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Bereaved Children: Registry

Volume 730: debated on Tuesday 28 March 2023

[Sir Gary Streeter in the Chair]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the potential merits of a registry of bereaved children.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I thank the House for this opportunity to discuss an issue that is very close to my heart. I also thank the Minister; when we spoke recently, she understood exactly why this issue is so important, not just to me but to so many people and families, and why I feel almost personally driven to highlight it. There are a variety of reasons for that, many of which I have only recently come to fully appreciate, along with the impact on my own family of something that happened several decades ago. That is why I feel that I need to do everything I can, and we need to do everything we can, to protect our current and future generations of children, not with a new service but, as I will explain, with a simple administrative change—a process to ensure that children benefit from the many services that are there for them.

First, I would like to explain why and how I came to this point—my own journey. As a 20-year-old, I lost my father suddenly from a heart attack one Saturday morning. I thought that I was an adult and that I was okay, and I focused on my two sisters, who were just eight and 13. I thought that they were doing well. For decades, I thought that we had all come through the trauma—because there was a trauma—remarkably unscathed. Gradually, though, I realised that perhaps I had not been as aware of what had happened to me—what had happened to us all—as I thought at the time, and that perhaps things had not been as smooth as they seemed.

It was only when my own daughter was eight, and I watched her and her dad and saw how they enjoyed reading “Harry Potter” together and playing, that I realised, probably for the first time, just how huge the trauma of suddenly not having the dad she idolised at that age had been for my youngest sister. I saw the trauma that she had been through in a very different light. Then, when my daughter was 13, I thought about my middle sister, and saw for the first time how the inescapable insecurities of your teenage years must be so much more complicated when the ground is shifted beneath the family and everything becomes uncertain, and the security that you knew is suddenly gone.

I think it was only when, by the cruellest twist of fate, my own husband died when my daughter was 20—exactly the age I had been—that I realised for the first time not only that I had been much less of an adult that I thought, but the impact that my dad’s death had had on me, not just then but now. I realised that everything I have done —everything that has driven me, and the sense of insecurity and uncertainty, and very often fear about the future, that I have felt throughout my life—stems from that Saturday morning.

I talked about that to my youngest sister, who pointed out that perhaps it was because none of us—myself included—had had any outside professional support. Yes, the girls’ schools were great, our family was wonderful and my mum—well, she just dealt with everything that life had thrown at her. But we never heard from any of the services that were probably available to us at the time. We were never offered any counselling, advice, befriending services or trips away—not because the available organisations did not care or want to help, but because they did not know and we did not know that we needed them. We had never been in contact with social services, so, bluntly, they did not know that we existed. We just got on with it. My sisters, I felt, were too young to realise. I thought that I was okay, and that my family were coping with their own grief and making sure that we were safe and looked after, like every family do. In so many ways, we were lucky, but maybe—just maybe—we could have benefited from something else.

I would love to stand here and say how many children are in that position today—how many children wake up every morning to the pain of knowing that the person they loved, and who cared for them, is not there. I would love to say that all the services that are available to them are getting to them, and that they have that support. But I cannot, because we do not know.

We do not know how many children there are, and we do not know where they are. That is not because the services are not available; of course they are. Schools, social services and fantastic organisations such as Winston’s Wish do a wonderful job of helping youngsters every day—but only the children they know about. They have no way of knowing, as I have no way of knowing—none of us does—how many young people need or would benefit from their help. They cannot reach out and offer them support. They do not know where they are.

Sadly, the reality for a child suffering grief is still that, unless their family has been in contact with social services, or social services have a reason to be in contact with them, they may not be able to benefit from all the help and support that we all want them to have. Schools do a fantastic job, but what if a child moves because their main carer has died? A new school might not know, and how many children really want to be different at school? How many children want to be singled out and for everyone to know how upset they are—to know that they are struggling, because someone has been taken from them, with the anxiety that grips their poor wee hearts every time they leave home about whether everyone they love will still be there at the end of the day? That is their reality.

In the past few months, I have spoken to the voluntary sector, written to the Scottish Government and sat down with the Minister who is here today to discuss the issue. Without exception, they have been supportive. Everyone recognises that there is a problem, wants to help and outlines the wonderful services that are there. But the problem is still that we do not know who needs them and where they are. Pinning down the solution—how to do it—is the issue that everyone seems to grapple with, but it should not be difficult.

In this country, we have registers and statistics for just about everything. A digital society makes a lot of things easier; it is often too easy to keep track of things. I can go online now and check my MOT, my car insurance, my postcode and my council tax. My medical records are online to make it easier for the NHS to know who I am and what I might need if I collapse somewhere away from home. I hate to think exactly what information could be scanned from my passport or my national insurance number. A quick Google search tells us a lot. But if, God forbid, anything were to happen to any of us in this room and we had children, there would be no way of checking if they were there and if they were okay—if they were safe, looked after, coping, or maybe just needing someone to talk to.

