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Children in Need: Adulthood

Volume 646: debated on Thursday 6 September 2018

I beg to move,

That this House has considered supporting children in need into adulthood.

It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Buck. I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for granting this debate on a subject that should matter to us all and definitely needs more attention.

The discussions that resulted in the Staying Put initiative for those in foster care—a decision for which I commend the previous coalition Government—have inevitably opened up a much wider debate about our responsibilities for all children in need and their transition to adulthood. Are the existing obligations placed on local authorities, the NHS and other safeguarding bodies sufficient, or is it time for a rethink? That is the purpose of the debate.

I know that the Government are concerned about mental health and have announced additional resources for that area. Of course we should all be worried about the growing numbers of children and young people needing help with eating disorders, self-harm and a host of other problems. When we raise these matters, we tend to be talking about young people where a problem has been acknowledged and the real issue is waiting times or access to treatment. However, what about all those young people who are being missed? The Children’s Society suggests that there may be as many as 240,000 vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds in England and Wales, but only about 58,000 have been identified as needing support by local authorities. In fact, 46% of children referred to children’s services are turned away without any form of intervention, and 30% do not even reach the threshold for an assessment.

Where young people are in receipt of support, that often changes on the day they reach 18 as there is no legal obligation to provide continuing assistance and no requirement to help with a transition to adult services. In many forces, even the police marker or flag used to identify youngsters at risk or vulnerable to exploitation automatically expires as soon as a young person reaches 18. Disabled children face particular challenges in moving into adulthood when responsibility for continuing support switches from children’s to adult services.

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman shares my concern about a gap on the part of Ofsted, which I think is discriminatory. I understand from Bedfordshire police that there is no Ofsted inspection of children’s homes for 16 and 17-year-olds. The schools of children in mainstream education are inspected by Ofsted. Does he agree that there is a gap, and that we need proper regulation in this area, particularly as bad things are happening?

I am sure the Minister heard the hon. Gentleman’s point. I certainly agree that any provision of that nature should be subject to proper inspection.

Today there are more than 1 million disabled children in the UK, yet fewer than ever are getting the support they need. We also need to give some thought to healthcare improvements and just how scary it can be for a young person to wake up after surgery on an adult ward for the first time. We have an acute shortage of community paediatricians and much more work is required in the health sector in planning the transition for young people from children’s to adult services.

The Children Act 1989 requires every local authority to take reasonable steps to identify children in need in its area and to publish information on the services available. It places a particular stress on the health and development of children and the needs of the disabled, but cash-strapped local authorities are struggling to provide even the most basic services. The reality is that 15, 16 and 17-year-olds often have to be at crisis point before there is any intervention.

I acknowledge that there has been a big focus on, and in some cases a switch of resources to, child protection issues, yet while child exploitation scandals such as those in Rochdale and Rotherham serve to demonstrate that many teenage children suffer even greater risk outside the home than inside it, support is limited for the vast majority, even if their need involves neglect, abuse or exploitation. The Department for Education’s figures for 2015-16 suggest that perhaps 13,500 16 and 17-year-olds are in need because of “going missing”, and about 1,500 are in need because of trafficking.

It is estimated that each year some 12,000 16 and 17-year-olds approach local authorities because they are homeless, often as a result of a breakdown in relations with a parent or carer, violence in the home or other problems at home. Homelessness is not currently recognised as a risk factor in identifying children in need, and consequently there are no reliable statistics about the scale of the problem. However, most agencies working with teenagers identify it as a real risk factor, likely also to expose young people to a risk of drugs, alcohol problems, violence and sexual abuse.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing this important debate. I know he received much support from the Children’s Society and its “Crumbling Futures” report, which is essentially what the debate is all about. I and every other MP has had to deal with the harrowing reality of parents coming to us with teenage children who are aged 18 or 19, for whom there is no support at all. That is why I am so glad he has secured the debate. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the anomalies resulting from a change to the law a few years ago is that people have to be in education or training up to the age of 18, but—even if a person is disabled and cannot get to school or training on their own—there is no statutory obligation on a local authority to provide transport for 16 to 18-year-olds?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Quite a lot of problems result from both extending the school leaving age and creating notional rights for children with disabilities if we do not provide the resources to make it possible to deliver on those advances.

Thanks to some work undertaken by the DFE and other organisations, we know a bit about the common characteristics of children in need: around 13% of them achieve no GCSE passes; they are much more likely to be NEETs—not in education, employment or training—and they are three times more likely than children from the care system to end up homeless. The time has come for a fundamental rethink on what is happening to these young people. We must move away from a model of rationing that allows us to deny help to those who do not reach some arbitrary risk threshold or simply to drop them on their 18th birthday. We must develop an approach that recognises the continuing needs of those vulnerable children and young people who are already in a very disadvantaged position. Of course, that will cost more, but we must not forget that funding for children’s services has fallen by £2.4 billion in real terms since 2010, with an additional £1.5 billion gap for services needed for disabled children. The Chancellor will have to be pressed to address those issues in the 2019 spending review.

I believe there are things the Minister can do. He might look again at the assessment threshold, which many Departments use to thin out the number of young people who even make it to first base, and offer some guidance on the factors that must be considered before an assessment is ruled out. Ideally, every referral by any responsible agency should merit at least a first-stage assessment. I particularly urge him to look at the issue of homelessness among teenagers, to make sure that we do begin to collect reliable data and to instruct local authorities to identify it as a risk factor when assessing children in need. He might also bring wise heads together and demand that they establish proper transition procedures for all those turning 18, so that we put an end to the lottery of assistance and support for vulnerable young people that confronts them as they reach their 18th birthday.

I urge the Minister, in the existing education review, to advocate extending the existing higher-rate pupil premium to all children in need, not just those in care. That would be a real opportunity to help children at an earlier stage. I ask him to consider making it easier for the same children to qualify for discretionary bursaries to help them attend further education or other forms of training. Disabled children and young people would particularly benefit from improved provision of short breaks for them and their carers, and we should at least contemplate the suggestion by the Disabled Children’s Partnership of an early intervention and family resilience fund. In time, such an approach might even be extended to all children in need.

