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Jobcentre Plus Advisers

Volume 511: debated on Monday 14 June 2010

1. Whether he plans to increase the amount of information Jobcentre Plus advisers may share with local health practitioners and Sure Start children’s centres. (1850)

I have no current plans to increase the amount of information that Jobcentre Plus advisers can provide to local health practitioners and Sure Start children’s centres. Social security information can be shared with those parties with the consent of its customers.

One hopes that the new Government will still support Sure Start children’s centres. Certainly, an inquiry of the former Children, Schools and Families Committee showed that the sharing of information was absolutely crucial. Does the hon. Lady agree that the sharing of information, knowing how our children are surviving and thriving and when they are in trouble, is vital to children’s future health and welfare?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As he will be aware, the coalition Government have protected Sure Start from in-year cuts, and I am sure that he and the whole House will welcome that announcement. He has looked at this issue in detail, and in the most recent report of the CSF Committee, of which he was the Chairman, there was no clear evidence that data sharing between Jobcentre Plus and children’s centres was a problem. However, there can be such a problem between children’s centres and health professionals. The Government believe that early intervention is absolutely vital in the work that we are doing to alleviate poverty and that co-ordination and signposting between those organisations are important. That is one of the reasons why we have put Sure Start health visitors in Sure State children’s centres.

In agreeing with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of co-ordination, may I ask whether my hon. Friend agrees that most of the worst disasters that affect children that have become public are concerned with a lack of information shared between the authorities? Does she agree that it is extremely important that all those who are involved in these matters truly understand what each hand is doing?

My hon. Friend is obviously talking about a great many different data sources. As I said, information-sharing difficulties between Jobcentre Plus and children’s centres is not a particular issue of concern, but I take his point and I am sure that our new Cabinet Committee on social justice may want to consider it to ensure that nothing is being missed.

Will the Minister explain how sharing and co-ordinating between those agencies will be helped by the reduction in the working neighbourhoods fund, which joins lots of different Departments and local agencies? As a result of the Government’s recent announcement, £1.2 million has been taken away from that fund in Nottingham. That money pays for apprenticeships, welfare rights advice and helping to reduce teenage pregnancies. How will that reduction help such work?

Undoubtedly, the hon. Gentleman will be very pleased about the coalition Government’s announcement of 50,000 additional apprenticeships, which will provide the sort of long-lasting job opportunities that his constituents want. Obviously, other decisions on budget taking are made locally, and it is for local authorities to make important decisions on how best to use their local resources.