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House of Commons Hansard

Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

07 March 2017
Volume 622

    Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

    New Clause 15

    Education relating to relationships and sex

    “(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision requiring—

    (a) relationships education to be provided to pupils of compulsory school age receiving primary education at schools in England;

    (2) The regulations must include provision—

    (a) requiring the Secretary of State to give guidance to proprietors of schools in relation to the provision of the education and to review the guidance from time to time;

    (b) requiring proprietors of schools to have regard to the guidance;

    (c) requiring proprietors of schools to make statements of policy in relation to the education to be provided, and to make the statements available to parents or other persons;

    (3) The regulations must provide that guidance given by virtue of subsection (2)(a) is to be given with a view to ensuring that when relationships education or relationships and sex education is given—

    (a) the pupils learn about—

    (i) safety in forming and maintaining relationships,

    (ii) the characteristics of healthy relationships, and

    (iii) how relationships may affect physical and mental health and well-being, and

    (b) the education is appropriate having regard to the age and the religious background of the pupils.

    (4) The regulations may make further provision in connection with the provision of relationships education, or relationships and sex education.

    (5) Before making the regulations, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

    (6) The regulations may amend any provision (including provision conferring powers) that is made by or under—

    (a) section 342 of the Education Act 1996;

    (b) Chapter4 of Part 5 of the Education Act 1996;

    (c) Schedule 1 to the Education Act 1996;

    (d) Part 6 of the Education Act 2002;

    (e) Chapter 1 of Part 4 of the Education and Skills Act 2008;

    (f) the Academies Act 2010.

    (7) Any duty to make provision by regulations under subsection (1) may be discharged by making that provision by regulations under another Act, so long as the Secretary of State consults such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate before making the regulations under that Act.

    (8) The provision that may be made by regulations under subsection (1) by virtue of section 70 includes, in particular, provision amending, repealing or revoking any provision made by or under any Act or any other instrument or document (whenever passed or made).

    (9) Regulations under subsection (1) which amend provision made by or under an Act are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

    (10) Other regulations under subsection (1) are subject to the negative resolution procedure.

    (11) Expressions used in this section, where listed in the left-hand column of the table in section 580 of the Education Act 1996, are to be interpreted in accordance with the provisions of that Act listed in the right-hand column in relation to those expressions.”—(Edward Timpson.)

    This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring relationships education to be taught in primary schools in England and requiring relationships and sex education to be taught in secondary schools in England. The duties would apply in relation to Academy schools and independent schools as well as maintained schools.

    Brought up, and read the First time.

  • I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    Amendment (b) to new clause 15, in subsection (2), leave out “from time to time” and insert

    “at least once in every three year period”.

    Amendment (a) to new clause 15, in subsection (2), leave out paragraph (d) and insert—

    “(d) to allow a parent of any pupil receiving relationships education or relationships and sex education to request that the pupil be wholly or partly excused from receiving that education and for the pupil to be so excused.”

    Amendment (c) to new clause 15, in subsection (2), at end insert—

    “(e) about arrangements for inspecting the quality of teaching of relationships and sex education at schools in England.”

    Amendment (d) to new clause 15, in subsection (4), at end insert—

    “(4A) The Secretary of State must review the regulations at least three years after they come into force and once in every three year period thereafter.”

    Amendment (e), to new clause 15 in subsection (4), at end insert—

    “(4A) The Secretary of State must review the regulations from time to time.”

    Government new clause 16—Other personal, social, health and economic education.

    New clause 1—Safeguarding: provision of personal, social and health education

    “(1) For the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children a local authority in England must ensure that pupils educated in their area receive appropriate personal, social and health education.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) “personal, social and health education” must include but shall not be restricted to—

    (a) sex and relationships education,

    (b) same-sex relationships,

    (c) sexual consent,

    (d) sexual violence,

    (e) online and offline personal safety, and

    (f) domestic violence and forms of abuse.

    (3) Targeted inspections carried out by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) under section 136 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 shall include an assessment of the provision of personal, social and health education under subsection (1), including whether the information provided to pupils is—

    (a) accurate and balanced,

    (b) age-appropriate,

    (c) inclusive,

    (d) factual, and

    (e) religiously diverse.

    (4) Assessments made under subsection (3) must include an evaluation of any arrangements for pupils of sufficient maturity to request to be wholly or partly excused from participating in personal, social and health education.

    (5) For the purpose of subsection (4) “sufficient maturity” shall be defined in guidance by the Secretary of State.

    (6) Withdrawal from personal, social and health education by pupils under subsection (4) shall not be considered a breach of the safeguarding duties of a local authority.

    (7) This section comes into force at the end of the period of twelve months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”

    New clause 3—Sibling contact for looked after children

    “(1) In section 34(1) of the Children Act 1989, after paragraph (d) insert—

    “(e) his siblings (whether of the whole or half blood).”

    (2) In paragraph 15(1) of Schedule 2 to the Children Act 1989, after paragraph (c) insert—

    “(d) his siblings (whether of the whole or half blood).””

    This new clause would ensure that children in care are allowed reasonable contact with their siblings.

    New clause 4—Placing children in secure accommodation elsewhere in Great Britain

    “(1) Schedule (Placing children in secure accommodation elsewhere in Great Britain) ends at the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”

    This new clause would revoke provisions in the Bill that enable local authorities in England and Wales to place children in secure accommodation in Scotland, and vice versa, two years after the Act comes into force.

    New clause 7—Post-removal counselling for parents and legal guardians who are themselves looked after children or care leavers

    “Where a child is permanently removed from the care of a birth parent or a guardian further to any order made pursuant to—

    (a) section 31 of the Children Act 1989 (care and supervision orders),

    (b) section 22 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (placement orders),

    (c) section 46 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (adoption orders), or

    (d) section 14A of the Children Act 1989 (special guardianship order)

    a local authority must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide a counselling service and commission specialist therapeutic support for the parent or guardian where—

    (i) the parent or guardian is a looked after child, or

    (ii) the parent or guardian is a care leaver.”

    This new clause would provide post-removal support for parents who are themselves a looked after child or care leaver.

    New clause 8—Former relevant children: provision of sufficient suitable accommodation

    “In the Children Act 1989, after section 23C insert—

    “23CA Duty on local authorities to secure sufficient accommodation for former relevant children

    (1) It is the duty of a local authority to take reasonable steps to secure sufficient suitable accommodation (whether or not provided by them) within their area to meet the needs of former relevant children, where “former relevant children” has the same meaning as in section 23C(1) of this Act.

    (2) In taking steps to secure the outcome in subsection (1), the local authority must—

    (a) produce, and make available to all former relevant children, information about the providers of accommodation and the types of accommodation they provide,

    (b) be aware of the current and expected future demand for such accommodation and consider how providers might meet that demand, and

    (c) have regard to—

    (i) the need to ensure the sustainability of the housing market, and

    (ii) the need to encourage providers to innovate and continuously improve the quality of such accommodation and the efficiency and effectiveness with which it is provided.””

    Local authorities already have a duty to ensure that sufficient accommodation is available for looked after children in their area. This new clause would introduce a similar duty on local authorities to ensure sufficient, suitable accommodation is made available for all care leavers up the age of 21.

    New clause 10—Benefit sanctions for care leavers

    “(1) The Universal Credit Regulations 2013 are amended as follows—

    (a) in regulation 102(2)—

    (i) in paragraph (a) after “18 or over” insert “and paragraph (b) does not apply”;

    (ii) in paragraph (b) after “16 or 17” insert “or is a care leaver within the meaning given by section 2(7) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and is under the age of 25”;

    (b) in regulation 103(2)—

    (i) in paragraph (a) after “18 or over” insert “and paragraph (b) does not apply”;

    (ii) in paragraph (b) after “16 or 17” insert “or is a care leaver within the meaning given by section 2(7) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and is under the age of 25”;

    (c) in regulation 104(2) after “18 or over” insert “and section (3) does not apply”.

    (d) in regulation 104(3) after “16 or 17” insert “or is a care leaver within the meaning given by section 2(7) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and is under the age of 25.””

    This new clause will ensure that the maximum sanction for a care leaver under the age of 25 can be no more than four weeks whilst under the age of 25, in line with 16 and 17 year olds.

    New clause 11—National offer for care leavers

    “(1) The table in regulation 36 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 is amended as follows—

    (a) in column one after “single claimant aged 25 or over” insert—

    “or former relevant child as defined under the Children and Social Work Act 2017 aged under 25”

    (b) in column one after “joint claimants where either is aged 25 or over” insert—

    “or either are a former relevant child as defined under the Children and Social Work Act 2017 aged under 25”

    (2) The Secretary of State will make provisions for bursaries to be available to all care leavers, who are undertaking their first year of a statutory apprenticeship, as defined in the Enterprise Act 2016 (the “care leaver apprenticeship bursary”)—

    (a) in this section “care leavers” has the same meaning as section 2(7) of this Act.

    (b) The bursary will be administered by local authorities on behalf of the Secretary of State in line with their corporate parenting responsibilities defined in section 1 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017.

    (c) The value of the bursary will be of equivalent value to the Higher Education Bursary outlined in The Children Act 1989 (Higher Education Bursary) (England) Regulations 2009.

    (d) Bursaries under this section will be disregarded for the purposes of calculating a claimant’s Universal Credit entitlements.

    (3) The Housing Benefit Regulations 2009 are amended as follows—

    (a) in regulation 2, in the definition of “young individual”, in each of paragraphs (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f), for “22 years” substitute “25 years”.

    (4) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

    The National Offer will uprate the financial support available to care leavers under the age of 25 by: (1) extending the over 25 rate of standard allowance of Universal Credit to all care leavers under the age of 25; (2) placing a duty on the Secretary of State to make provisions for all care leavers under the age of 25 and in the first year of an apprenticeship to be paid a £2,000 bursary, which will be distributed by local authorities on her behalf; and (3) delaying the transition onto the Shared Accommodation rate of Local Housing Allowance until the age of 25.

    New clause 12—Duty to maintain and report a local safeguarding and welfare capacity register

    “After section 16(E) of the Children Act 2004 (inserted by section 16 of this Act) insert—

    “Duty to maintain and report a local safeguarding and welfare capacity register

    (1) The safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England must assess, and maintain a register of, capacity to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the area.

    (2) The assessment must include, but shall not be restricted to, an assessment of the number of additional children, including unaccompanied refugee children, that could be fully supported by children’s social care services in the area.

    (3) At least once in every twelve month period—

    (a) the safeguarding partners must report the capacity assessment for that period to the Secretary of State, and

    (b) the Secretary of State must publish and lay before Parliament a single report setting out the information provided under paragraph (a) and any relevant information that may be provided by the devolved administrations.””

    This new clause would require local safeguarding partners to assess their capacity to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area. This assessment must include the number of additional children the area could support, including unaccompanied refugee children. Local safeguarding partners would be required to report this information to the Secretary of State annually, who in turn would publish and lay before Parliament a single report, which may include any relevant information received from the devolved administrations.

    New clause 13—Strategy for safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children

    “(1) Within six months of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must develop and publish a strategy for the safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children living in the United Kingdom (“the strategy”).

    (2) The Secretary of State must publish a report on the progress of the strategy’s development at least once in every four week period prior to publication of the strategy.

    (3) The strategy must include, but shall not be restricted to—

    (a) information clarifying the roles and responsibilities towards unaccompanied refugee children of any public agency the Secretary of State considers relevant, including in particular—

    (i) the European Asylum Support Office,

    (ii) local government service providers, and

    (iii) the Children’s Commissioner;

    (b) information clarifying how safeguarding practices should differ for those children covered by the strategy who—

    (i) have family members in the United Kingdom, and

    (ii) do not have family members in the United Kingdom; and

    (c) recommendations on how to ensure full cost reimbursement to public agencies required to provide services under the strategy.”

    This new clause would require the Secretary of State to develop and publish a strategy for safeguarding unaccompanied refugee children.

    Amendment (a) to new clause 13, at end insert—

    “(4) The Secretary of State must consult with devolved administrations before publishing the strategy.”

    New clause 14—Local arrangements for reporting on capacity to provide children’s safeguarding and welfare services

    “After section 16E of the Children Act 2004 (inserted by section 16 of this Act) insert—

    “Local arrangements for reporting on capacity to provide children’s safeguarding and welfare provision services

    (1) At least once in every 12 month period, the safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England must report to the Secretary of State on their capacity to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

    (2) The report must include, but shall not be restricted to, identification of capacity to provide safeguarding and welfare services to children who could be resettled in the area, including unaccompanied refugee children who could be transferred to the area from abroad including those with existing or current applications for transfer.

    (3) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament the information received under subsection (1) in a single report.””

    This new clause would require the local safeguarding partners in an area to report annually to the Secretary of State on what capacity they have to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in that area. This includes what capacity they have to resettle children, including unaccompanied refugee children, in the area. The Secretary of State would be required to lay before Parliament the information received from local authorities in a single report.

    Amendment (a) to new clause 14, after “(1)” insert—

    “and any relevant information that may be provided by the devolved administrations”.

    New clause 20—Review of access to education for care leavers

    “(1) The Secretary of State must carry out an annual review on access for care leavers to—

    (a) apprenticeships,

    (b) further education, and

    (c) higher education.

    (2) The first review must take place by the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

    (3) A report produced following a review under subsection (1) must include, in particular, an assessment of the impact on care leavers’ access to education of—

    (a) fee waivers,

    (b) grants, and

    (c) reduced costs of accommodation.

    The report must be made publicly available.”

    Amendment 12, in clause 12, page 10, line 30, at end insert—

    “(3A) At least one member of the panel appointed by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) must—

    (a) be independent from Government, and

    (b) have relevant specialist expertise in tackling domestic abuse.”

    This amendment would require that at least one member of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel has specialist expertise in tackling domestic abuse.

    Amendment 1, in clause 16, page 13, line 34, at end insert—

    “, including unaccompanied refugee children once placed in the area, and unaccompanied refugee children who have been identified for resettlement in the area.”

    Amendment 3, page 13, line 34, at end insert—

    “(1A) The safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England must conduct and publish a review of the steps taken by that local authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children since 1 June 2010, including an assessment of the impact of Government policies since that date.

    (1B) The Government policies to be considered under subsection (1A) are those deemed by the safeguarding partners to be relevant to the safeguarding and welfare of children.”

    This amendment would require the safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England to conduct a review of steps they have taken to safeguard and promote the welfare of children since 1 June 2010, including an assessment of the impact of Government policies since that date.

    Amendment 2, in clause 22, page 17, line 30, at end insert—

    “(3) Guidance given by the Secretary of State in connection with functions conferred by section 16E in relation to unaccompanied refugee children must be developed in accordance with the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

  • I shall deal first with new clauses 15 and 16, which relate to relationships and sex education and personal, social, health and economic education. I shall then respond to key points raised in other new clauses and amendments. I shall ensure that they are covered within the time that is available under the now agreed programme motion, as I am conscious that many other Members wish to speak.

