does he agree that raising awareness of any new qualifications is key, so that they are not just alphabet soup, and so that we break down barriers of prejudice about non-degree qualifications? No more targets—let us respect, as a society, technical qualifications.
I welcome the Minister’s clarification that there is no desire to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and that high-quality qualifications such as BTECs and HNDs, which have served generations of students well, have nothing to fear from this review; indeed, they may well do well from it. How will the Government ensure that this review builds on the good work that the Augar review did in recognising the need for growing capacity in further education if it is to deliver effectively for the future?
This morning, I was at General Electric’s transformer factory in Stafford. It is the only manufacturer of large-scale transformers in the UK, and clearly higher technical education and apprenticeships are vital for GE. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the situation for companies do not pay the apprenticeship levy because they are below the threshold? Those small and medium-sized enterprises are absolutely vital to our economy. Since the introduction of the levy, has there been greater uptake of apprenticeships among such companies?
I absolutely acknowledge the amazing work done by faith groups, but many other parts of civil society, such as charities and other community organisations, are also stepping in to alleviate child hunger that, frankly, should not exist in the first place.
One hungry child is one too many, but 2.5 million British children regularly go hungry. The Food Foundation report shames this Government, but it is also a wake-up call, and it must lead to action.
The Minister has quickly gone on to the important topic of having free water in schools, but was he also shocked about how poorer children—we do not know how many—lose entitlement if they are not in school on a given day, as the credit on their card for a free school meal is cancelled? I hope the National Audit Office will be looking at this issue; will he and the Department also do so?
On the Minister’s point about ensuring that schools deliver the healthy food required under standards set out in the school food plan, will the Minister ensure that Ofsted is suitably tooled up and equipped with the most knowledgeable staff, so that when they go into schools to do their inspection, no school will be rated as outstanding unless its food delivery and the food given to children is outstanding?
The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland has described the Scottish child payment, which was announced yesterday, as a
“game changer in the fight to end child poverty.”
Will the Minister think about whether he could bring in something similar to help with child poverty throughout the UK?
Before I make a request of the Minister, I wish, like others, to thank those Members who participated in the debate: the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth) and for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) and the Minister himself.
In this Chamber, in Westminster Hall and in Committee, we have been debating the evil of hunger among children in this country for seven whole years; we are still doing so. Under our system, we know that it is the Cabinet that has the power to do things. We conclude our debate today in the knowledge that all too many children will be hungry tonight and tomorrow morning. As we approach the school holidays, despite the efforts of many voluntary bodies and the Government, the number of hungry children will significantly increase. Will the Minister undertake to tell members of the Cabinet that the House of Commons knows that if we as a country wish to abolish hunger as we know it, the place where a decision will be made is the Cabinet, so will they act?
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the Children’s Future Food report.
May I first take a moment to congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on serving 10 years in the Chair? That is worthy of recognition.
Will the Minister give some indication of when the results of the consultation on the restraint of children will be published? The consultation closed in January 2018, having commenced in 2017. When is it going to happen?
When do the Government expect to announce a national free school dinner scheme for poorer children during the holidays, based on the successful pilots the Department has been running over the past two years?
I also congratulate you on 10 years, Mr Speaker. What is quite scary is that we have been here for four of them now.
On Friday I had the pleasure of meeting Hillhead High School S3. They are taking part in the “Send my Friend to School” campaign, which talks about the right of children all over the world to access education under the convention. What steps is the Department taking to work with the Department for International Development on ensuring that the right to education we enjoy in this country is accessed all around the world?
All I can say on your 10th anniversary, Mr Speaker, is that you do not look old enough.
Article 23 of the convention guarantees the right to education for children with disabilities, yet just this weekend we heard how that basic right has become a privilege, with parents forced to go to the courts to get support for their children. Years since the Prime Minister promised to tackle the burning injustices, and just weeks before she is due to leave office, they burn brighter than ever before. Can the Minister tell us when the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will stop haggling over our children’s future in the press and come back to this House with a statement announcing the funding they so desperately need?
Nursery schools in Chester are closing and parents are being charged for extras just so that the nursery schools can make ends meet. Will the Minister not accept that there are real problems with the funding of this programme, and will he agree to review it?
The cost of childcare is prohibitive for many families and can dissuade women from returning to the workplace, but those financial pressures are doubled and sometimes tripled for parents of multiples. What work is the Minister doing to assist those families to deal with the especial financial challenges of childcare provision for twins and triplets, particularly those families on middle incomes, who may not qualify for the child allowance or other benefits?
Mr Speaker, this is the limited edition Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” tie, which is very appropriate at this stage in our parliamentary life.
May I say to the Minister that I do not want statistics? The National Day Nurseries Association is based in my constituency and a Prime Minister many years ago prioritised “Education. Education. Education.” What he knows, and I know, is that early years stimulation is the most important priority of any Government, so why is early years care so expensive for young couples and young women in this country, and why has the Minister not done something about it?
Does my hon. Friend agree that this Government’s reforms, such as the 30 hours’ free childcare for three and four-year-olds, are helping more children to grow up to develop their full potential, regardless of their background?
On many occasions, the Minister has told us that what he really cares about is quality and sustainability. Will he explain how he is improving quality when the National Day Nurseries Association’s most recent data shows that 55% of childcare settings plan to spend less on training; that one in five settings are lowering the quality of food served to children to make ends meet; and that more than 40% of settings have cut back on learning resources? On sustainability, 17% of nurseries in deprived areas anticipate closure in the next year. How is that sustainable? Given that the Minister’s priorities are not being met, will he at least acknowledge that some nurseries are struggling and take action to ensure that deprived areas are not disproportionately affected?
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22. What steps he is taking to support children with special educational needs and disabilities in their education. 
A survey of headteachers in Croydon showed that 85% had been forced to cut special educational needs provision. We know that 50% of excluded kids have a special educational need, that a third of councils have no space left in their pupil referral units, and that not being in school is a particular risk factor for getting involved in criminal gangs. When will the Government wake up to this emergency and act? Actions have consequences.
