Nadhim Zahawi debates involving the Department for Education

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)

Education

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd July 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections

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Department for Education
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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There has been and continues to be a great deal of debate about the transparency of the child protection system in England, but there is a presumption that all serious case review reports are published. That is why local safeguarding children boards and the new safeguarding partnerships are required to send copies of all serious case reviews to the panel, the DFE and Ofsted within at least seven days, as I have mentioned. At that point, they would need to provide justification for any decision not to publish the report. The panel has not yet received the draft serious case review in relation to child JL. Once the draft serious case review is received, the panel will consider carefully if there is any justification for not publishing the report. I hope that reassures the hon. Gentleman.

[Official Report, 10 June 2019, Vol. 661, c. 410.]

Letter of correction from the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi).

An error has been identified in my response to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne).

The correct response should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

There has been and continues to be a great deal of debate about the transparency of the child protection system in England, but there is a presumption that all serious case review reports are published. That is why local safeguarding children boards and the new safeguarding partnerships are required to send copies of all serious case reviews to the panel, the DFE and Ofsted within at least seven days, as I have mentioned. At that point, they would need to provide justification for any decision not to publish the report. The panel has not yet considered Northamptonshire’s draft serious case review in relation to child JL which it received on Friday 7 June. Once the draft serious case review is reviewed, the panel will consider carefully if there is any justification for not publishing the report. I hope that reassures the hon. Gentleman.

Early Years Family Support

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Tuesday 16th July 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Education
Tracy Brabin Portrait Tracy Brabin (Batley and Spen) (Lab/Co-op)
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16 Jul 2019, 4:34 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

16 Jul 2019, 6:03 p.m.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) on securing this important debate on a Tuesday—pretty remarkable. I guess it is a question of knowing which levers to pull to make sure these things happen. I thank her for her tireless commitment to this very important area. I also thank her for all she did to drive forward the work of the inter-ministerial group on early years family support in her role as chair. Madam Deputy Speaker, I think you would agree with me when I say that we have had a debate that epitomises all the great things about our Parliament. It has been deep and well informed. The hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), who co-sponsored the debate, made an excellent speech. I have been up to see the school readiness work that she is doing with Andy Burnham and I pay tribute to his work, passion and commitment not only to this issue, but to looked-after children. He is a champion of those children who, through no fault of their own, we have had to take away from their biological parents.

The hon. Member for Manchester Central spoke about funding, and she knows that I am putting my best foot forward and preparing for the spending review as well as I can. Her compliments mean that my head will not get through the double doors behind you, Madam Deputy Speaker. She is right to highlight the extraordinary work of maintained nursery schools and their passion, commitment and the additional hard yards, as she put it, that they go to. In many ways, they will be the trailblazers in Manchester for the joined-up, place-based, integrated early-years delivery model. She also talked about workforce development, which I will return to later.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) made the point incredibly well about flexibility in working, which I hope a future Government looks at very closely. He also talked about shared parental leave. The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) again referred to maintained nurseries, and his two maintained nurseries in Warwick and Whitnash, and I thank him for that.

It is almost impossible to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) on this—he has heard me say before that he is a fountain of knowledge on this area. He reminded the House that the strategic importance of children’s mental health has come to the forefront in this place. He is right to highlight the number of debates and the number of colleagues who are now engaged in this agenda. I hope that he will continue his passionate backing for the troubled families programme and all the other issues that he rightly reminded us need support in a future Administration.

With my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), I visited Safeguarding Children in Banbury, which is for children who have been traumatised, and the work there is remarkable. She also mentioned the adoption support fund. The hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) is not in her place today, but we had a fantastic gathering yesterday for the report on the adoption support fund, which my hon. Friend cited. Ninety per cent. of children said that this helped them a lot in terms of the additional support that they needed.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), who co-chairs the all-party group on fatherhood, rightly reminded us of the key role that fathers play and the fact that they are role models. I think of the work that I have seen, and we want to develop further the focus on not just mothers, but fathers. As a Manchester United supporter, it pains me a bit to say that Manchester City is doing remarkable work in early-years outreach—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Manchester Central says “Four clubs” and she is quite right—I know. We will move on swiftly to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley), who rightly reminded the House that children’s services are challenged, and we need to look at that very closely when it comes to the spending review.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) talked about the Imagination Library, and I will certainly take a look at that. It is extraordinary, and it is testament to his incredible entrepreneurial—I think that word has been used a lot over the last few weeks—abilities to be able to identify it and bring it to Brigg and Goole and North Lincolnshire Council. It is remarkable that 95% of children are now signed up.

I am grateful for this opportunity to set out the Government’s approach to the first 1,001 days. The evidence is clear that the first 1,001 days of a baby’s life can have an impact on their social, economic and physical outcomes in later life. We all know this is a period of significant physical change for the mother and baby and a critical period of development, cognitively and emotionally, for babies.

The early years family support ministerial group has considered carefully how the Government can improve the co-ordination and cost-effectiveness of family support for children under the age of two and identify the gaps in available provision. It has now made its recommendations to the Secretaries of State, and they are considering them. It is important that the next Government continue that work and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire pointed out, report to the House in due course.

From the point of conception, we have the opportunity to ensure that all children get the best start in life. We start building our health asset as a baby in the womb. The transition to parenthood is a key opportunity to provide good information and support to adults on the importance of the child’s first months and early years. There are clear benefits from early investment and support through pregnancy and the early years, and supporting early intervention means starting with good pre-conception care. The Government are committed to improving maternity services for vulnerable groups, and an enhanced and targeted continuity of care model will be implemented to help improve outcomes for the most vulnerable mothers and babies.

Positive adult-child relationships are key protective factors against adversity and trauma. The Government are committed to improving perinatal mental health services. The NHS long-term plan will increase access to evidence-based care for women with moderate to severe perinatal mental health difficulties and I hope benefit an additional 24,000 women per year by 2023-24. This is in addition to the extra 30,000 women getting specialist help by next year and the year after. We will be making care provided by specialist perinatal mental health services available from pre-conception to 24 months after birth, in line with the cross-Government ambition for women and children, focusing on the critical first 1,001 days of a child’s life.

We are also expanding access to evidence-based psychological therapies within specialist perinatal mental health services so that they also include parent-infant, couple, co-parenting and family interventions. As part of that, we will be offering fathers and partners of women accessing specialist perinatal mental health services and maternity outreach clinics evidence-based assessments of their mental health and signposting to support as required. This will contribute to helping to care for the 5% to 10% of fathers who experience mental health difficulties during the perinatal period.

We are increasing access to evidence-based psychological support and therapy, including digital options, in a maternity setting. Maternity outreach clinics will integrate maternity, reproductive health and psychological therapy for women experiencing mental health difficulties directly arising from, or related to, the maternity experience. In addition, over the current spending review period, we are giving local authorities more than £16 billion for public health for all of the health functions they commission, including health visitors. The Prime Minister announced our commitment to modernise the healthy child programme to reflect the latest evidence on the importance of the first 1,001 days, including how health visitors and other professionals can support perinatal mental health.

Beyond the perinatal period, the first few years of a child’s life are fundamentally important in achieving long-lasting outcomes. I am grateful to the shadow Minister for mentioning the 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds. It has reached 800,000 two-year-olds since its launch in 2013. I will certainly look at her points about targeting and take-up. We are spending £3.5 billion on our early education entitlements this year alone, which is more than any previous Government have spent. We are also supporting parents to improve the quality and quantity of adult-child interactions to support early language development in the home.

Following our successful home learning environment summit in November, we have continued to work with businesses and other partners. We have just launched the Hungry Little Minds campaign, a three-year campaign to encourage parents to engage in activities that support their children’s early learning and help to set them up for school and beyond.

Looking beyond parents, we know that a skilled early years workforce is also key. That was one of the three points made by the hon. Member for Manchester Central. Children and families come into contact with a great many professionals in the early years. This is a huge opportunity, but it is not easy to get it right, particularly for the families who are the hardest to reach. We want to engage everyone, from frontline professionals to local system leaders, in our efforts to improve early language and literacy outcomes. Alongside our training for health visitors, we are investing £20 million in our early years professional development fund, which will offer training to practitioners in disadvantaged areas to improve, in particular, early language, literacy and numeracy outcomes.

Local areas have a key role to play in commissioning and delivering effective early-intervention services to meet complex and specific needs, and the Government are supporting them in that task. The Department’s early years local government programme, in which we have invested £8.5 million, focuses on improving the way in which local services work together across health, education and early years to improve the outcomes of children aged five. As part of that work, multidisciplinary peer reviews will help councils to identify necessary reforms, and our early outcomes fund will provide an additional £6.5 million of grants for local authority partnerships to improve the delivery of services. I have commissioned the Early Intervention Foundation—this is an issue that has arisen repeatedly during the debate—to look into how children’s centres and other delivery models can help to improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged children and spread good practice across the sector. When we have the data, we shall be able to focus on where we should spread that good practice. We also remain strongly committed to the What Works initiative, embodied in our three What Works centres.

Part of the Government’s funding for the Early Intervention Foundation is being used to establish an early years transformation academy. The academy will provide a framework for the sharing of learning, including events and online material for leaders, commissioners and other stakeholders. The start of more intensive academy work began in June, and will provide further opportunities to pool learning.

Let me again thank my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire for securing the debate. We know that getting it right in the early years is key to ensuring that all children have the best start in life. That is reflected in the excellent work that is already being undertaken across England at local and national levels, but we can certainly do much more. My right hon. Friend’s legacy should be the IMG’s continued delivery of what we agreed should be delivered.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Andrea Leadsom
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

16 Jul 2019, 6:18 p.m.

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.

Resolved,

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.

Higher Technical Education Reform

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 8th July 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Education
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

8 Jul 2019, 4:52 p.m.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the consultation on higher technical education in England at levels 4 and 5, which we have launched today.

Over the past year, the Government have undertaken a comprehensive review of classroom-based higher technical education, which provides an alternative to apprenticeships at levels 4 and 5. Qualifications at this level sit between level 3 qualifications, such as A-levels and the new T-levels, and level 6 qualifications, such as bachelor’s degrees. As part of the review, we gathered evidence and listened to many further and higher education providers, awarding organisations, employers and others. The consultation launched today sets out our proposals to address the multiple related challenges and opportunities that we have identified through the review.

