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House of Commons Hansard
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Care Placement of Young People
24 October 2018
Volume 648
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1. What discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on the placement of young people from England in private sector care homes in Wales. [907183]

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The Government are clear that the needs of the child are paramount when making decisions about the right care placement. The specific issue the hon. Lady refers to has not been raised with me directly by the Welsh Government.

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More than 300 children from England are placed across Wales, often in small Welsh villages. Problems are experienced by some police forces and local authorities about early notification of vulnerable children being placed there who may be seduced into county lines, grooming operations and generally be vulnerable in isolation. Will the Secretary of State share my concern and raise it with the Welsh Assembly Government?

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The hon. Lady clearly raises a very important point and is passionate about the subject. The most appropriate and suitable setting should always be the overriding factor in deciding the best placement for a child, but planning policy and approval from care inspectors should also be considerations, and, naturally, the police should be part of that process. I will happily raise the matter with the Welsh Government.

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Does the Minister share my view that it is crucial that there are enough foster parents with the right skills in the right areas to care for children and meet their diverse needs? Would not a collaborative approach between local authorities be helpful in that respect?

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My hon. Friend raises an important point. The appropriate setting has to be the overriding factor at all stages, but, of course, not all local authorities can offer appropriate settings for some complex needs that different children will have. Co-operation between authorities is always helpful and it is something that we want to encourage.

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Plaid Cymru’s North Wales police and crime commissioner has long warned that, post Brexit, criminals will use the common travel area to gain access to the UK. This warning has been reaffirmed today in a National Audit Office report. Will the Secretary of State tell me what provision he is making personally to protect Wales from becoming both the highway and the victim of international organised crime?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the question, but I am not sure where Brexit is linked with this. Clearly, there is freedom of movement across the European Union and the common travel area—those positions will still be in place, particularly in relation to the common travel area. I do not think that this is about where the children originate from, because, clearly, there are Welsh children being sited appropriately in England as well. We have to have as an overriding factor the most appropriate setting and it is important that the authorities co-operate wherever the regulations come from.

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It is no secret that the Secretary of State does not speak as Wales’s voice in Westminster on Brexit. He has, in fact, poured scorn on the efforts of others who seek to make representations for Wales in Brussels. He may be aware that, together with other sensible Opposition leaders in this place, I am meeting Michel Barnier tomorrow, and I will do my duty to represent my country. Does he have any Wales-specific priorities that he would like me to raise with the EU Brexit negotiator-in-chief, or would that be against England’s interest?

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In relation to private sector care homes?

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The hon. Lady talks about meeting Michel Barnier tomorrow with other colleagues, but I hope that she will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Prime Minister who is acting in the UK’s interest rather than in any local national interest.

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Returning to the subject, what changes does my right hon. Friend propose in terms of inspection of care homes to ensure that children are safe in those care homes?

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My hon. Friend raises an important point. The social care innovation programme plans to change the laws in England so that local authorities have to promote the physical and mental health of looked-after children, and this would be a major step forward in this area of policy.