The £1.2 billion shortfall in SEND funding means that children with an education, health and care plan may be refused a local place because schools cannot afford to provide the support that these children need. Does the Minister agree that all children, regardless of their disability, should have the support that they need to reach their potential?
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T6. Hounslow schools and families welcomed the reforms for children with special educational needs and disabilities in the Children and Families Act 2014, but as a result of those reforms, as well as the increase in the number of children in our schools, the number of children in the borough with education, health and care plans has doubled. The funding to ensure that children get the most from our excellent education services is not adequate, and there will be a £6 million shortfall in the high needs block next year. Will the Minister meet me, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) and Hounslow headteachers, to discuss the implications of the funding gap? 
Hook-with-Warsash primary school has 60 pupils in reception, but they have only one toilet between them. I think that you would consider that unacceptable, Mr Speaker, as do I. Will the Secretary of State look again at the school’s application—which has been rejected four times—and work with me to see how we can find some resources to provide what is a necessity, not a luxury?
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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker,
Since 2016, more than 10% of childcare settings in High Peak have closed and a large number of others have contacted me to say that they feel they are no longer financially sustainable. What will the Secretary of State be doing to speak to the Chancellor and make sure those childcare settings can see a way forward?
We have heard some really impressive speeches in this debate, including those from my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), for Leigh (Jo Platt), for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders). They were cracking speeches all, and I am so proud to be included in their number this afternoon.
In April, the Social Mobility Commission told us that social mobility had stagnated, and it is going to get worse without change. This was yet another wake-up call to a catatonic Government so consumed by the disaster of their Brexit that they cannot seem to do, frankly, anything.
Poverty and inequality in this country are dire. In the G7, only Trump’s America is more unequal. Last month, Human Rights Watch told the story of Allie from Hull, who was transferred on to universal credit when she 18, as she became pregnant. She had exceptionally severe morning sickness almost every day for months. She would call the jobcentre and throw up while on the phone, but she was still fined £60 a week from the money that she needed to live, for two whole months. After sanctions and bills, she had £10 left. She was stuck in the flat on her own, lonely, ashamed to go out and suffering from depression. At her time of need, our Government, by their actions, got her into debt with her rent, council tax and water. They left her with so little money that she would wake up hungry with nothing to eat in the House.
For Allie, there was no safety net; it had been cut away. Just think about it, because actually it is worse than that. She was 18 years old. Many of us would not consider that to be a fully grown adult in our own families. We would not want our 18-year-old child to be living on £10 left over each week, especially when they were pregnant. That £10 will not buy Allie or her baby the nutrition that they need. What will happen if Allie’s troubles do not end here—if, like 900,000 others, the only job that Allie can access while her baby is growing is one with zero hours? What if, like so many jobs, it has no security, no workplace training, no progression and simply not enough hours to keep her away from the food bank and out of debt? What impact will that have on the life chances of Allie and her child?
Some 4.5 million children are already in poverty, and 70% of them are in families where at least one parent is in work. The fact is that in-work poverty is rising faster than employment. When the Government are faced with damning research or analysis, whether from the UN, Human Rights Watch, think-tanks that are respected across the House or child poverty charities, they do not even bother to respond. We have had the Chancellor denying that there are 14 million children in poverty in this country, but that is what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says, it is what the Social Metrics Commission said and it is what the Government’s own statistics say. When it comes to poverty and inequality, frankly this Government are a bit like Millwall: “No one likes us, we don’t care!” When we talk about our children’s life chances, they should care.
Through all this, the Conservative party has had the gall to talk about opportunities. The Government cannot say that opportunities are increasing for children in my constituency: 50% of them live in poverty. They cannot say that opportunities are increasing when 120,000 children were homeless last Christmas. They cannot say that opportunities are increasing when Human Rights Watch states that their policies are “cruel and harmful”, or when they have been told that they are depriving children in this country of their simple right to food. As the UN rapporteur said last month, it is about the glue that holds our society together being
“deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos”.
It is simply shocking.
Hard work is essential—obviously—but there is no shortage of hard work in this country. On average, Britons work more hours a year than they did a decade ago, and for a lower real wage. Talent is essential, but there’s no shortage of that either. We all see it every time we visit a school. The truth is that we are able to create better lives when Governments invest. We need a Government who will focus on this agenda now, target the real divisions in our society and offer a joined-up strategy to tackle them. This Government cannot offer that vision, but Labour will.
We understand the simple truths. We do not want a grammar school society in which we get a better chance only if others get a worse one. That is not socially just. We do not want a society as horribly unequal as ours, where the richest 1,000 individuals have more wealth than the entire bottom 40% of the country. Since the 1970s, our country has become massively and increasingly unfair. The benefit of the little sustainable growth that there has been has gone to a narrow elite: the share of national income going to the top 1% has almost tripled since 1980.
Our economy does not work for the many. Huge efforts are needed to change that, but I really do not think that the Conservative party gets it. It will never ensure that the elite pay their fair share—it ain’t gonna bite the hand that feeds it—but Labour will make that commitment; it is who we are. That is why we will change the Social Mobility Commission, so that it investigates the fairness of our society across every policy area, from class inequality to regional inequality, and creates fair opportunities for all. We will match that by creating co-ordination on social justice across a Labour Government.
Cutting poverty and increasing life chances will be core goals. We will assess every policy to make sure that it plays a part in cutting child poverty and creating a fairer country. We will look at pay gaps, and at the responsibility on every part of government, from parish councils to Whitehall offices, to increase social justice. We will look at new ways of tackling class discrimination and all other forms of inequality—and we will not mark our own homework; our policies and statistics will be trustworthy because they will be checked from the outside.
A Labour Government will rebuild public trust in politics, and will rebuild the public services that give our children a fair starting point in life: social homes, public buses and trains, regional and national public banks to fuel hundreds of billions of pounds of investment, a national education service providing the skills that our economy needs, and a flourishing NHS. A Labour Government will work tirelessly to end child poverty. A Labour Government will be a Government for the many, not the few.
claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).
Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.
Question agreed to.
Main Question accordingly put and agreed to.