I have not met anyone in this place who does not want to address this problem and does not recognise its significance. There is no political issue. There is no divide over whether or not we should be supporting our children. We all want to do it, so what is stopping us? All we need to do, and all I ask the Government to do, is invest some time, thought and care into coming up with what really is an administrative solution and identifying which Department can best administer it and the easiest way to do it. Yes, there may be problems with GDPR and privacy, but we can overcome those.

The solution may be as simple as introducing a system whereby, when someone registers a death, they also register whether there are children who could be affected—upset by the death of a parent, carer, sibling or grandparent —and then sending out the available information, in a leaflet or a letter, to tell them where they can turn for support, checking that they have got it and making sure that the organisations know they are there. It would be a process—a way of collecting data, which we have become very good at in this country recently. It would be a way of making sure that we know where those children who may need the help that is available are, and making sure that we can reach out and offer it. It is the least they deserve.

Thank you, Sir Gary, for giving me the chance to speak in the debate. I am very pleased to serve under your chairmanship.

I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) for raising this issue. She did the House proud in the compassionate way that she introduced the debate. I am grateful for the spirit behind the debate, which she showed, and I am thankful that she has chosen to use her own familial pain so openly to help others. She is very much deserving of our respect and gratitude.

The topic of the debate is very emotional—we all know that; it is hard not to be moved by it—and sensitive. I discussed with Naomi, my assistant, our approach to the research for this debate. I know that I keep her busy when it comes to speeches in Westminster Hall and elsewhere, but do we talk the matters through, because we like to be able to bring a local angle—a Northern Ireland angle—to debates. I will do so today by giving an example that we are aware of, which will hopefully add to the hon. Lady’s introduction and to the contributions by the Members who will follow me.

Naomi raised the very real and raw scenario of a little girl who comes to her children’s church. That little girl happens to be eight years old, the same age as the hon. Lady said her sister was, and her grandfather brings her to church on a Sunday. She is only eight, but her daddy was murdered by paramilitaries. She came back to children’s church a few weeks later. Outwardly, she appeared to be the same happy child for the most part. However, during the prayer time, she asked for prayers for her granny, who is always so sad. The little one lost her daddy in dreadful circumstances and yet is also carrying the burden of worrying over her granny, who is sad.

Of course the leaders in the church are sensitive to the wee girl, yet it is clear that, although they can and do pour in love, she needs more help. What is not clear is how to get her that help. Referrals to child and adolescent mental health services in Northern Ireland rose from 8,719 in 2020-21 to 10,675 in 2021-22—a 25% increase—yet capacity has not increased at all. Will we put this little one on the waiting list, with a nine-month wait to be seen initially? How do we provide a link to help for this little girl who is grieving, and watching her granny grieve, and who just wants her family to be happy again?

We all need to think about that question, as it affects us all in each constituency in the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that around 26,900 parents die each year in the UK, leaving dependent children. That is one parent every 20 minutes. By the age of 16, 4.7%— around one in 20—young people will have experienced the death of one or both of their parents.

The Childhood Bereavement Network has come very succinctly to the crux of the issue, saying:

“No-one knows exactly how many children are bereaved each year. Data is collected each year on the number of children affected by the divorce of their parents, but not on the number affected by the death of a parent.”

As I say, I think that is the crux of the matter. The Childhood Bereavement Network continued:

“This information is urgently needed, to plan for service development and to make more sense of research on the impact of bereavement on children’s lives.”

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West made that point very clearly, and I make it too.

I look to the Minister for a response. I do not think that it is impossible to collect the data and try to help. If we do not know who and where these children are, how can we get them the help and support that they so desperately need? The answer is that we cannot. I have a request for the Minister. I know that she is a lady of compassion; we are all compassionate in this House, and we all bring our own individual stories to this Chamber. I ask the Minister very respectfully and gracefully to take our request on board, if she can, because these are things that we should be doing and we need to do.

The surviving parent or relation can take the step of asking the school. The school can ask the parent if they have spoken to a GP. The GP can ask if the school is providing counselling. But the fact is that none of those bodies has a duty to do those things. My fear is that children like the little one I have mentioned are simply lost in their grief if they are not acting out and drawing attention. In other words, we may not see the pain of that wee eight-year-old and others—the hon. Member for Edinburgh West referred to her sisters. We may believe that they are good and must be handling it all okay, but very often that is not the case.