    Many Members on both sides of the House have worked hard for some years to increase awareness of the issues to which new clauses 15 and 16 refer and the case for statutory underpinning of relationships and sex education and PSHE, and I thank them for their efforts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), along with the Chairs of the Health, Education, Home Affairs and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees and the hon. Members for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) and for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), have been particularly strong supporters of that approach.

    Relationships education, RSE and PSHE can help to ensure that pupils are given the knowledge and skills that they will need to stay safe and develop healthy, supportive relationships. That is particularly important when they are navigating the new challenges of growing up in an online world. Parents, of course, are the primary educators and guides of their children, and we should not forget that: they play a central role both in helping their children to grow up into successful adults and in protecting them from harm. However, parents are telling us that they want schools to help them to deal with what are complex and fast-moving issues to ensure that their children grow up equipped with the knowledge and skills that they need to be safe and successful. Our proposals to make these subjects compulsory are supported by professionals working in the field, by parents and carers, and, importantly, by children and young people themselves.

  • I warmly welcome these vital and long overdue new clauses, but it would be helpful if the Minister could provide some reassurance that relationship education in primary schools will not exclude key age-appropriate information that relates to physical health, wellbeing, and the safety of children, because that is an area of concern that is still outstanding. I am thinking of, for instance, the difference between safe and unsafe touch, and the naming of body parts that are private.

  • I can reassure the hon. Lady that the whole purpose of bringing relationships education into primary schools is to start creating the all-important building blocks that will make children resilient enough to deal with the pressures and risks that the modern world throws at them. The new clauses are intended to allow a period after the Bill has gone through both Houses during which we can draw on the greatest possible level of expertise to establish how we should go about teaching these subjects in an age-appropriate way, so that by the time the children leave school they have all the knowledge and skills that they need to make good choices in their lives as they grow up.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • I will, but I should make it clear to Members that I do not want to curtail the opportunities for others to have their say, and I want to deal with other aspects of the Bill as well.

  • The Minister will remember what we discussed in those happy days when we served together on the Education Committee. It is all very well to have an obligation, and this is a real step forward, but the fact is that if we do not give the people in the schools real professional training, it will not work.

  • We served on that Committee such a while ago that it was then called the Children, Schools and Families Committee. In 2013, Ofsted acknowledged that the teaching of these subjects was still not as good as it should be. We shall be working with teachers and schools so that they understand how to develop their understanding of and ability to teach these subjects, so that there is consistency throughout the education system.

  • Will the Minister include the Church of England in his list of organisations that support the Government’s proposals? Despite its support, the Church seeks reassurance that relationships education will be respectful of the ethos of the schools where it is taught.

  • I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that clear indication of the Church of England’s support for the step that we are taking. Having engaged with the Church and with representatives of other faiths throughout the process, I am aware of that support. The religious faith that brings many people into the education system will be respected as it has been in the past: that is reflected in the Bill, and will be reflected in the regulations and statutory guidance that will follow.

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I will give way briefly, but then I want to try to make some progress.

  • New clause 15 draws a distinction between relationships education provided for primary school children and relationships and sex education provided for secondary school children. Can the Minister confirm that that does not mean that sex education will be smuggled into primary schools under the label “relationships education”?

  • A clear distinction is drawn by the very name of each of those subjects. The new clause makes plain that sex education will not be a statutory part of primary school teaching. Of course, if primary schools choose to teach sex education in an age-appropriate way, as they can now, they will be able to do so, but the right to withdraw from that will still apply, as it does in secondary schools.

  • I will give way to my hon. Friend, but then I must make some more progress.

  • I congratulate my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State on new clause 15, which is long overdue, but may I ask a specific question about faith schools and other schools of that type? New clause 15(3)(b) states that it must be ensured that

    “the education is appropriate having regard to the age and the religious background of the pupils.”

    Will my hon. Friend confirm that that will not allow faith schools to avoid providing such education because they consider it to be inappropriate?

  • The education will become a statutory part of the curriculum, so schools will have to provide it. The duty and the power that we are creating will enable schools to teach the new subjects in an age-appropriate way that is commensurate with their religious faith and will best suit their pupils in the setting in which they happen to be, but what my hon. Friend has said is absolutely correct.

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I will, but I shall then impose a moratorium on any further interventions.

  • Who will decide what is age-appropriate, and where is there any reference in any of these provisions to the moral dimension of this very important issue?

  • The moral aspect is already covered by British values and the teaching of citizenship, and that is in no way curtailed by these provisions. As for the question of what is age appropriate, the concept already exists in the current system. I repeat that the Bill will be underpinned by regulations and statutory guidance, which will set out in more detail exactly how it will be translated into reality. That is a strong and consistent approach which we think will strike the right balance between enabling children to develop the resilience and skills that they need and ensuring that that is done in an age-appropriate way.

    We know that many schools are already teaching these subjects, and that some are doing so very well, but we believe that it is right for us to do all we can both to provide universal coverage for all pupils and to improve quality. Given the increasing concerns about child sexual abuse and exploitation, and the increased risks associated with growing up in a digital world, there is a particularly compelling case for action in relation to pupil safety. New clause 15 places a duty on the Secretary of State to make relationships education in primary schools and relationships and sex education in secondary schools statutory by means of regulations. We believe that that is the right approach because it will allow us time to engage with a wide range of interests and expertise. The outcome of that engagement will feed into the legislative process for making these subjects statutory, as well as the guidance that will help schools to deliver high-quality, inclusive relationships education and RSE.

    New clause 16 creates a regulation-making power to enable the Secretary of State to make PSHE statutory. We are aware that the most pressing safeguarding concerns relate to relationships and RSE, but it is evident that wider concerns about child safety and wellbeing relate to the life skills that the subject can cover, such as an understanding of the risks of drugs and alcohol and the need to safeguard physical and mental health. We therefore believe that it is important that we are able to make PSHE, or elements of it, statutory as well, and have the time to consider carefully the fit between the content of relationships education and RSE and what might be included in the PSHE curriculum. The work to consider content will begin this spring, and we expect that it will result in draft regulations and guidance for consultation this autumn. Following consultation, regulations will be laid in the House, alongside final draft guidance, allowing for full and considered debate, and we expect that statutory guidance will be published in early 2018, once the regulations have been passed and at least one full year before the academic year 2019-20.

    We do not think it is right to specify in primary legislation the exact content of the subjects, as this would be too prescriptive and would remove freedom from schools and run the risk of the legislation quickly becoming out of date as the world changes ever more quickly. The Department’s external engagement will determine subject content, working with a wide range of experts and interested parties. We will ensure through careful review and consultation that our work results in a clear understanding about the full set of knowledge and skills that relationships education, RSE and PSHE should provide.

    Our proposed legislation is also clear that subject content will be age appropriate. We expect the new subject of relationships education for primary schools to focus on themes such as friendships, different types of family relationships, bullying, and respect for other people. We see this as vitally important in laying the foundations for RSE at secondary school.

    Across relationships education and RSE, we expect to cover in an age-appropriate way how to recognise and build healthy relationships, and how they affect health and wellbeing and safety online. This can include dealing with strangers, respect, bullying and peer pressure, commitment and tolerance, and appropriate boundaries. I want to emphasise again to hon. Members that our priority will be to ensure that content is always age appropriate. In RSE at secondary school, content would also include sex and sexual health, all set firmly within the context of healthy relationships. In relation to online issues, internet safety is a cross-Government agenda, so these plans are closely aligned to the internet safety Green Paper due later this year.

    In addition to relationships education and RSE, we acknowledge that pupils need to access other key knowledge and skills for adult life, and those are generally covered in PSHE. For PSHE, we want to take the time to consult widely, as I said, on what the subject content could best look like, respecting what our engagement process determines as the right content for relationships education and RSE. We will be looking at what might be needed under the broad pillars of healthy bodies and lifestyles, healthy minds, economic wellbeing, and making a positive contribution to society. We would expect this to include issues such as keeping safe, puberty, drugs and alcohol education, mental health and resilience, and careers education.

    Schools will, of course, continue to teach in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and the public sector equality duty. This means that schools can consider how best to teach subject content taking into account the age and religious backgrounds of their pupils and any other relevant factors, but not whether to teach the content.

  • Given that 45% of primary school children have experienced, or are aware of, homophobic bullying, can the Minister clarify how that fits into the curriculum at that age?

  • I have indicated that we expect bullying to be covered in primary school, and of course we have to cover all facets of bullying, as it comes in many forms. Of course, it will be a matter for the school to make sure that that is age appropriate, and it will start to put in place the building blocks of the development of that child’s understanding, ensuring that by the time they move on to secondary school they are well placed to move on to the next level of subject matter that they will need to understand.

    Schools will need to ensure that RSE is inclusive and meets the needs of all young people.

  • I am yet another Select Committee Chair who very much welcomes this development and the courage with which the Government are putting it forward, but there is a point to be made about what is allowed to be taught in primary schools and the fact that children’s experiences start well before they leave primary school. They are learning about these things and asking questions about them long before they leave primary school, and there is nothing in this Bill that will prevent teachers from responding to curiosity and dealing with these issues as they arise in the normal course of any other part of their education.

  • I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s indication as a Select Committee Chair that he joins the club of Chairmen who support this important move. He is right that there is scope within these measures for schools to tailor their response to this subject matter in a way that best meets the needs of their pupils. There is already some excellent material available from the likes of the PSHE Association which sets out how they can do that in an age-appropriate way and in a way that meets the challenges that we know the modern world throws at children at an ever more tender age.

  • The regulations and guidance we produce will make very clear the expectation that schools will have the flexibility to teach subjects in accordance with their ethos and pupils’ religious backgrounds. The Secretary of State must give schools guidance on how to deliver this, and this provision enables faith schools to teach their subjects according to the tenets of their faith while still being consistent with the requirements of the Equality Act.

    Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service, said in support of these proposals:

    “We welcome the Government’s commitment to improving Relationship and Sex Education in all schools. Catholic schools already teach age-appropriate Relationship and Sex Education in both primary and secondary schools.”

    Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said:

    “With one million children being educated in Church of England schools, we are all too well aware of the pressing need to equip children for the world in which they are growing up. . . We therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to putting Relationships and Sex Education on a statutory footing.”

    We have committed to retain a right to withdraw from sex education in RSE, because parents should have the right, if they wish, to teach sex education themselves in a way that is consistent with their values. We do not propose a right to withdraw from relationships education at primary level, because that will focus, as I said, on themes such as friendships, family relationships and dealing with strangers, not sex education.

    Pupils will learn about the characteristics of healthy relationships that we can all agree on, such as respect, commitment, tolerance and proper boundaries. Knowing and understanding these characteristics, including how to build such healthy relationships, will help children be happy and, crucially, safe from others, such as in situations where they might try to exploit a lack of clarity about what is and is not acceptable.

    Schools will continue to be required to publish policies on these subjects for parents, and statutory guidance will continue to set out that schools should consult parents on those policies to ensure they are feeding in their views. For those parents who still prefer to provide this education themselves, we absolutely intend to retain a right to withdraw from sex education. We will, as part of this, need to amend the current right to withdraw to make sure it remains in line with case law, and we will consult further in order to clarify the age at which a young person may have the right to make their own decisions about whether to withdraw from that aspect of their education or not. I want to assure Members that the outcome will be set out in regulations which will be subject to consultation and debate.

    It is important to note that relationship and sex education falls within the scope of school inspection. Inspections will check to see that a school is providing the full statutory curriculum, and these issues can also be considered within the context of assessing the school’s leadership, the quality of teaching, pupil safety and pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Key elements are already covered in Ofsted’s school inspection handbook, and Her Majesty’s chief inspector will take full account of the new requirements in determining future school inspection arrangements. Ofsted is already seeking to appoint an HMI lead for citizenship and PSHE, whose role will be to keep abreast of developments in this area and oversee the training of inspectors in light of the new expectations on schools. Independent schools will also be held to account through inspectors reporting against the independent school standards.

  • The Minister is making a strong case, but is he not asking us to enter into an incongruous position, as we do not yet know what the regulations will be in respect of relationship education, but at the same time he is asking the House to support removing the capacity of parents to remove their children from relationship education in primary schools? He is asking us to support something although we do not know the true details therein.

  • What I am asking the House to do is support these new clauses that maintain the right to withdraw from sex education that currently pertains, but the House will also have an opportunity under the regulatory process to scrutinise, and take part in addressing, what those regulations should look like and approve them or not, and I am sure my hon. Friend will want to play a part in doing just that.

    We will commit to reviewing the statutory guidance on RSE within three years of its publication, and to a regular timetable after that, set out following our engagement process. This will help to ensure that it stays relevant as the world changes. We will also ensure that the regulations are regularly reviewed to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose. Specifying the timetable for review on the face of the Bill is not necessary as we are already under a public law duty to review the powers we take in legislation, but I can assure hon. Members, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), that the statutory guidance will make clear how regularly this guidance will be reviewed, balancing continuity for schools with the crucial need to keep content up to date.

    I recognise the deep concern in the House about the safety and welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children. I should emphasise, however, that my ministerial responsibility extends only to children who are in England. The new local safeguarding arrangements that will be established through the Bill will apply to England only. I accept that other jurisdictions ought to pay equal attention to the safeguarding of children who reside within their borders, and I accept that we should share details of our plans and best practice.

    The Government have committed to publishing a safeguarding strategy for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children by 1 May 2017 by virtue of the written ministerial statement that I laid on 1 November last year. As part of this, we have been consulting local authorities about their capacity and we will set out plans to boost capacity for foster carers and supported lodgings in that strategy. We will continue to consult local authorities about their capacity to support unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children, to help us to identify those authorities that are most able to support unaccompanied children and those needing support through the national transfer scheme. To that end, we are happy to commit to updating Parliament annually on delivery against the safeguarding strategy and to publishing regular updates on the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children transferred to or resettled in the UK, by country of transfer.

  • The Minister is making a powerful case. On that specific point, it is necessary to record not only how many children go into local authority care but how many are retained there and how much they keep in contact. If we put children into care and they are subsequently trafficked, we are not protecting them.

  • My hon. Friend makes a good point, and we have worked hard to try to improve how we manage, understand and curtail the number of children who go missing while in care. Some of them have come from overseas, including France, and many are from our own country. We should use the Bill as an opportunity to improve the data so that we have as contemporaneous a picture as possible of where those children are, not only to inform us of the capacity in the system but to allow us to help them better.

  • It has occurred to me as the Minister has been talking that we already have 3,000 or so unaccompanied asylum-seeking children coming to the United Kingdom, and that the burden of caring for those children is falling disproportionately on a few local authorities. Is he planning to say a little bit about how the information that he will publish on local authorities throughout the country will help the national transfer scheme to operate to enable that burden to be more fairly distributed across our constituencies?