That this House notes the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies that the UK is second only to the US in terms of income inequality among the major world economies in Europe and North America, that the share of income going to the wealthiest one per cent of households has nearly tripled in the last four decades and that deaths from suicide and from drug and alcohol overdoses are rising among middle-aged people; further notes that 1.6 million food parcels were handed out by Trussell Trust food banks last year and that child poverty has increased by 500,000 since 2010; recognises that following the resignation of the entire Social Mobility Commission in November 2017 in protest against the Government’s inaction and a near year-long delay in appointing replacements, the new Commission has found that social mobility has stagnated for four years; considers that the Government’s programme of austerity has decimated social security and led to growing inequality of provision across education, health, social care and housing; further considers that the Government’s austerity programme has caused and continues to cause suffering to millions of people; and calls on the Government to end child poverty, to end the need for the use of food banks and to take urgent action to tackle rising inequality throughout the UK and increase investment in public services.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question on these horrific and tragic cases. I thank the Minister for his heartfelt response. I also thank the shadow Leader of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), for highlighting this issue to the Government during business questions last Thursday.
Last week, two serious case reviews were published in Northamptonshire on the deaths of these two toddlers. Both these very young children were systematically let down by the local authority, Northamptonshire County Council—an institution that was supposedly there to protect them. The reports examined the deaths of Dylan Tiffin-Brown, aged two, when he died of a cardiac failure after his father assaulted him in December 2017, and Evelyn-Rose Muggleton, aged one, when she died in hospital days after being assaulted by her mother’s partner in April 2018.
I hope that we will now see—I believe that we will—Ministers use everything in their power to ensure that this public institution does not fail children again and to prevent other tragedies from happening elsewhere.
I note that a serious case review into the death of a third child remains confidential. The review looked into the case of a boy from Northampton who was locked in a room, beaten and abused. The parents were jailed for neglect last month, with professionals describing it as the worst case of child cruelty that they had seen in 25 years.
The two published reviews highlight key misjudgements from staff about the level of danger posed by the men to the two children and failures to act on warnings that the children were at risk. Northamptonshire safeguarding children board said that there were “lost opportunities” leading up to the murders and that the two children’s safety was “seriously undermined” after the significance of the killers’ criminal past and history of domestic abuse was overlooked by agencies.
Dylan died aged two after sustaining 39 injuries to his face, neck, torso and limbs, including 15 rib fractures and lacerations to his liver. After a sustained beating at home by his father—a drug dealer from Northampton who was convicted for murder in October 2018—a post-mortem found cocaine, heroin and cannabis in the two-year-old’s body at the time of death. No social worker saw Dylan in the two months between his being discovered at his father’s home during a police drugs raid and his death at his father’s hands.
Evelyn-Rose, aged one, died three days after sustaining a traumatic brain injury from her mother’s partner. She had received multiple bruising and bleeding injuries, including damage to her spine and both eyes. Social care and health agencies that had been involved with the family had failed to recognise the neglect that was taking place. The safeguarding children board stated that two social workers had been allocated to the case, but that the case had started to
“drift, with little if any attention being paid to the children’s welfare”.
Sadly, Northamptonshire’s children’s services have been on the radar since the severe financial troubles at the county council overwhelmed the local authority. The county’s children’s services were said to have “substantially declined” when inspectors were called in during last October’s visit and that a “fundamental shift” in culture was required—something that the Minister acknowledges. Given that, can he assure the House that the financial problems at Northamptonshire are not further jeopardising or worsening the provision of children’s services across the county? If he finds that they are, what representations will he make to Ministers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to ensure that Northamptonshire has the resources it needs? Is he assured—
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. These are very serious matters. Is the Minister assured that the authority is able to finance improvements to children’s services both now and during the reorganisation, including the transfer to the trust that he mentioned, and to implement the improvements needed to put right these severe service failings? Lastly, will he intervene and ensure full transparency on the third serious case review, which remains unpublished? This matter is so severe and so serious that every opportunity must now be taken to act.
I thank the Minister and, indeed, the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), for the way they have treated this matter in the House today.
It is with great sadness and a sense of shock that I and others have read these serious case reviews. I have been here since 2010 and, unfortunately, throughout that time I have been raising concerns and cases with the local authority—Northampton’s children’s social services—that have caused me great concern. I am going to see Malcolm Newsam, whose appointment as the Government-appointed children’s commissioner I really do welcome, next week to discuss a number of current cases that I have. Throughout the various reviews and reports we have had on these issues, a serious lack of challenge and reporting has been highlighted in every single one. Can my hon. Friend explain to my constituents why these lessons have yet not been learned?
It is impossible not to be moved by these stories. As the saying goes, it takes a community not just to raise, but to protect a child. Surely, early intervention must also be at the heart of all these stories. In Oxfordshire, over 30 children’s centres used to exist; now there are just eight hubs, many of which are far too far away from the most deprived communities. Given how important these centres are and the fact that groups such as Abingdon Carousel have needed to raise funds from county and town councils to keep centres open for a very limited period, will the Minister robustly make the case in the upcoming spending review for why children’s centres are so important to prevent children getting into this situation?
I thank the shadow Minister for requesting this urgent question and you, Mr Speaker, for granting it. These are among the most serious issues that anyone in this House could discuss. Evelyn-Rose Muggleton was just one when she was murdered by her mother’s partner. She died in hospital. Evelyn-Rose and her siblings were well known to the local hospital, the local GP and other services, and this clearly was a family in urgent need of assistance from the local authority. Sadly that was not forthcoming.
Responsibility for this must rest with Northamptonshire County Council, which has been dysfunctional for many years, but particularly in children’s social services. This must never happen again, and I welcome the Government’s commitment to put those services into a children’s trust. That is welcome, but the public in Kettering will want to know who is going to take responsibility for this appalling tragedy, and I am afraid that the answer must be the local councillor in charge of children’s social services at the time. That individual now happens to be the leader of Northamptonshire County Council. He is a good man, and he is working very hard to transform the county council into the two new unitaries, but I believe, and my constituents believe, that the buck must stop with the person at the top. Will the Minister therefore join me in calling for Councillor Matt Golby to resign his position as leader of Northamptonshire County Council?