I am not expecting miracles. I know that some things take time and everything costs money, but above all these children need a champion—someone who can lead a real cross-departmental effort to raise the quality of help and support to some of the most vulnerable and deprived young people in our society. I believe the Minister could be that person. We must raise interest in how much we are prepared to do before young people reach crisis point, rather than focusing on making claims about increased funding for services that only become available after youngsters have suffered a major crisis. It is both a moral and an economic issue.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) on securing this debate. I come at it from a slightly different direction in some ways, although not all, but none the less I agree that this extremely important issue deserves more debate in this place.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield OBE, rightly says in her child vulnerability report published in June that 1.6 million children who are living in families with substantial complex needs

“have no established recognised form of additional support.”

She also says that if we expand

“the range of support we offer to vulnerable children and their families, we can support many more children in a more efficient and effective way. This is about an approach that works with children and their families, to develop resilience, confidence and independence”.

In other words, we need to focus more on prevention, so that children who develop very extensive needs can be helped earlier. As the hon. Gentleman said, early intervention is key.

In supporting the next generation, which I believe we are now calling generation Z or the post-millennials, we need better to recognise that transition into adulthood today is so challenging that they need far greater support from their very earliest years than we did. That support must continue right into early adulthood. Even in the best circumstances, the stage of moving from teenage years into adulthood today—that transition into adult life with regard to relationships, money and employment, to name but a few issues—is challenging and stressful. Of course, as we have heard, for those children needing more support and protection, it can be a particularly vulnerable time.

As the Minister knows, for over a year now a large group of some 60 Conservative MPs have been working on and supporting a manifesto to strengthen families, which contains many practical policies. I believe many of those are important if we are to properly support this generation. This generation has experienced profound changes in family structure, which has had a real impact on young people’s health. Changes in family life, and for some the absence of a father in particular, mean that many new parents have not had the role models that previous generations relied on to teach and guide them.

Beyond a good home life, young people need supportive communities, including the friendship of peers, the company of adults and cohesive neighbourhoods, which many now do not have—a place where people know their neighbours. Where that is the case, adolescent wellbeing and mental health is stronger. The environment in which adolescents grow up today has a major impact on their current and future wellbeing, and many need more support not only within their family and from their carers, but within their community and school environments. That is why strengthening family and community life is so important.

I am delighted that, following a meeting with the Prime Minister late last year regarding the manifesto, she commissioned a piece of work to see what more the Government could do to support children and families, which has resulted in her announcement this summer that she has asked the Leader of the House to chair a ministerial group looking at early years family support. Members of the supportive ministerial group include the Minister and the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), who has responsibility for family support. I am delighted that there is now a Cabinet-level Minister working on the family issue. I would be very interested to hear from the Minister how he proposes to take forward his work within that team. It is so important that we focus not just on the very earliest years of a child’s life, but right into those later teenage years and beyond, which I hope he will highlight to the team.

One way families and carers can be provided with greater support—the kind of support that Anne Longfield talks about in local communities—is through locally based family hubs. The Children’s Commissioner is very supportive of family hubs and the Minister and I have talked about them many times. They provide a wider range of support for the family, the carers of a child or teenager, and for the child themselves, and they provide that support from childhood right up into early adulthood and beyond. It is not just about those very early years, to which the old Sure Start children’s centres used to be limited. Family hubs are springing up in local communities across the country.

I am delighted that, following the debate a short time ago on family hubs, the Minister indicated that he will continue to look at how the Department can ensure, as he wrote to me following the debate,

“that the local government programme understands fully how the family hub model works and where the most effective practice is taking place.”

He has asked officials to look into that, and I would be grateful if he could give us an update on that work and on his timeframe for reporting on the work that he instituted following that debate.

As I have said, family hubs can provide a solution and early intervention support from a statutory authority, working together with local voluntary groups, charities and so forth, centred in a physical place within a community that families can turn to. They are essential because, as Dr Samantha Callan, an expert in this field, has pointed out:

“the lack of readily accessible family supports, along a spectrum of need, throughout the time children are dependent on their parents (0-19) means that life chances are often severely impaired and social care services are faced with unremittingly high numbers of children who are in need, on child protection plans and coming into care.”

I can give examples. The early intervention provision on the Isle of Wight—family hubs there are well established—means that fewer children on the Isle of Wight are being put on child protection plans. At Middlewich High School in my constituency, when children have special educational needs or disability or mental health challenges, the whole family is supported. After just a few years, the evidence shows the positive impact of the family hub approach on the emotional health and wellbeing of students, with an improvement in GCSE results, which improves life chances.

Another example of a family hub is in the Chelmsford library, which is a one-stop shop for free family services. Everything is included from antenatal contact and school readiness to substance misuse and mental health support, as well as disability support for children up to the age of 25 and so forth. There is a strong base from which late teenage and early adult young people can build their own lives and seek help for themselves as well as through their families.

As I say, I thank the Minister for his follow-up letter in August on family hubs following our debate. I was very pleased to read that

“the family hub approach is one that we would encourage local authorities to adopt if they believe it would deliver improved outcomes for their area.”

I like his approach.

I thank the Secretary of State for Education for the draft guidance he produced this summer on relationships education, which will be a step forward in helping young people build the healthy relationships that are so important if they are to embark upon early adult life in a positive way. The draft guidance emphasises how important it is that children of every background learn that healthy relationships are important as a foundation for future life. As I have said, many of them do not have good role models, but they have an opportunity to learn in school about the importance of family life and bringing up children. The Secretary of State’s foreword, which is very encouraging, says that

“we want the subjects to put in place the key building blocks of healthy, respectful relationships, focusing on family and friendships, both on and offline... All of this content should support the wider work of schools in helping to foster pupil wellbeing and develop resilience and virtues that we know are fundamental to pupils being happy, successful and productive members of society... This should be complemented by development of virtues like kindness, generosity, self-sacrifice and honesty.”

I thank the Minister and his ministerial colleagues for the way in which they are addressing the young people’s challenges. They have genuinely listened to the group of colleagues who are concerned about strengthening family and community life in the ways I have discussed.

Order. Before I call the next speaker, I need to say that we will go to the Front-Bench speakers at 4 pm. Several people have indicated an interest in speaking. I do not want an official time limit, but can people think about perhaps seven minutes maximum in order to accommodate everyone?

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) on setting the scene so well. He often has debates on subjects in which I have an interest, and it is a pleasure to come along. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and her contribution, which is similar to the one that we had before the summer break when we set the scene for family hubs and discussed their importance.