We want higher technical education to be a prestigious choice that delivers the skills that employers need, that encourages more students to continue to study after A-levels or T-levels and that attracts people of all ages who are looking to upskill and retrain. The proposals in the consultation are the next step in our programme to reform technical education. We want to build on the introduction of T-levels and our investment in apprenticeships as part of our modern industrial strategy to improve productivity and help people to progress in their work and in their lives.

The Government’s review of higher technical education found that there is growing employer demand for the skills provided by higher technical education, but we also found that the uptake of higher technical qualifications is low by international standards, has fallen over time, and is low by comparison with other levels of education. Some higher technical qualifications and courses are well recognised and valued by employers and students, but overall there is low awareness and varying quality, with the range of terminology, qualifications and provider types creating a complex picture that is hard for employers and students to navigate.

The starting point for our reforms is to raise the prestige of higher technical education more widely and strengthen its value to employers by putting their needs and quality first. Improving quality now—to demonstrate the value of higher technical qualifications—will lead to increased uptake of higher technical education in the future. To do this, we are proposing an approach to make it clearer which higher technical qualifications provide the skills that employers want. This will be delivered through the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, signalling which qualifications deliver the knowledge, skills and behaviours set out in employer-led national standards. As we want qualifications at this level to be understood and recognised as high quality by employers, their involvement in qualification design is crucial, so they will be at the centre of our reforms.

Alongside our proposals on qualifications, we also want to grow high-quality higher technical education provision, boost leadership and encourage greater specialisation and close collaboration so that providers can more effectively and efficiently respond to the local skills needs of employers. We will do that by working with the Office for Students to demonstrate the quality of providers, so that there is more high-quality provision delivered across higher and further education, including through our flagship employer-led national colleges and institutes of technology. The Office for Students will develop a set of technical ongoing registration conditions specifically for providers delivering courses leading to higher technical qualifications. These will align with the model used to assess the quality of applications for the institutes of technology programme and act as a precursor to access full public funding for approved higher technical qualification provision.

Finally, we want to make higher technical education a positive and more popular choice by raising awareness and understanding of the new suite of qualifications approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in colleges and universities and among potential students and, of course, their employers. We will improve the information, advice and guidance available to potential students and boost employer knowledge of how these qualifications can address their skills needs. At the same time, we will improve the accessibility of higher technical education through flexible delivery and improve signposting of financial support, so that as many students as possible have the chance to get the qualifications that are right for them.

We know that change will not happen overnight. Higher technical education has been an area of relative neglect over decades, and we want to work with everyone who wants to improve higher technical education. I strongly encourage everyone with an interest to contribute to the debate so that we can build the world-class technical education system that our students deserve and our country needs. I commend this statement to the House.

Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Jul 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 5:04 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. He asked a number of questions. I will attempt to address most of them, and if I do not I will happily write to him after this statement. He asked whether there will continue to be one type of recognised qualification at this level. Of course, he will know that there are individual examples of high-quality qualifications that are well recognised by employers—pharmacy, for example. These qualifications cater for a diverse set of situations and students, including people from a range of backgrounds studying for various purposes and a large volume of adult learners. We propose to maintain this diverse and competitive market through an opt-in system that enables more than one qualification to be approved against a given occupational standard. We want all higher technical qualifications that provide the knowledge, skills and behaviours that employers need to get the recognition they deserve. This is in contrast to the position for T-levels, where, as recommended by the Independent Panel on Technical Education, only one qualification is approved per occupation or group of occupations.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the issue of wider funding to deliver reforms. Of course we recognise that financial arrangements, or incentives, are important in delivering these reforms. We want to ensure that public funding for the delivery of higher technical education is focused on providers that meet the Office for Students’ proposed technical ongoing registration conditions.

We will be considering funding proposals as part of the spending review. The hon. Gentleman has heard that from the Dispatch Box on many occasions, but it is an important consideration. We are also seeking views through the consultation on how we can support providers to develop their workforce and engage with employers through non-financial incentives. I remind the Opposition that the funding that is available for investment in apprenticeships will reach over £2.5 billion in 2019-20—double what it was in 2010-11. So more money is going into the system for these apprenticeships.

On the hon. Gentleman’s slightly frivolous point about the negotiations with the EU, we do need to deliver a Brexit by 31 October. I am surprised that the Opposition have changed their position on this considering how many of their heartlands in the north feel about that issue, but I will leave it there. We have made no-deal preparations in the Department and I feel confident that we will be ready if that is the position—not that we want it to be. We want a deal, of course.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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8 Jul 2019, 5:06 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 5:07 p.m.

I take on board my hon. Friend’s comments and advice that we make sure that this is not a tick-box exercise. I will certainly look at the words of Graham Hasting-Evans on the capacity of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. We obviously want to get this right through the consultation.

Mr Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 3:54 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I know that he has been a passionate advocate for technical qualifications for many years, since before my time in this place. I served under him when he was Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, and he advocated a similar view then. He is right to talk about the aspirational value of technical qualifications. Part of the reason for the move towards degree apprenticeships was to begin to deliver that aspirational value to not only potential students but their parents. I take on board everything he says. He is right that, if we look at the take-up, something like one in 10 adults in this country holds these qualifications, versus one in five in countries such as Germany. Some will say that Germany has a very different economic model, but the evidence suggests that employers in our country have a real appetite for these qualifications and, therefore, it is only right that we do this, and do it well.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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8 Jul 2019, 5:10 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

8 Jul 2019, 3:54 p.m.

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s comments. He is right to warn the House that we do not want to lose excellent qualifications that are clearly recognised. I hope that my comments in response to the hon. Member for Blackpool South reassured him.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 3:54 p.m.

The hon. Lady raises an important point—we must never forget what an important export and potential employer the creative arts are, and our position in the world in that sector. She is right to raise that, and it is something we have to be cognisant of.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

8 Jul 2019, 3:54 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for her excellent question, and I congratulate MGTS on its contract. She rightly raises the ever faster moving nature of the economy and its changing shape, including some technological disruption. That is precisely why we want employers to co-create these technical qualifications. I do not think that the Government are able, on their own, to move to where the markets are. Businesses understand that better than anyone else, which is why we want them to be at the heart of this.

Diana Johnson Portrait Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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8 Jul 2019, 3:54 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 5:15 p.m.

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I spent a year as David Cameron’s apprenticeship champion, looking at the introduction of the levy and making sure that we would deliver that well, which I think we did. She is quite right to say that we need to encourage more young females to think about technical qualifications and of course STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths—which is dear to my heart as a chemical engineer. I certainly think that the best way forward is to have more female role models engaging with schools, making sure that children are exposed to the potential for a career from technical education.

Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con)
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8 Jul 2019, 5:15 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 5:15 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his rather opportunist question. I shall make sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, who has responsibility for further education, is cognisant of the fact that South Dorset needs an upgrade of its college, or a new college altogether. I suspect that will be above her pay grade as well, but I think I will leave it there.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
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8 Jul 2019, 5:16 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 5:17 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I visit FE colleges because of my portfolio—they do brilliant work on supported internships for students with special educational needs and disabilities—and I have to say that I hear a similar story about the financial challenges, which is where all this sits. I hope that from my earlier comments, and what she will have heard from my right hon. Friend the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, who has responsibility for further education, she will see that we are very much cognisant of the fact that more investment needs to go into FE. We have a spending review coming up, and my right hon. Friend will be putting her best foot forward in that negotiation. This is obviously to do with the challenge of finance in the FE sector.

Julian Knight Portrait Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con)
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8 Jul 2019, 5:18 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 5:18 p.m.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. Of course, the JLR announcement was equally welcome in Stratford-on-Avon, because many of my constituents work at the head office in Gaydon, where, as JLR recognised in its announcement, a lot of its engineering know-how and innovation are based. He is right to remind the House that if we obsess over a target for 50% of young people to go to university, we end up neglecting the FE sector, and that is something we in this Government will not do.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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8 Jul 2019, 5:19 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I am grateful for his comments about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The consultation and the eventual infrastructure, if I may describe it in that way, should and will fit seamlessly with the Augar review and whatever we do on HE.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con)
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8 Jul 2019, 5:20 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. He is right to focus his concern on the non-levy paying business community. We dropped the contribution from 10% to 5% to make sure that those SMEs can feel confident in participating and in taking on apprenticeships. We continue to monitor their progress.

Education

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd July 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections

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Department for Education
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
-

Last year, more than 1 million disadvantaged children were eligible for and claimed a free school meal, and that important provision has recently been expanded in three significant ways. First, in 2014, we introduced free meals in further education colleges. Secondly, in the same year, we also introduced universal free school meals to all infant children in state-funded schools. Thirdly, under our revised criteria for free school meals, which were introduced last April, we estimate that more children will benefit from free meals by 2022 compared with under the previous benefit system. In fact, numbers released today show that 1.3 million children are benefiting from free school meals.

[Official Report, 27 June 2019, Vol. 662, c. 889.]

Letter of correction from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education.

An error has been identified in my response to the debate on the Children’s Future Food Report.

The correct response should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Last year, more than 1 million disadvantaged children were eligible for and claimed a free school meal, and that important provision has recently been expanded in three significant ways. First, in 2014, we introduced free meals in further education colleges. Secondly, in the same year, we also introduced universal free school meals to all infant children in state-funded schools. Thirdly, under our revised criteria for free school meals, which were introduced last April, we estimate that more children will benefit from free meals by 2022 compared with under the previous benefit system. In fact, numbers released today show that 1.2 million children are benefiting from free school meals.

Children’s Future Food Report

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Thursday 27th June 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Education
Steve Reed Portrait Mr Reed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

27 Jun 2019, 3:58 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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27 Jun 2019, 3:59 p.m.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) on securing this important debate and thank all colleagues who participated in the inquiry, including the hon. Members for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) and for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). We have heard contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson).

I welcome the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) to his role as shadow Minister for children and families. We may come to our roles from different policy perspectives, but we share a passion for wanting to do the best for the children and families whom we ultimately serve.

I know that hon. Members in the Chamber have a sincere and long-held interest in this area. The right hon. Member for Birkenhead was a member of the inquiry, and I thank him for his work and his continued significant contribution to shaping my tenure in office and, of course, to children’s health and wellbeing.

The inquiry’s report is the result of a detailed and thorough examination of how we ensure that all children and young people have access to healthy and nutritious meals. I extend my thanks to all the children, young people, practitioners and, of course, researchers who were involved in its production. I also thank the many hon. Members on both sides of the House, and colleagues in the other place, for their contributions to this important work.