  • My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He touches on a key part of how we can improve the system through the national transfer scheme. We know that Kent and Croydon in particular have taken a disproportionate number of children, and we have been working with local authorities to find a better way of ensuring that we find a safe, stable home for them while more effectively starting to spread them across the country.

    In making the commitment I have just given, it is important to note that local areas already have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children.

  • It is welcome that the Minister will publish information on each local authority. Will he publish the number that each one will be prepared to take from abroad, including from Europe? That is the content of new clause 14, which refers to

    “unaccompanied refugee children who could be transferred to the area from abroad”.

    Does this also mean that the Government will continue to take children under the Dubs scheme after the 350 that they have specified? Yes or no?

  • The Home Secretary has set out the Government’s position in relation to the Dubs scheme. What we are trying to do is look at the overall capacity within local authorities, not just for specific groups of children but for all children, whatever route they have used to come into England and across the United Kingdom. Yesterday, I sent the first quarterly update on progress on the development of the strategy to all the UK children’s commissioners. Last Friday, the Department published for consultation draft statutory guidance for local authorities on the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked children. I believe that these actions demonstrate our continued commitment to those children, and we want to carry on working with local authorities and all those who work with them to ensure that we can give every child who comes to these shores a safe and stable home.

  • Building on the question from the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), I appreciate that my hon. Friend is an Education Minister, but will he consider extending the safeguarding strategy—which sounds very attractive, as does the regular consultation with local authorities, which should be available to Parliament—beyond the Syrian region, beyond children arriving on trucks and beyond children who are already in the UK care system? Would he consider extending these services to children coming from Europe?

  • We have made it clear how, through the national transfer scheme, we want to ensure that we help the children we have identified as requiring help the most, including those who fall out of the Dublin scheme. We are trying to understand exactly what the capacity is in the system. I am not in a position to say any more than the Home Secretary has already said about the Government’s commitments, but we have clearly made a strong commitment to utilising any latent capacity in local authority children’s services so that we do not miss an opportunity to help the children who need it.

  • Would the Minister accept that many local authorities in Wales are anxious to play their part in helping refugees, and indeed have been doing so for a number of years? They include Plaid Cymru-led Ceredigion. It is important that the Government is aware of the capacity that exists outside the usually recognised areas.

  • My understanding is that Wales took part in the consultation and, as I said a few moments ago, I have written to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales to update her on the progress we are making. Of course we want to work with local authorities to ensure that as many children as possible can benefit, through our combined efforts.

  • I welcome what the Minister is saying, but I am struggling to find anything in it that is inconsistent with new clause 14. Can he point it out to me?

  • The hon. Gentleman is going to have to be more specific about what his objection is. I would be happy to take it up with him at another time, but I am not in a position to answer a question that has not been formulated in a way that allows me to provide an answer.

    I want to turn briefly to the question of sibling contact for looked-after children. I am sorry that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) is not here today, and I am sure that the whole House will send her their best wishes. We both agree that allowing reasonable contact between looked-after children and their siblings is absolutely right, where that is in the best interests of the children involved. This is reflected in the current law. However, the hon. Lady has helpfully pointed out an anomaly in the current legislation whereby the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 provide for sibling contact with a sibling who is also looked after but do not refer to contact with siblings who are not looked after. I will therefore ask my officials to start the work needed to amend the regulations to address that question, and I will happily keep the hon. Lady informed of progress.

    Finally, I should like to mention the support provided to care leavers who have their own children removed from them. Hon. Members are right to emphasise how important it is to support young parents who have had a child taken into care. They need the right kind of intervention to help them to cope with this challenging situation so that they can be effective parents to any children they might have in the future. Statutory guidance is already clear about the arrangements that must be followed to ensure that the needs of children in care and care leavers are assessed and that appropriate support is put in place. The statutory guidance includes the need for comprehensive assessment of a young person’s needs in relation to their emotional and mental health, including whether they need access to specialist health and therapeutic services. So, given the existing statutory guidance, I do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate to incorporate the proposed new clause into the Bill. I do, however, understand the importance of the issue, and I can confirm that I will ensure that the statutory guidance is strengthened to make clear the importance of providing appropriate support in the specific circumstances when a looked-after child or care leaver has a child of their own taken into care.

  • I have never seen the House so crowded to discuss amendments, which shows the importance that we attach to the Bill. I fear that we may not get to my amendment about the welfare of all children, so may I come and talk to the Minister at some point? It deals with compelling local authorities to carry out an audit of all their policies and of Government policies on the welfare of children.

  • I am happy to commit to meet the right hon. Gentleman to see what we can do on that.

  • I appreciate the Minister’s comments on new clause 7, which has cross-party support. There is welcome investment from the Department in Pause and other programmes that provide support to vulnerable young women, but I want to check that the statutory guidance will ensure that such schemes get further cover. Those who have lost a child and are at risk due to vulnerabilities need therapeutic care support, so will this extra statutory guidance ensure that they get it?

  • I can give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We want to ensure that every care leaver, whatever their circumstances, gets the support that they need. That particular group is often very vulnerable, and we must respond to that in the best possible way.

    I am grateful to hon. Members for raising important issues, and I look forward to hearing more from them during the debate. If I get the opportunity at the end—I fear I will not—I will respond more fully, but I am always open for business if anyone wants to speak to me after the debate.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Before I call the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), I will point out what is demonstrably obvious: more than 10 Members wish to speak. The programme motion that the House has passed—it is not a matter for the Chair—is extremely tight, but I want Back Benchers to be heard. The Minister has set out the Government’s position and the hon. Lady will set out the Opposition’s position, but Back Benchers must be heard.

  • Thank you, Mr Speaker. Let me reiterate that point and say how disappointing it is that the Government have allocated just 90 minutes to discuss all the issues relating to the welfare of the most vulnerable children, particularly when Back Benchers on both sides of the House contributed so much to the Bill.

  • I am sorry to have to rise again, Mr Speaker, but I should point out that the programme motion was agreed across the House, so it should not be a surprise to the Opposition.

  • I thank the Minister for that point, but there was dialogue about that before we came to the House, so he knows exactly where we stand.

    I thank the Minister for his comments about my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck). She cannot be here today because she is on compassionate leave, but she put in a tremendous amount of work to take the Bill through the Committee. I will try to be brief and will put a limit on the interventions that I take.

    First, and most importantly, I want to make it clear that we will support new clause 14, tabled by the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen). My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields and I were happy to add our names to it and will add our votes to any Division on it. It is similar to our new clause 12, so I would like the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire to clarify whether “capacity” in her amendment has the same intention as it does in ours: an assessment of the extra numbers that a council would take. New clause 13 complements those new clauses by ensuring that the Minister reflects those numbers in the national strategy. The Government have committed to provide that, but new clause 13 puts it on a statutory footing. It also provides for progress updates in the meantime, and I understand that some of those who should have received quarterly updates from the Government are yet to receive them. If the Minister is not prepared to accept the new clause, I hope that he will commit to come back with an update. However, I reserve my right to press our amendments to a vote if the Minister does not address those concerns.

    Given the time available, I will not rehearse the issues at length, but I echo the points made in recent days by my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). I hope that we will hear from them in today’s debate. Our care for child refugees says something about us as a country. I hope that we take a lead from the example set in the debate in the other place and can hold our heads up high at the end of today.

    I turn now to our amendments about vulnerable children already in our care, who should not be overlooked in this debate. New clause 3 requires local authorities to allow children in care reasonable contact with their siblings, and I welcome the Minister’s commitment to future dialogue on that. New clause 4 has arisen because, quite simply, we have been sending our most vulnerable looked after children to Scotland due to the lack of specialist provision closer to their homes, families, schools, and local services. New clause 4 gives Ministers two years to sort out secure accommodation in England and Wales, so that any future secure placements in Scotland are made through choice, not constraint.

    Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 was changed in Committee so that children looked after by English or Welsh local authorities can be detained in secure accommodation in Scotland. As the Minister said, that was a recognition that it is already happening. Vulnerable children are being sent to a different country, with different legal and education systems, because we have failed to provide for them close to their homes and communities. Changes in Committee also removed the requirement to obtain the consent of the parents and the child. Is it right not to get a child’s consent before they are moved to Scotland? They will also lose their right to independent periodic review, and I am yet to hear a convincing argument from the Minister as to why. The High Court suggested a joint review by the Law Commission, which would surely be better than a fix behind closed doors, and I hope the Minister will consider it.

    We offer our support to the hon. Members on both sides who tabled new clause 7, a version of which my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields tabled in Committee. I hope the Minister will indicate that he will take up the issue through statutory guidance if he cannot accept the new clause.

    New clause 8 would establish a clear statutory duty on local authorities to secure sufficient, suitable accommodation for all care leavers up to age 21. I am sure that I do not need to tell the Minister why that is important, but Government figures show that too many care leavers are in unsuitable or unknown accommodation. All of us who are parents of young adults are aware of the modern challenges they face and of the fact that they need support beyond their teenage years. In Committee, the Minister referred to the care leavers accommodation and support framework developed by Barnardo’s and St Basil’s, but funding for that ends next month. He referred to care leavers as a priority group for social housing, but that is not the same as a legal duty and does not mean that it happens in practice. If he cannot accept new clause 8, perhaps he will agree to meet to discuss how we can achieve its basic aim.

    New clause 10 seeks to reduce to four weeks the maximum level of sanctioning for care leavers on universal credit. The Minister will be aware of the shockingly high rate of sanctioning experienced by care leavers and will know that care leavers are three times more likely to receive a sanction than a member of the general population. They are also less likely to challenge sanctions, but they are more likely to have them overturned. When a care leaver sits down with a work coach for the first time, will the Minster tell us what steps he is taking to ensure that their status is known and that they are treated accordingly? The Children’s Society told me that they worked with a care leaver who was sanctioned over Christmas and had to choose between feeding himself or his pregnant girlfriend. That is not the behaviour of a good corporate parent, and I hope we can hear more about what the Minister will do about that.

    In line with other elements of the Bill, new clause 11 seeks to promote the financial stability of care leavers up to the age of 25. It would support care leavers into work and apprenticeships and would protect their finances when living in private rented accommodation. Young people under the age of 25 receive a lower rate of universal credit, but care leavers tend to take on more responsibility earlier. New clause 11 would extend the higher rate to care leavers under the age of 25. At about £780 a year, the difference for a low income individual would be significant. Care leavers will receive a £2,000 bursary when entering higher education, but they are not entitled to an equivalent when engaging in apprenticeships. Given the Government’s emphasis on skills, I hope they will consider such a measure.

    Care leavers in private rented accommodation also experience a cut of some £50 a week to their housing benefit when they turn 22. The Minister has asked the Children’s Society for case studies, which it has provided to the Department. Perhaps the Minister could respond.

    We estimate the cost of the new clause to be some £32.9 million, which is not a significant sum of money when we consider the ultimate cost to the state of failing properly to support care leavers. The Bill provides an opportunity for the Government to take responsibility for some of the financial difficulties experienced by care leavers, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

    New clause 20 calls for an annual review of care leavers’ access to education and for the Government to produce a report of the impact of that access. If my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) presses her amendments to a vote, we will support her.

    The Department’s own statistics show that only 6% of care leavers go to university, compared with 38% of all young people. Almost a third of children in care leave school with no GCSEs or GNVQs. That is not their failure but ours. I urge everyone in the Chamber today to reflect on that. We are failing these children and young adults, and it is our duty to turn those numbers around.

    Finally, one issue on which we can congratulate all concerned is the progress we have made on sex and relationships education. A great deal of work has gone into getting to this stage, for which I thank my Front-Bench colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion). I also thank my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow, for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), in whose names new clause 1 stands.

    I also acknowledge the work of the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes). I will support the amendment that they and the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) have tabled to new clause 15. I hope the Minister will be able to address the point without division, in either sense of the word.

  • Does the hon. Lady agree that, on the question of the right contained in new clause 15 for parents to withdraw their children from sex education lessons, we need to ask challenging questions on whether it can ever be right to deny a child their entitlement to vital education through good, age-appropriate information, not least because we know how important that is to keeping them safe?

  • I take on board the hon. Lady’s point. There has to be balance, and there has been considerable movement in that direction. I pay tribute to the Government for moving on that issue. Hopefully we can tease that out as we go through the finer details.

    However, I seek clarification from the Minister on certain points of new clause 15. First, the coalition Government withdrew funding for the personal, social and health and economic education continuing professional development programme. That policy made it much more difficult for teachers to access the necessary training, thus lowering quality. Will the Government commit to any new resources for teacher training and continuing professional development in order to ensure that relationships and sex education provision is of high quality?

    I reiterate the earlier contributions to this debate that, at first glance, there is no explicit mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in new clause 15. We have evidence from Stonewall and others that excluding LGBT children and the issues they encounter daily from existing relationships and sex education has a damaging impact on their health, wellbeing and attainment at school. Do the Government commit to ensuring that the new statutory guidance is inclusive of LGBT issues in an age-appropriate way? Will the Government consult expert organisations in doing so?

    We know that the nature of relationships and sex education will change, which means changes to statutory guidance.

  • Will the hon. Lady give way?

  • The hon. Gentleman had loads of time to seek to intervene when the Minister was speaking.

    Will the Government convene an expert group to ensure that, as the statutory guidance is updated, it covers the broad depth of topics required in RSE? Which organisations will be part of that group? On that issue at least, the House has spoken and the Government have listened. I urge the Government to do the same again on the other amendments before the House today. Many of the most vulnerable children depend on us, and we must not let them down.

  • I rise to speak to new clause 14, which is in my name. My interest in the Bill is born out of the refugee crisis sweeping across Europe. I am interested in how the Bill might apply to safeguarding children in our care. The Government have a tremendous record in the Syria region, but, for me and for many in the House, there remains a big issue in Europe that has still not been addressed. How we safeguard children who might come to us from Europe is a matter close to all our hearts.

    Let us get the elephant out there. For many of us, this debate is about the Dubs amendment and whether we can bring it back to life. The heart of the amendment is about consulting local authorities on their capacity. Why is that of interest to us? It specifically interests me because since the Government announced that the Dubs scheme would be closed, local authorities across the country have stepped forward to say that they can do more. If there is that capacity, we must have a safeguarding strategy and something that extracts such information from local authorities on a regular basis, rather than just once up to the end of this financial year. That is powerful information, and we must know it.

    What I am interested to hear from the Minister, and I still have not heard it—this will affect how I feel about pressing new clause 14 to a vote—is to whom the safeguarding strategy, which is the subject of ongoing consultation with local authorities, will apply. Will it be children in Europe who may potentially come to us as refugees or asylum seekers? Is it just for children in Syria and the region, or is it just for those arriving under their own steam following dangerous but hard-fought journeys by truck and train?

