The crucial role of social workers should be recognised and celebrated. We are improving initial education standards and providing professional development. We have established an independent regulator, focusing on better standards.
As the Secretary of State will know, one of the reasons that we need to improve the quality of social workers in our country is to ensure that children in care can move on into employment and further education. Can he outline what more the Government are going to do to ensure that those children get the support they need?
My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the importance and challenge of that transition. Care leavers can access a personal adviser until they are 25. They can get a £2,000 bursary if they are in higher education, and a 16-to-19 bursary of up to £1,200 from the college if in further education. Care leavers aged 16 to 24 can receive a £1,000 bursary in the first year of an apprenticeship.
The Department’s own figures show a gap of over 10,000 in the overall children’s social care workforce. Unison analysis shows that children’s services have experienced a funding shortfall of £600 million, with more cuts to come. Will the Secretary of State explain why he is happy to see hundreds of millions of pounds cut from vulnerable children, yet he is outsourcing £73 million to train as few as 700 new social workers and introduce an unpopular accreditation scheme?
The hon. Lady is right to identify the importance of funding and resourcing for children’s social work. The spend on the most vulnerable children has been going up. There are some 35,000 child and family social workers and that number has increased a little between 2016 and 2017.