I was pleased to attend the launch of the report in April, at which I was truly privileged to be fortunate enough to meet some of the young food ambassadors in person. I was moved by their experiences, and impressed by their confidence and clarity in setting out how they will continue to make an impassioned contribution in this area. I look forward to continuing my engagement with them.

The Government share the inquiry’s overarching aims. All children should be able to access healthy, nutritious food at home and at school, as that is an essential part of building a country that works for everyone and in which every child and young person can reach their potential. The Government are already taking many steps to support children in accessing nutritious food and leading healthy lives. Of course, I recognise that there is much more that we need to do and can do.

When I spoke at the launch of the report back in April, I committed to providing a formal response in the autumn school term. Earlier this month, I again met representatives from the inquiry to discuss the recommendations further, and I have asked my team to work with the Food Foundation, including on exploring how we might provide greater oversight of children’s food by involving the inquiry’s young food ambassadors, as well as with other relevant Government Departments —my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton mentioned cross-Government work earlier.

I look forward to providing that formal response in the coming months. In the meantime, I wish to highlight some immediate actions we are taking. On 7 June, I wrote to all schools in England to highlight the inquiry’s findings and to remind them of their responsibilities in relation to school food. Many schools are, of course, already delivering excellent practice in this area, including through creative menu options and a focus on healthy eating across the curriculum, and by making it easy for children to enjoy free school meals.

In my letter to schools, I highlighted the importance of creating a positive lunchtime experience by ensuring that dining areas are welcoming places and by giving children a genuine voice in shaping this provision. I also stressed that no child should be stigmatised because they are eligible for free school meals—the right hon. Member for Birkenhead is passionate about that—and that there should be no limit on the healthy meal choices available to these children. I also described my shock on hearing from some young people that they do not have access to free drinking water at school and often have to buy a bottle of water, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth) mentioned. Schools are legally obliged to provide access to free drinking water on the school premises at all times, as I made very clear in my letter.

Lord Field of Birkenhead Portrait Frank Field
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

27 Jun 2019, 4:09 p.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that point. I intend to address that matter later in my remarks.

Finally, my letter highlighted the range of resources and guidance that is available for schools, including on meeting the mandatory school food standards and supporting children on free school meals, and curriculum resources for schools to help children to lead healthier lives. The Government have recently taken significant action to ensure that all children can access healthy food at school and beyond.

Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

27 Jun 2019, 4:06 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

27 Jun 2019, 4:06 p.m.

The hon. Lady makes her point powerfully, as she has done in the past. She is right—we have to look at every lever available to make sure that we nudge school leaders towards the best behaviour in delivering healthy food.

In 2018, our holiday activities and food programme awarded £2 million to holiday club providers to deliver free healthy food and enriching activities to about 18,000 children across the country, as was mentioned earlier. Following the success of this first year, we have more than quadrupled the funding for the summer of 2019. As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton mentioned, we are working with 11 organisations in 11 local authorities across the country—I am happy to write to her about those organisations. Both the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North and the right hon. Member for Birkenhead said that they were disappointed that there had not been a successful bid from their constituencies for a holiday activities and food co-ordinator. I am sure they will appreciate that there has been a lot of interest in the programme from organisations, but my team is happy to talk to bidders who want more detail and feedback on their bids so that we can keep pushing forward in this area.

I am also proud of my Department’s breakfast clubs programme. We are investing up to £26 million to set up or improve 1,700 breakfast clubs in schools in the most disadvantaged areas of the country, with the clear aim that those clubs stay sustainable over the longer term. The clubs ensure that children start the day with a nutritious breakfast. Such breakfasts not only bring a health benefit, but help children to concentrate and learn in school. I have visited one of these breakfast clubs, and one positive outcome from it was a rise in school attendance, with the fact that parents brought in their children early delivering much better attendance numbers. The children and teachers whom I visited were overwhelmingly positive about the benefits of such clubs.

We also remain committed to ensuring that the most disadvantaged children receive a healthy lunch at school. Last year, more than 1 million disadvantaged children were eligible for and claimed a free school meal, and that important provision has recently been expanded in three significant ways. First, in 2014, we introduced free meals in further education colleges. Secondly, in the same year, we also introduced universal free school meals to all infant children in state-funded schools. Thirdly, under our revised criteria for free school meals, which were introduced last April, we estimate that more children will benefit from free meals by 2022 compared with under the previous benefit system. In fact, numbers released today show that 1.3 million children are benefiting from free school meals.[Official Report, 2 July 2019, Vol. 662, c. 9MC.]

On the point made earlier by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead, one recommendation in the inquiry’s report was that any unspent free meal allowance should be carried over for pupils to use on subsequent days. Schools absolutely have the freedom to do this if their local arrangements allow for it—indeed, Carmel Education Trust in the north-east has adopted the practice. The right hon. Gentleman has raised an important point, however, and we should look into the matter to see how we can get all schools to adopt a similar practice, if they can. I should highlight that free school meals are of course intended as a benefit in kind, rather than as a cash benefit, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman understands that better than I do. Our critical interest is that schools meet their legal requirements to provide free and healthy meals to eligible children every day.

My Department is responsible for setting the mandatory school food standards, which have been mentioned. They require schools to serve children healthy and nutritious food. The standards restrict foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar—both you and I, Mr Deputy Speaker, could benefit from fewer foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. We are currently in the process of updating the standards, working with Public Health England to deliver a bold reduction in the sugar content of school meals. This is part of a wider Government plan to tackle childhood obesity. Sadly, as was mentioned in the Westminster Hall debate, the other side of coin with regard to children going without food is obesity among the most disadvantaged families and their children.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

27 Jun 2019, 4:11 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

27 Jun 2019, 4:12 p.m.

I am very much of the mindset that we should share best practice throughout the four nations, and I intend to visit to Scotland to look at what is being done there and to share what we are doing in England, too.

Many of the young people involved in the children’s future food report queried why unhealthy food is cheaper and more readily available than healthier choices. Through our childhood obesity plan, the Government are taking forward significant action on the advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods to children.

In the few minutes I have left, I shall address some of the direct questions I was asked. The right hon. Member for Birkenhead asked about the future of the holiday programme, which will of course be part of the spending review considerations. We have already learned a tremendous amount from this year’s and last year’s programmes on holiday activities. That evidence will help me in my discussions with the Treasury.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton mentioned the programme’s value for money. Our independent evaluation of the programme will report on that early next year. I am conscious of the time, however, so while I have detailed responses to her points and those made by other hon. Members, I will write to them rather than taking any more of the House’s time.

I am enormously grateful to the right hon. Member for Birkenhead for securing the debate and all colleagues who participated. The Government are already taking important and significant steps, and we will continue to do so, while working with all those involved in this important report.

Lord Field of Birkenhead Portrait Frank Field
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

27 Jun 2019, 4:13 p.m.

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the Children’s Future Food report.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 24th June 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Education
David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1. What steps he is taking to ensure his Department’s policies are compliant with the UN convention on the rights of the child. [911504]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:36 p.m.

I am sure colleagues have enjoyed the bevy of sport over the weekend, especially the tennis, but I think we would all want to congratulate the Lionesses on winning 3-0 against the Cameroon and, of course, on reaching the quarter-finals, where I hope they will quickly dispose of the Norway option to get to the semi-finals.

The use of children’s rights impact assessments is widely promoted across the Department and wider Government, and our assessment template is designed to help staff to give due consideration to the UNCRC when making new policy and legislation.

David Hanson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:36 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman very warmly for what he has said.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:37 p.m.

May I add my congratulations, Mr Speaker, on your 10 years in the Chair?

The consultation will be published very, very shortly.

Lord Field of Birkenhead Portrait Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Ind)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:37 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:37 p.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who helped to make sure those pilots happened. We are investing £9 million in holiday activities and food programmes. This summer, children in 11 local authorities will receive healthy meals, learn about the importance of healthy eating and enjoy enriching physical activities during the summer holiday. Decisions on the programme beyond March 2020 will be taken as part of the spending review, but I certainly think it has been a great success.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:37 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:38 p.m.

We work closely with other Departments. In fact, the permanent secretary of the Department for Education has written to all other permanent secretaries to make sure that we deliver on our promise. Of course, we are making that commitment across Government

Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:39 p.m.

As the hon. Lady knows, we have increased funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities by £250 million, taking it to £6.3 billion. We have also introduced a system that covers the ages from zero all the way up to 25, through the 2014 reforms, and so many more children and young people are eligible for education, health and care plans, with rights of appeal. Inevitably, this leads to an increase in the number of appeals, but the vast majority of cases are handled without going to appeal—only 1.6% of them go to an appeal decision. As she will know, many local authorities have almost no appeals whatsoever and we are attempting to learn from best practice and spread it throughout the system.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the provision of 30 hours’ free childcare on the financial viability of childcare settings. [911505]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:40 p.m.

The 30 hours’ entitlement has been a real success story for this Government, with an estimated 600,000 children benefiting in the first two years of the programme.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:40 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:41 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his supplementary. We do keep a close eye in monitoring the provider, the market and of course the cost base. Under the early years national funding formula, our average rates to local authorities are higher than the average hourly costs of providing childcare to three and four-year-olds, but he makes an important contribution, in the sense that we have to keep an eye on the costs. Ofsted has essentially done the work; the number of childcare places has remained broadly stable since the introduction of the 30 hours’ programme.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con)
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24 Jun 2019, 2:42 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Clearly, the programme aims to make sure that parents who are working are able to receive the entitlements. Of course, we deliver entitlements for two-year-olds for the most disadvantaged families in this country, but I will happily look at the question of parents with twins or triplets as well.

Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:42 p.m.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) sports an admirable tie, about which my only reservation is that it is a tad understated.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:44 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:43 p.m.

The numbers are important in this case and the 600,000 children benefiting from the 30 hours in the first two years means 600,000 families who have been able to go out to work. Of course, 700,000 of the most disadvantaged families with two-year-olds have also benefited. We are spending £3.5 billion on entitlements, which is a record to be proud of. I should also mention the hon. Gentleman’s tie, which is very beautiful.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:44 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 2:44 p.m.

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. The parents whom I have met and with whom I meet regularly tell me that it has made an enormous difference. Parents who hardly saw each other are able to work and to see each other and their child. One lady said movingly that her child came out of his shell because he was able to spend more time with children his age, too.