    This refugee crisis will not end neatly at the end of this financial year, so our ability to consult local authorities to understand their capacity must not end neatly at the end of this financial year, either. The timescale of the strategies we are debating today—for consulting local authorities and caring for children in our care and for unaccompanied children who come to us as refugees or asylum seekers—must be maintained over and beyond the end of this financial year.

    I remind the House that Lewisham asked for 23 children but has so far been sent one. Bristol has been sent zero out of 10. Gloucestershire would like 10 but has been sent only two. Those small numbers add up. Small gestures of individual generosity collectively make us leaders.

  • My hon. Friend mentions my local authority, Gloucestershire, which I am pleased has been able to play a part in this process. What is her response to the point that the Minister made, and that I made to the Minister, about significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children already coming to the United Kingdom? The burden of caring for those children falls disproportionately, so if councils such as Lewisham and others have some capacity, should they not be helping to support councils like Croydon and Kent that are bearing a significant burden? Importing yet more children is drawing more children to undertake dangerous journeys to Europe that may lead them to their death.

  • That is the strength of a decent consultation. I and many of us in this House believe that we can do both. The new clause allows us to spread the burden. It is tough, as some councils have borne a disproportionate burden of responsibility on their shoulders. Those councils have done amazingly, and it is time that other local authorities that have capacity share some of that burden. Guess what? If we consult as well as I think we can, I sense that we will find that we have capacity to manage both.

  • I declare my interest. My hon. Friend knows that I put my name to the amendment and that I support her. I do not want to get hung up on any particular scheme, Dubs or otherwise, because the Government have done an awful lot across many schemes, as the Home Affairs Committee has seen. Many authorities have come forward, and my concern is that we need to know exactly what capacity they realistically have to care for refugee children without there being a detriment to indigenous children, for whom there is a crisis in the number of foster care and residential children’s home places. The amendment might achieve that, whatever she might think.

  • Absolutely, and not least because of the refugee crisis. This is good housekeeping. It is good for us to have transparent data so that we can understand the capacity of our local authorities and our care system, which has to help children who are already in the UK care system.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that local authorities are already reviewing capacity on a week-by-week basis? That is evident in the number of referrals coming out of London to look after our own British children. Does she accept that local authorities do this every day of the week?

  • I do, absolutely. For me, this debate is born out of the fact that some local authorities have stepped forward and said they are struggling incredibly, while others have stepped forward and said they do have capacity. Somewhere, we are not joining those two conversations together. I know there is further capacity out there for the betterment of the children in care in the UK and the refugee children.

  • What the Minister said from the Dispatch Box did not seem too far away from what new clause 14 is seeking, which is to ensure that we recognise exactly what the capacity is for all children, including unaccompanied children. Is not the call for transparency the very call referred to in the Home Affairs Committee report, in which the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner said he would welcome greater transparency? He was charged with the duty of going there independently to find the answer, and he wants transparency.

  • Absolutely. The fact that not only Members of this House but individuals such as the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner are asking for this tells me that we need to do it.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that capacity is constantly changing? In supporting the intention of the Dubs amendment, the Church of England made it clear that it would appeal for additional foster carers to come forward, not only for the children currently in the system but so that we could accommodate newcomers. If we are going to call for that, we have to provide the extra capacity that local authorities need.

  • Absolutely. I am so grateful for all the interventions, but I shall try to wrap up my speech.

    The point is that the refugee crisis—indeed, the care crisis in our own country; we do not have enough foster carers—is an opportunity for us to do some decent housekeeping on the systems and to find out what capacity we have and where local authorities can step forward and do more. There is of course a debate to be had about funding. I know that some councils have said they are stretched, and the capacity conversation will draw out the argument about whether the funding is sufficient.

    The majority of councils do not care where the children come from. I care that we take our fair share and help our neighbours in Europe, and I know that many other Members do, too. So that I am reassured by the Minister and do not press my new clause to a vote, I ask again: will the safeguarding strategy extend beyond the UK—that is, might it take into account refugees who may come here from Europe and further afield? Will the consultation results be made open to Parliament?

  • I welcome the Government’s measures on compulsory sex and relationship education, and pay tribute to those on both sides of the House who have campaigned for it at a time when we know that violence in teen relationships is increasing and teenagers are exposed to so much more than we were as children.

    In the short time available, I wish to confine my remarks to new clause 14, following on from the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen). Yesterday, the Home Affairs Committee published a report that was limited in its recommendations because it was an interim report. We called for the Government to clarify and publish local authorities’ capacity to take children, including those from Europe under the Dubs scheme, and their further capacity in the next financial year. We also called on the Government to seek the views of the Anti-slavery Commissioner before making any changes to the Dubs scheme or closing it.

    We made those recommendations because of the evidence we heard. First, on council capacity, Ministers have said that councils had only 350 places to provide for children coming from Europe under the Dubs scheme. We heard from councils that said they had not been properly consulted; that many of them, including Hammersmith and Fulham, Lewisham, Birmingham and Bristol, had more capacity; and that they could potentially deliver thousands more places, if they were properly funded. That is why new clause 14 is so sensible.

  • The right hon. Lady is leaping to a potential solution, but without thinking through the Government’s argument about why it would be a mistake. The whole point about providing capacity is that if one accepts the argument—I know she does not—that taking more children from Europe will mean that more will make dangerous journeys, on which many will die, it is fundamentally a mistake. She is leaping to a fundamentally mistaken solution to a very grave crisis.

  • I understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes, but his view is rather different from the one taken by the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, who was appointed by the Government to champion action against modern slavery. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister and the Government for leading the way on a lot of work against modern slavery—they are right to do that—but the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner has described the Dubs scheme as a “safe and legal route” that has protected children who were being exploited. We have also heard from UNICEF that the

    “cancellation of the Dubs scheme is a good win for people traffickers—there is money to be made, because children will try to get to their families or to places of safety one way or another.”

    The point of the Dubs scheme was to prevent slavery. Surely the minimum the Government should do is to seek the further advice of the expert anti-slavery commissioner before they make any changes or close the scheme. If they want to persist in their view, they should at least test it against the evidence, not to mention listen to the many organisations and charities that have been arguing so strongly on the basis of the work they are doing with children and young people throughout Europe and other places who are at risk of being trafficked and being sucked into exploitation and sexual abuse. Children and teenagers have already come to Britain under the Dubs scheme who have been trafficked, sexually abused, raped and exploited. Now they are safe, thanks to Britain—thanks to the work that Britain has done as a result of the Dubs and Dublin schemes.

  • I am listening carefully to the right hon. Lady. On that particular point, can she absolutely assure the House that the children we have taken into this country who have been trafficked have not been re-trafficked after coming here?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. He and I have both raised the need to ensure that once children are here they do not fall prey to the same trafficking gangs, which will sometimes go to children’s homes to seek them out. We know that, as a result of the Dubs scheme so far—in the mere six months for which it has been running—many children and teenagers are now safe with foster carers or in children’s homes. They are now back in school—somewhere they had often not been for years because of the exploitation, trafficking and abuse they have suffered.

    We also know that, as we speak, there are in Greece more than 2,000 unaccompanied child refugees or those seeking asylum, only half of whom have places in children’s homes or foster care because the Greek system is overstretched. The Dubs scheme simply allows all countries to do their bit. It allows Britain to do its bit in a very small, modest way, given the scale of the refugee crisis. I pay tribute to the work done by Britain and the British Government on other aspects of the refugee crisis, but the Dubs scheme is an important part of Britain being able to do its bits to help those who are most vulnerable of all—children.

    Ministers have said they will continue to consult, but only as part of the national transfer scheme and, as I understand it, only for those children who have already arrived in the country. That is important, but it is not a substitute for also consulting on children who could come here under the Dubs scheme. It is not an either/or.

  • In an immigration debate last year, I asked the right hon. Lady about the capacity of local authorities to come forward to help councils such as Kent to look after the significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum seekers that the council has had to look after over this period. Will she clarify that the point she is making is that there is a will to support children coming from Europe, but an unwillingness to support councils like Kent?

  • No, I am saying the opposite—that we have to do both. Kent does need support from all over the country; so, too, do Hillingdon and Croydon. Some councils have done most to take the strain and to provide support. There has to be a national transfer scheme; I have supported it, when the Government have proposed it, every step of the way, and it needs to do more.

    It is interesting that when the Select Committee took evidence, the Local Government Association told us that if there was further funding, councils throughout the country would be able to meet that 0.07% target set by the Government, and that that would allow councils to provide around 4,000 additional places. That is more than enough to take far more of the children who are currently being supported in Kent to other places across the country and to do our bit to help a small number of additional child refugees from Europe to prevent trafficking. The reason why the Government should focus on those coming from Europe as well as those who have arrived on their own is that if we provide help only to those who make the dangerous and illegal journey on lorries and trucks and often with traffickers and not to those who take the safe legal route, all we do is drive more people into the arms of the traffickers and on to the dangerous routes.

  • When the Calais camp was cleared in the autumn and the Dubs and the fast-track Dublin schemes were put in place, we were told that the number of children arriving via these very dangerous routes began to drop. Can the Government clarify whether those two schemes did in fact prevent some of those dangerous journeys and some of the challenges that Kent has faced?

    Let me refer now to the spirit of the amendment. The Dubs amendment said not that we should consult on a national transfer scheme and then pretend that it is a Dubs scheme, but that we should consult specifically on the Dubs scheme. This is about enabling Britain to do its bit to prevent modern slavery, as the Prime Minister has rightly said that we should do. It is about supporting the Dubs scheme that was in place only for six months. It had huge cross-party support because, rightly, we believed in Britain doing its bit and in supporting children who have described themselves as being traded like cattle and being sexually abused and raped.

    Yesterday, President Trump reintroduced his travel ban and his Muslim ban which include stopping all refugees. For generations, the US has helped the persecuted, but now it has decided to stop doing so. We in Britain continually say, “We don’t do that; that is not us.” Let us now prove it by saying that we will carry on helping the most vulnerable, that we will carry on with the Dubs scheme and that we will carry on doing our bit, just as we have done for generations.

  • My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) and I decided to withdraw new clause 5, which had the support of 46 Members of Parliament, including the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field), my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman) and many others, because we feel very strongly that new clauses 15 and 16 do exactly what we wanted, which is to make statutory lessons available for all children in all schools. I applaud my hon. Friend the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, for everything that he has done to make that happen. He has demonstrated what can be achieved when there is a collaborative view in this House.

    Three Select Committees have called for statutory lessons in this area, and that is a good way forward. Millions of children will benefit as a result of what my hon. Friend the Minister has announced today. High quality relationship and sex education can play an important part in preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation. It teaches children from an early age about fundamental issues such as consent, healthy relationships and how to have respect for themselves and their peer group. It is important that we put such lessons in place and that we do so right now. This call could not be more timely, especially in light of today’s BBC’s report about Facebook’s failure to remove illegal images of children from its social media platform. The whole House will deplore the fact that Facebook is failing in its duties.

    Today’s amendments to this Bill will be an important first step in safeguarding our children, but the work cannot stop there. I urge the Minister to work with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that there is a statutory code in place for social media. We do not want to have a situation in which internationally known corporations such as Facebook can host illegal child abuse images, including those that explicitly focus on men with a sexual interest in children.

  • I am sure that almost all of us agree that sex education in secondary schools is a good thing, particularly as parents will still be guaranteed the right to withdraw their children. What one is concerned about is that parents will not have the right to withdraw their children from relationship education in primary school. What is there to prevent sex education aspects from being smuggled in under that label?

  • I urge my right hon. Friend to talk to some of the teachers in his constituency who are already touching on issues of sex education in primary schools, because it is possible to do that in an age-appropriate manner. There is nothing in this Bill that would concern parents about further sex education being taught in primary schools—quite the contrary. According to research, three quarters of all parents, if not a little more than that, welcome these measures. Perhaps it is because they understand the safeguarding issues that can be very well covered by relationship education, even at an early age. I am talking about issues around consent in particular. I hope that my right hon. Friend can support these measures, because they are important not only for the future development of our children, but for keeping them safe and for giving them the ability to call out for help if and when they need it.

  • Will my right hon. Friend give way?

  • Will my hon. Friend forgive me if I make just a bit more progress? I do not want to fall foul of Mr Speaker.

    I thank the Minister for responding to the amendments that I have tabled with the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Enfield, Southgate and for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin). I am talking about proposed amendments (b), (c), (d) and (e) to Government new clause 15. I note the reference of my hon. Friend the Minister to a public law duty that obliges the Government to keep content in this area up to date. I can understand his argument, but it has not really worked so far, has it? It has taken about 17 years to get the guidance on sex and relationship education even on the agenda. Surely that public law duty on the Government has been there for the past decade and a half. None the less, I welcome his confirmation at the Dispatch Box, which will be recorded in Hansard, that he understands the intent behind proposed amendments (b) and (d) to undertake reviews every three years.

    Governments of all complexions have, frankly, regularly sidestepped and ducked the issue of relationship and sex education, using a whole host of excuses to this House as to why it was not possible. What my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate and I have shown is that there is a cross-party desire to get this matter sorted and that the Government should not duck this issue from this point in.

    In response to proposed amendment (c) to Government new clause 15 that relationship and sex education will be central to any assessment of schools, I am really reassured that there will be a lead in this area from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education. I am sure that the Minister with his infinite influence could encourage Ofsted to go a little further on this and to consider redoing its report that so clearly showed that a large proportion of schools were failing in their delivery of sex and relationship education as it currently stands. It would be good to show that that has changed, that progress is being made and that a further report could be done.

    I would also welcome it if the Minister could reiterate the fact that newly drawn up regulations and guidance will be shaped by experts and not by prejudice or preconceptions in this area, and that there will also be support for expert teaching of the subject. Given the news headlines on Facebook today, perhaps he might consider a levy on social media organisations that flout common decency and standards, so that they can be held accountable and perhaps pay the bills for some of the problems that they create by allowing our children to be exposed to inappropriate material.

  • Will my right hon. Friend give way?

  • Will my hon. Friend forgive me if I do not? I can see that I am getting into trouble with the Speaker.

    The Minister is right to resist amendment (a) to Government new clause 15; as I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), it risks undermining important safeguarding for children in primary schools. The Minister is also right to resist new clause 1, which would not provide the sort of comprehensive relationship and sex education that I know he wants. For 17 years, Governments have sidestepped the issue. This Government should be applauded for the action that they are taking.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • I would like to accommodate more colleagues, so extreme brevity would be hugely helpful.

  • In the light of your request for brevity, Mr Speaker, let me be clear that there is a common thread through my points and the amendments that I have tabled: inclusivity, which Members across the House probably support in principle, but in practice, the devil is in the detail of the amendments, and that is why I want to speak.