When I was looking at the number of children in care for another debate in the main Chamber this week, I was struck again by the fact that we need to do more for vulnerable children, as the hon. Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak and for Congleton have said. Others will undoubtedly say the same thing, but this is about the next step. We need to do more for those who are transitioning from having little or no power over any decision—where they sleep, what they eat, what school they attend. We then suddenly throw them into a world where they make every decision, where they alone are responsible, and it is not okay and it is not easy. That is the thrust of what the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman have said. We need to help more, so I sincerely thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the issue and I support him in his aims.

I have a quick comment on the good work that the hon. Lady has done so far in the organisation that she works with in her party. Some 60 to 70 Members are working towards the family hub idea. I say very gently to all Members that we should remember there are many groups out there who can make valuable contributions to young people, such as the Church groups and the faith groups that have a genuine interest in how they can help and step into the gap. There are charitable groups as well, such as the Salvation Army, who are there to help vulnerable people.

When I looked at the NSPCC article relating to children under protection orders in Northern Ireland—I want to quickly give the figures for Northern Ireland—it shocked me to learn that the number of children who were emotionally abused, physically abused, sexually abused or neglected was 2,132 in 2017. If we remember that our population is 1.8 million, it puts the figures into perspective. Those are thousands of children pressing towards adulthood who need support because of emotional scarring, but are we providing that support? That is the question the debate asks.

Some 52% of children in care were from the Catholic religion compared to 40% who were Protestant, according to Department of Health statistics covering the period to the end of last September. The figures show that 2,983 children were looked after in Northern Ireland, representing 69 children per 10,000 of the child population. Of those, almost one fifth—18%—had experienced a placement change during the previous 12 months, the lowest number in recent years, but the overall total for the last year was the highest recorded number of children in care since the introduction of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. The number of children looked after in 2017 was 3% higher than in the previous year, but it was 28% higher than it was in 1999. During the past year, 37,618 children were referred to health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland, up 10% on the previous year, which shows a growing trend that worries me.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust received the largest amount of referrals, and the trust in the area I represent had the lowest at 15%. Police were the source of the largest proportion of children in need referred—some 26%. Whenever the police are involved, it means we are probably at the very difficult stage where it is hard to pull back. Social services referred 21%. A total of 2,132 children were listed on the child protection register, representing 49 children per 10,000 under 18 years. The figures also showed that children in care generally did not perform as well as their peers in key stage assessments. Sometimes we neglect not only their health, security and protection, but their education. We need to address the issue of education and ensure that they get the opportunities they need.

Some 74% of looked-after children achieved at least five GCSEs in year 12, compared with 99% of the general year 12 school population. The equivalent figures for those achieving GCSE at grades A* to C were 48% and 85% respectively. We have a massive shortfall for those who perhaps could and should do better. We have a duty of care to not simply get the children to their 18th birthday, but to get them into the community, into jobs and into a life in which they can fully participate and feel that they are contributing, a life in which they are confident in themselves and their abilities, regardless of their background. We need people around to encourage them. How do we reach that goal? How do we provide support?

The hon. Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak and for Congleton raised many interesting points that must be looked. I support having those points researched. The Minister has had two hard shots in the past two days, but I ask him to respond to the questions that we have put to him, and we look forward to his response. The Minister can be assured that Members attending the debate are concerned, which is why we are here contributing on a Thursday afternoon, which many refer to as the graveyard shift. We feel it is important. I ask the Minister to put his hand to the plough and look into it.

Life is tough for any child—tougher now than it was in my day when things were probably much simpler. Others would probably subscribe to that view. It is tougher than ever before. The ability to bully has moved from the playground to the former sanctity of a child’s home and bedroom, through the power of a smartphone or laptop. School places are limited, jobs are scarce and pressure is immense for all children. To that may be added the instability of not knowing when they will get their next meal, or if they will be taken from their mum and dad and placed with strangers again, and whether they will be placed with their siblings or not. Suddenly they are no longer supported in even those small ways. They are set up in a social housing apartment and told to manage their money—and welcome to life. That is not life. I believe it is more pressure than is bearable for some of those who are trying to make do. Things are not good enough now. We must do more and I support the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak and his calls to do more and do it better.

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Ms Buck. I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) on securing the debate. It is a pleasure to serve with him on the Work and Pensions Committee; I know he cares deeply about the matters it deals with. I am particularly delighted that we are discussing this subject.

A few years ago, having worked in child protection for a number of years, I became acutely aware of the needs and problems of children who were not in care but were on the edge of it—children who never quite reached the threshold to be taken away from their parents, but who nevertheless faced considerable problems in their lives. As more research was done on children whose needs were assessed under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, it became clear that a large proportion of those children faced the same terrible outcomes as children in care—indeed, some would suffer worse outcomes. That stands to reason: the children who were taken into care were taken out of the disruptive, abusive, neglectful family environment, and put into long-term, stable foster care, or adopted, so their lives were changed, whereas children who did not reach that threshold often stayed under the observation of children’s social services but did not receive services adequate to improve their condition.

I take my hat off to Social Finance UK, which in Newcastle a few years ago did a seminal piece of work ago that exposed just how poor the outcomes were. It identified that children in need or in care formed a small but substantial proportion of young people in Newcastle, but went on in the long term to form the majority of those not in education, employment or training in the city. That is why it is excellent that the Department, under the current Minister, took up that work and ran it on a national scale. The report published earlier this year showed that children who were in care or in need at some point during their childhood accounted for about 10% of the youth population, but went on to account for 51% of all long-term NEETs in young adulthood. Such disruption to family life has long-term consequences.

It is always a pleasure to speak after my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who spoke so eloquently about the need to mend broken families.

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. I saw a statistic yesterday that highlighted to me the need to focus much more on prevention than we do. Family breakdown costs about £50 billion per annum—various figures are quoted, but that has been quoted recently in many places. However, for every £100 spent on that, the Government spend only £1.50 on trying to prevent the breakdown of families. Something is wrong when it costs £50 billion to mend that brokenness.

Yes, my hon. Friend eloquently sets out the problem. We need to reconsider our approaches to prevention, early intervention and recovery. The problem faced by children in need is not, I believe, a marginal one, although it has been treated marginally for many years. There are about 380,000 children in need at any one time; the number of children in need at some point during any given year is considerably higher—many hundreds of thousands higher. So it was wonderful that the Children’s Commissioner for England, for whom I used to work, and the Conservative party, took on the cause. I was pleased to see that in our 2017 manifesto we committed to the review of outcomes for children in need that the Minister is currently undertaking. I know everyone in the Chamber awaits the findings of that review with eager anticipation. We need to know exactly what is going on behind the scenes that leads to those young people having such poor educational and employment outcomes. I suspect that the findings will not necessarily come as any great surprise to us, but they will have the “kitemark” seal of the Department behind them.