Tracy Brabin Portrait Tracy Brabin (Batley and Spen) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 2:45 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am sure the hon. Lady will agree with me and the whole House that the organisation that should be responsible for quality should be independent from Government, and that organisation is Ofsted, which states clearly that the overall quality in the sector remains high. Ofsted says that 95% of the providers in the early years register that have been inspected were judged to be good or outstanding. That is a good track record. We can always do better and the hon. Lady is right to say that we have to keep a close eye on funding, because some providers are challenged, but that does not mean that we do down the whole sector. It is wrong to talk down the sector in that way.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. What recent assessment he has made of the financial sustainability of school budgets. [911506]

Break in Debate

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

22. What steps he is taking to support children with special educational needs and disabilities in their education. [911528]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The 2014 special educational needs and disabilities reforms were the biggest in a generation. Care Quality Commission SEND inspectors provide evidence of progress at a local level. High needs funding has increased to £6.3 billion in 2019-20.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 3:24 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 3:24 p.m.

The hon. Lady would have been fair if she had also acknowledged that we launched a review of school exclusions, led by Edward Timpson. The Children and Families Act 2014 secures the presumption in law that children and young people with SEND should receive mainstream education—of course, 98.7% of them are educated in the mainstream. We have put £4 million into innovation funding to improve alternative provision as well.

Liz McInnes
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 3:24 p.m.

The Local Government Association has said that councils are facing a national special needs emergency and require more funding to meet colossal demand. Does the Minister agree?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 3:24 p.m.

There are clearly funding pressures on the system, which is why we have announced £250 million in additional funding to take the funding to £6.3 billion. We are in the middle of a spending review and I will be putting my best foot forward to make sure that we get the funding in place.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I do; all children should have the ability to reach their potential, which is why we introduced the reforms in the first place in 2014. We are beginning to see really good practice in places such as Wiltshire and elsewhere, and we learn from best practice and try to scale it to other parts of the country.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

18. What guidance the Government issue to schools to encourage healthy and active living among children and young people. [911523]

Break in Debate

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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? [911535]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 3:35 p.m.

I will happily meet the hon. Lady and, of course, her colleague, but I remind her that SEND funding has risen to £6.3 billion. We recognised the pressures on the system, which is why we announced £250 million of additional funding.

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman (Fareham) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 3:35 p.m.

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?

Break in Debate

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T9. Will the Government continue to fund the national school breakfast programme after April? [911538]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 3:37 p.m.

We are investing up to £26 million in the introduction and improvement of stable breakfast clubs in more than 1,700 schools. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that the contract with Family Action will run out by March 2020. Funding beyond that date—and the Chancellor is present—will be provided for in the upcoming spending review.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Break in Debate

Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Jun 2019, 3:41 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

24 Jun 2019, 3:39 p.m.

We are monitoring the whole of the system. It is important to recall that, as mentioned earlier, Ofsted has looked at this and the number of places remain pretty constant throughout, but we continue to monitor the whole of the marketplace.

Education

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 17th June 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections

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Department for Education
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Making progress means building a strong economy, achieving record levels of employment and reforming the welfare system so that it supports people into work. Now, 665,000 fewer children grow up in workless households, the support of an income making them less likely to grow up in poverty. The UK’s national living wage is growing faster than similar or higher minimum wages in other OECD countries, such as Belgium, France or Germany.

[Official Report, 12 June 2019, Vol. 661, c. 767.]

Letter of correction from the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi):

Errors have been identified in my winding-up speech in the debate.

The correct information should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Making progress means building a strong economy, achieving record levels of employment and reforming the welfare system so that it supports people into work. Now, 667,000 fewer children grow up in workless households, the support of an income making them less likely to grow up in poverty. As a proportion of median earnings, the UK’s national living wage is growing faster than similar or higher minimum wages in other OECD countries, such as Belgium or Germany.

Inequality and Social Mobility

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Wednesday 12th June 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Education
Lyn Brown Portrait Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

12 Jun 2019, 6:48 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

12 Jun 2019, 7 p.m.

I welcome the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Government. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) accuse the Government of not responding to the report of the UN rapporteur. That is not true; they have responded. I was also sorry to hear her exploit Allie, an 18-year-old, in an attempt to weaponise this issue, when we have heard really thoughtful contributions from other colleagues. Labour employs the politics of division; it was sad to see that today.

I thank colleagues who have spoken, including the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray), my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), the hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), and the hon. Members for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), for Leigh (Jo Platt), for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin), for Glasgow East (David Linden), and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders).

Many of the contributions this afternoon were about the long-term issue of delivering social mobility. As Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for children and families, I will naturally focus in my speech primarily on the work of my Department. You will not be surprised to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I believe that one of the most effective means of reducing inequality is education. As someone who came to these shores unable to speak a word of English, I know at first hand how education can change lives and truly open doors. Everyone has the right to a good education, regardless of their circumstances.

Social mobility, tackling inequality and social justice are rightly critical priorities for my Department and of course my Government as a whole. That is why, for the Social Mobility Commission, we have recruited a fantastic chair in Dame Martina Milburn, along with a board of commissioners each with a unique experience of social mobility. I will say a few words about their vital work.

At the end of April, the commission published a comprehensive “State of the Nation” report which shines a light on where Government, businesses and employers can continue to raise the bar for everyone living in this country.

Neil Gray Portrait Neil Gray
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12 Jun 2019, 7 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

12 Jun 2019, 7:01 p.m.

If I have time at the end, I will happily take an intervention.

We welcome the commission’s thorough analysis and its efforts to promote social mobility and social justice across the United Kingdom, and we have therefore awarded it £2 million to undertake further work on that agenda. Indeed, despite some claims to the contrary, social justice is already an intrinsic part of the commission’s role. It is already concerned to help the most disadvantaged in society and to ensure that someone’s background does not determine future chances in life.

This Government share the view that everyone should have the chance to fulfil their potential. That is why we are taking action across the whole of Government in order to make real progress.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy
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12 Jun 2019, 7:01 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

12 Jun 2019, 7:02 p.m.

I will at the end if I have time. I have a lot to get through. I will try to respond to the hon. Lady and to other contributors to the debate, and I will happily take interventions at the end if possible.

Making progress means building a strong economy, achieving record levels of employment and reforming the welfare system so that it supports people into work. Now, 665,000 fewer children grow up in workless households, the support of an income making them less likely to grow up in poverty. The UK’s national living wage is growing faster than similar or higher minimum wages in other OECD countries, such as Belgium, France or Germany.[Official Report, 17 June 2019, Vol. 662, c. 2MC.]

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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12 Jun 2019, 7:02 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

12 Jun 2019, 7:05 p.m.

I will try to take some interventions at the end. I want to get through my remarks and to address some of the questions asked of me.

In 2014, we extended benefits-related free meals to cover further education—not something that the Labour party had contemplated—and introduced universal infant free school meals, benefiting a further 1.5 million infant pupils. In 2018, we introduced new eligibility under universal credit, and we estimate that by 2022 more children will benefit from free school meals than under the previous benefits system. Such efforts are targeted at the root causes of poverty and disadvantage.

Improving this country’s education system starts in the early years—Martina Milburn focused on that in her report. We have already made progress in closing the gap that emerges between disadvantaged children and their peers: 71.5% of children achieved a “good level of development” in 2018, up from 51.7% in 2013. Despite that very encouraging progress, far too many children still start school behind their peers, in particular in language development, which a number of colleagues mentioned. We have set out an important ambition to halve, by 2028, the proportion of children finishing their reception year without the communication and reading skills that they need.

To tackle that, this year alone the Government will spend about £3.5 billion—yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, you heard me right—on early education entitlements, which is more than any previous Government have spent. Our early years social mobility programme, backed by more than £100 million of investment, includes: a professional development programme for early years practitioners, who will shape those little ones to make the most of their lives as they become adults; and work with Public Health England to train 1,000 health visitors to identify speech, language and communication in families who need that additional help. We will soon launch a home learning environment campaign, because what happens in the home in the earliest years has a huge impact, and there are many opportunities to help parents to support their children to learn—to have the confidence to help their children to learn better and faster. I look forward to working with hon. Members across this House to ensure that we make the most of the very significant potential of that campaign to help disadvantaged children.

This Government have focused on raising school standards because we know that what happens in our classrooms is critical to reducing inequality. There is nothing moral or decent about crashing an economy and leaving the most vulnerable people behind. That is why we are targeting extra support at the areas of greatest challenge and least opportunity in order to raise standards and attract great teachers to our primary and secondary schools. This has helped to ensure that, as of December of last year, there are 1.9 million more children in good and outstanding schools compared with when we came into office in 2010, representing 85% of children, compared with just 66% in 2010. That is partly down to our reforms.

I am pleased to say that this Government have also made significant progress in closing the opportunity gap with regard to education. The difference in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has fallen across all stages of education. Commenting on the changes we have made to the system, including the pupil premium, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which has been mentioned a number of times today, said:

“A system that was substantially skewed…towards the better off is now, if anything, skewed towards the least well off.”

It also said:

“Reforms since 2010 are likely to have increased total funding in favour of pupils from poorer backgrounds.”

Our efforts do not stop there, when school comes to an end. To tackle inequality, everyone must have the right level of ongoing support to help them on a path to a skilled job, be it via university or a more practical, technical path. That is why widening access in higher education to ensure that an academic route is open to all is a priority for this Government, as shown in the recent report by Philip Augar.

Neil Gray Portrait Neil Gray
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12 Jun 2019, 7:07 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

12 Jun 2019, 7:07 p.m.

I have said that I will at the end when I have a bit of time.

In 2018, 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds were proportionally 52% more likely to go to university than they were in 2009. Higher education providers have committed to spend £860 million in 2019-20 on measures to improve access—up significantly from £404 million; in fact, this is more than a doubling since 2009. This Government have also embarked on a long-overdue overhaul of technical education, backed by significant investment. Over 1.7 million people have started an apprenticeship since May 2015. Alongside this, we are introducing T-levels, which will offer a rigorous technical alternative to academic education, available to all.

On children’s social care, this Government take the view that all children, no matter where they live, should have access to the support they need to keep them safe, provide them with a stable and nurturing home, and overcome their challenges to achieve their potential. This Government are committed to improving outcomes for children in need of help and protection. That is why, owing to the work of my Department, my officials and all our teams, and of course all the brilliant social workers on the frontline, our children’s social care reform programme is working to deliver a highly capable, highly skilled social work workforce, with high-performing services everywhere and a national system of excellent and innovative practice.