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) and the Minister for their approach and their responses to this horrific example of child abuse. The connections between the abuse of women and the abuse of children are unfortunately long known, and I am afraid that I could give several similar examples from when I was national children’s officer at Women’s Aid in the 1990s. I have heard previous Ministers and previous Governments say that lessons would be learnt and action taken, yet here we still are. I therefore ask the Minister respectfully, will he work with domestic violence organisations, as well as other organisations of course, to try to really learn the lessons that should be learnt about the connections between abuse by violent men of their children and abuse of their female partners?
These cases are truly harrowing and nothing will ever bring back the young children who so tragically lost their lives at the hands of those who were supposed to be caring for them. I think we are all clear, both locally in Northamptonshire and here in this House, that this can never, ever be allowed to happen again. What steps are being taken to ensure that best practice from other parts of the country is being learnt as a matter of urgency in Northamptonshire to overhaul its children’s services? What ongoing monitoring of those services will be taking place to give my constituents in Corby and east Northamptonshire confidence that in future we will have first class children’s services that protect the young people in their care?
Funding may not have had a direct effect, but surely the Minister needs to recognise that, with the huge cuts to local authorities and a national shortage of well-qualified social workers putting enormous pressure on social services systems around the country, we are seeing a crisis in one area responded to by putting in extra money and bidding up social workers’ wages, allowing them to move to solve one problem but creating gaps in other areas? Surely the Minister needs to take a much more systemic view of what is going on in social services up and down the country, and recognise that funding is an issue?
I speak as a former Minister who changed the rules so that SCRs are published. The regulations are clear that if publication would compromise the welfare of a surviving child or sibling, they should be kept confidential. From reading these serious case reviews, I feel that there is a profound sense of déjà vu when they talk about the lack of joined-up working and the lack of information, showing lost opportunities. Last year, the Minister announced that he was going to change serious case reviews and the local safeguarding children’s boards who commission them. They will be replaced by team safeguarding partners, which consist of local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and the police. The only agency who seems to have rung the alarm bells in this case was the schools attended by the siblings of the victims. Why are schools and education not part of those essential team partners in the new format?
I am not attacking the Minister, but for years, his predecessors have come to the Dispatch Box and said, “We are going to learn the lessons. It’s not going to happen again.” Some years ago, I took a delegation to meet one of his predecessors and we were assured that resources would be available, but we are back at square one today, and I feel very sorry about what has happened to these kids in Northampton, as much as I do about some of the things that have happened to kids in Coventry. The Minister really has to get a grip on this now. It is no good talking about good practice in one authority as opposed to another. He has to face up to it: there is a shortage of social workers and a lack of resources in local government.
I have met Malcolm Newsam several times and will do so again shortly. I have a lot of confidence in him. The proposed children’s trust model seems like the right way forward and particularly the “children first” focus and the focus on the child rather than necessarily on the mother or other carers involved. We have heard about the role of the community from the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran). While the children’s trust model is welcome in many places, will the Minister provide assurances that local democratic oversight will continue to be involved in it?
This is a deeply harrowing case and I appreciate the Minister’s focus on leadership; he is absolutely right about that. I hope that he can also see the connection between leadership and properly funded services. Surely it is very difficult for even the best leaders to lead adequately if they have an insufficient supply of skilled staff.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for securing such a vital debate, and my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) for the amount of work she has put in, over a considerable number of years, to chairing the APPG. Special thanks also go to the 15 young food ambassadors, all the young people and stakeholders who have offered their insights to this valuable report, and of course Dame Emma Thompson for giving the matter such a strong media profile, as well as for her impassioned work on the subject.
As we have heard, the report is an excellent and engaging piece of work, and it is all the more important because it involved young people so closely. As a result, it is something that all parties should give serious attention to. We on the Labour Benches would very much welcome the inquiry report and the #Right2Food charter’s being submitted as a contribution to our current review of social security, and I hope the Government and other parties are also giving the report’s findings serious consideration, and action in some parts of devolved Government.
It has been clear for some time, and made even clearer today, that we are facing a child poverty and child hunger crisis in our country, right from birth. For babies and pre-school years, the report raises serious concerns over support for breastfeeding—highlighted by the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous)—policies to support babies in low-income households and food provision in early years and preschool environments.
The report goes on to find that free school meal provision is inconsistent across the Westminster and devolved Governments, while expressing concern about the way the free school meal policy works, including concerns that the allowance is not sufficient to buy a meal, as hon. Members have pointed out, and the higher price of healthier food options. It also highlights issues related to advertising and access to cheap, fast food. For example, the report states that children from the poorest families are
“more exposed to fast food outlets and more affected by the relatively higher costs of healthy food”.
Children, as the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire rightly pointed out, are becoming more obese, comparing London with the likes of Paris. Of course, that has drastic consequences for our nation’s health.
These findings should come as no surprise. Last month, the Trussell Trust published its annual statistics on food bank use, which show that in 2018-19 the trust distributed almost 1.6 million food parcels, of which 578,000 went to children—a fact highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods), who noted that 7,000 such parcels were distributed to local children in Durham. That is the highest level since the charity opened in 2013-14 and nearly a 75% increase in the past five years.
Furthermore, the Government’s own figures for households below average income, released in March, tell a shocking story. Child poverty is at 4.1 million, half a million more than in 2010, and beneath that headline charities such as the Child Poverty Action Group and others have even more concerns. Despite Government claims that work is the best route out of poverty, 70% of children in poverty now live in working households, up from 67% last year. Every time we hear a Government Minister talk about record levels of employment, they are also presiding over record levels of families working, only to continue in poverty.
The Child Poverty Action Group also finds that the face of child poverty is getting younger; the proportion of children living in poverty who are under the age of five has risen from 51% to 53%, representing over 2 million children. We know that these early years often define our children’s outcomes and expectations for a lifetime, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) argued.
Indeed, the inquiry report tells us:
“Up until their second birthday children’s brains and bodies are developing fast and laying down the foundation for the future. The food, energy and nutrients which children eat during this period determine how well they grow, how well they do at school and are also a good predictor of long-term health.”