For too long, we have looked at the symptoms, rather than the causes of the problems that these young people face. We talk about neglect, abuse and family dysfunction, and those are obviously important, but we do not always talk about why that neglect, abuse or family dysfunction occurs in the first place. The causes are painfully predictable: poor mental health, long-term unemployment, addiction, family breakdown and the rest. Only when we turn our attention to fixing those root-cause problems will we start preventing the next generation of problems and helping to rebuild the family lives of those children already in the system.

The hon. Gentleman and I are both on the all-party parliamentary group on adverse childhood experiences, which is very much about the issue we are debating. I fully agree that prevention is the way to go, but in my constituency councils are so cash-strapped that they can deal only with the absolute minimum statutory obligations; they do not have the money for prevention. Is not it time that we looked around to release money for councils to do the preventive work that is necessary?

As the hon. Lady says, we are both in the all-party parliamentary group on adverse childhood experiences, which I co-chair. There is no doubt that we need to work out how we can shift intervention to prevent problems from escalating. We know that there is limited money around, but I feel that there is a number of things we can do, and perhaps do better.

The Government have a major opportunity with the end of the current phase of the troubled families programme in 2020. I—like, I am sure, everyone in the Chamber—am keen to see those contracts reinvigorated for another phase, but the end of the current phase is the time to take stock of the considerable successes of the programme, as well as to consider whether we want to put a particular focus on that money in future. To my mind, the vast majority of children in need are by definition in troubled families. I know how many local authorities already spend the money, and data from the troubled families programme show that when it is spent well, it is excellent at tackling the root-cause problems and stabilising families so that they form a foundation on which young people can rest as they go into adult life. I rehearse all that because I think the best thing we can do to help children in need to move into adult life is to stabilise their childhoods. For some children, that will not be possible and they will need additional, ongoing support, but our first priority must be to make sure that young people do not need further help from us in the future because we have fixed the problems that they face.

An initiative I was glad to look at when I worked at the Centre for Social Justice works by giving children in need long-term mentoring at school. That gives them a stable adult in their lives who can give them the sort of advice that a parent might in a normal family. It is extremely successful in Tower Hamlets and in Hackney, and if we are to find the money for the sort of initiative proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak—a form of pupil premium for children in need; perhaps any child who has been in need in the past six years—that is the sort of thing that schools should spend that money on. I am conscious of the time, so I will rest my remarks there.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) on securing this important debate.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is sometimes very difficult and confusing for some young people. It is hard enough when those changes occur in a typical, safe, loving family environment, but when they occur for children who are identified as in need of extra support, extra help is sometimes needed. The choices made by young people aged 16 and 17 are very important and can have a profound effect on their lives. Even when they have extra support, it is still a challenging time for them. Children also reach maturity at different times, so it is of great concern that 16 and 17-year-olds who are referred to children’s services and receive support see it disappear overnight when they reach 18. We know that vulnerable children left to fend for themselves become vulnerable adults who struggle to thrive.

The true scale of how many children require help into adulthood is not known. Research by the Children’s Society suggests that, in adolescence, 31% of all young people experience vulnerabilities, which are defined as being in poverty, substance abuse, lack of support from their family or having feelings of failure or depression. The research also shows that one in 16 young people aged 16 and 17 experience complex issues in their lives that require their being referred to local authorities for help. It is staggering that one in three of those cases are referred to local authorities by the police.

It is rare for children’s services to transfer cases into adulthood, but the evidence does not suggest that that is because those young people’s problems go away. In fact, there is clear evidence that unmet need at 16 and 17, and limited transition support, leads to extremely poor outcomes for these young people. The Children’s Society research found that children experiencing vulnerability at 16 and 17, including poor health, poverty, caring responsibilities and feelings of uselessness, are up to two and half times more likely to be not in education, employment or training at 18 or 19.

Homelessness seems to be much more prevalent among former children in need, with research suggesting that as high as 12% of former children in need become homeless. Those who were either in care or receiving support as children are also significantly over-represented in the prison population.

What can the Government do? First, I recommend that support should not stop as vulnerable children turn 18. Their needs do not disappear as they leave childhood. The Government’s review into provision for children in care needs to be widened, encompassing the transition into adulthood. This needs urgent attention. The Government should use that review to address how the education, housing, health and employment needs of vulnerable young people’s transitioning to adulthood will be met. Savage cuts to local authority budgets mean that local councils struggle to provide help in all but the most serious cases. That review must look at how funding can be provided to councils, so that they can give appropriate support to vulnerable young people.

Transition planning for children in need should be made a statutory requirement for vulnerable children moving into adulthood. Young people need clear information and co-ordinated support to deal with the vulnerabilities that they have been identified as having. Similarly, all children referred to children’s services should not be dismissed without an assessment of their needs, including a focus on risks, mental health needs and risk of poverty.

It costs more than £30,000 to keep someone locked up in prison. I invite the Government to invest in children’s support services now, to secure a prosperous future not only for children but for themselves.

I also congratulate the Children’s Society on its great work and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) on securing the debate so quickly after the summer recess. I will focus on an issue affecting young adults in need that crops up regularly in my area of north Staffordshire, where, shamefully, after years and years, no resolution is in sight.

For any family that has to go through them, anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders are one of the most devastating illnesses that can affect the physical and mental health of children as they grow up. Often triggered by other traumatic life events or the stress of coping with adolescence, the suffering can be immense. Neither that suffering nor their vulnerability suddenly stops when children reach the magic age of 18, but in my immediate area—Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Moorlands—the commissioning of specialist support and treatment most certainly does.

North Staffordshire has an in-patient facility—the Darwin Centre in Penkhull in Stoke—for children needing treatment for mental health issues, including acute eating disorders. It is run by the excellently led North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust. In total, the annual budget for the North Staffordshire and Stoke clinical commissioning groups to address children and young people’s eating disorders is about £250,000, with more than £300,000 more spent in the rest of the county. For adults, however, the figure is precisely zero; no specialist adult eating disorder services are commissioned by the two CCGs. Instead, after children reach 18—teenagers still—they fall off a cliff and essentially have to rely on the good will of overstretched general adult mental health teams to respond to their needs. It is a scandalous situation that should not be allowed to continue. The CCGs, and their overlord, NHS England, need to act without delay.