It is both an economic and moral imperative that we ensure that the skills system works for all—my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney spoke eloquently about why the system really matters—and that it does so up and down the country. That is why we are taking action in every region, at every stage of a young person’s life, to close the opportunity gap. We are targeting extra support at some of the poorest areas of the country through our £72 million opportunity area programme and £24 million for Opportunity North East.

Members made a number of points that I would like to address. The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden asked how many academies are in debt. I will be happy to respond to her question in writing, but I can say that the reforms of the last eight years show that autonomy and freedom have allowed the best leaders and teachers to make the right decisions for their pupils to reach their full potential.

The hon. Member for Glasgow East rightly held us to account for our own behaviour in this place. There really should not be any unpaid internships. I remind colleagues of the care leaver covenant, which all Departments have signed up to, meaning that we offer 12-month paid internships to those most vulnerable children who, through no fault of their own, have had to be taken into care.

The hon. Members for Mitcham and Morden and for Bradford South attacked the Government about what steps they would be taking to support children who live in food insecurity. I remind them that we are supporting more than 1 million children with free school meals and investing up to £26 million in school breakfast clubs, providing approximately 2.3 million children aged four to six with a portion of fresh fruit or vegetables each day.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh
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12 Jun 2019, 7:11 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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12 Jun 2019, 7:11 p.m.

The hon. Members for Battersea, for Oldham East and Saddleworth and for Bedford talked about the national living wage and the inequality—[Interruption.] I am trying to address the issues that—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. Let me say to those on the two Front Benches that if the Minister wishes to give way, that is his choice, but I do not need somebody next to him chuntering that the shadow Minister only gave way once. Let us continue.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was trying to address some of the issues raised.

The issue of inequality was raised by the hon. Members for Battersea, for Oldham East and Saddleworth and for Bedford. Our policies are highly redistributive. This year the lowest-income households will, on average, receive more than £4 in public spending for every pound they pay in tax—

Nicholas Brown Portrait Mr Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Resolved,

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.

Murders in Northamptonshire: Serious Case Reviews

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 10th June 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Education
Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:40 p.m.

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will make a statement on the findings of two serious case reviews into the murders of two toddlers in Northamptonshire.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:41 p.m.

The deaths of Dylan in 2017 and Evelyn-Rose in 2018 were both tragic and, indeed, horrific. Separate serious case reviews were published on 5 June this year by Northamptonshire’s local safeguarding children board. The serious case reviews highlight serious weaknesses in child safeguarding practice and partnership arrangements at those times, and together make 16 recommendations for Northamptonshire and its safeguarding partners to implement.

These events have highlighted the serious systemic issues in Northamptonshire. I want to assure the House that we have already begun taking action. Since those deaths, and following an Ofsted focused visit in 2018 that exposed a more general decline in the quality of services, my Department has appointed a highly experienced commissioner, Malcolm Newsam CBE, to ensure that improvements take place, and has increased improvement support from Lincolnshire County Council—one of the best in the country for children’s social care. The commissioner has already identified six priority areas for significant improvement to effectively improve outcomes for children. He has identified the importance of learning from the tragic deaths of these two young children and others. I have written to Malcolm today to ask that he continue to put learning from Dylan and Evelyn-Rose’s deaths and the recommendations from these reviews firmly into his future work.

I have already set out my intention, on the recommendation of the commissioner, to create an operationally independent children’s service trust serving Northamptonshire to drive improvement in services. I can announce to the House today that I have issued a statutory direction to the council to work with the commissioner on the creation of that trust by July 2020.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne
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10 Jun 2019, 3:43 p.m.

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—

Break in Debate

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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10 Jun 2019, 3:49 p.m.

Let me take the last point first, about the third serious case review. Our statutory guidance is clear that local safeguarding children boards must let the independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel—the panel, as I will refer to it—and the Department for Education and Ofsted know of any decisions about a serious case review initiation and publication, including the name of any reviewer commissioned, as soon as they have made a final decision. The local safeguarding children board should also set out for the panel and the Secretary of State the justification for any decisions not to initiate or publish a serious case review. They should send copies of all serious case reviews to the panel, the DFE and Ofsted at least seven working days before publication.

There has been and continues to be a great deal of debate about the transparency of the child protection system in England, but there is a presumption that all serious case review reports are published. That is why local safeguarding children boards and the new safeguarding partnerships are required to send copies of all serious case reviews to the panel, the DFE and Ofsted within at least seven days, as I have mentioned. At that point, they would need to provide justification for any decision not to publish the report. The panel has not yet received the draft serious case review in relation to child JL.[Official Report, 23 July 2019, Vol. 663, c. 13MC.] Once the draft serious case review is received, the panel will consider carefully if there is any justification for not publishing the report. I hope that reassures the hon. Gentleman.

On our work with the MHCLG, the hon. Gentleman can see that my colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), is on the Front Bench, and we take our work together very seriously. We are working towards the spending review and making sure that funding for children’s services is adequate. Overall, if we look at England, local authorities have made some tough decisions, but they have actually protected the funding for children’s services. I can give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that working with Malcolm Newsam, with the recommendations he has made for me and the trust that we will be delivering for all Northamptonshire’s children, will be the best way forward.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:42 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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10 Jun 2019, 3:52 p.m.

My hon. Friend raises a very powerful point. All I can say to him is that my Department triggered our intervention powers immediately when those concerns in relation to children’s services were raised with me. I hope that, after his meeting with Malcolm Newsam, he will be reassured that we have the right commissioner in there. We are taking those steps, and I have mentioned the direction I have made to the local authority.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:53 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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10 Jun 2019, 3:54 p.m.

The hon. Lady raises the issue of children’s centres. I hope that she would commend the troubled families programme, which has reduced by a third the number of children needing to be taken into care. We have announced the strengthening families programme, in which we are scaling up the whole-system approach to children’s services and childcare from Leeds, North Yorkshire and Hertfordshire and investing £84 million to scale that up to another 20 local authorities. They have made it very clear to me that very much part of that whole-system approach was the troubled families programme work that they do.

The hon. Lady also mentioned children’s centres. I am looking at how local authorities make best use of their infrastructure, including children’s centres. Local government—local authorities, local leaders—is best placed to decide how it does that. Staffordshire, which chose to close more than 60 children’s centres, but keep 14 in the areas most promising for reaching the most difficult-to-reach families, has delivered much better outcomes because it has used that resource. It has not taken it away; it has used it for outreach, to go and knock on the doors of families who would never think of coming into a building run by a local authority. There are different models, but we are looking to learn from the best models, including some of the family hubs in places such as Westminster.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:59 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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10 Jun 2019, 3:58 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He spoke powerfully about the injuries that these poor souls sustained and about how they were well known to other services. We legislated in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 to require local areas to establish new, much stronger multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, which I think will enhance the protective net around our most vulnerable children. That includes the police and health as statutory partners. Safeguarding partners in Northamptonshire must publish a plan setting out how they will deliver those arrangements by 29 June and must implement them by 29 September. My Department is monitoring compliance, and we will be asking those partners to work swiftly and collectively to ensure that lessons have been learnt and implemented.

My hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not comment on the local political leadership. What I would like to see now is us moving forward with Malcolm Newsam’s recommendations and getting the trust up and running as quickly as possible.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:58 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady makes a powerful and well-made point. There is, if not causation, then certainly a correlation between people who abuse and hurt children and those who abuse and hurt women. I try to make sure that we learn as much as possible and that we act as quickly as possible, as I think we have in this case.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:59 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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10 Jun 2019, 3:59 p.m.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I hope he heard me say earlier that we have Malcolm Newsam. In conjunction with Malcom we have Lincolnshire County Council, which is one of our exemplars in delivering the best services and safeguarding children. The important thing to remember in this case is that we must always ensure that the safety of children comes first. We know that poor practice can cost more money, not less, in the longer term. The director of children’s services has been clear in her statements that funding was not the cause of these tragic incidents, and that system, practice and partnership was where it needs to be. The important thing is that we get on.

In Doncaster, I saw at first-hand how children’s services can be transformed. They went from failing with very poor outcomes, to good outcomes for children when we put it into trust. I met the social workers on the frontline, and 70% of them are the same people who were there when the local authority was failing. I said, “I want all the directors out of the room. I want to talk to just the frontline.” I said to them, “What is the difference here? What have you done here that has transformed the service? You are the same people who were here when it was failing.” They said it was all about leadership: leadership that supported, trusted and nurtured them, and delivered that support for them. Those are the sorts of lessons we need to learn in order to be able to deliver the same level of success as Doncaster.

Angela Eagle Portrait Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)
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10 Jun 2019, 3:59 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I think—I hope—I have been clear in saying that I recognise there are funding pressures on children’s services. I am working with the director of children’s services and the sector as a whole in preparation for the spending review. However, to simply characterise this as a funding issue would be misleading. We have to do both things. We have to have a whole system approach. We are learning from the best—Leeds, North Yorkshire and Hertfordshire—and scaling those models from those three local authorities to 20. We also have to look at the workforce, and by introducing the national accreditation assessment process and Social Work England we begin to deliver a system that really does work to protect the most vulnerable children and families in our society.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Jun 2019, 4:05 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

10 Jun 2019, 4:05 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely passionate about work in this area. Schools and other local partners are involved and engaged, but the purpose of the legislation was to make sure that health, police and social services work together. However, he raises an important point about how we can make sure that schools are much more involved.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Jun 2019, 4:05 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

10 Jun 2019, 4:05 p.m.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for at least not blaming this Minister, but nevertheless, he raises a very important point. One of our innovations is the introduction of a national panel, chaired by Edward Timpson, which has a remit to make sure that nationally we learn the lessons from such terrible cases. For the first time, it will undertake national reviews. The first of those reviews is on the criminal exploitation of children, so we are learning the lessons and putting the infrastructure in place to be able to do that and act upon it.

Andrew Lewer Portrait Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Jun 2019, 4:09 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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10 Jun 2019, 4:05 p.m.

It is very important that there is local democratic oversight. When I look at the areas that deliver the best outcomes and best practice, I see that it is a combination of very strong leadership at local authority level—so, the officer class—and strong political leadership, including from councillors who really understand their remit to protect children.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

10 Jun 2019, 4:05 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point overall about funding and the challenge of funding for children’s services. In this case, it is also important for us to understand the detail. Sally Hodges, the director of children’s services, told the Local Government Chronicle:

“It was because of the failure of a number of people through the whole system in respect of risk to those children. I don’t think financial matters had a direct impact.”