Tragically, under the current Government, those years are increasingly being damaged by poverty and empty stomachs.
The picture is worsening for larger families too. The risk of poverty for children in families with three or more children has also gone up, from 32% in 2012 to 43% today. Will the Minister admit that his policies, such as the two-child limit, the benefit cap and universal credit, have helped to drive this scandal? If so, will he commit to doing something about it and reversing these unfair and callous policies?
Poverty and food poverty are, of course, about more than just numbers. Behind the statistics, as hon. Members across the Chamber have pointed out, are real children, real families and real experiences. The inquiry report gives us some chilling examples and experiences from the food ambassadors about their experiences of going hungry, or of living and working alongside children suffering from not having enough to eat.
We have heard many other stories from colleagues here today. Hon. Members have given us examples of families having to choose between paying for heating or for eating. My hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West spoke about the need for water dispensers, with thousands of children going thirsty day after day in the school environment. The hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) spoke about children’s experiences of being stigmatised by the way free school meals are currently administered. Those tales show us just how important it is to ensure that, in one of the richest countries in the world, all our children can have access to that most basic of rights: enough to eat so that they can live and learn without the pain of hunger.
Related to that point is the shocking observation in the report that children living in households who have migrated to the UK and been granted leave to remain with no recourse to public funds cannot claim free school meals. That is affecting thousands and thousands of the most vulnerable children—something the Government must address. Will the Minister commit to recording that data, which is not currently recorded, so that we can have a true picture of some of the starkest examples of hunger in this country?
Will the Minister also commit, as hon. Members across the House have advocated, to extending holiday provision throughout the UK and funding all local authorities to do that? We certainly welcome the announcement of the increase from £2 million to £9 million, but let us go further.
I will finish by once again thanking all those who have contributed to the report and the several hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. I await the Minister’s answers with interest, while also recognising that we all have a responsibility to understand the true picture of child and food poverty in our country and to improve that picture for the future. We are certainly committed to doing so on the Labour benches, and I hope that the Government will respond as a matter of urgency to the five asks in the report.
In the very short time I have, I do not want to appear churlish, but as has been made clear, my brilliant hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) and for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) have been campaigning on this issue since we were all elected in 2005. I am sure that the young food ambassadors and the Food Foundation will seize the opportunity that the Minister has suggested, but I do not think we need pilots to find out what works on holiday hunger. I do not think we need working groups. I think we need to get on with tackling the problems that have been identified and particularly the underlying problems, which the Minister has not mentioned at all. I am talking about things such as the roll-out of universal credit, benefit sanctions and so on. I urge the Minister to look at those, too.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the report of the Children’s Future Food inquiry.
I have some experience in this area, as the former Chair of the Select Committee on Education. Is the Minister not aware that, over several years, we have seen how the push to study for early years testing has really pushed the practical and the creative out of the classroom, and could we bring it back? Will the Minister talk to Tristram Hunt, who is the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, which has learning hubs, practical hubs and making hubs, and learn from his experience?
23. Does my hon. Friend agree with me that art, drama and music are crucial to a balanced and broad education and should therefore be encouraged in all our schools? 
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), does the Minister not accept that the emphasis on testing only English and maths—not just in primary school, but throughout—is having a detrimental effect on experiential learning, project learning and creating people with a lust for learning, not those who can just regurgitate facts?
Does the Minister agree that the early years stage should include a broad range of learning goals, including communication, physical development and self-confidence, as well as of course a thirst for knowledge?
Good-quality music tuition builds our young people’s creativity, skills and mental wellbeing. Accessing it is a challenge in poorer communities such as my own. What assessment have Ministers made of an art pupil premium to level this imbalance?
Will my hon. Friend ensure that digital and IT skills play a role in the early years curriculum to ensure that our young people encounter early on the technologies that they will need to become familiar with as they progress through school?
I am grateful to the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), for visiting Space Studio West London in my constituency to see young people making robots and getting involved in other engineering projects such as sustainable energy. My mobile phone was charged wirelessly this morning by an invention of theirs.
Does the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), agree that employability comes from having practical learning? Will he join me in trying to make sure that creativity is encouraged in all our schools? Will he support my arts and makers fair, which will showcase work by young people across Hounslow?
The Minister may be aware of the recent “Sounds of Intent” report, which showed that targeted music lessons for under-fives helps close the gap, particularly in deprived areas and for children with complex needs. Can the Minister tell us whether he believes that every child should have access to music while at nursery? If so, what audit is he doing on quality? He may agree that putting a CD on at Christmas is very different from having a professional come in on a weekly basis. If he believes that quality is important, what is he doing to ensure that music has a greater role in the early years foundation stage?
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I must disclose an interest, in that I am now a director of the Watford UTC, and I thank Lord Agnew for all the help he has given that university technical college.
I am delighted that four schools in Watford were successful in their bids to the fund for improvements, which is known as the CIF—I know that that sounds like a disinfectant, but it is actually really important. The successful schools were Watford Grammar School for Boys, the Grove Academy, the Orchard Primary School and Parmiter’s School. This is excellent news, but will my hon. Friend give me an idea of when the schools will receive the money from this welcome funding boost?
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T9. Last Friday, a very special man, Ian Dickson, and his dedicated team of volunteers made possible the Care Experienced Conference, which was led by and involved care experienced people. I had the honour of being there; it was emotive, powerful and uplifting. The current care system was rightly characterised as being one of repeated loss, often lacking in love, emotional warmth and hugs. The Minister knows that that heartbreaking statement is true. How much longer are these voices going to be ignored? When will he do the right thing and commit to a wholesale review of our utterly broken care system? 
May I put an eccentric point of view to the Secretary of State? If we make a manifesto commitment, we should keep it. Two years after breaking our manifesto commitment to set up Catholic free schools, we were promised new, voluntary-aided Catholic schools. I am told by the Catholic Education Service that not a single one has yet opened, anywhere in the country. If it is a pipeline, it is a very long one. What is he doing about it?
