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Bellwin Scheme: Social Care Packages for Vulnerable Children

Volume 662: debated on Monday 17 June 2019

9. What assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending the Bellwin scheme to include the exceptional costs of social care packages for vulnerable children. (911360)

The Bellwin scheme can be used to compensate authorities for emergencies and disasters in their area. Children’s services funding is made available through the settlement, with flexibility for councils to target their spending according to the local needs. In the autumn Budget, we were pleased to announce an extra £410 million to address the pressures on social care.

Plymouth City Council’s children and social care budget is being sunk by a small number of exceptional care costs for some vulnerable young people, with 6:1 care ratios costing £40,000 a week. Will the Minister agree to meet Plymouth City Council’s Labour leader and Conservative leader of the opposition to look into how the Government can offer additional support for the rare but exceptional care costs for these vulnerable young people?

I will of course meet the hon. Gentleman, the group leader and the council leader. I understand the hon. Gentleman has been active in this policy area, because he recently met my hon. Friend the Minister for Children and Families and the leader of Plymouth City Council, Tudor Evans. I thought he might raise this issue today, so I checked, and I understand that the Minister he met previously is going to write to him shortly to update him on the progress he is making with his campaign.

Over the past two years in Sandwell, my local authority, the number of children in care has increased by a third. Government funding has not kept pace and, as a result, the Children’s Trust is faced with a deficit of £3.5 million. This is pretty representative, in common with local authorities up and down the country. What will the Minister do about it?

The Government have their troubled families programme to tackle just the sorts of issues that the hon. Gentleman raises. No one in this House could be other than deeply concerned about the plight of our young people, particularly when they face the challenge of finding themselves in care, and that is why I am pleased that, since 2010, the amount the Government have spent on vulnerable children has increased by more than £1.5 billion.