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point overall, but in this tragic case, it is not about simply saying that the money was not there.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Jun 2019, 4:09 p.m.

Northamptonshire had the most expensive children’s services in the country, so funding wasn’t the issue, was it?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for that powerful intervention by my right hon. Friend. As he rightly says, it is not simply about funding; the issue is much more fundamental in Northamptonshire, which is why we have made the right decision in taking it into trust.

Children’s Future Food Inquiry

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Wednesday 8th May 2019

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Education
Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) (Lab)
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8 May 2019, 10:40 a.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

8 May 2019, 10:48 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell.

I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) on securing this important debate. I know it is an issue close to her heart, as a member of the committee for this important inquiry. I also take this opportunity to thank the young people and everyone else who contributed to the report.

I thank two people who are not in the room, Lindsay Graham and, of course, the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field), for their work in this area. The right hon. Gentleman certainly left an impression on me from the moment I got this job as the Children and Families Minister, and much of the work on the holiday activities and food programme is testament to his passion and commitment to this area.

I attended the launch of the inquiry’s report the other week—it has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members—and I was especially lucky to meet some of the young food ambassadors in person. They have been mentioned several times today, and I want to echo what has been said, extend to them my congratulations and state my commitment to continue to listen to them as they continue their work. I was struck by the bravery of those young people, how articulate they were and their commitment to work with one another to improve the lives of other children in their communities. I know that many of them, including Dev, whom the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) mentioned, are interested in pursuing a career in politics. All I can say is that if that is the calibre of politicians in the future, we are in safe hands.

The Government are committed to delivering a country that works for everyone, and all children should be able to access healthy and nutritious food at home and at school. I am determined to ensure that we target our support as effectively as possible towards the children who are most in need.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Whitford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 May 2019, 10:50 a.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

8 May 2019, 10:50 a.m.

I have very little time and I want to address a number of the issues that were raised and, obviously, give the hon. Member for Bristol East a couple of minutes to respond, so I apologise, but I will not give way now. If I can at the end of my speech, I will certainly take interventions.

Clearly, there is much more to do. That was highlighted in the report, which raised some serious and important issues that we need to address. At the launch event, I promised to take the report away to consider it in detail and to formulate an official response. Although this speech does not constitute our formal response to the report, what I can say is that I have asked my team to work with the Food Foundation to look into setting up a working group to explore how we might provide greater oversight of children’s food, involving the young food ambassadors and other relevant Departments. I am happy to meet representatives of the Food Foundation to discuss that in more detail before the end of this month—diaries permitting, of course. I will also write to schools to remind them of their responsibilities on school food, including the need to provide access at all times to free, fresh drinking water. That issue has been mentioned several times today. I will respond formally to the report by the start of the new school year. That will give us a chance to test the response with the young food ambassadors when they meet in the school holidays. My Department is committed to ensuring that all children can access healthy food, both at school and beyond, and has put in place significant resources to ensure that that happens.

The holiday activities and food programme is exploring how we can better support children and young people during school holidays. The hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury) mentioned expanding it. This is the second year of our research, and we will continue to try to understand what works. Last year, we awarded £2 million, as he mentioned, to holiday club providers to deliver free healthy food and enriching activities to about 18,000 children across the country. We have more than quadrupled the funding for the summer of 2019, when, as people may have heard earlier today, we will work with 11 organisations in all the regions of England. I am pleased to be able to tell the House, if hon. Members have not already heard, that the organisations and areas that we will be working with this summer are StreetGames in Newcastle—that organisation was mentioned by the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson)—Gateshead Council; the Leeds Community Foundation; Transforming Lives for Good, in Bradford; Edsential in the Cheshire West and Chester area; the Happy Healthy Holidays consortium in Birmingham; Barnardo’s in Leicestershire; Suffolk County Council; Family Action in Croydon; the Romsey School in Hampshire; and Plymouth City Council. Those organisations will co-ordinate and fund—

Dr Blackman-Woods
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 May 2019, 10:54 a.m.

Will the Minister give way briefly?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

8 May 2019, 10:54 a.m.

I will right at the end, I promise, if I can just get through this speech. There is a lot that I want to respond on, including why Bristol East, unlike Plymouth, did not get the funding—

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 May 2019, 10:54 a.m.

And Durham.

Dr Blackman-Woods
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

8 May 2019, 10:55 a.m.

And Durham. The organisations that I have listed will co-ordinate and fund provision across their area to ensure that those who need it can access it. They will work with providers to ensure that they meet our new set of minimum standards, including that the food they offer meets school food standards, and that children and young people attending the clubs—and their families where appropriate—are being taught about the importance of healthy food and given the skills, through cooking classes, to ensure that they can put those lessons into practice at home.

I have spoken before about how enormously proud I am of the breakfast club programme, which has been mentioned today. We are investing £26 million. A good breakfast sets children up for the day ahead, as colleagues have mentioned, and where children do not get that at home, we are committed to ensuring that schools are able to provide it. The breakfast club programme is setting up or improving more than 1,700 breakfast clubs in schools in the most disadvantaged areas across the country. I recently visited one such club in Battersea, and everyone involved was overwhelmingly positive about the impact that the club has had.

Free school meals have been mentioned. The Government are also committed to ensuring that the most disadvantaged children receive a healthy and nutritious lunch time meal at school. Last year, more than 1 million disadvantaged children were eligible for and claimed a free school meal. We have recently expanded free school meal provision to include further education colleges and implemented, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire mentioned, universal free school meals for all infant children in state-funded schools in England.

We estimate that under our revised criteria, introduced last April, for free school meals, more children will benefit from free meals by 2022, compared with the previous benefits system. The hon. Member for Weaver Vale talked about that. We have also introduced generous transitional protections, so that all children will keep their free meals during the change to the new criteria.

Another recommendation from the report was that any unspent free meal allowance should be carried over for pupils to use on subsequent days. Free school meals are intended as a benefit in kind, rather than a cash benefit; our primary interest is that schools meet their legal duties to provide nutritious free lunches to eligible children. However, schools absolutely have the freedom to do this if their local arrangements allow it, and I know that Carmel Education Trust, up in the north-east, is one body that has adopted this practice.

My Department’s school food standards mean that the food that children and young people access at school is healthy and nutritious and foods high in fat, salt and sugar are restricted. We are going even further by updating the standards to reduce sugar content even more. Of course, I acknowledge that these issues are related more to child health and obesity. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) spoke so eloquently about that and the relationship with diabetes and the scourge of that illness. But as we all know, obesity and poverty are related issues. Many colleagues have mentioned that they are two sides of the same coin. Indeed, many of the young people asked why unhealthy food is cheaper and more readily available than healthy alternatives. I was shocked to hear the young food ambassadors talking about not having access to free water at school, and I will include that in my letter when I write to schools.

My time is limited. I thank all colleagues who have spoken. The hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West spoke about free school meals and the allowance. We will look at that in the spending review. The hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) eloquently told his pineapple story, as I will refer to it, and quoted a young man named Aaron. The hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) referred to her own mother’s experience of being a school cook and talked about holiday activities, which I will hopefully write to her on. The hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) talked about behavioural challenges. I have been to that wonderful town to look at our opportunity area there.

I want to end there to allow the hon. Member for Bristol East to respond. The only other thing I will say is that I have lots of responses to colleagues’ points and I will write to them if I have not responded fully in my remarks today.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 May 2019, 10:59 a.m.

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the report of the Children’s Future Food inquiry.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 29th April 2019

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Education
Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. What steps he is taking to help ensure that creative and practical projects are part of the early years experience in schools. [910557]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

29 Apr 2019, 2:41 p.m.

Creative and practical subjects form a key part of the early years foundation stage statutory framework, which is mandatory for all early years providers, including of course schools.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Sheerman
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

29 Apr 2019, 2:42 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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29 Apr 2019, 2:42 p.m.

I would certainly talk to Tristram Hunt. Expressive arts and design is one of the seven areas of learning set out in the early years foundation stage statutory framework, and it involves exploring and using media and materials, and being imaginative, including through design and technology, art, music, dance, role play and stories.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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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? [910578]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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29 Apr 2019, 2:43 p.m.

I do, indeed, agree with my right hon. Friend. Between 2016 and 2020, we are spending almost £500 million on a range of music and creative arts programmes.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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29 Apr 2019, 2:43 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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29 Apr 2019, 2:44 p.m.

No teacher or school leader would disagree about the lust for learning and making learning fun, but testing is the building block that allows us to make the investment and have the focus necessary to produce the extraordinary results that we are producing for children and families up and down the country.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I certainly do. Our proposals retain 17 early learning goals to reflect the breadth of the current early years foundation stage approach as well.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Art, music and design are compulsory in all maintained schools from age five to age 14. All schools, including academies, are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

Alan Mak Portrait Alan Mak (Havant) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I certainly agree; I know that my hon. Friend is a passionate advocate of IT literacy.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I certainly agree with all that. I will certainly support the fair that the hon. Lady plans in her area, and I am sure that my colleagues would join me in visiting it.

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That sounds very exciting, I must say. I have been to the hon. Lady’s constituency a number of times, but I have merely spoken. The notion that I might create a robot has never been put to me—thankfully.

Tracy Brabin Portrait Tracy Brabin (Batley and Spen) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

We plan to spend around £3.5 billion on early education entitlements this year alone, and that targets the most disadvantaged in society. The hon. Lady rightly mentions music, which is very much part of the creative portfolio that children under five should be enjoying. Part of our funding, of course, is for making sure that we deliver all that and more in our fantastic early years provision.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

4. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of proposed immigration legislation on tertiary education. [910558]

Break in Debate

Richard Harrington (Watford) (Con)
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16. What his timescale is for the disbursement of allocations from the conditions improvement fund. [910571]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

29 Apr 2019, 3:20 p.m.

I congratulate all colleagues who ran the marathon. The disbursements of funding for successful projects under the condition improvement fund 2019-20 will start in June.

Richard Harrington
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

29 Apr 2019, 3:21 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Academies and sixth-form colleges can apply for funding over two financial years. The funding starts in June, and allocations for new projects will continue up until spring 2021. My hon. Friend has been a champion for children and schools in Watford.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [910580]

Break in Debate

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
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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? [910588]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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29 Apr 2019, 3:33 p.m.