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I recently met David Prince and his 12-year-old daughter Holly, who is visually impaired. Holly benefits hugely from the specialist teacher advisory service provided by Hampshire County Council, but the council proposes cutting the funding for this life-changing service, which helped Holly to learn to use a cane, and trained her in mobility. Will a Minister work with me to help Holly, her father and Hampshire County Council find resources so that vulnerable children in Fareham do not have to go without a rich education?
When the Timpson review finally passes the editing process at the Department for Education, will it include an analysis of whether a lack of funding for pastoral and family-support staff is driving exclusions?
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The rationing of special needs funding means that Derbyshire County Council is asking schools not to apply for support until pupils are at least two years behind in educational terms, meaning that they often never get the support that they need. Will the Secretary of State look with me at how county councils are implementing this rationing, to ensure that pupils get the support that they need when they need it?
Will Ministers join me in congratulating Queen Emma’s Primary School in Witney on its recent Ofsted success, and will they join me in noting that it is the school’s use of phonics combined with a broad, attractive curriculum that is providing an outstanding education for the children of Witney at primary, secondary and beyond?
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Thank you, Mr Speaker; that is very generous. As it is highly topical, may I ask how my right hon. Friend is getting on with encouraging schools to roll out the Daily Mile initiative, particularly given that I have visited the Hazel Leys Academy in Corby to open the new running track? The school is embracing the initiative, and that is great—fantastic. Will the Minister congratulate it?
I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting this important debate. It was secured by the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb)—who made an excellent speech—along with my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan), who gave some powerful personal testimony, as did the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law).
This is a difficult and, for some, very personal issue to talk about. I congratulate all the Members who have spoken, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed). Members will know that his private Member’s Bill, known as Seni’s law, was predicated on the devastating and inexcusable death of his constituent Seni Lewis in 2010. Seni had been restrained so excessively, so unreasonably, that he died. Seni’s law addressed the issue of prone restraint—the act of forcing someone’s face into the ground—and, as we know, Seni was not the first person to die in such circumstances. In 2014, during his time as a Minister in the Department of Health, the right hon. Member for North Norfolk issued guidance on the restraining of adults, with the intention that it should be followed by guidance on the restraining of children.
The national inquiry into child sexual abuse recently concluded that “pain compliance” was child abuse and should be outlawed, and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has also argued that such methods should not be used on children. Article 19 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which has already been mentioned today, states that Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them. According to the BBC, these painful techniques were designed for prison riots, with the aim of forcing individuals to comply through the use of pain. I should not even need to say this, but we should not be using prison riot techniques on children.
What is also concerning, and constitutes the essence of the debate, is the continued absence of clear guidance from the Government. Although their consultation on draft guidance to reduce the need for the restraint of children took place between November 2017 and January 2018, we have still not received the results. Will the Minister tell us when they will be published?
Parents have argued that, in the absence of guidance and with the prevailing uncertainty, schools are using so-called restraint techniques against children with special educational needs and disabilities. That has occurred in an environment of austerity; one that has seen a crisis in funding for children with special educational needs. As we discussed in the previous debate, local authority children’s services are currently overspending by £800 million. It was reported last November, for instance, that council overspending on children’s special educational needs and disabilities has trebled in just three years.
The Minister might be aware that the Challenging Behaviour Foundation and Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland released a report in January on the use of restrictive intervention. The report found that 88% of parents surveyed said that their disabled child had experienced physical restraint, and 35% said that it happened regularly. Over half the cases of physical intervention or seclusion were of children between the ages of five and 10, with one case involving a two-year-old child. It should come as no surprise that this has had a negative effect on the children’s health. Over 90% of those surveyed said that restraint had emotionally impacted their child. That physical intervention was for cases of incontinence, meltdowns and shutdowns—situations that leave children unable to communicate as they are so overloaded with emotions.
I will return quickly to the Government’s own delayed guidance. When Ministers launched the consultation, they stated that any guidelines would not apply to mainstream schools. This is clearly illogical. Guidance must apply across the board, not just in specific settings. Otherwise, this suggests that mainstream schools are not safe spaces for children with special educational needs and disabilities. Will the forthcoming guidance be universal, so that all children are protected?
I would now like to move on to the treatment of young people who are autistic or have learning disabilities or mental health conditions. Across mental health, autism and learning disability services, over 1,000 young people were subject to a restrictive intervention in 2017-18. That accounted for 26,000 separate restrictive interventions. What is shocking is that the under-20s in these services who are subject to any restrictive intervention are, on average, subject to more than twice as many as those in any other age group. There are also hundreds of young people who are subjected to seclusion, segregation and—perhaps most worryingly—chemical restraint. We are drugging these young people because their behaviour is deemed to be too challenging. That is not acceptable. I know that the Care Quality Commission is currently carrying out a review of the use of restraint in these services, but it will not report until next year.
Currently 250 young people who are autistic or have learning disabilities are being detained in inappropriate care settings that were covered by the Transforming Care programme. That programme was intended to move people out of inappropriate settings and back into the community. Since 2015, however, the number of young people in such institutions has more than doubled. Some of these children have been sent more than 100 km from home. Ministers have recognised that this is wrong, but they have not yet done anything to stop it. Moreover, the programme expired last Sunday. Can the Minister therefore tell us what plans there are either to continue the work or to introduce a new programme to close inappropriate care settings? What funding will be made available in the next five years, given that the Government have committed to funding only an additional year of the programme?
What happens in early childhood has a defining impact on human development, affecting everything from educational achievement to economic security and health. Violence towards children can leave a long, irrevocable shadow over their lives. There can be no place for it anywhere. I therefore hope that the Minister will take the contributions made to heart.
I thank all hon. Members who have contributed to this debate, which included some powerful contributions. The personal testimony from the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan) was telling, because the wonderful news is that her son is now at university. The Minister should note that, because not only will early intervention and positive behaviour support being embedded in the entire system give people the chance of a good life, but the state will save a fortune. That is why it is so important.