    First, on sex and relationship education, I welcome the moves being made by the Government. It has taken seven years, but finally we will right the wrong whereby while composting and compound interest are on the curriculum, consent is not. I ask the Minister to look at the wording of new clause 1, its explicit reference to same-sex relationships, and the importance of being clear, during the consultation, that we will make sure that children are able to talk about every relationship that they have or may come across in life, and be taught to value them equally. That matters, because 95% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children say that they were not talked to at school about same-sex relationships. When that is so much part of the modern world, it is important that we include it in the modern training that we give our children.

    Not least, I want to raise the concerns of teachers from Walthamstow, who said to me that they still live under the spectre of section 28 and the idea that there are things that they cannot talk to children about. The Minister knows my concern that use of the word “appropriate” in his legislation may raise that worry for teachers, so today I look for him to say explicitly that he expects same-sex relationships to be part of the curriculum; that he expects that when bullying is talked about in schools, homophobic bullying will be addressed, at both primary and secondary level; and that we will find a sensitive and religiously inclusive way to cover issues around same-sex relationships, in line with the Equality Act 2010. We should not trade off making progress on some areas of society—through bringing in an ability to talk about consent and domestic abuse—against not making progress on gay rights in other sections of our society. The Minister will point to the 1996 wording that the legislation echoes, but we had section 28 in 1996; this is 2017. Let us make sure that when we make progressive legislation, it is truly progressive.

    It is important that we have inclusivity when it comes to child refugees. That is why I want to raise amendment 1 and speak in support of new clause 14 and amendment 2. In October, I asked the Prime Minister to tell us what had happened to the 178 children of whom her Government had been notified who would qualify, under the Dubs amendment, to come to our country but had gone missing from France. Six months on, I am still waiting for a response, but those 178 children are just a fraction of the 10,000 children who have been reported missing in Europe over the refugee crisis. Some 120,000 unaccompanied children—orphans—have come to Europe since 2015. The Dubs amendment is designed to help those children. We agreed as a House that we would do our bit for them, but what kind of a “bit” are we doing? We are talking about 350 children, which equates to 0.002% of all unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. When we debated Dubs, we talked about 3,000 children, which would be just 0.025% of them.

    It is right that people should be concerned about what other countries are doing, and that we hold the French, Greeks and Italians accountable for their treatment of these children, but Turkey alone is taking 2.8 million Syrian refugees; how can we hold our heads high if we do not do our bit as well? The Dubs scheme is about us doing our bit.

    New clause 14 is explicit about safeguarding the children who have applications for transfer—the children in the camps now. I agree with Members who talk about pull factors; the pull factor is safety. We are talking about Afghan children running from the Taliban, Sudanese children running from rape and murder, and Oromo children running from political persecution. They are pulled to our shore for safety. Closing the Dubs scheme will not stop that pull factor, but it will make the traffickers the most attractive proposition those children have. Crucially, amendment 1 and new clause 14 identify our responsibility for involvement in the safeguarding process; we should involve not just the Home Office but the Department for Education. That is where amendment 2 comes from.

  • How can we hold our heads high as a country when the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child repeatedly tells us that we are not doing our duty by asylum-seeking children and explicitly says that the Department for Education should play a stronger role with regard to them, and if we do not have agreement in law that the UN convention on the rights of the child covers not just children in this country, but every child we seek to safeguard, including those in camps who were identified in the statement made by the Minister in November? Without that agreement, we are creating a two-tier system for some of the most vulnerable children in the world. I ask Government Members, who I know share our concern to do the right thing by these children, to think about what it says about us as a country if we think that some children, who are not old enough to be accountable for the horrors in their country, are less worthy than others of our help.

    Yes, this is messy; yes, it is difficult; and yes, times are tough, but Britain at its best has always stood up to the world, held its head high and said, “We will play our part.” The Dubs scheme was us playing our part. Closing it prematurely when our councils are saying that they want to help, and when there are children who are safe in this country as a direct result of it, speaks ill of our character as a nation. I hope that Government Members will reflect on that, and will vote to send a strong message to the Government that we must help those children. Not helping them will not stop them coming; it will simply leave them rotting in the mud in Calais, Italy or Greece, still on all our consciences.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • We will hear from a few more contributors, I hope. I call Sir Edward Leigh.

  • I shall speak to my amendment (a) to new clause 15, which would give all parents a chance to withdraw their children from relationships education. As you know, Mr Speaker, there is already a right, long enshrined in our laws, for parents to withdraw children from sex education. I want to ask the Government why parents are to be allowed to continue to withdraw their children from sex education, but not from relationship education. It is an important point. The Supreme Court, in answer to the desire of the Scottish Government to impose itself between children and their families, ruled:

    “The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get to the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.”

    Those of us who support the amendment believe that parents have the primary duty, and of course a desire, to bring up their children and educate them in their own values. The state should not impose its values on parents.

    Frankly, the Government’s thinking on the matter is confused. Their policy statement says:

    “We have committed to retain parents’ right to withdraw their child from sex education within RSE (other than sex education in the National Curriculum as part of science), as currently, but not from relationships education at primary. This is because parents should have the right to teach this themselves in a way which is consistent with their values.”

    That document rightly justifies the right to withdrawal from sex education, but offers no justification whatever for the inconsistent and aberrant decision not to extend that right to relationships education.

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I must finish. If we respect the rights of parents over sex education, why trample all over their rights when it comes to relationships education? It is understandable that some will view this as a state takeover bid for parenting.

  • The hon. Gentleman concluded his speech with commendable succinctness, which allows me to call Angela Smith.

  • I rise to speak on amendment 12, which is in my name. It seeks to ensure that the proposed child safeguarding practice review panel includes an independent domestic abuse expert.

    The recent Women’s Aid report “Nineteen Child Homicides” outlined the depth of the challenge of child protection in families where one parent is abusive. It identified strong evidence that, when arrangements for child contact are being made where there is a history of domestic violence, the current workings of the family justice system support a pro-contact approach, which can undermine the best interests of the child or children.

    On average, only 1% of applications for contact are refused, but domestic abuse is identified as an issue in up to 70% of family proceedings cases. In three quarters of cases where courts have ordered contact with an abusive parent, the children have suffered further abuse. Clearly, therefore, significant safeguarding concerns result from the management of child contact arrangements. Indeed, the report I referred to highlighted the cases of 19 children in 12 families who were killed by perpetrators of domestic abuse in circumstances related to unsafe contact.

    Research has identified a range of key lessons for the child protection system in relation to child contact in families where one parent is abusive. Those lessons are critical to the Bill’s aim of improving local safeguarding. In particular, understanding abusive partners’ coercive control of women and children is critical to improving child safeguarding.

    On the proposed role of the child safeguarding practice review panel, my amendment would ensure that the concerns I have outlined are heard, by making sure the panel included at least one recognised independent specialist domestic abuse expert. In Committee, the Minister seemed to agree with that proposal when he stated that the panel would bring a more systematic and comprehensive approach to pulling together knowledge and understanding for cases involving an issue of national importance and relevance, and as far as I am concerned, domestic violence is an issue of national importance. By putting such an expert on the panel, the Government would also address their stated desire for it to provide social work practitioners with specialist advice and the best available research and evidence on domestic abuse and children.

    I will push the issue to a vote if you allow me to, Mr Speaker, because the Government could act on it very easily and very quickly, and it would benefit women and children up and down the country.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. Before I call the hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), I emphasise that I would like to call the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) from the Scottish National party as well, so extreme brevity is required.

  • I rise to speak in warm support of new clause 15 and to congratulate the Government. The Minister will remember that I served on the Public Bill Committee and spoke in support of the then new clause, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). I very much welcome the two safeguards in the new clause—on age-appropriateness and parental rights to withdraw—which I think address the points that have been raised.

    This is a new clause—a 21st-century clause—for a 21st-century education system and for the world in which we live, and it reflects the deep need to provide our young people with the education and skills they require to meet challenges that many of us on the Conservative Benches did not face when we were their age.

    Many people rail against the rates of divorce, abortion, teenage pregnancy and the like, and I am absolutely convinced that there must be a causal link between those statistics and the very patchy and relatively poor levels of sex and relationship education we have had in this country hitherto.

    The new clause appears to have garnered the support of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, of which I am a member, as well as of Barnardo’s, the Terrence Higgins Trust and others. I would therefore suggest to right hon. and hon. Members that the Government are clearly on to something and are approaching it in the right way.

    We do nothing that could be described as moral if we leave our young people unprepared to meet the challenges of relationships and modern life. I certainly support the fact—I raised this in the Adjournment debate brought by my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller)—that the clause covers academies and free schools. Given the direction of travel in the education environment, that seems entirely appropriate, and I support the new clause.

  • I wish to speak to the amendments in my name to new clauses 13 and 14. Let me say in passing that new clauses 12 and 11, on universal credit and local housing allowance, both have our full support. On new clause 4, while we sympathise with the sentiment behind it, the method of progression is not the correct one, and we could not give the new clause our support.

    Let me turn to new clauses 12 to 14 and to my two amendments. New clause 13 would put the strategy for the safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children on a statutory footing, and that has our support. Given that many of the laws and services that will be involved are devolved, I have suggested that the new clause be amended to require consultation with the devolved Administrations before the strategy is published.

    New clauses 12 and 14 require assessment of the capacity to provide safeguarding and welfare services, including to unaccompanied child refugees. I welcome the cross-party support new clause 14 has attracted, and the Scottish National party fully intends to give it our support. My small amendment to it simply borrows the wording of new clause 12 in relation to the devolved Administrations. It is appropriate to include the devolved Administrations, because, as we have heard, the key driver behind new clause 14 is to force the Government to rethink their move to wind the Dubs scheme down. This was a UK-wide scheme, and Scotland was and is absolutely willing to play its part in it.

    With the rationale for closing Dubs falling to pieces, the Government have belatedly come to the Dispatch Box to make a concession. However, in making that concession, they have actually made the case for new clause 14, rather than giving an explanation of why we should reject it, so I see no reason why we should not proceed with it. If it comes to a vote, the SNP will absolutely support new clause 14, whether amended or not.

  • I rise to support many of the proposals, not least those in my name, which the Minister has supported from the Dispatch Box.

    On new clause 7, statutory guidance will spread good practice, which is all too limited in relation to those who need therapeutic support, such as those who are at risk—not least those who have come from a care background—of repeat pregnancies. There is a duty of care in this Bill not only to children but to vulnerable adults, and I appreciate that that will now come within statutory guidance, so I will not need to press the new clause. However, I pay particular tribute to the Family Rights Group and the other organisations supporting it.

    I very much support new clause 15, and our earlier new clauses 5 and 6 paved the way towards it. The thrust of it is very welcome. We should recognise the support from all sides of the argument. Previously, there was a stalemate, and we were looking simply at when we would make sex education compulsory. Now, we are focused on relationships and building the resilience in relationships that vulnerable children— particularly those who do not have any sight or sound of healthy relationships— do not have. I welcome that and the reassurance on age-appropriateness and the religious background of pupils.

    The Government’s position on new clause 14 is welcome in focusing on safeguarding. This is not a re-run of Dubs or of those earlier arguments. This is about safeguarding. Whether we are talking about children in the UK or children coming from abroad, all children need safeguarding, and I welcome the commitment that has been made on that. However, as a result of this debate, the Government need to be more transparent about keeping the Dubs process open so that we can do all we can for children here and elsewhere.

  • One and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the debate was interrupted (Programme Order, 5 December and this day).

    The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

    Question agreed to.

    New clause 15 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    The Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

    New Clause 16

    Other personal, social, health and economic education

    ‘(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision requiring personal, social, health and economic education (beyond that required by virtue of section [Education relating to relationships and sex]) to be provided—

    (a) to pupils of compulsory school age receiving primary education at schools in England;

    (b) to pupils receiving secondary education at schools in England.

    (2) The regulations may include—

    (a) provision requiring the Secretary of State to give guidance to proprietors of schools in relation to the provision of the education;

    (b) provision requiring proprietors of schools to have regard to that guidance;

    (c) provision requiring proprietors of schools to make statements of policy in relation to the education to be provided, and to make the statements available to parents or other persons;

    (d) further provision in connection with the provision of the education.

    (3) Before making the regulations, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

    (4) The regulations may amend any provision (including provision conferring powers) that is made by or under—

    (a) section 342 of the Education Act 1996;

    (b) Chapter 4 of Part 5 of the Education Act 1996;

    (c) Schedule 1 to the Education Act 1996;

    (d) Part 6 of the Education Act 2002;

    (e) Chapter 1 of Part 4 of the Education and Skills Act 2008;

    (f) the Academies Act 2010.

    (5) The provision that may be made by regulations under subsection (1) by virtue of section 70 includes, in particular, provision amending, repealing or revoking any provision made by or under any Act or any other instrument or document (whenever passed or made).

    (6) Regulations under subsection (1) which amend provision made by or under an Act are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

    (7) Other regulations under subsection (1) are subject to the negative resolution procedure.

    (8) Expressions used in this section, where listed in the left-hand column of the table in section 580 of the Education Act 1996, are to be interpreted in accordance with the provisions of that Act listed in the right-hand column in relation to those expressions.

    (9) A power to make provision under this section does not limit any power to make provision of the same kind under another Act.”

    This new clause would enable the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring personal, social, health and economic education to be provided at schools in England. The power could be exercised in relation to all schools, or just in relation to schools of a particular kind, for example Academy schools and maintained schools.(Edward Timpson.)

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 14

    Local arrangements for reporting on capacity to provide children’s safeguarding and welfare services

    After section 16E of the Children Act 2004 (inserted by section 16 of this Act) insert—

    “Local arrangements for reporting on capacity to provide children’s safeguarding and welfare provision services

    ‘(1) At least once in every 12 month period, the safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England must report to the Secretary of State on their capacity to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

    (2) The report must include, but shall not be restricted to, identification of capacity to provide safeguarding and welfare services to children who could be resettled in the area, including unaccompanied refugee children who could be transferred to the area from abroad including those with existing or current applications for transfer.

    (3) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament the information received under subsection (1) in a single report.””

    This new clause would require the local safeguarding partners in an area to report annually to the Secretary of State on what capacity they have to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in that area. This includes what capacity they have to resettle children, including unaccompanied refugee children, in the area. The Secretary of State would be required to lay before Parliament the information received from local authorities in a single report.(Heidi Allen.)

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

    Division 173

    7 March 2017

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 267
    Noes: 287

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Clause 12

    Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel

    Amendment proposed: 12, page 10, line 30, at end insert—

    “(3A) At least one member of the panel appointed by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) must—

    (a) be independent from Government, and

    (b) have relevant specialist expertise in tackling domestic abuse.”—(Angela Smith.)