I know the hon. Lady is passionate about the care system, having been a social worker. We are introducing reforms—both workforce reforms with the national assessment and accreditation system, and through the investment we are making in “Strengthening Families, Protecting Children”, for which £84 million was announced at the Budget. Of course, we will also put our best foot forward, working with the sector, to make sure that the financial challenges are highlighted at the spending review.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Break in Debate

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman (Fareham) (Con)
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29 Apr 2019, 3:36 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

29 Apr 2019, 3:36 p.m.

I will happily look into that case and take it offline.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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29 Apr 2019, 3:36 p.m.

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?

Break in Debate

Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab)
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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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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29 Apr 2019, 3:39 p.m.

We have launched ambitious SEND reforms, which I have spoken about at the Dispatch Box before, but I will happily meet the hon. Lady to look at the specific issue she mentions.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)
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29 Apr 2019, 3:40 p.m.

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?

Break in Debate

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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29 Apr 2019, 3:41 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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It is a pleasure to congratulate the school and highlight how important the Daily Mile is, as well as the work we are doing with the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that as many schools as possible deliver the Daily Mile.

Children and Young People: Restrictive Intervention

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2019

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Education
Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
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25 Apr 2019, 4:42 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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25 Apr 2019, 4:49 p.m.

I thank all colleagues who have contributed to the debate, including my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan), who offered a very personal story, and the hon. Members for Croydon North (Mr Reed), for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Dundee West (Chris Law). I commend the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, which has been mentioned several times, and Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland for all the work they do, and Dame Christine Lenehan for the work she has done for my Department. I also congratulate the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) on securing this important debate.

As has already been noted during the debate, any use of restrictive intervention is, quite rightly, always a sensitive issue. Restrictive intervention can have long-term consequences for the health and wellbeing of children and young people, and the right hon. Member for North Norfolk really brought that to life with the story of Fauzia, Stephen and Harry. It can also have a negative impact on the staff who carry out such interventions. It is never something to turn to unless there are very good reasons to do so. As colleagues have so eloquently said, the preferred approach should always be to use positive behaviour support and other alternatives that can de-escalate challenging behaviour and tackle the reasons for it at source.

I want to start by highlighting the guidance that is already in place for teachers around the use of reasonable force. The law and our guidance are clear that there are situations where using reasonable force is necessary in a school environment, to make schools safe places for pupils and staff. For example, force can be used to prevent pupils from hurting themselves or others, from damaging property or from causing disorder. However, the law is absolutely clear that force can never be used as a punishment. Any policy on the use of reasonable force should also acknowledge any duties in relation to disabled children and children with special educational needs.

There are times when the only realistic response to a situation is restraint or restrictive intervention—for example, when a young child is about to run into a busy road, or when a pupil is hurting a teacher or child and refuses to stop when asked. The same would be true in a hospital if a child were hurting staff or other patients. Our starting point on any use of restrictive intervention is that every child and young person has a right to be treated with respect and dignity, to have their needs recognised and to be given the right support.

We also fully appreciate that some children and young people with conditions such as learning disabilities, autistic spectrum conditions or mental health difficulties may react to distressing or confusing situations by displaying behaviours that may be harmful to themselves and others. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed eloquently described the situation of her own son. Restrictive intervention may be needed to minimise the impact of their behaviour on themselves or on other people, but it should only be what is reasonable to deal with the situation, and proportionate to the circumstances.

Restrictive intervention should be avoided wherever possible. Instead, proactive, preventive, non-restrictive approaches should be used in respect of the challenging behaviour to tackle the issues early. Examples include providing an environment that does not overwhelm the child with noise or other stimulation, putting the right special educational provision in place to enable the child to learn effectively, and developing an appropriate behaviour management plan.

As the right hon. Member for North Norfolk knows from his time in government, guidance is in place to support health settings in helping to care for someone who displays behaviour that might be considered challenging. I would like to commend him for his contribution in this area. The Department of Health’s positive and proactive care guidance, published in 2014, sets out how restrictive interventions should be used appropriately in health settings where there is a real possibility of harm to the person, to staff, to the public or to others.

I know that there has been deep concern in response to media reports in recent months about the use of restrictive interventions in mental health hospitals. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has asked the Care Quality Commission to review and make recommendations about the use of restrictive interventions in settings that provide in-patient and residential care for those who have, or might have, mental health problems, learning disabilities or autism. We will be following the progress of this review closely.

Through our new compulsory health education, all children will be taught how to look after their mental wellbeing and to recognise when classmates are struggling. In addition, we recently updated our mental health and behaviour advice, which provides signposting and information on how schools can identify pupils whose behaviour may result from underlying mental health difficulties, adapt the approaches outlined in their relevant policies and, of course, adjust policies as appropriate to support pupils.

Positive and proactive care has been important in setting expectations about the use of restrictive interventions in health settings, but there were concerns that the policy did not say enough about children and young people and about settings beyond health. That is why the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care have consulted on new guidance to help with the prevention and management of challenging behaviour of those with autism, mental health difficulties or learning disabilities. We worked closely with a range of special educational needs and disability organisations in drawing up the draft guidance for consultation. We are working through some of the complex issues raised in the consultation responses and will, as many colleagues have requested today, announce our next steps shortly. The right hon. Member for North Norfolk and other Members, including the shadow Minister, asked about the delay, but the guidance addresses some sensitive issues, so it is only right that we have taken the time to engage with the education and health settings where it will apply.

We were clear in our consultation paper that restrictive intervention should be used only when absolutely necessary, in accordance with the law and clear ethical values and principles that respect the rights and dignity of children and young people, and in proportion to the risks involved. Restrictive intervention can never be a long-term solution, and we are particularly concerned about long-term or institutionalised uses of restrictive interventions, which several colleagues have described so harrowingly. We are aiming to support settings and services to develop their practice so that they have confidence to provide better support for children and young people with challenging behaviours and provide safe environments in which they can thrive.

While the guidance was written for special schools and specialist colleges, and focuses on students who have learning disabilities, mental health difficulties or autism, other settings may wish to use the guidance if they would find it helpful. The guidance is consistent with Ofsted’s expectations of schools and care settings in relation to the use of restraint and restrictive intervention. Last year, Ofsted published guidance to inspectors entitled “Positive environments where children can flourish: a guide for inspectors about physical intervention and restriction of liberty”, the thrust of which relates to the importance of proactive approaches to behaviour management and minimising the use of restrictive intervention. The fact that Ofsted developed the guidance is evidence of how importantly they take the issue.

I am enormously grateful to the right hon. Member for North Norfolk for raising such important issues today, and I hope that he is somewhat reassured that the Government recognise them. In making our final decisions on the guidance, we will consider the points made in the debate today, and I am grateful for the contributions of many colleagues. We have a real opportunity here to make a difference to the lives of some of our most vulnerable children and young people and of those who work with them, and it is crucial that we get it right.

Norman Lamb
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25 Apr 2019, 4:58 p.m.

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.

Resolved,

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.

Children’s Social Care Services: Stoke-on-Trent

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd April 2019

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Education
Gareth Snell
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3 Apr 2019, 11:13 a.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
- Hansard - -

3 Apr 2019, 11:18 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Mr Howarth. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) on securing this debate, and I commend the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton)—my PPS—and my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) for engaging with it.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North raised the important issue of social workers. We must not forget to thank the frontline workers. I went up to Doncaster after the turnaround there, and I met social workers on their own without directors in the room. I asked, “What happened? Seventy per cent. of you are the same people who were here when you were failing, and yet you are now ‘good’.” To a man and woman, they said to me, “It’s because we had strong leadership—political leadership and officer leadership—that believed in us. It was consistent, it was there for us and it supported us in what we were trying to do.” That is a strong message to take from that.

I commend the leadership in Staffordshire County Council—the political and officer leadership. The chief executive and the director of children’s services are both outstanding. I wholeheartedly agree that nothing is more important than the work that we do to ensure that vulnerable children are able to live safe and happy lives and achieve their potential wherever they live in our country. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North mentioned the 2015 Ofsted inspection. Sadly, it clearly stated that improvement was required, but services were in a much better place than they are today—the hon. Lady is absolutely right about that.

The inspection of local authority children’s services report states that there are demonstrable failings in protecting the most vulnerable children. The Government have always been crystal clear that it is the responsibility of the local authority to manage their service to ensure continuous improvement and proper protection of all children, but Stoke’s decline—all service areas are now deemed “inadequate”—since its last inspection in June 2015, which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central mentioned, is deeply concerning and highlights the urgent need for central Government intervention. It is important that we act quickly on improvement, so we are funding Leeds—an outstanding authority and one of our “partners in practice”—to provide immediate peer support to Stoke and help ensure that children there are safe.

In the light of the seriousness of that systemic failure and as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the Department will also appoint a children’s services commissioner to conduct on my behalf a three-month review of Stoke’s capacity and capability. The commissioner will look at all evidence and views, and will report to me after three months on whether the council can improve in a reasonable timeframe—I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s comments on that—or whether services are more likely to improve if run by another organisation, such as a children’s services trust, to which he referred, or a better-performing local authority.

As I mentioned earlier, I saw at first hand in Doncaster how trusts have been effective in securing change in local authorities that have had some of the most serious failures. Doncaster is now rated “good”, having been a failing local authority for children’s services. Birmingham and Slough are now no longer “inadequate” after years of failure. Local authority partnerships have also shown success. The Isle of Wight has improved from “inadequate” to “good” as a result of its partnership with Hampshire.

That is not to say, however, that local authorities cannot improve themselves when there is the commitment and the capability to do so—I think that is the point the hon. Gentleman sought to make in his outstanding remarks. I enjoyed visiting Bromley and Bexley earlier this year. Both have been the focus of Government intervention in recent years and are now deemed “good” and “outstanding” respectively. There was real commitment, from the political leadership to the officer class and all the way through, to deliver on that.

The Department has a good track record of working with local authorities to improve “inadequate” services. Since 2010, 44 local authorities have been lifted out of intervention and have not returned, the significance of which should not be underestimated. I am also keen to focus on preventing failure, which is why the Department has developed a new improvement programme over the past 18 months. Bringing local authorities together through regional improvement alliances, and identifying “good” and “outstanding” authorities to be our partners in practice, is helping to get ahead of failure, while supporting sector-led improvement. Since April 2017, the number of “inadequate” local authorities has been reduced by a third, from 30 to 20. We are on track to achieve our target of having less than 10% of local authorities deemed “inadequate” by 2022.

I recognise the importance of supporting performance improvement across all local authorities, so that more and more are providing “good” and “outstanding” services to children. The Department’s innovation programme focuses on ensuring that families receive the right support at the right time by adopting and adapting the best new practices, and continue to do so with the advent of the new What Works centre. That initiative seeks better outcomes for children, young people and families by helping practitioners and decision makers across the sector to inform their work with the best possible evidence.