Someone in my area needing specialist treatment as they leave school has to leave the area to obtain it, but not everyone is fortunate enough to go to a college or university in a place where the authorities treat such conditions with the seriousness that they deserve. It is especially sickening in my area because a few postcodes away, in other parts of Staffordshire, adults get treatment. There is an in-patient unit in Stafford, the Kinver Centre, run by the recently established Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. It can admit people from all over the country—not just the county—but not from North Staffordshire or Stoke, as our two CCGs provide no funding. However, the county’s other four CCGs certainly do. Their budgets for treating adult eating disorders is more than £400,000 a year, compared with nothing for constituents and families in my area, and nothing for local children in need as they reach adulthood.

The situation is made even more anomalous as, since last year, the county’s six CCGs have been run by the same accountable officer, Marcus Warnes, whom I am seeing tomorrow, so this is a timely debate. The latest information I cite comes from a response from those CCGs last month after I yet again raised the issue. I do not know how other hon. Members are served by their local health commissioners, but in Staffordshire all letters, including from MPs, are shipped off to a remote correspondence centre in Rugeley—the grandly titled Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit— which gives itself 40 days to reply. I must admit that the response on this issue, which particularly affects young adults, came a little quicker, but it was signed, illegibly, on behalf of Marcus Warnes, so I do not even know if he read it or not. After confirming the zero figures for the Stoke and North Staffordshire CCGs, in comparison with the bountiful parts of the county, the reply ended:

“I hope that we have addressed your concerns. However, if there are any outstanding issues, please do not hesitate to contact the Patient Services Team.”

That is how they deal with Members of Parliament, so I hate to think how patients and vulnerable members of the public are treated. Frankly, not only are these people not on the case, but I sometimes think that they are not really on the same planet as the rest of us.

I appreciate that the Minister may well consider health commissioning out of his jurisdiction, but it is also certainly very much to do with children and families. In the interests of joined-up care and provision for vulnerable young adults, he should be aware of anomalies like this, as indeed should everyone in my area who needs such vital specialist services. Pressure really needs to be put—from all directions—on our local health commissioners to correct this situation, not least by members of those groups themselves, so that they actually serve the people they are supposed to represent.

I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) on a really useful survey of the information that is already known, and on the way in which he has introduced a very important subject and given us the opportunity to debate it.

As my hon. Friend and other hon. Members have provided so much information, I shall focus on just one aspect of the problem—low educational attainment, which is a particular challenge in Knowsley. We know that children considered to be in need are only one third as likely as other children to achieve A* to C GCSE passes in English and maths at the end of key stage 4; the figure is 63% for pupils not so classified. That is a serious discrepancy. We also know that, although this finding is based on a quite small sample, about 13% of young people—16 and 17-year-olds—achieve no GCSE passes at all. However, that is not where the emphasis is. When all the results are published, we publish league tables and show everyone delightedly jumping up and down with their passes, and that is great; we should do that. But what everyone tends to overlook is that huge cohorts of young people are achieving nothing out of their education. I want to focus on that.

We need to take into account the vulnerabilities that the Children’s Society and others have identified, because there is a connection between those vulnerabilities and educational attainment, which I will talk about shortly. A lot of these young people are in poor health. A lot have low satisfaction with life. Just think about being 16 or 17 and being able to identify that you have a low level of satisfaction with life. I suspect that many of these young people experience household poverty. Others feel “useless”. Again, imagine being 16 or 17 and thinking that you are useless. And of course there are those who have caring responsibilities, which is a growing problem among young people.

I do not want to enter into a discussion about sociological despair, because I know where that leads. I am not saying that we do not have to take that into account, but if we say that that is all there is, the consequence is that we do not do anything about the problems. We have to focus on the things that can be done to resolve those problems.

It is important to say that people cannot escape the environment in which they live. They cannot leave at the school gates all the problems in the household or the neighbourhood, which tend to follow people around. The problems that exist in the community also exist, in a slightly different form, in the school itself, but we cannot expect schools to be the only people who can compensate for the problems in people’s lives. In my view, we already overload teachers far too much. We have to look at what other things can be done and who can do them in order to address the problems.

I shall just make three suggestions and then conclude. First, some young people, when they have got to 14 or 15 years of age, have got to the point in their school career where, frankly, the next few years are going to be a complete waste of time. They have fallen so far behind that they are likely to be in that cohort that does not achieve any GCSEs, and attendance at school is sporadic. Sometimes—not in Knowsley, but in other places—some schools overlook absenteeism, because it is better not to have some pupils in the school at all, given the disruption that they cause.

Some young people reach a point at which they need something else in their life. They need some other way of getting back on track to gain some relevant qualifications, some relevant skills. The Department for Education is looking at different options—I welcome this—for alternative provision. Some alternative provision is excellent and provides the sorts of opportunities that I am talking about, but it needs to be said that some of it, to be brutally honest, is no more than cut-price childminding. I hope that the Minister’s Department will start to identify those projects and schemes that can do the work that is necessary with those young people and eliminate the cut-price childminding, which frankly is all too prevalent in some parts of the country.

The second thing that we need to do more of, as the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) mentioned, is to take a more holistic view by working not just with the young people, but with their families. These problems do not appear out of thin air. If there are—as sadly is the case in some families in my constituency—five generations of worklessness in a family, stretching back to the Thatcher Government years, when manufacturing in Knowsley was stripped out almost completely, there is a problem, because no one knows any longer what the relevance of school is. If the future is a life on benefits or of involvement in crime—or a combination of the two—what is the relevance of school? We have to intervene with those families to find ways of getting them to understand the importance of children’s having the opportunities to develop the talent that they have—many of them do have talent. I very much support the idea of that kind of approach.

The final point that I want to highlight is this. There is tremendous scope for mentoring. I know that it became quite trendy in the 1990s to talk about mentoring. Some of it worked and some of it did not. I am not talking about professional mentoring, but there are people in every community—there are many of them in Knowsley—who have successfully brought up their own families. Their children may have gone into useful, productive employment; they may have gone to university. Those people have a contribution to make. Many of them are retired but still fit and well, healthy, and lively in their minds. We have to find ways of linking those people up with families who are struggling, and we need to be very strategic about the way we do that. There is help and advice out there for those families; we just have to find ways of linking them with those people who can provide that help.

