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Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2018

DFID’s primary focus is to tackle the underlying drivers of institutionalisation. We address these through poverty reduction programmes and through our strong focus on education, nutrition, health, economic development and social protection. Through UK Aid Match, we are funding charities such as Hope and Homes for Children, which supports children into family-based and community-based care.

We all recall the harrowing reports of disabled children being tied to rough bed frames or left on sodden mattresses on the floor and abandoned in orphanages around the developing world. Given that the ability to thrive entails the right to grow up in a family, what priority is the Department giving to finding foster families for disabled children in orphanages?

The hon. Lady touches on a subject close to my heart. When I was an aid worker in the former eastern bloc, I worked in the hospitals and orphanages there. Many of the children were not orphans as we would understand the term; they had families. We believe that the best way to care for and develop children, whatever their circumstances and whether they have a disability or not, is in a family or community setting. The disability summit that is coming up will afford us the opportunity to focus on the needs of the specific group that the hon. Lady refers to.

I am sure the Secretary of State shares my horror at recent reports about the sex trafficking and exploitation of children in unmonitored orphanages. Is this not something that the international community should look to stamp out, and will she do her utmost to move it up the global political agenda for action?

We will certainly do that. DFID does not, as a policy, fund these types of institutions. We have traction with other donors around the world, and we will certainly try to move them on to share our policy.

It is estimated that more than 50,000 children have been orphaned in Yemen since 2015, but the orphanages are struggling with a chronic lack of funds and are in constant danger of being closed. What discussions is the Minister having with her Saudi counterparts and others to ensure that the orphanages are getting the support they need?

This is a complex area, and I thank the hon. Lady for raising it. In addition to the efforts we are making with the Saudis and the Emiratis to try to get supplies into Yemen, we are also aware of in-country issues with moving supplies around, including basic vaccines and so forth. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East is in frequent contact with all parties, as am I.

The Indian diaspora in this country is incredibly generous in donating money to fund orphanages and schools for disabled children in India. What assistance can the Department give to match fund that generosity?

Our aid programmes in India are limited to investments on which we make a return and to technical support. We do not do traditional aid programmes in India, and we certainly do not fund the types of institutions to which my hon. Friend refers. If he thinks we should be doing something that we are not, he can write to me and I will take a look at it, but that is our policy.