In December, the Government published their Children’s Plan and set out their ambition to make this the best place in the world to bring up children and young people. I am today making a number of announcements that will support the delivery of our vision:
to unlock the talent and promote the health and happiness of all children, and not just some;
to back parents and help them meet their responsibilities to bring up their children; and
to build a culture of prevention and early intervention so that no child can fall behind.
The Children’s Plan set out the biggest ever investment in play by Government of £225 million over three years. I have now been able to add an additional £10 million to this amount, making a total investment of £235 million. This will fund 30 new adventure playgrounds and up to 3,500 inclusive play sites, creating attractive play areas for children and particularly 8-13 year olds in disadvantaged areas.
I am today announcing the first 20 pathfinder local authorities who will this year begin spending this investment as play pathfinders. Each pathfinder will receive around £2 million capital funding plus approximately £500k revenue funding over three years. A further 10 pathfinder authorities will be selected in the autumn. In additional 43 other local authorities (LAs) will receive funding from this year to develop play areas in their communities. These LAs will receive capital funding of around £l million over three years. A list of the pathfinders and those LAs benefiting from capital funding this year is attached to this statement. This funding will help them transform play opportunities in their areas in partnership with children, families, communities and the third sector. Over the next three years every local authority will receive substantial capital funding to develop public play areas.
We want local authorities to give a high priority to supporting and promoting outdoor play, with play and public play space being seen as an essential characteristic of every healthy community. That is why, from 2009, we will introduce a new national indicator to monitor progress on what children think about the parks and play spaces in their local area.
The package outlined in the Children’s Plan will be detailed in full in a national Play Strategy “Fair Play”1 which I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport are launching for public consultation today. I believe that this strategy and the investment underpinning it represents an excellent opportunity to improve local play opportunities, and support children’s play across the whole country.
myplace—delivering world class places for young people to go
Young people in their teenage years also need interesting and exciting places to go where they can meet friends and take part in positive and enriching activities. This is particularly important in those areas affected by problems with anti-social behaviour and youth crime.
I am today announcing the launch of myplace, a £190 million programme delivered by the Big Lottery Fund, to invest in world class places for young people to go, delivering on our Children’s Plan commitment to improve youth facilities. I want this funding to start making a difference to our neighbourhoods as soon as possible, so while myplace will open to applicants on 6 May 2008,1 am setting out today the timescales and criteria for the competitive bidding process.
By making grants of between £l million and £5 million, I expect myplace to transform the way that facilities for young people are planned and delivered across England. In particular, I want the programme to support projects that:
reflect real cross sector partnership, maximising leadership from within the community while ensuring the strategic involvement of local authorities and encouraging support and backing from the private sector myplace will accept bids led by public, third or private sector partners;
demonstrate the active participation of local young people, particularly the most disadvantaged, in the development, design and future running of the project;
are sustainable in the long term and for third sector organisations, who often find this most challenging, we will provide £50,000 to fund development work in this area; and
are linked to wider corporate asset management strategies and Children and Young People’s Plans for improving places to go in every local authority area ranging from ambitious flagship projects, as supported by the myplace, to smaller scale projects, particularly in the most deprived estates and communities.
The first round of funding will commit up to £160 million, of which up to £50 million will be available through a fast track route which will be open to applicants until the end of July. This will enable early investment in projects that are already well developed, starting to deliver impact for young people and their communities this year. The standard route, which will be open to applicants until the end of September, will also encourage applications from those with further to go. The Big Lottery Fund will ensure that funded projects receive the support they need to succeed.
I urge local partners to start preparations now to take full advantage of this opportunity. Further details about myplace can be found in a leaflet that will placed in the House library and available on the Big Lottery Fund website2.
Children’s Trusts should bring together all the key partners at local level to achieve our ambition. Making a reality of the vision for our children set out in the Children’s Plan requires 21st century children’s services that put the needs of children and families first and work across traditional professional and institutional boundaries. This is essential to unlocking the potential of every child and is especially important for the most vulnerable children with complex needs.
I am today launching a consultation on draft guidance for Children’s Trusts3. It recognises the significant advances that have been made in many areas in the planning and delivery of services through Children’s Trusts. But it also makes clear that all Children’s Trusts need now to raise their game to ensure that strong and purposeful partnership activity leads directly to measurable improvements in the lives of children and young people, in the support given to parents and families and, in doing so, making the vision in the Children’s Plan a practical reality. I would also welcome the views of Children’s Trust partners and other interested parties on whether further changes, including to the legislative framework, are needed to enable Children’s Trusts to fulfil the challenging remit the Children’s Plan now gives to them.
The people who work directly with children are at the heart of delivering our Children’s Plan ambitions, whether they work in schools, the NHS, youth services, or children’s social services. I am publishing today “Building Brighter Futures: next steps for the Children’s Workforce.”4 The document gives more detail about the implementation of our commitments in the Children’s Plan to:
invest £73 million in a package of proposals to improve training, recruitment and professional development of social workers working with children and families;
invest £305 million in early years to provide greater graduate leadership of practice in private, voluntary and independent settings towards our ambition of a graduate early years professional in every full day care setting by 2015; and
invest £7.5 million in the play workforce including to give 4,000 play workers access to level 3 qualifications from September 2008.
To help ensure that the whole children’s workforce is of the highest quality, I am also today announcing the creation of an expert group drawn from across the whole children’s sector—including unions, other representative organisations and people who provide frontline services—to advise me on the creation of a long term strategy to bring the workforce together around the needs of children, young people and their families. The Children’s Workforce document I am publishing today asks a number of key questions of the expert group which will be co-chaired by Maggie Atkinson, the incoming President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.
Together, this package of measures—major improvements in play and youth facilities, and further steps to improve children’s services—represents a significant step towards achieving our Children’s Plan objectives and helping every child and young person to fulfil their potential.
I will be placing copies of all the documents referred to in this statement in the Libraries of both Houses.
1Document can be found at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultation
2Document can be found at: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
3Document can be found at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/conDetails.cfm?consultationld=1544
4 Document can be found at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/publications/childrensplan