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Children's Plan

Volume 469: debated on Monday 17 December 2007

Supporting parents is central to the children’s plan. Building on the recent expansion of parent support advisers in school, we announced funding for two expert parent advisers for each local authority and made the commitment to introduce personal progress records for parents on their child’s development from birth right through primary education. The plan includes new work to support fathers, to help families through breakdown and to encourage parental involvement, including expanding family learning. For families with the greatest needs, there is also £90 million capital for short breaks for disabled children, which we have just heard about, and provision for more outreach work from Sure Start children’s centres.

That is a very welcome answer. Some support for some parents is available from a wide variety of private, voluntary and independent organisations, as well as the statutory sector. In Staffordshire, the county council and I are trying to join all those together to make an offer of a universal service, available to all parents. Does the children’s plan encourage that? Is there any help that the Department can give us as we try to achieve that aim?

I thank my hon. Friend for the incredible work that he does to support the needs of families and make sure that they are included in Government policy, both nationally and in his own area. It is precisely that approach that we want to encourage. It is important that services for parents are universal, so that there is no stigma attached to a parent who says at one time or another that they want some support. We all need support at some time as parents. Through a universal offer, everybody will get the help that they need, but through a universal offer more help will be able to be given to parents who may be struggling and whose children need it more. I would be happy to talk to my hon. Friend about Staffordshire’s proposals.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of the most astonishing support for parents in Luton comes through the family workers attached to our children’s centre, who offer one-stop support to families, often in crisis situations, and encourage family learning and increasing literacy? Will she consider extending the use of family workers across all schools, as I saw, for example, last week at Hart Hill nursery children’s centre—

I am very aware of the work done by family workers, not only in Luton but in children’s centres in various parts of the country. It is an important type of provision because it enables relationships to be built up with parents, as my hon. Friend rightly says. That means that parents are more likely to come in and ask for support when they need it, and that benefits the children as well as the parents. I am happy to support the work that Luton is doing in that regard.