I shall conclude by simply saying this. There is a huge challenge that many of us avert our gaze from in our society. The huge challenge is that young people are not achieving what they ought to be at school, yet no one is providing the right alternatives, the right advice and the right framework of support that they need in order to do that. This is not rocket science. I hope that the Minister will take that heartfelt plea on my part seriously, because it is not that difficult to do it. We must have some resources, but more important is the will to do it.

It is, as always, a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Buck. I, too, pay tribute to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) for his passionate, informed and heartfelt speech. He spoke for many of us when he highlighted the consequences of the UK Government’s continued austerity for vulnerable young people and those who are trying to help them.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) made their usual thoughtful contributions, detailing the real consequences for individual children of not getting this right—the social problems and the educational attainment problems.

The hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) is absolutely right that early intervention is vital. Supporting families, where possible, is something I wholeheartedly agree with. The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart) said that the issue of children in need was not a marginal issue, but had too often become so. He is right that far too often in the past we have looked at its symptoms rather than its causes. The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) said that vulnerable children become vulnerable adults. That is incredibly simple, but it is an incredible truth, which we have to accept. Their problems do not go away, but follow them through life. That is why early intervention is essential if we are going to address this issue.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is good to take a holistic view of these issues and not just deal with the symptoms? We are looking at many generations of poor parenting, which we have to address. We cannot just deal with the symptoms of the children. If we improved the quality of the parenting, we would start to bring those children into a good place, where they could get a decent education and life.

That holistic approach is something that I will come on to. It is more than good parenting; it is a societal issue. We have to change the culture of how we address these issues, rather than focusing simply on improving parents.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) gave a powerful testimony focusing on the serious gap in local provision in his area of north Staffordshire. I would like to be a fly on the wall in his meeting with the health officials tomorrow.

Much of what we have discussed is wholly devolved to the Scottish Government. I will share the experience of Scotland, so that we may learn from each other across these islands in this vital area of supporting children in need, vulnerable young people, children with disability and those in care, helping them in that transition to adulthood. We believe it is absolutely essential for the good of us all that children, regardless of their personal circumstances, receive all the support they require to ensure that they can make that transition into adulthood and flourish into the happy, well-adjusted adults that they deserve to be.

I was delighted, therefore, that Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, in her programme for Government on Tuesday, promised a further £33 million to local authorities to provide targeted initiatives, activities and resources that will help to improve educational outcomes, specifically for care-experienced young people. I wholeheartedly welcome her pledge that the Scottish Government will incorporate directly into domestic law the principles of the UN convention on the rights of the child.

One of the most important pieces of legislation in recent years in Scotland was the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which gives all children in Scotland the right to be protected from abuse and neglect. It is the cornerstone of the Scottish Government’s strategy for making Scotland the best place in the world for a child to grow up. The 2014 Act directs public services towards early years intervention. Early intervention and family support are critical. The legislation actively encourages prevention measures, rather than responding to crisis in later life.

The 2014 Act establishes a new legal framework within which services have to work together in support of children and their families. It is underpinned by the Scottish Government’s early commitment to the UN convention on the rights of the child. It seeks to establish a more holistic understanding of child wellbeing and how we, as a society, support our most vulnerable children, helping them to become the happy, well-adjusted young adults we wish them to be.

One of the many initiatives in the Scottish Government’s programme is “Getting it right for every child”, which is a national approach to improving outcomes and the wellbeing of our young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people. “Getting it right for every child” supports young people and their parents into working in partnerships with the services that can help them best. It is designed to empower children, young people and their parents by, first and foremost, recognising and promoting their rights. That means putting their needs at the heart of any service delivery. “Getting it right for every child” builds on what most families already know: children benefit from a wide network of support, to promote and enhance their wellbeing. It is absolutely right that that support network should start with the family, but then the family can call on social services, the health service and the education services for support, as and when they need it. We all know how important it is to have a positive support network when transitioning into adult life.

The Scottish Transition Forum is another initiative from the Scottish Government. It encourages people to work collaboratively, share learning, identify gaps in current provision and generate solutions. Currently, it has 800 members. It is open to anybody who is committed to improving that transition experience for young people with additional support needs. Crucially, the Scottish Transition Forum involves those young people with additional support needs, their parents and carers in defining its policy.

The Scottish Government have also created the Care Experienced Employability Programme, which is helping hundreds of care-leaving youngsters between the ages of 16 and 29 to move into appropriate work, training and educational opportunities. It will deliver intensive support to young people who are often excluded from attaining their full potential because of their circumstances. It offers work experience, qualifications, practical skills, community projects and life coaching, all of which will be focused on the individual young person. The CEEP is a good example of the Government working with the third sector—in this case Barnardo’s Scotland, Action for Children and the Prince’s Trust, which have come together to form a young persons’ consortium in order to deliver that programme. There is so much being done in this holistic approach in Scotland. I advise the Minister, if he has not already, to speak to his counterpart in Edinburgh to see how Scotland is developing this programme.

Time is pressing, so I will be brief. In Scotland, local authorities have a statutory duty to prepare young people for leaving care once they cease to be looked after. They must also provide assistance to young people who have ceased to be looked after on or after their 16th birthday, and are legally required to provide after-care support until that care leaver turns 19. It is vital that young people are not cast out of the care system and left to fend for themselves; that is a recipe for disaster, which we have seen so often. To ensure that the Scottish Government are doing all they should for children in care, they have recently set up an independent care review, which will look at the existing legislation and the current practices, culture and ethos of the care system in Scotland. It will listen to the voice of young people in care and those who have been through the care system.

When she launched the care review, the First Minister said:

“Every young person should have an equal opportunity to succeed in life, no matter their circumstances. We should celebrate the progress that has been made that has allowed many of our young people who grow up in care to do great things…this review is not about determining if this can be achieved, but how we create a system that puts love for the children it cares for at its heart.”

