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Children in Need

Volume 638: debated on Monday 19 March 2018

We must help children in need to achieve their full potential. That is why we are already implementing vital social care reforms to improve children’s safety and stability. On Friday, we launched the children in need review. That will develop the evidence so that we can understand what makes a difference to those children’s educational outcomes and what works to improve those outcomes in practice.

I strongly welcome the review that was announced last week. Many of us have been pushing for that for a long time, and I am sure that it will make a difference to the nearly 400,000 children in need in our country. As the Minister goes about the review, will he commit to using the considerable data at his disposal to highlight those areas and children that buck the trend, so that we can learn from their example?

My hon. Friend has been a champion of children in need. The review is absolutely intended to establish best practice. It builds on work that we already do with our partners in practice local authorities, the expansion of which I announced last week.

Since 2010, the number of children on the child protection register is up 83%, while the number of children in care is at its highest since 1985. Does the Minister think that the cuts in children’s services since 2010 are the reason for that? If not, to what does he ascribe those terrible outcomes for the most vulnerable children in our society?

Local authorities have been increasing their investment in children’s services. I visited Hackney, Wigan and Doncaster, and my impression is that the real differentiator is leadership, which is why we are investing £2 million in the Local Government Association to look at leadership and the partners in practice programme.

Early intervention is critical to preventing children from ending up as in need, so why have the Government cut funding that supported the excellent Sure Start and Home-Start projects, which did so much excellent work with new parents in Great Grimsby?

Different local authorities do things differently. I visited Stafford, and Stafford and Newcastle have improved the outcomes for children in need by reaching out to those families, rather than by investing in bricks and mortar. There are different ways to deal with this, and local authorities do it best.

Research on the Department’s figures shows that children are 10 times more likely to be on a child protection plan if they live in a deprived area. Before the end of this Parliament, it is estimated that the figure for child poverty will reach 5 million and the funding gap in statutory services will reach £2 billion. The Minister said that strong leadership rather than extra funding is the key. Will he explain how strong leadership will end this crisis?

Local government spending for all services, including children’s services, is £200 billion. We do see leadership as a driver of better outcomes for those children. That is why we are making the investment, including the £15 million that we announced for eight more partners in practice, which help local authorities that are struggling. For example, Leeds is helping Kirklees.