    This amendment would require that at least one member of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel has specialist expertise in tackling domestic abuse.(Angela Smith.)

    Question put, That the amendment be made.

    Division 174

    7 March 2017

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 271
    Noes: 299

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Clause 32

    Power to test different ways of working

    Amendment made: 4, page 20, line 23, leave out clause 32.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Clause 33

    Duration

    Amendment made: 5, page 21, line 33, leave out clause 33.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Clause 34

    Parliamentary procedure

    Amendment made: 6, page 22, line 3, leave out clause 34.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Clause 35

    Consultation by local authority

    Amendment made: 7, page 22, line 27, leave out clause 35.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Clause 36

    Consultation by Secretary of State

    Amendment made: 8, page 22, line 36, leave out clause 36.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Clause 37

    Guidance

    Amendment made: 9, page 23, line 16, leave out clause 37.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Clause 38

    Annual report

    Amendment made: 10, page 23, line 31, leave out clause 38.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Clause 39

    Interpretation

    Amendment made: 11, page 23, line 36, leave out clause 39.—(Edward Timpson.)

    New Clause 17

    Ensuring adequate provision of social work training

    “(1) The Secretary of State may take such steps as the Secretary of State considers appropriate—

    (a) to ensure that adequate provision is made for social work training, and

    (2) The power under subsection (1) may, in particular, be used to provide financial or other assistance (subject to any conditions the Secretary of State thinks are appropriate)—

    (a) for individuals resident in England to undertake social work training;

    (b) for organisations providing social work training.

    (3) Functions of the Secretary of State under this section may be exercised by any person, or by employees of any person, authorised to do so by the Secretary of State.

    (4) For the purpose of determining—

    (a) the terms and effect of an authorisation under subsection (3), and

    (b) the effect of so much of any contract made between the Secretary of State and the authorised person as relates to the exercise of the function,

    Part 2 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 has effect as if the authorisation were given by virtue of an order under section 69 of that Act; and in subsection (3) “employee” has the same meaning as in that Part.

    (5) In this section “social work training” means education or training that is suitable for people who are or wish to become social workers in England.”—(Edward Timpson.)

    This new clause is intended to replace the Secretary of State’s powers under section 67 of the Care Standards Act 2000 in respect of social workers.

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 18

    Exercise by Special Health Authority of functions under section (Ensuring adequate provision of social work training)(1)(b)

    “(1) The Secretary of State may direct a Special Health Authority to exercise functions under section (Ensuring adequate provision of social workers)(1)(b) so far as relating to the provision of financial or other assistance.

    (2) The National Health Service Act 2006 has effect as if—

    (a) any direction under subsection (1) were a direction under section 7 of that Act, and

    (b) any functions exercisable by the Special Health Authority by virtue of a direction under subsection (1) were exercisable under that section.

    (3) Directions under subsection (1)—

    (a) must be given by an instrument in writing, and

    (b) may be varied or revoked by subsequent directions.”—(Edward Timpson.)

    This new clause is based on section 67A of the Care Standards Act 2000 and allows the Secretary of State to require a Special Health Authority to exercise the function of giving financial assistance to social workers.

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 19

    Amendments to do with this Part

    “Schedule (Amendments to do with Part 2) contains further minor and consequential amendments relating to this Part.”—(Edward Timpson.)

    This introduces NS1.

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    Clause 65

    Repeal of existing powers to regulate social workers

    Amendments made: 14, page 36, line 20, leave out “after subsection (2ZE) insert” and insert “for subsection (2ZE) substitute”.

    This adds a consequential amendment.

    Amendment 15, page 36, line 27, at end insert—

    “( ) in subsection (2A)(c), for “that section” substitute “section 60”;”

    This adds a consequential amendment.

    Amendment 16, page 36, line 29, at end insert—

    “( ) In Schedule 3 (regulation of health care and associated professions)—

    (a) in paragraph 10, for the definitions of “social care work in England”, “social care workers in England” and “the social work profession in England” substitute—

    ““social care work in England” and “social care workers in England” have the meaning given by section 60.”;

    (b) in paragraph 11(2A)(b), for “members of the social work profession in England” substitute “engaging in social work in England”.”—(Edward Timpson.)

    This adds a consequential amendment.

    Clause 66

    Interpretation of Part 2

    Amendment made: 17, page 37, line 11, after “England” insert “(but see subsection (2));

    ‘(2) A person who is a member of a profession to which section 60(2) of the Health Act 1999 applies is not to be treated as a social worker in England by reason only of carrying out work as an approved mental health professional.”—(Edward Timpson.)

    The basic purpose of this amendment is to ensure that a person is not subject to regulation as a social worker in England simply because he or she is an approved mental health professional. Approved mental health professionals are often members of other regulated professions so the amendment avoids dual regulation.

    New Schedule 1

    amendments to do with Part 2

    “Part 1

    General amendments

    London County Council (General Powers) Act 1920

    1 In section 18(e) of the London County Council (General Powers) Act 1920, after “under the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001” insert “or section 45(1) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017”.

    Medicines Act 1968

    2 In section 58 of the Medicines Act 1968, omit subsection (1ZA).

    Video Recordings Act 1984

    3 In section 3 of the Video Recordings Act 1984, omit subsection (11A).

    London Local Authorities Act 1991

    4 In section 4 of the London Local Authorities Act 1991, in paragraph (c) of the definition of “establishment for special treatment”, after “under the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001” insert “or section 45(1) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017”.

    Value Added Tax Act 1994

    5 In Part 2 of Schedule 9 to the Value Added Tax Act 1994, in the Notes to Group 7, omit note (2ZA).

    Data Protection Act 1998

    6 In section 69(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998, in paragraph (h), omit the words from “, except in so far” to the end.

    Care Standards Act 2000

    7 The Care Standards Act 2000 is amended as follows.

    8 (1) Section 55 is amended as follows.

    (2) In subsection (2) as substituted by the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016, omit paragraph (a).

    (3) Until the coming into force of the substitution of subsection (2) by the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016, the old version has effect as if in paragraph (a) after “social work” there were inserted “in Wales”.

    (4) In subsection (3) as substituted by the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016, omit paragraph (k).

    9 (1) Section 67 is amended as follows.

    (2) Omit subsection (1A).

    (3) In subsection (2) as substituted by the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016—

    (a) omit paragraph (a) (including the “and” at the end), and

    (b) in paragraph (b), omit “other”.

    (4) Until the coming into force of the substitution of subsection (2) by the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016, the old version has effect as if the words from “courses”, in the first place it occurs, to “social workers” were omitted.

    Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001

    10 The Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (SI 2002/254) is amended as follows.

    11 (1) Article 3 is amended as follows.

    (2) In paragraph (5)(b)—

    (a) in paragraph (ii), after “registrants or” insert “other”;

    (b) at end of paragraph (iv) insert “and”;

    (c) omit paragraphs (vi) and (vii).

    (3) Omit paragraph (5AA).

    12 In article 6(3)(aa), omit “or social work”.

    13 In article 7(4), omit “or social work”.

    14 (1) Article 9 is amended as follows.

    (2) Omit paragraph (3A).

    (3) In paragraph (8), omit “or social work”.

    15 (1) Article 10 is amended as follows.

    (2) In paragraph (6), omit “or social work”.

    (3) Omit paragraph (7).

    16 In article 11A, omit paragraph (11).

    17 (1) Article 12 is amended as follows.

    (2) In paragraph (1)—

    (a) at the end of sub-paragraph (b) insert “or”;

    (b) omit sub-paragraph (d) and the “or” before it.

    (3) In paragraph (2)—

    (a) at the end of sub-paragraph (a) insert “and”;

    (b) omit sub-paragraph (c) and the “and” before it.

    18 (1) Article 13 is amended as follows.

    (2) In paragraph (1), omit “or (1B)”.

    (3) Omit paragraph (1B).

    19 For the heading of article 13A substitute “Visiting health professionals from relevant European States”.

    20 Omit article 13B.

    21 In article 19(2A)(b), omit “or social work”.

    22 In article 20, omit the words from “; but the reference” to the end.

    23 (1) Article 37 is amended as follows.

    (2) In paragraph (1)(aa), omit “or social work”.

    (3) Omit paragraph (1B).

    (4) In paragraph (5A)(a), omit the words from “or registered as a social worker” to the end of that sub-paragraph.

    (5) In paragraph (8), omit “(other than a hearing on an appeal relating to a social worker in England)”.

    (6) Omit paragraph (8A).

    24 (1) Article 38 is amended as follows.

    (2) Omit paragraph (1ZA).

    (3) In paragraph (4), omit “(subject to paragraph (5))”.

    (4) Omit paragraph (5).

    25 In article 39, omit paragraph (1A).

    26 In Schedule 1, in paragraph 1A(1)(b), omit paragraph (ia) (but not the “and” at the end).

    27 (1) In Schedule 3, paragraph 1 is amended as follows.

    (2) In the definition of “visiting health or social work professional from a relevant European state”, omit “or social work” in both places.

    (3) In the definition of “relevant professions”, omit “social workers in England;”.

    (4) Omit the definition of “social worker in England”.

    Adoption and Children Act 2002

    28 (1) In section 10 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, in subsection (2), omit “, one of the registers maintained under” substitute “—

    (a) the register of social workers in England maintained under section 45 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017,

    (b) any register of social care workers in England maintained under an Order in Council under section 60 of the Health Act 1999 or any register maintained under such an Order in Council so far as relating to social care workers in England, or

    (c) the register maintained under”.

    (2) Until the coming into force of the amendment made by sub-paragraph (1), section 10(2) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 is to have effect as if the reference to the registers mentioned there included a reference to the part of the register maintained under article 5 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 that relates to social workers in England.

    Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003

    29 In section 343(2) of the Income Tax (Earning and Pensions) Act 2003, in paragraph 1 of the Table, after sub-paragraph (r) insert—

    “(s) the register of social workers in England kept under section 45(1) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017.”

    National Health Service Act 2006

    30 In section 126 of the National Health Service Act 2006, for subsection (4A) substitute—

    “(4A) Subsection (4)(h) does not apply to persons in so far as they are registered as social care workers in England (within the meaning of section 60 of the Health Act 1999).”

    National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006

    31 In section 80 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006, for subsection (4A) substitute—

    “(4A) Subsection (4)(h) does not apply to persons in so far as they are registered as social care workers in England (within the meaning of section 60 of the Health Act 1999).”

    Armed Forces Act 2006

    32 In section 257(3) of the Armed Forces Act 2006, for paragraph (a) substitute—

    “(a) Social Work England;”.

    Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006

    33 The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 is amended as follows.

    34 In section 41(7), in the table, after entry 10 insert—

    “11 The register of social workers in England kept under section 45(1) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017

    The registrar appointed under section 45(3)(a) Children and Social Work Act 2017 or, in the absence of such an appointment, Social Work England”

    35 In Schedule 3, in paragraph 16(4), after paragraph (l) insert—

    (m) Social Work England.”

    Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (asp 14)

    36 In section 30A(6) of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007—

    (a) omit “the social work profession in England or”;

    (b) for “each of those expressions having the same meaning as in” substitute “within the meaning of”.”

    Children and Young Persons Act 2008

    37 (1) In section 2 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, in subsection (6), for paragraph (a) substitute—

    “(a) in the register maintained by Social Work England under section 45(1) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017;”.

    (2) Until the coming into force of the amendment made by sub-paragraph (1), section 2(6)(a) of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 is to have effect as if the reference to the register mentioned there were to a register maintained under article 5 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

    Health and Social Care Act 2012

    38 In the Health and Social Care Act 2012 omit sections 213, 215 and 216.

    Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 (anaw 2)

    39 The Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 is amended as follows.

    40 In section 111(4)(b)—

    (a) in the Welsh text, for “Cyngor y Proffesiynau Iechyd a Gofal” substitute “Gwaith Cymdeithasol Lloegr”;

    (b) in the English text, for “the Health and Care Professions Council” substitute “Social Work England”.

    41 In section 117(4)(a)—

    (a) in the Welsh text, after “Gofal” insert “neu Waith Cymdeithasol Lloegr”;

    (b) in the English text, after “Council” insert “or Social Work England”.

    42 In section 119(4)(a)(ii)—

    (a) in the Welsh text, for “y Cyngor Proffesiynau Iechyd a Gofal” substitute “Gwaith Cymdeithasol Lloegr”;

    (b) in the English text, for “the Health and Care Professions Council” substitute “Social Work England”.

    43 In section 125(5)(a)(ii)—

    (a) in the Welsh text, for “y Cyngor Proffesiynau Iechyd a Gofal” substitute “Gwaith Cymdeithasol Lloegr”;

    (b) in the English text, for “the Health and Care Professions Council” substitute “Social Work England”.

    44 In section 174(5)(a)(ii)—

    (a) in the Welsh text, for “Cyngor y Proffesiynau Iechyd a Gofal” substitute “Gwaith Cymdeithasol Lloegr”;

    (b) in the English text, for “the Health and Care Professions Council” substitute “Social Work England”.

    Part 2

    Renaming of Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001

    45 For the title to the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (SI 2002/254) substitute “Health Professions Order 2001”.

    46 In article 1(1) of that Order (citation), for “the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001” substitute “the Health Professions Order 2001”.

    47 In the following provisions, for “the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001” substitute “the Health Professions Order 2001”—

    (a) section 18(e) of the London County Council (General Powers) Act 1920;

    (b) section 3(11) of the Video Recordings Act 1984;

    (c) 114ZA(4) of the Mental Health Act 1983;

    (d) paragraph (E) in the entry for the London County Council (General Powers) Act 1920 in Schedule 2 to the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1984;

    (e) paragraph (c) of the definition of “establishment for special treatment” in section 4 of the London Local Authorities Act 1991;

    (f) item 1(c) in Group 7, in Part 2 of Schedule 9 to the Value Added Tax Act 1994;

    (g) section 69(1)(h) of the Data Protection Act 1998;

    (h) section 60(2)(c) of the Health Act 1999;

    (i) sections 25C(8)(h) and 29(1)(j) of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002;

    (j) section 126(4)(a) of the National Health Service Act 2006;

    (k) section 80(4)(a) of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006;

    (l) entry 10 in the table in section 41(7) of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

    48 In the definition of “registered psychologist” in each of the following provisions, for “the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001” substitute “the Health Professions Order 2001”—

    (a) section 307(1) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995;

    (b) section 207(6) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003;

    (c) section 21(2)(b) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003;

    (d) section 25 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.”—(Edward Timpson.)

    This Schedule contains amendments to do with Part 2 of the Bill (social workers etc in England).

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

  • We are making commendable progress—even greater progress, if that is imaginable, than I had anticipated, as may be apparent to colleagues.