Help and support for children is not an event, but a lifetime commitment by society. If we see it as an event, we are destined to fail. While in Scotland things may not be perfect, we put the needs of our young people at the heart of policy making and political thinking. That is the only way we can get this right. If we do not put young people at the heart, we will not get it right for them. As I said, we may not be there yet, but there is a firm commitment to make Scotland the best place in the world for children to grow up.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Buck. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) for securing this important debate on supporting children in need in adulthood. His excellent speech showed us yet again the valuable knowledge and expertise he has regarding children in need.

Yesterday, I reminded the Minister of the dire state of children’s social care thanks to his Government’s lack of cohesive strategic direction and swingeing cuts to local authorities. Early intervention grants have been slashed by up to £600 million, there is a predicted £2 billion gap in local authorities’ budgets for children’s social care by 2020 and, according to the National Children’s Bureau, more than one in three councillors are warning that those cuts have left them with insufficient resources to support children. It was recently revealed that 41% of children’s services are unable to fulfil even their statutory duties. The troubled families programme, which saw the demise of dedicated child in need teams, has spent more than £1.3 billion and had no measurable impact on families. Wider support services, youth services, family support workers—the services that children in need relied on—have fallen prey to the Government’s austerity programme and are disappearing.

In that environment, in any organisation, the roles and responsibilities that have the weight of legislation behind them—the things that absolutely must be done—are always the ones that take prominence. There is no legal requirement for local authorities to continue to support children in need when they turn 18, so it should come as no surprise that those children, on the cusp of adulthood, fall into the abyss. Looking at the current figures for 16 and 17-year-olds classed as children in need, that means that approximately 58,000 children are being cast adrift.

The referral rate to children’s services for those aged 16 to 17 years old is the same as for children of other ages, but they are less likely to be accepted for services and help as children in need. If they are, they are less likely to be subject to future support under a child protection plan than younger children. I do not know about other hon. Members, but at 18 years old, I do not feel that I was ready to make important decisions or to make my own way in the world. I still needed support, and I was damn lucky that I had it, but these children in need often do not. They are grappling with multiple intersecting challenges that many adults would not be able to cope with—and many are grappling with those issues alone.

Department for Education figures show that such children are more likely to go missing or be victims of sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation. They are more likely to have mental health issues or substance misuse issues, and more likely to be homeless or not in education or training. Those serious issues are not fleeting; they can leave enduring and deeply painful physical and emotional scars that last throughout people’s lives.

Similarly, children in need are not given prominence in terms of access to child and adolescent mental health support, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) mentioned. That is not surprising, because cuts to CAMHS have reached more than £50 million and some children are waiting 18 months for treatment. Despite half of mental health problems being present by the age of 14, across England, only 8% of mental health funding goes to services for children and young people.

According to the Children’s Society, 16 and 17-year-old children in need are three times more likely to cite child sexual exploitation as a factor in their assessment than nought to 15-year-olds. Sexual exploitation is vastly underreported, and it is likely that even that is an underestimate. In a report that looked at 16 and 17-year-olds, the Children’s Society found that 50% do not feel that it is worth reporting something to the police. That is for a good reason: 75% of reported cases of sexual offences against 16 and 17-year-olds result in no police action. Again, that is no surprise when up to 43 police forces have pleaded with the Government about cuts that are leading to impossible workloads and delays in investigating complex child sexual exploitation cases.

The hon. Lady is raising important points. How much money would a future Labour Government commit to children’s services, and specifically to the issues that she has raised? How would that money be raised, given that it did not feature in “Funding Britain’s Future”, the document that Labour published in advance of last year’s general election?

I ask the hon. Gentleman to go and read our manifesto again, because threaded through our manifesto were things to help children, such as investment in mental health and in school counselling. Unlike his own party’s manifesto, it was all fully costed. I would have another look if I were him.

As referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, the Children’s Society estimates that 12,000 children who approach local authorities at risk of homelessness are sent away without an assessment even taking place. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 does not address the vulnerability of 16 and 17-year-olds, who are often sent back to their families, which are the source of the issues that they face such as domestic violence or substance abuse. It is no wonder that those children in need are more likely to go missing, or that they become another statistic in the ever-burgeoning rough sleeping stats.

All those factors make it even more disappointing that the Government’s long-awaited child in need review is narrow in focus, and will look only at the educational outcomes of children in need. Of course, I acknowledge that children in need have poorer educational outcomes than their peers, and I wholeheartedly echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), but focusing only on educational outcomes—there are approximately 390,000 children in need—and ignoring the other difficulties they are suffering that we have discussed is a little short-sighted.

Respectfully, the Minister should take note of his Department’s figures, because they show stable numbers of children in need, but a high rate of re-referrals. In short, people are not getting the service they need first time round, and things are reaching a crisis point. The Children’s Society found that one in three 16 and 17-year-olds who were referred to children’s services were re-referrals from within one or two years. The reasons for those re-referrals were that their needs did not previously meet the threshold but their situation had now escalated, or that their initial referral did not resolve the issues. Sadly, at that stage, there is no time available to address those now acute issues, because when they turn 18, their case will be closed.

This cohort of young people are in desperate need of a Government who care about their future. The Minister has an opportunity today to prove that they do. He could commit to exploring changes to legislation and/or guidance that would allow properly resourced transitional plans to be put in place for children in need who are approaching 18, similar to those for children who have been looked after—a suggestion that has been advocated by my hon. Friends. He could commit to letting us know what cross-departmental pressure he will put on his colleagues to address the gaping holes in mental health provision and policing, and, vitally, to properly fund children’s social care.

It will simply not be enough, nor will it be acceptable, to say that those children’s needs will be addressed by adult services, should they need them. We all know that that just will not happen. I cannot think of any other scenario where people are identified as being in desperate need of help but they are deemed no longer worthy of that support and their case is closed, purely because of their age. I sincerely hope the Minister will not let us down in his response and, more importantly, I hope he will not let these children down.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Buck.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) on securing this important debate. He takes a keen interest in the subject in his valuable role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for looked-after children and care leavers. I echo the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) in saying that this is such an important subject that we are here on a Thursday afternoon to debate it. I thank the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous), the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), the hon. Members for Strangford and for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) and my hon. Friends the Members for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart) and for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) for their contributions, and many other hon. Members for their interventions.