We need the guidance. It needs to have teeth and to be backed by proper accredited training and by mandatory recording and reporting across the system. The Government need to get on with that now, because we must end the scandal of children not being protected from abuse in the way that adults and those in health settings already are. It is unacceptable that children in residential schools and in other settings are not protected. As the shadow Minister said, the guidance must be comprehensive. There is no justification for leaving out some settings, such as mainstream schools. The guidance should apply to everyone.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House calls on the Department for Education to urgently issue guidance on reducing the use of restrictive intervention of children and young people; and further calls on Ofsted to change its guidance to inspectors to recognise the importance of seeking to avoid the use of those interventions with children and young people.
That sums up why there is so much frustration with this process. Our city has problems. None of the MPs who represent it, including me, my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), who would have been here if he was not restricted by his Parliamentary Private Secretary role, would hide that fact. We saw the same when the Care Quality Commission did a system-wide review and found that older people were being left in their beds covered in urine for days because of a social care failing in Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Our frustration stems from the fact that, unless the problem is so stark and is written in black and white in a report that is so damaging that it requires a political intervention at this level, or is splashed in the headlines of our newspapers, nothing gets done and nothing gets changed. There is no remorse, no apology, and no sense that anything that the council was responsible for was its fault. It is always the fault of the Government, of everybody around them, and of the agencies not doing their bit. It is about time that people such as Councillor Bridges, Councillor James and their partners in the coalition took responsibility for the decisions that they have taken over the past four years, which have led us to this place.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North is right. We are highlighting some of the starkest parts of our society. It is a constant badge of shame for me that, when we highlight the awful parts of our society, they always manifest themselves in Stoke-on-Trent in a way that is even worse than they had to be. If we got the basics right—if we got the bread-and-butter politics right and had given a damn about the people we are there to serve—some of this would not have happened.
I am sure the Minister will say that every child service department is now stretched because there is increasing demand. He will say that it is a demand-led service, and the local authority has no immediate control over the demand. I accept that, but if we know the demand is there—if there is a constant reporting system that says, “There is a problem with this system”—and people choose not to act on it, choose not to attend corporate parenting panels, choose to divert funding to other departments, choose not to engage with the Local Government Association, choose not to participate in county-wide programmes, choose to defer the decisions that they should be making to officers, choose not to turn up to reports, and choose not to say sorry, that is a pattern of behaviour of failure. That is not a coincidence or a coalescing of misfortune; it is a pattern of behaviour that has led to systematic failure.
I sincerely hope that the work being done by officers, the social work team and the people who are coming into the local authority is effective. A commissioner has been appointed to establish whether this should stay with the local authority or whether it should become a trust. For what it is worth, even though it is an appallingly run service, I hope the Minister will take heed of what we suggest: we think it should stay with the local authority. We genuinely believe that, once the election is out of the way—whatever the outcome—there will be a renewed appetite to fix this. I have always been a believer that local authorities should clear up their own messes. I appreciate that that is his decision, not mine, and the commissioner’s report will guide him. We have some responsibility for this. We will hold whichever political party is running the council responsible for fixing this, and we know that the Government will do so, too.
I ask the Minister to address these points. Where there are clear examples of councillors not engaging in their executive-level functions, what can we and the Government do to ensure that they take those responsibilities seriously? This is not just a matter of funding; there is clearly a cultural issue. What can the Government do to help change the culture in Stoke-on-Trent? If there is a plan, I will happily work with them to deliver it. Importantly, what does the Minister believe we can do to ensure that when Ofsted comes in next time, it does not give us a catalogue of failures that show that young people in Stoke-on-Trent have been let down?
Two of my childcare providers have closed, citing the requirement to pay business rates as the final nail for them. In Scotland and Wales, private childcare providers are not charged business rates. Will the Minister look to see what can be done, because it surely cannot be right that we tax space which is beautiful for young people to grow and be nurtured in?
In secondary schools, our more rigorous academic curriculum and qualifications support social mobility by giving disadvantaged children the knowledge they need to have the same career and life opportunities as their peers. I thank the 452,000 teachers—10,000 more than in 2010—who have delivered these higher standards in our schools. I also thank the 263,000 teaching assistants, of which there are 49,000 more than in 2011, and the 263,000 support staff, of which there are 129,000 more than in 2011.
To support these improvements, the Government have prioritised school spending while having to take difficult decisions in other areas of public spending. We have been enabled to do that by our balanced approach to the public finances and to our stewardship of the economy, reducing the unsustainable annual deficit of £150 billion, which was 10% of GDP in 2010, but 2% in 2018. The economic stability that that provided has resulted in employment rising to a record 32.6 million and unemployment being at its lowest level since the 1970s, giving young people leaving school more opportunities to have jobs and start their careers.
[Official Report, 4 March 2019, Vol. 655, c. 298WH.]
Letter of correction from the Minister for School Standards:
Errors have been identified in the response I gave to the e-petition debate on School Funding.
The correct statements should have been:
I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. What I take from it is that there is a lot of emotional strain on young children, which we must express and, more importantly, acknowledge.
The “Working together to safeguard children 2018” statutory guidance says that, where urgent needs are identified,
“social workers should not wait until the assessment reaches a conclusion before commissioning services”.
As I have illustrated, homelessness or destitution is clearly an urgent need. A refusal to provide interim support has led to a vulnerable woman and her children in Enfield having to stay with a local stranger they met on the street. When I first heard that story, my sadness turned to frustration at the fact that families are having to risk their safety and, ultimately, their dignity.
Why are families—mainly black families—forced to live like that? Would there be more of a public outcry if the victims of this pernicious policy were white? Would I even be standing here speaking on this matter? The hostile environment has a lot to answer for. The Prime Minister has a lot to explain, because it is her legacy that those innocent families are enduring.
Housing is a chronic issue across the UK, but housing scarcity does not remove local authorities’ obligation to ensure that all children are safe and that their needs are met. Amir, aged eight, described living in shared accommodation for 10 months:
“Where I live now, I’m not comfortable. There’s a lot of noise from people coming up and down the stairs. It’s always dirty. I have no space to do my homework and I don’t feel safe. At 3 am someone broke a door in the house—people were fighting.”
Poor living conditions are commonly reported. Project 17 reported the issues that children raised about the conditions of accommodation provided under section 17. They included living with rats, not having access to cooking facilities, cockroach infestation, antisocial behaviour from other residents in shared accommodation, not having basic furniture such as a table or chair, and not having access to washing facilities.