    Schedule 4

    Oversight by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care

    Amendments made: 18, page 47, line 26, leave out from beginning to “in” in line 27 and insert—

    “( ) Section 25 (the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care) is amended as follows.

    ( ) .”

    This amendment is consequential on amendment 19.

    Amendment 19, page 47, line 29, at end insert—

    “( ) For subsection (3A) substitute—

    (3A) A reference in an enactment to a body mentioned in subsection (3) is not (unless there is express provision to the contrary) to be read as including—

    (a) a reference to Social Work England, or

    (b) a reference to the Health and Care Professions Council, or a regulatory body within subsection (3)(j), so far as it has functions relating to social care workers in England.”

    ( ) In subsection (3B) for the definition of “the social work profession in England” and “social care workers in England” substitute—

    ““social care workers in England” has the meaning given in section 60 of the 1999 Act.””—(Edward Timpson.)

    This ensures that references in legislation to a regulatory body mentioned in section 25(3) of the National Health Service Reform and Health and Care Professions Act 2002 do not generally include a reference to Social Work England.

  • Consideration completed. I will now suspend the House for no more than five minutes to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will table the appropriate consent motions, copies of which will be available shortly in the Vote Office and will be distributed by the Doorkeepers. I know they will be of very consuming interest to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), who is greatly seized of the importance and content of these matters.

  • Sitting suspended.

    On resuming—

  • I can now inform the House of my decision about certification. For the purposes of Standing Order No. 83L(2), I have certified the following provisions of the Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] as relating exclusively to England and Wales and within devolved legislative competence: clauses 8 and 9.

    I have certified the following provisions of the Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] as relating exclusively to England and within devolved legislative competence: clauses 1 to 7, 11 to 31 and 41 to 67, new clauses 15 to 18 added to the Bill on Report and schedules 2 to 4.

    For the purposes of Standing Order No. 83L(4), I have certified the following amendment made to the Bill since Second Reading as relating exclusively to England and Wales: amendment 13 to clause 62, made in the Public Bill Committee.

    Copies of my certificate are available in the Vote Office. Under Standing Order No. 83M, consent motions are therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Does the Minister intend to move the consent motions?

  • indicated assent.

    The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) (Standing Order No. 83M).

    [Natascha Engel in the Chair]

  • I remind hon. Members that if there are Divisions, only Members representing constituencies in England and Wales may vote on the consent motion for England and Wales, and only Members representing constituencies in England may vote on the consent motion for England.

    Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83M(5)),

    That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses of the Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] and the certified amendment made to the Bill—

    Clauses certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence

    Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill as amended in the Public Bill Committee.

    Amendment certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England and Wales.

    Amendment 13 made in the Public Bill Committee.—(Edward Timpson.)

  • Just a very short intervention, but I always think it is very useful for the Minister to have the opportunity to expand on an issue, rather than just touching the Dispatch Box and moving on.

    The Minister and his Government colleagues will be well aware of the fact that we have just had the Assembly election in Northern Ireland. The results were in some quarters a surprise and in other quarters they were not a surprise at all. We now have a very short window of opportunity for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be restored. If the talks are not successful in the next three weeks, will the Minister and his Government colleagues consider extending some of the Bill’s provisions to Northern Ireland? Parts of it are very valuable, and really ought to be extended in the event of a prolonged period of direct rule.

  • I hear what the hon. Lady says. Of course we are all looking very carefully at the situation in Northern Ireland and hope that we can achieve a resolution as soon as possible, but in relation to the Bill, we have been very clear about which provisions are appropriate in relation to devolution arrangements. Having said that, I should add that on certain aspects of the Bill, we want to co-operate across the whole United Kingdom. I shall take that up with whoever is in place in Northern Ireland in my reciprocal capacity, so that we can make progress throughout the country.

  • I was loth to speak in this debate, although I think that I am the main contributor to Legislative Grand Committee debates: I believe that I have spoken in them more than any other Member. However, I did not have a clue what was going on. One of my hon. Friends asked me, “What exactly did the Speaker rule in his statement about the certification of English-only business?” I should be interested to learn whether the Minister knows what it all meant, because my colleagues and I have not got a clue, and that goes to the heart of this nonsense about English votes for English laws. No one knows what is going on. The Constitution Unit examined it in detail, and concluded that it was opaque in the extreme.

    No one has much of an idea about what we are actually discussing here. I think I heard something about a procedure requiring double consent. What comes first, the English-only vote or the whole-House vote? I know that I cannot take part in one of the votes, but which one is it? That has not been made clear to us today.

    If we are to continue to have these Legislative Grand Committees, we shall need a little bit more than a Minister going to the Dispatch Box, touching it with his hands, and then sitting down again. The Mace goes up, goes down and then goes up again, and nothing is debated and discussed. We were told that English votes for English laws was just about the most important innovation in Parliament when it came to debates in the House, and it is not good enough for Members not to take advantage of these opportunities. I appeal to at least one English Member to stand up and speak about the English-only clauses. If they are so important that we suspend our business, surely they should be addressed.

    I hope that in future I shall not have to speak about Legislative Grand Committee motions. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] For once, I concur with Conservative Members. This procedure has reached a stage at which it is beyond a farce. It is bizarre, it is unnecessary, it disrupts the business of the House, and no one is even bothered about making a contribution.

    Question agreed to.

    The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England) (Standing Order No. 83M(4)(d)).

    Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83M(4)(d)),

    That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]:

    Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence

    Clauses 1 to 7, 11 to 31 and 41 to 67 of the Bill as amended in the Public Bill Committee including the amendments made on Report;

    New clause 15, new clause 16, new clause 17 and new clause 18 added on Report; and

    Schedules 2 to 4 to the Bill as amended in the Public Committee, including the amendments made on Report.—(Edward Timpson.)

    Question agreed to.

    The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decisions of the Committees (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).

    The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decisions reported.

    Third Reading

  • I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    This Bill is fundamentally about improving the lives of vulnerable children. These are children who have often faced challenges that most of us can only imagine: they might have faced abuse and neglect; they might have been let down time and again by the people who are supposed to love and protect them; they might be being exploited by perpetrators preying on their vulnerability. So it is right and proper that Parliament should devote time and energy to improving their plight. To that end, I am very grateful to all those hon. Members who have engaged constructively with the passage of this Bill and demonstrated their shared commitment to these critical issues.

    This Bill represents an important step forward for vulnerable children. It defines what good corporate parenting looks like, and secures the involvement of the whole council in looking out for children in care or leaving care. It requires every local area to set out exactly what support they are offering to care leavers, making it easier for young people to access support. It extends the help of a personal adviser to all care leavers up to the age of 25. It introduces improved national arrangements for analysing serious incidents and learning from them, and strengthened arrangements for local multi-agency co-ordination of safeguarding. It extends educational support to children leaving care via adoption or special guardianship. It creates the conditions for good placement decisions to be made for children coming into the care system. It introduces a new, bespoke regulator for social work that will be empowered to raise standards in social work and raise the status of this vital profession. It also paves the way for a new system of assessment and accreditation, which will give social workers opportunities to develop and progress in their profession.

    In addition—again with thanks to the Members across this House who have supported the Government on this—the Bill now includes important measures on relationships and sex education and PSHE. We need to recognise that the world in which children are growing up is changing rapidly. As policy makers and implementers, we need to keep pace with those changes, and ensure that children are well equipped to cope with each new opportunity and challenge they are likely to face. I am delighted, therefore, that this House has supported the Government amendments to put age-appropriate relationships and sex education on a statutory footing. This will be a very significant step to promote the safeguarding of all children in England.

    As I said earlier, the changes to be delivered through this Bill reflect my personal passion and commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable children and families. My pledge to the House is to implement these changes as expeditiously as possible when the Bill has completed its passage through Parliament and received royal assent. I thank all Members who have engaged with, and contributed to, this Bill, including the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck), who cannot be with us here today but shares that same passion.

    Of course, we would not be where we are without the dedicated work of all the officials and Clerks of this House, and the many officials in my Department who have worked tirelessly to make the Bill’s passage as smooth as possible. I take this opportunity to thank them all, in particular the Bill team and my private office, and I commend the Bill to the House.

  • I echo the thanks given by the Minister, particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck), who cannot be with us today. She did a tremendous amount of work on the Bill. I also thank the Committee members who contributed to the Bill and all Members from across the House who have made it a much better Bill. I commend the Government on the work they have done towards finding consensus within the House on the Bill. I also thank all the organisations that have contributed to the Bill throughout its passage.

    We have had a fantastic debate. I am disappointed that we have not managed to add new clause 14 to the Bill, but I hope the Minister was listening in particular to the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) when she talked about the model of good housekeeping in the amendment we voted on. I hope the Minister will look at that and see how we can make progress on it in later stages.

  • I voted in support of new clause 14. I should like to say again on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland and those in my constituency that we want to be able to welcome refugee children just as much as England, Wales and especially Scotland, which has already done so much. If the Minister is going to look at this issue, will he also remember that the people of Northern Ireland would like to have been included in new clause 14? The new clause was lost, but I know that the Minister has taken note of it.

  • I thank the hon. Lady for reminding us of the great contribution that Northern Ireland makes to this place.

    I echo the Minister’s points about the progress that has been made on relationships and sex education and on PSHE. This is a tremendous step forward, although there is still work to be done. Many of the Select Committee members who have taken part in the debates today have done a tremendous amount of work on this, and I commend them for that. I also welcome the Minister’s earlier contribution on new clause 3, which dealt with sibling contact. That is going to make a massive difference to vulnerable people. On new clause 7, we know that a cycle of deprivation can be created among vulnerable children, who can grow up to become vulnerable adults. If nothing else, we should be trying to break those cycles. That is where the cross-party efforts in this place to achieve a true meritocracy come in.

    I want to mention clauses 32 to 39, the so-called innovation clauses. There was huge resistance to those measures from care leavers, adult survivors of abuse, social workers, academics, children’s rights campaigners and charities. The Together for Children coalition has 53 organisations, more than 160 individual experts and 108,000 signatures from concerned members of the public. On top of this, organisations as diverse as the Magistrates Association, the Law Society, the Family Law Bar Association, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the GMB trade union, which represents foster carers, as well as some of our oldest children’s charities, including Action for Children and the NSPCC, warned of the grave dangers to our country’s most vulnerable children and young people of allowing councils to opt out of their statutory duties. I therefore commend the Minister and the Secretary of State for accepting those arguments and removing the relevant chapters from the Bill.

    On new clause 17, we have some concerns about the way in which the Secretary of State will decide to discharge her duties with respect to the registrar, and specifically about the extent to which Social Work England will be able to exercise the necessary independence with respect to accrediting the courses leading to registered social worker status. I hope the Minister will take note of those concerns.

    I should like to end by echoing the comments of many Members throughout the passage of the Bill about the great unsung heroes who work in our children’s services. The Minister has rightly said that social workers make an important positive contribution to our communities. I must add that my niece is a social work manager who looks after children, and she does a tremendous job, as do every single one of the workers in that field. They are at the forefront of helping children, families and disabled and older adults who are distressed, in difficulty and perhaps in danger. Most of their work goes unseen, without recognition or celebration, but they deserve our thanks for the major contribution that they make every single day.

  • The Bill is groundbreaking in making sex and relationship education compulsory. The Government have listened to the evidence from Select Committees such as the Women and Equalities Committee, which I chair, and the Minister’s team is to be congratulated. The Bill will benefit millions of children, three quarters of whom believe that they will feel safer as a result of our decision this afternoon to give sex and relationship education a statutory basis. I thank the organisations that have supported and assisted the work that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) and I have done—Barnardo’s, Plan UK, and Girlguiding are but a few.

    When the amendments go to the other place, I hope that careful consideration is given to the fact that the sex and relationship education amendments were made without the need for a vote in this place owing to the cross-party consensus. The Bill is important in many respects, but it will be often cited in this place because of the progress made in that area. I again put on the record my personal thanks to the Minister for the work that he has done over a long period of time. He must be a very pleased man indeed.

  • I congratulate everyone involved in the Bill’s progress. It is fair to say that I have come to it very late indeed, largely because my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows) has other parliamentary duties to attend to today. I thank her for her contribution during the Bill’s passage. No one would argue with the Bill’s stated goals, but these issues are devolved matters, so I will leave it to Members from English constituencies to debate the extent to which those goals have been achieved.

    There are two main clauses with implications for Scotland. The first is clause 10, which reinstates procedures to place children in secure accommodation in different parts of Great Britain. I agree with the shadow Minister that how those procedures operate in practice demands significant scrutiny. Transfers from one constituent part of Great Britain to another or placement in a secure unit should not be routine or the first option, but it is right that it should remain an option in appropriate circumstances.

    The second is clause 40. Both the SNP here and the Scottish Government recognise the need for procedures to support staff in raising concerns to ensure a safe and secure environment in the children and social care sector. Any proposals that strengthen whistleblowing procedures and help to protect employees and service users across the public sector are welcome. We regret the missed opportunities for additional social security support for care leavers and for assessing the capacity of local authorities to safeguard children in new clause 14. However, I have no doubt that we will return to those issues in due course.

  • I come in at the end of the Bill’s progress, having been in at the beginning on Second Reading, but I want to pay tribute to the hard work that has gone into the Bill and to crave your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, in talking about something that did not make it into the legislation.

    Having had experience of children’s Bills over the past 15 years or so, I find it interesting that they have a propensity to be hijacked by things not present on Second Reading that then become the headline in the final stages. True to form, that has happened again with amendments about sex and relationship education, which I fully support—I added my name to that amendment—and about child refugees, which I also support but which did not make it into the Bill in the form that some of us had hoped for. In many respects, that is a shame because it takes attention and focus away from the really important meat of the everyday experiences of vulnerable children, particularly those who find themselves in the care system through no fault of their own. Successive Governments have strived to do much and have achieved much for those children, but we still need to do much more. In welcoming the Bill, I draw the House’s attention to the really good things in it that we did not have much time to discuss today. They were perhaps the more important parts of the Bill as it went through its various stages.

    I, too, welcome the addition of the sex and relationship educations clauses. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) said, that is ground breaking. Some of us have banged our head against brick walls in various shadow ministerial and post-ministerial positions over many, many years, and the need for it is so screamingly obvious, yet, for all sorts of reasons that I have never quite understood, the measure fails to make it into legislation.

    There is an increasing online threat to our children. Shockingly, they are being lured into many things with which we would never have been confronted in our teenage years—just a few years ago in your case, Madam Deputy Speaker, but slightly longer ago for others. Children are exposed to those threats on a daily basis, and the best way to give them defences against those threats must surely be, at an early age at school, to educate, inform, warn and support them against the hazards out in the wider world and the wider web.