The Government are committed to ensuring that all vulnerable children receive the support they need to fulfil their potential, which means getting the support right throughout childhood and as they make the transition to adulthood. I will discuss children in need and care leavers, because both groups have been mentioned today. There are important, indeed fundamental, differences between children who are looked after and other children in need, for whom their parents still retain responsibility. We know that care leavers can experience extra barriers when making the transition into adulthood, including financial hardship and the difficulty of living independently at a young age. That is why we have extended the support that we provide to the children for whom we—the state—have corporate parenting responsibilities, where the baton of parenting has been passed on to us for all sorts of harrowing reasons. However, it is of course vital that we also support children in need to make a successful transition to adulthood. That requires the identification of needs and appropriate responses by a range of agencies working in partnership. Our key statutory guidance, “Working together to safeguard children”, describes how agencies should jointly agree on and deliver joined-up support for children in need.

We know that children’s needs may change as they get older and that older children are likely to have very different needs from younger children. The recent update to the “Working together” guidance is clear that local authorities should consider new approaches, such as contextual safeguarding for older children, if current approaches are not meeting their needs; some very good work on that has been done in the London borough of Hackney. The guidance also offers links to further advice regarding child sexual exploitation.

The update to “Working together” also makes it clear that known transition points for a child should be planned for in advance, including situations where children are likely to transition between child and adult services. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme challenged his two clinical commissioning groups on this issue, although I will not comment other than to say that I will ensure that his remarks are passed on to the relevant Minister in the Department of Health and Social Care. As I say, such work includes identifying the points where children are likely to transition between child and adult services. The local authority should hold a review around the time of the child’s 18th birthday to consider whether support services are still required, and to discuss with the child and their family what might be needed, based on a reassessment of the child’s needs.

For all children, getting the best possible education is a critical part of preparing for adulthood; the right hon. Member for Knowsley focused on that point. That is why this Government are delivering on our manifesto commitment to review the educational outcomes of children in need. We have already published significant new data and analysis on the educational achievement of children in need, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar for his remarks about the work we are doing. We have received submissions in response to our call for evidence from hundreds of professionals and organisations on what works in practice to improve outcomes. The review is now considering the responses to the call for evidence and conducting further analysis to understand what works in practice to improve educational outcomes for these children.

I want that review to be tightly defined, impactful and focused on evidence. These issues are complex ones, as I think has been demonstrated in the debate today, but if we open things out too widely and try to solve everything, we are in danger of solving nothing. Having said that, our data and analysis publication looks beyond education at NEETs’ outcomes. As part of the data strand of the review, we are examining the possibility of linking with other datasets to understand more about employment outcomes.

The pupil premium was mentioned by a number of colleagues. Children in need have additional needs, which are catered for through the education system. Already the majority of children in need receive support in schools through pupil premium funding. We have provided over £13 billion of additional funding since 2011, targeted at reducing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. Since 2011, that gap has been reduced at both the age of 11 and the age of 16.

Of all children in need, 49% receive support due to a special educational need or disability. The SEND code of practice explicitly states that all children and young people, whether or not they have an education health and care plan, should be prepared for adulthood and that this preparation should start early. For the 23% of all children in need on an EHCP, there must be an explicit focus from year nine onwards on preparation for adulthood.

Data published in the “Review of Children in Need” document has shown that children in need are more likely than their peers not to be in education, employment or training. We are determined to ensure that disadvantaged students are properly supported in their post-16 education. The Government have invested significantly—£7 billion in the last academic year—to ensure that there is a place in training or education for every 16 to 19-year-old. That is for all young people, regardless of whether they have had involvement with children’s social care. Local authorities have a statutory duty to identify and support all young people who are not in education, employment or training. We are extremely proud—I am extremely proud—that young people are now participating in education, employment or training at the highest levels since consistent records began, although we rightly recognise that there is still much more to do for some young people.

Regarding the funding for 16 to 19-year-olds, we want to make sure that vulnerable children are accessing education beyond the age of 16. In 2017-18, about £520 million was allocated to providers through the national funding formula to attract and retain disadvantaged 16 to 19-year-olds and to support students with SEND. We have also provided around £130 million directly to the young people who need the most help, to cover costs such as transport, which was mentioned in one of the interventions, and course equipment, through the 16-to-19 bursary fund. This fund is available to children who have vulnerabilities such as disability, or who are living independently without the financial support of their family.

Regarding wider outcomes, mental health was mentioned. Although education is of course critical to the long-term outcomes of children in need, in some areas that affect these children disproportionately we are working as a Government to improve services—specifically mental health, child sexual exploitation and of course homelessness services. Poor mental health can have a profound impact on the entirety of a child’s life, which is why we are investing an additional £1.4 billion nationally to transform children and young people’s mental health services.

Time is short and I would like to leave a minute for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak to respond to the debate. The only other thing I will say now is that I was very pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar mention the troubled families programme, through which we are now spending £920 million to help 400,000 families. Given that a man with his experience is saying that that is the area we should focus on, I will certainly champion that programme and ensure that our voice is heard in the imminent strategic review.

I thank the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) for his passionate articulation of what is happening in Scotland. In England, we are also supporting care leavers. We have extended the support that we provide to the children for whom we, the state, have corporate parenting responsibilities, and the offer of support from local authorities now extends to the age of 25. In addition, personal advisers can help care leavers to get support from mainstream providers as well as provide, or help to facilitate, access to practical and emotional support.

As time is short, I shall end there. Suffice it to say that a number of colleagues made some other important points, including about care leaver accommodation. Of course, my great friend and passionate advocate for family hubs, the hon. Member for Congleton, who I look forward to visiting—

I have no time left to give way, because I think we are ending at 4.30 pm and there is only a minute to go, which I want to give to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak to respond—

If the hon. Gentleman is happy not to speak again, I am happy to give way to the hon. Member for South Shields.

I thank the Minister for giving way. I am just a little confused about his response to the debate. Children in need are a distinct category from those requiring child protection, looked-after children and care leavers, but most of his comments in his response to the debate were about other distinct categories of children in need and not about the distinct category of children in need themselves. I am just a little baffled by his response. I appreciate that he does not have time now, but could he put in writing to me what the Department is doing about children in need—not looked-after children and not care leavers, but children in need?

I am very grateful to you, Ms Buck, for allowing that intervention, but I suspect that the hon. Lady, the shadow Minister, may not have been listening to me, because I actually talked very specifically about our document, “Review of Children in Need”, to which we committed in our manifesto, unlike the hon. Lady herself, who could not answer my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar on the funding that she is asking for in order to spend more. I am happy to give her a copy of my speech, which was all about children in need.

Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(14)).