Civil society groups also report families receiving rates of financial support below the support rate of £37.75, set out in section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The Home Office says that that is the minimum amount required to avoid a breach of the European convention on human rights. Case law suggests that it would be unlawful for local authorities to expect families in receipt of section 17 support to live on less than that amount. It is unreasonable to expect families to live off less than £37.75 per week, and I am concerned that the Department, and thus local authorities, do not adequately recognise the negative impact of lower levels of support on children’s development and wellbeing. Even when support is provided, the current provision is insufficient. Interim support is being refused, and poor accommodation and low rates of financial support are being offered.
How are we helping these families and children? While there are process and practice issues that local authorities need to address, civil society groups across the UK have also reported that local authorities are increasingly deliberately putting barriers in place before supporting these families. Embedded Home Office immigration officials are one method by which that is done. While they can be used constructively, there are more consistent reports of their deployment to intimidate. The perceived threat of immigration enforcement action can deter the most vulnerable families from seeking support that they should be able to access. The management of these officers differs considerably between local authorities. Local authorities must take charge of their use.
Unfortunately, it is not just Home Office officials who intimidate parents. Worryingly, there is a trend of excessive scrutiny—of credit checks, minor inconsistencies being used to undermine a family’s case, allegations of fraud, and even threats of removing children without sufficient cause. I am sorry to say that several families in Enfield were simply misinformed by council officers. One family was even told that Enfield does not provide financial support to families.
How can we work together and help the failing authorities? Looking ahead, I would like to offer some solutions. At a local level, councils can take steps to ensure that such hardship is a thing of the past by signing up to a commitment to ensure the health, development and wellbeing of every child in their area. There is already such a pledge in Project 17’s children’s charter, and the Children’s Society has a charter, too. Project 17’s charter sets out a framework for local authorities working with children in need of support under section 17. It was derived from the UN convention on the rights of the child, the legal duties defined in the Children Act 1989 and subsequent case law, and what children and young people have told civil society groups about what they want.
I ask the Minister whether the Department will agree to meet Project 17 to discuss its work and its children’s charter. At a strategic level, I ask the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, if it is listening, to encourage local authorities to sign up to such a charter, and to clarify the procedures that local authorities must follow, and their obligations, regarding their care for every child in their area. In addition, those in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government can lobby the Prime Minister and their colleagues in the Home Office to end the hostile environment policy, which causes me deep concern. With all due respect, Madam Deputy Speaker, although Brexit is important, it is all we debate in this House, while this important issue only gets an airing in an end-of-day Adjournment debate.
The hostile environment policy builds destitution into the asylum process; destitution is going to happen, and that is wrong. Any attempt to combat destitution will be limited as long as the hostile environment continues. In a sense, people with insecure immigration status being forced to go without money, food or nappies for their children is not a failing in the system; it is the system. Can the Minister really say that he is happy with such a system? If not, will he do everything he can to ensure that the Department looks at the policy and how it affects the most vulnerable?
Ensuring that the needs of children are met should be the utmost priority of local authorities. However, if boroughs are expected to provide this essential support, it is crucial that they be provided with the resources to do so. In an age of austerity, it is imperative that the Government take this matter seriously and open a dialogue with local authorities and other organisations involved, to determine how much annual funding is required.
To put this in context, London boroughs spent £53.7 million in support of an estimated 2,881 households under the no recourse condition in 2016-17, and the estimated average total annual expenditure per borough was nearly £1.7 million, but the case load size in six boroughs led to their having far higher expenditure than the London average—expenditure of £5 million per year. That funding is primarily derived directly from the local authority’s social services budget: if pressures are not uniform across London then funding levels to cope with “no recourse” families should not be uniform, but targeted to ensure effective service delivery.
As I come to a close, let me say that I understand that local authorities are under immense pressure from a population with growing and increasingly more complex needs, from year-after-year reductions in Government funding, from the hostile environment policy and from a host of other problems and concerns. That is why no one expects every council to be able immediately and perfectly to adopt every proposal that I and others have made. However, when the stakes are so high for the children and families involved, I ask local authorities, the Minister and the Government to make concrete steps in the right direction.
I appreciate the Minister’s response and announcement, but it does not yet recognise the reality that schools are facing. One of my primary school teachers told me last week:
“SEND funding is in crisis. We have pupils who have been promised a place at schools with a special educational needs base, but due to a lack of this specialist provision, pupils have had to remain at our school. We cater for their needs as much as we possibly can.”
The reality is that those pupils are not getting the care that they deserve. We have only one chance of giving our children the best start in life. Minister, will you look again at the needs of all pupils being met, particularly those with special needs?
The Federation of Heathfield and St Francis Special Schools provides invaluable learning opportunities for more than 200 children with special educational needs in Fareham. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the inspirational head, Steve Hollinghurst, whose record of service spans 36 years, and will he set out what further support there is for these essential schools so that they can continue providing this support for our most vulnerable children?
This morning, I met students on the foundation skills course at the excellent Stockton Riverside College, which also operates in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Anna Turley). What is the Minister doing to support colleges to deliver foundation skills courses to young people with high needs such as learning disabilities, including those whom I met this morning?
Parents of children with SEN very rarely welcome the closure of their schools, and I say respectfully that we must treat the parents in Chippenham and Trowbridge with great sensitivity. None the less, does the Minister not agree with me and welcome Wiltshire Council’s great vision in spending £20 million on building a state-of-the-art school at Rowdeford, which will bring children from across the whole of North Wiltshire to an absolutely superb facility?
Restraint and restrictive practices in schools and healthcare settings carried out by adults on children as young as two with SEND have caused bruising, black eyes, carpet burns and post-traumatic stress disorder. Guidance promised half a decade ago has yet to materialise, and the Department does not count these complaints. Fed-up parents are preparing to take legal action against the Government. Despite today’s announcement of placements for children with complex needs, should not the Minister be focusing on the fact that, on his watch, some schools are no longer a safe place for children with SEND?
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