    By way of example, there was a shocking interview with a teenage girl on “Woman’s Hour” a few years ago. She had been in a relationship with a teenage boy—I think both were under the age of 16—and he had forced her to watch and act out violent pornographic videos, and she had gone along with it. It is shocking that, at her young age, she was under pressure to do that and that it was deemed to be common practice. What was really alarming is that, when the interviewer asked, “Why on earth didn’t you tell him to get lost and report him?” her response was, “Well, I didn’t think I had the right.” If sex and relationships education is anything, it is about giving confidence and empowering young people, particularly young women, that theirs is the choice to say yes or no, and theirs alone.

    If we can develop what has now become part of the Bill into an empowerment exercise for our young people so that they respect other young people and have the confidence to say no—with no meaning no—we will have done this generation of children and future generations a huge service. We have taken a major step forward with this Bill, although the step was not intended on Second Reading, but fortunately it made it in at the last moment with wide cross-party consensus, which is excellent.

    The House of Lords is forming a habit of disagreeing with the House of Commons, but I hope that in this case it does not disagree with us. When Ministers formulate the important guidance that needs to go with this legislation, I urge them to be sensitive because this is a big move for many people that will need to be handled carefully and cautiously.

    There are many other good things in the Bill, including the local offer for care leavers. In our debates on the Bill we have heard numerous times the figures on the poor outcomes for children in care and for care leavers. The very small proportion who make it to university shows that we still have a long way to go. There is still a large gap in the educational achievement of children in care and others. The gap has narrowed a little, but we need to go so much further. The Government’s support for children in care and adopted children through the pupil premium is a small part of trying to level the playing field.

    I welcome the measures, some more controversial than others, on regulating social workers and the need for continuing professional development, but the problem remains that we have a growing shortage of experienced child protection social workers. Work by the all-party parliamentary group for children—I will allude to the study in a minute—shows huge divergences between the experiences in different local authorities. At its worst, one local authority has a 57% locum rate for child social workers. How on earth can we have continuity of care and empathy of care for deeply traumatised and vulnerable children when they are being looked after by non-permanent social workers? That is a huge challenge, and we still have a lot of work to do.

    The refugee amendment did not make it into the Bill, but I hope that the spirit of that amendment, which had great support on both sides of the House and on which many undertakings were given by Ministers, will not be forgotten as the Bill’s measures are turned into practice.

    Clauses 32 to 39, on the so-called powers to test different ways of working, are no longer in the Bill. I congratulate the Government, because this is a good example of their listening to people from across various professions—academics, practitioners, children’s charities, politicians and others, including me—who were seriously concerned about the huge principles that would have been at stake had the clauses passed into law. There are no parallels for allowing a local authority, or, indeed, other agencies to step outside primary or secondary legislation effectively at the whim of the Secretary of State of the day. That has not been tried with adults—there are no examples of parallels in the Care Act 2014, the Mental Health Act 2007 or the Mental Capacity Act 2005—so why on earth would the Government risk using vulnerable children as guinea pigs to experiment with a new model of working?

    I am all in favour of innovation and of being creative in how we get better outcomes and better support for children who most need it, particularly in the care system, but I just do not think we need to remove primary and secondary legislation that has been built up since 1933, on a whim and without consultation. Whatever the safeguards we were promised, at the end of the day it would mean a postcode lottery for the rights of children and for the responsibilities towards those children of different local authorities, depending on when those children happened to be in care.

    Back in 2010, one of the first things the coalition Government did in the Department for Education was to recruit Professor Eileen Munro and appoint her to head the complete overhaul of child protection social work. I was pleased and proud to be part of appointing her and implementing her recommendations. We reduced social work legislation from something like 760 pages in the “Working Together” manual, which had accrued over years and years during which the solution to better child protection was more legislation. In the end, that got in the way of social workers being able to use their professionalism, instincts and training to do the right thing by the child. Instead, they had constantly to look at the rule book and over their shoulders.

    It was right that we reduced that rule book and that manual and gave greater freedoms and flexibility to social workers, but at no point did that require us, or was it required of us, to remove any of the duties that make up the safety net of primary and secondary legislation. Professor Munro never asked for it, we never considered it and it was never done. It would have been absolutely inappropriate to do it now, so it was completely appropriate that Professor Munro did not give her support to the Government’s previous proposals. I am pleased that they have listened, and I am grateful to Lord Laming and Lord Mackay in the other place, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst) today, for putting that message across to Ministers.

    The Bill has to address the huge variations in practice and outcomes for vulnerable children in care throughout the country. The all-party group for children is about to produce a report on the state of children’s social care. Last year, the average rate of referrals to children’s services was 532 per 10,000 children in the local population. The lowest rate for a local authority was 187 and the highest was 753 per 10,000 children—that is a difference of nine times, just depending on where the child happened to be. Last year, the average national rate of children becoming subject to child protection plans was 54 per 10,000, but the lowest local authority rate was 16.5 and the highest was 180.5—a difference of 10 times. Our report highlights huge differences in experiences and outcomes for children in care, depending on what local authority they happen to live in. That is the biggest challenge that we face. We owe the same duty of care and responsibility to a vulnerable child in care regardless of whether he or she lives in Yorkshire, Sussex or Cornwall. Those clauses that are now no longer in the Bill would have just widened those differential experiences. The Government’s priority now must be to narrow those gaps to make sure that we are doing an ever better job for every child in care in every part of the country.

    In closing, may I say that I welcome this Bill? I also welcome the fact that the Government have listened, that the debate has contributed to a great strengthening of some of the measures in this Bill and that some additional measures have been included, but, at the end of the day, we owe our thanks, our respect and our regard to the social workers on the frontline who do an exceedingly challenging job in very challenging circumstances, often dealing with very challenged children and families. We owe a duty of care, thanks and respect to the many foster carers and, increasingly, adoptive parents coming forward to give those children a second chance of a safe, stable and loving home. If there is one upside from our debate on refugees and the publicity about refugees, it is that more people have come forward to offer themselves as foster carers and adoptive parents both for refugee children coming to the county and for the indigenous children for whom we still have a large shortage of places in foster care and for adoption. Those are the people on the frontline who make the difference to children’s lives. We have a lot more to do. We owe much greater care to our vulnerable children, but this Bill is a very good step in making that achievable.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). I very much agreed with the latter part of his remarks about the challenges, the so-called innovation clauses and the debt that we owe to social workers.

    I realise that it is customary to make congratulatory remarks at this stage in the proceedings, but, to be perfectly honest, this is a good example of a piece of legislation that has really rather lost its way. As the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh), who is no longer in his place, put it earlier, the Minister said nothing to indicate that he had a problem with new clause 14, but he still urged his colleagues to vote against it. He was left looking like a Minister vulnerable to senior colleagues at the Home Office rather than the Minister for Vulnerable Children. [Interruption.] There you go, Minister. Never mind they will look after you.

    The Minister then proposed new clause 15; his colleagues warned him to guard against smuggling sexual education content into relationship education. I welcome the comments of the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), but surely the Minister either believes in such education to safeguard children in this day and age or he does not. I wonder whether new clause 16 will ever see the light of day or whether his more atavistic colleagues will have it kicked into the long grass before the election.

    The Minister then formally deleted the entirety of what he was stoutly defending in Committee as the “innovation” clauses, but without a single word of explanation. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) was typically charitable and generous to the Minister, but I am really keen that the House should hear why he changed his mind. I would love it if the House had some explanation for why these clauses, which he claimed had so much support from so many notable experts just a few months ago and were so essential to new and innovative approaches to children’s social care legislation, had to go. The House would like to hear what happened. Was he wrong in Committee? Has something changed his mind? It would not do him any harm to offer the House an explanation. It is good to know that the Government listen, but we would like to know what they were listening to, and what had an impact on them.

    May I clarify, at this late stage, whether the provisions on training in Government new clause 17 include—[Interruption.] Yes, this is Third Reading, which I understand allows me to speak on the entire contents of the Bill.

  • Order. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct: on Third Reading, he is perfectly entitled to debate anything in the Bill, but not anything that is not in the Bill; if he could restrict himself to the former, that would be great.

  • That is exactly what I am attempting to do, Madam Deputy Speaker; Government new clause 17 is in the Bill, and I want to ask whether it covers those doing initial training at higher education institutions, or whether the Government plan to exclude initial training from it.

    I am sorry that this does not suit some Government Members, but if ever there was an example of the Government needing to prepare a bit more before rushing to legislate, it is the Bill. I do not for a second doubt the Minister’s good intentions, but it is absolutely clear, if one looks at the Bill from its start point to where we are now, that his Government are utterly confused in their objectives.

  • It is a pleasure to speak after my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton); with his expertise and knowledge in this area, he has been a great source of information and guidance to me.

    I was elected two years ago, and I have had great involvement with some of the most vulnerable children in the country, and particularly in my area. When I was a local councillor, I saw some of the decisions taken around the cabinet table on looked-after children; my sister is a social worker; and I continue to be an independent visitor for a looked-after child. I am extremely proud that this Conservative Government have brought forward a Bill that seeks to improve outcomes for our looked-after children, and children in need. I pay tribute to the Ministers; it is because of their dedication to improving outcomes for our looked-after children that the Bill is being championed.

    I welcomed the Minister’s comments on sibling contact, including when the children are not looked after, although I have not once met a social worker or foster carer who has denied a young person in care an opportunity for contact with their siblings. I have seen some of the damage done by contact with parents. Parents have legislative rights to contact with their children, and I have seen really damaging outcomes from forcing newly looked-after children to have such contact, which they do not always want; I hope that that is always taken into account, and that the best interests of children are always to the fore when decisions are taken.

    On Second Reading, I welcomed the introduction of the local offer in the Bill, and I continue to do so today. I also supported the amendment that was brought forward. The local offer should always be about more than just financial support, and it should be more than a box-ticking exercise. In my experience, young people need guidance and support during their transition from being looked after to going it alone. From what I have seen, local authorities, due to budget burdens, will only ever deliver what they are statutorily obliged to deliver. Therefore, as we evaluate the implementation of the Bill, I would like to see greater prescription of the services we would like local authorities to provide for care leavers, which will hopefully take into account accommodation, training and finance.

    Investment in our young people will always pay off. From my experience, people leaving care sometimes lack the necessary experiences and training, because they have often been wrapped in a safety blanket—more so than people’s biological children—so it is important that we do enough for young people in care to make sure that they are prepared. In some of the cases I have seen, that has not always taken place, and I hope we now have an opportunity to further the local offer.

    I want to mention new clause 14 briefly. On Second Reading, one Opposition Back Bencher made a speech; I was pleased the Chamber was a lot fuller earlier, when we spoke about refugees, than it was on Second Reading. However, I would have liked to have seen a real championing of the need to find foster carers and social workers to look after the children we are already struggling to place in some parts of the country. We are not selling the fact that becoming a foster carer is an amazing thing to do. We also need an acceptance that when somebody becomes a foster carer, there is a mountain of assessment and training to go through before they are, quite rightly, qualified to look after young people. It is exactly the same in relation to unaccompanied young minors, and it is right that we have the same high standards for them. I therefore welcome what the Minister said about reporting to Parliament, but the way we look after refugees and our looked-after children must be on a par.

    We have seen increased levels of referrals, especially to independent fostering agencies. Speaking from my own experience, we often see large numbers of referrals in Kent of young people from London, and we have also seen that with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. We hear that many local authorities around the country have capacity, and I hope they will continue to support counties such as Kent. I hope they will take part in the national transfer scheme and help Kent, as well as Croydon and other London boroughs.

    Let me turn to the clauses that were removed from the Bill today. In some parts of the country, as I have outlined, there is great demand for intervention and support for looked-after children and children in need. We have seen growing demand for intervention for young people, and especially those with complex needs. The strain on local authorities in terms of providing high-quality support and placements is still there. There is great variation in the quality of service and practice throughout the country, as my hon. Friend outlined, and outcomes for our young people remain poor.

    I welcome the fact that the Government have the desire to get behind innovation in the children’s social care system and to drive and encourage the reviewing and sharing of best practice. I am sure this is not the end and that the Government will continue to look at ways in which they can improve things, because the Minister is extremely passionate about doing what he can for young people in our care. I would like to see vast improvement across the country in the delivery of children’s social care. This should not be—I am glad it will not be—the preserve of local authorities that may have been judged to be good; it must happen in other parts of the country where innovation is much needed.

    I look forward to the Minister making further proposals on meaningful reform, after consultation with frontline professionals and care deliverers. For example, I would like IROs—independent reviewing officers—to become truly independent of local authorities, enabling them to make decisions and face challenges on the outcomes for our looked-after children without the demands of budgetary pressures. We still need to tackle social workers’ caseloads because there is such a vast difference in the number of cases that social workers will have in different local authority areas. Local authorities are struggling to keep up with demand, and when there is higher demand, caseloads are greater. We need to protect our workforce and enable them to carry out their role knowing that they are safe when doing so, with the personal capacity to deliver good-quality services to the young people they are charged with looking after.

    There is a high burn-out rate for professionals dealing with child protection cases, and many social workers are leaving frontline social work due to the stresses involved. Local authorities are relying heavily on agency workers, and this impacts on the continuity of some of the decision making that takes place subsequently. In turn, there is lots of churn in the system. I have seen examples where looked-after children may have 10 to 12 different social workers over a very short period, and that is just not right. We need to be bold. I hope that the Government come forward with further recommendations and further work in this area, and I am confident that that will happen.

    My final point is about social worker regulation. Social workers, in my opinion, have never had the credit that they deserve. They are sometimes the forgotten public servants. They are vilified when something goes wrong, but we never hear about all the good work they are doing day in, day out in protecting families. Social Work England is a positive way forward. Social workers need a stand-alone body to make sure that they are held in the high regard that they deserve. I would like the Secretary of State and Ministers to work with the professional bodies to make sure that the qualifications and continual professional development is right and is acceptable for these workers. It is true that we see variations in the standard and quality of the delivery of social worker practice among individual social workers. I have had some first-hand experience of that.

    Although there is some concern from the profession about these changes, I really do believe that they rightly put social workers in the position that they deserve. I hope that the Government will continue to work with them to make sure that they, as a profession, can continue to carry out their job knowing that the Government—this Conservative Government—are fully behind them and all that they are doing for young people in this country.

  • I very much support the ambitions of this Bill. As we have all seen, there have been a number of changes during its passage. I want to be assured by the ministerial team that, notwithstanding those changes, we are monitoring the outcomes of safeguarding for those in residential care and those in boarding schools—not just those sent because of the care system but those who attend. Some of my constituents have raised concerns about that. I would very much welcome the Minister’s comments.

  • I can offer my hon. Friend that reassurance. The care plan outcomes of every child who is in care have to be closely monitored to make sure that, whatever their setting, they are achieving what the plan sets out. Of course, I am happy to discuss that with her further and to provide her with more detail about how we can do that in the future and keep a close eye on the issues that she has rightly raised.

  • I thank the Minister.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.