Some promising signs are emerging from the innovation investment, such as an integrated edge-of-care service, “No Wrong Door” in North Yorkshire, which has delivered extraordinary results: 86% of young people in North Yorkshire stay out of care, with greater stability and improved educational and employment outcomes. The Department, with the Treasury, is committing £84 million over the next five years to build on learning from the examples in North Yorkshire, Leeds and Hertfordshire—the most promising innovation projects. The programme is called “strengthening families; protecting children”, and it aims to improve social work practice and decision making in up to 20 local authorities, and to support more children to stay safely at home with their families.

We will also continue to learn from What Works, and understand how we might further strengthen the quality of social work practice. The most valuable resource is our people—the workforce. The practice of staff locally, from the leadership of directors of children’s services to the decision making of social workers, is all paramount to ensure that children get the right support at the right time. That is why we are undertaking a programme of reforms to ensure that a highly capable, highly skilled and highly confident workforce make good decisions about the best outcomes for children and their families.

I recognise that Stoke and other local authorities are delivering services in a challenging environment—there is no doubt about that; the hon. Gentleman was right to highlight it—and they have had to make difficult choices to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. At the autumn statement, the Chancellor announced an extra £410 million to address pressures on adults’ and children’s social care services.

The Department is also working closely with the sector to build the strongest evidence base for long-term children’s services funding, as part of my pitch for the spending review. We are in dialogue with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to inform a review of relative needs and resources, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned. That will make sure that the money gets to where it is needed most after future Government funding settlements.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important issue. I mention for the record the fantastic work that he and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North do to champion the opportunity area programme. With people of such passion, commitment and quality, we can turn children’s services around in the local authority. I am pleased to hear that we share the ambition to ensure that the most vulnerable children in Stoke have the safety and stability that they need to achieve their potential. I hope that I have provided reassurance of this Government’s commitment to taking urgent action to support Stoke-on-Trent in its journey to improve children’s services, so that all children are well protected and cared for and their social workers are supported to practise safely.

Question put and agreed to.

Education

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2019

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections

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Department for Education
Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
- - Excerpts

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
-

To my knowledge, two local authorities have done the same thing in England, and I urge other local authorities to look into what they can do to help childcare providers to cope with business rates.

[Official Report, 4 February 2019, Vol. 654, c. 17.]

Letter of correction from the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi):

An error has been identified in the response I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman).

The correct response should have been:

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
- Hansard - -

To my knowledge, two local authorities have done the similar things in England, and I urge other local authorities to look into what they can do to help childcare providers to cope with business rates.

School Funding

The following is an extract from the winding-up speech by the Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) in the e-petition debate on School Funding:

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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:

Children Act 1989: Local Authority Responsibilities

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Tuesday 19th March 2019

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Education
Kate Osamor Portrait Kate Osamor
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19 Mar 2019, 6:15 p.m.

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.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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19 Mar 2019, 6:15 p.m.

Let me begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) on securing this important debate today. A number of colleagues intervened on her, and I thank them for the points that they made—the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon), for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Ged Killen), for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney), for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), and for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham). The message that I want to convey to local government is that all children should have access to the support that they need to keep them safe regardless of immigration status. Our main interest tonight is the discharge by local authorities of the important responsibilities under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989, for which I am the Minister responsible. I need first of all to say a word about how the “no recourse to public funds” condition comes into this.

The Project 17 report, which has helped to inspire this debate, concentrates on local authority support for families with no recourse to public funds under section 17 of the 1989 Act. In particular, it focuses on families who are destitute because they cannot claim benefits or access social housing owing to their immigration status. Those families turn to local authorities for support under section 17. They are, though, not the main group to whom the responsibilities under section 17 are applied, and we must not lose sight of the fact that these responsibilities of local authorities involve many more groups, who also have needs.

Some of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Edmonton and other hon. Members are based entirely on immigration status issues. I will ensure that they are brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration, and I have her assurance that she will write to hon. Members in response to questions that were entirely immigration related.

What it is perfectly sensible for me to do this evening is to set out the main points of the Government’s position, as approved by Parliament, when it comes to the “no recourse to public funds” condition. The position is quite simply that those seeking to establish their family life in the UK must do so on a basis that prevents burdens on the taxpayer and that promotes integration. That position has been approved by Parliament in primary legislation and is reflected in the immigration rules. The application of the “no recourse to public funds” condition to those with a temporary immigration status is, therefore, a standard means of pursuing that legitimate objective.

The Project 17 report and hon. Members who have spoken this evening have drawn attention to the fact that, for a certain group of families, the “no recourse to public funds” condition did not used to be automatically applied to their status, and that it is now. That is true. In their changes to the immigration rules in 2012, the Government acted to correct an anomaly whereby some groups were not expected to be self-sufficient. That was entirely necessary to ensure that the Government could fulfil their intention for incoming families to establish themselves here without needing access to our limited public funds.

The Government’s view is that access to public funds should still be available, but not automatically. For those now coming to the UK, therefore, no recourse to public funds is a standard position. But I must make it clear that there is scope in immigration legislation for family life and private life applicants to request that no recourse to public funds should not be imposed, or that it should be lifted once imposed. Those applications are given very careful consideration in the light of the applicant’s circumstances and the welfare of any children involved. Of course, that does not apply to those who have been refused leave to remain in the UK and whose appeals have been turned down by the courts. These individuals are expected to leave the UK and are not eligible for support from public funds.

Sometimes there are barriers to individuals leaving the UK—for example, the difficulty of obtaining documentation from their own national authorities. Parliament has accepted that, as a result, they may qualify for local authority support where that is necessary to avoid breaches of human rights obligations, and where children are involved. This is the group whose support needs are brought to our attention by the Project 17 report. The Government’s view is that the right framework exists for providing them with support. There will be occasions when the support is provided in order to avoid a breach of the adult’s human rights. There will also be occasions when support is provided under section 17 of the Children Act, because it is the specific needs of the children of the family that call for such supportive intervention. This means that such families are supported by local authorities, even if they have no recourse to public funds. However, these decisions are made locally, according to an individual local authority’s protocol and assessments.

Although the Government’s position is that those seeking to establish their family life in the UK must do so on a basis that prevents burdens on the taxpayer and promotes integration, nothing in any of the legislation prevents the provision of support to those in genuine need, whatever their immigration status and at whatever stage they are in their migration journey. The Government have an impressive track record of ensuring that those who are in genuine need are supported appropriately.

The Home Office provides specific support under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to families with children who have come to seek asylum and cannot provide for their own needs. Individuals and families with children may also be granted recourse to public funds even if their leave would otherwise be subject to an NRPF condition, where there are compelling circumstances relating to destitution, the welfare of a child or exceptional financial circumstances. Local authorities may also provide basic safety net support to families with children using their own powers, if it is established that there is a genuine need that triggers an obligation under human rights or children’s legislation.

The hon. Lady mentioned local government funding. I recognise that Enfield and other local authorities are delivering in a challenging environment, and have had to make really tough, difficult choices as they work to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. I welcome the further £410 million in 2019-20 for local authorities to invest in adult and children’s social care services. That is on top of the more than £200 billion until 2020 made available at the 2015 spending review for councils to deliver local services, including children’s services. Of this, Enfield is currently forecast to have core spending power of £236 million for 2019-20—an increase of about 1.7% on the previous year. I would like to assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that my Department is continuing to work closely with the sector to build the strongest evidence base for long-term children’s services funding as part of the spending review.

The hon. Lady mentioned free school meals. Let me reiterate—it is important to put this on the record, because many people will be listening to this debate outside this place—that where a child is in need, for example because they are homeless or the parent cannot afford to meet the family’s basic needs, families with the NRPF condition are not prevented from getting additional help from their local authority’s social services department. To establish eligibility for assistance, the local authority must undertake a child in need assessment. It is clear that many local authorities are doing the right thing and delivering free school meals for those children.

Again, I thank the hon. Lady for securing this important debate. We have a shared ambition, I think, to ensure that the most vulnerable children have the safety net and stability that they need to enable them to thrive in their homes and in their families.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadhim Zahawi Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2019

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Education
Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op)
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6. What steps he is taking to support pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. [909680]

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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11 Mar 2019, 3:01 p.m.

The special educational needs reforms of 2014 were the biggest in a generation. In December we announced a further £250 million in high-needs funding over the two years, bringing the total to £6.1 billion this year and £6.3 billion in 2019-20. We announced today that 3,500 extra school places will be created for pupils facing the biggest challenge in their education, with 39 new free schools to support children with special educational needs or those who have been excluded from mainstream schools.

Anna Turley
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11 Mar 2019, 3:01 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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11 Mar 2019, 3:02 p.m.

That is exactly what we are doing. Today’s announcement of 37 special free schools is on top of the 88 special free schools and 54 alternative provision schools that are already either open or in the pipeline The announcement today is in addition to that provision, which is why we are doing that. Additionally, we have put £100 million into increasing capacity in mainstream schools as well as increasing the high-needs funding for local authorities.

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman (Fareham) (Con)
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11 Mar 2019, 3:02 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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11 Mar 2019, 3:02 p.m.

I certainly join my hon. Friend in praising Steve for the work that he has done. Today’s announcement provides a portfolio of provision in local areas. Almost every local authority will benefit from this increase in provision.

Dr Paul Williams (Stockton South) (Lab)
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11 Mar 2019, 3:02 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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11 Mar 2019, 3:03 p.m.

Colleges do absolutely critical work, and they do brilliant work with special needs children. I have seen it for myself at Hammersmith and Derwent colleges, and we continue to support those colleges.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)
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11 Mar 2019, 3:03 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I agree with my hon. Friend that Wiltshire is doing a tremendous job in SEND provision. The inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission has been exemplary. There is a legal challenge to the investment of £20 million and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that. I know that neighbouring colleagues take a different view as well.

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
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11 Mar 2019, 2:30 p.m.

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?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I had hoped that the hon. Lady would commend today’s announcement and confirm that she takes a different view from her Front Bench on abolishing free schools. If we abolished these very good free special schools, we would actually put more children with SEND at risk. We are undertaking a root-and-branch review of restraint with the Department of Health and Social Care, and we will be reporting back.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
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7. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that school funding is equitably distributed. [909681]

Break in Debate

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
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8. What recent assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of support in schools for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. [909683]