Any child that is grieving needs to be given support without having to ask for it. That is why I thank the hon. Lady for her speech, offer my support and ask the Minister to make the change so that we have a registry and the automatic action that should come with that. I know the grief that I felt as a grown man over the death of my father. Life gave me that experience when I was much older, allowing me to acknowledge and deal with the pain in a healthy manner. Some of these children have no chance when it comes to that process, and that is why I believe help must be offered.

Again, I ask the Minister to do what I know she still wants to do, and what I believe she will do: to start off the support process with a registry of bereaved children. I support the hon. Member for Edinburgh West and sincerely thank her for bringing this issue to our attention. I look to the Minister to reach out and help bereaved children, who we all know really need that extra little bit of help. I know that families and friends are there in most cases, but sometimes we need to reach deeper; on many occasions, more is needed. Will the Minister respond in the positive fashion that I believe we all want her to?

It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate on a subject that I think many of us had not considered. I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) for bringing the debate forward, and for drawing the House’s attention to what is clearly a very big issue. I also thank her for talking about her personal experience. It is when hon. Members talk personally or, indeed, as the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, talk about people we are aware of that we start to get a sense of how such issues affect the people we serve. He summed the subject up when he talked about the eight-year-old who was more worried about her granny than herself. That internalisation of grief will obviously have an impact on the little ones we are talking about, so we need to start looking at this subject properly.

Bereavement affects many aspects of our lives and we have to put proper care and support in place for those who are bereaved; that is crucial for the health and wellbeing of anyone who is grieving, but particularly for children. It is difficult to get the statistics on this issue, as has been mentioned, but it is reckoned that by the age of 10, 60% of children and young people have experienced the loss of a family member in some way. Perhaps it is not a very close family member; possibly it is a grandparent, aunt or cousin. By the age of 16, between 4% and 7% of children in the UK will have lost a parent. That is quite a stark statistic. That will affect children from low-income households more than those who are born into wealthier ones. They may lose a parent or a sibling. The key factor for a grieving child is having a supportive adult in their life. Some parents might not be in a position to provide that support if they are overwhelmed by their own grief, so other adults, such as teachers and support workers, can do that.

In Scotland, we have done a lot of work with care-experienced children and young people; we have identified them and made sure that support is in place, but that was possible only because we identified them. We have to do the same for bereaved children, so that we can unlock available services. The Scottish Government have awarded the charitable organisation includem a contract to deliver the national childhood bereavement project, which will develop a curriculum in bereavement. It was created to improve support for those who are bereaved during their childhood.

During the pandemic, many children and young people not only suffered major disruption to their life and potentially lost a parent or grandparent prematurely, but were affected by social distancing measures that did not allow them the normal grief they would have had. Limits were put on numbers of people attending funerals, and there were barriers to the usual support. Even simple things such as getting hugs from family members were not possible. The project has tried to understand the experiences of children, young people and young adults in Scotland. The hon. Member for Edinburgh West mentioned that a 20-year-old is an adult. Is an adult really ready to cope with everything life can throw at them? In most cases, no. It is important that we look at how the issue impacts young adults as well.

To ensure that support is available to all young people who experience a bereavement, we need to know who those young people are. Schools have an important role to play. They are often aware of young people’s bereavement, and they will have a guidance teacher to whom the young person can speak, or pupil support assistants will be assigned to that young person to ensure the support is there. Schools are probably where there is good support, but are we sure it is always provided? We need to be careful about that. Ensuring that high-quality, person-centred care and support is available requires us to know who has to access it, and how do we sort that?

I have been dealing with a case over the last few months. I will not mention a great deal of detail, but this young person was bereaved as he was about to sit his exams. He actually did incredibly well in them, apart from one, in which he did not do so well. Often, exam boards do not properly take into account the impact of grief and bereavement, and the process that young people go through to get themselves back up and running. Of course, exam results can determine future chances, so it is not just schools and social services that should be aware. A register of the kind that the hon. Member for Edinburgh West is talking about would ensure that when young people were sitting exams, there was a flag or highlighter to show that they have gone through—and are still going through—a traumatic experience.

I have been involved in school records in Glasgow. When parents are filling in start-of-year information, there is now a box to tick to show whether the child or young person comes from an armed forces or veteran family. That allows support to be put in place, if required, for that young person. It would be easy to add another tick-box on the school register. I know that the hon. Lady is talking about far more than that, but it would be an easy, simple thing to do at the start of the year, so that we know that the issue is definitely recorded. With the best will in the world, while the school might be aware of the death of a parent, other family members can also have an important role in a young person’s life. This is about getting support in place, and being a voice for young people who would not necessarily have that voice themselves.

Finally, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Edinburgh West for the work she has done. I was not aware of how important this issue was until I started looking into it. As she said, this change should be a straightforward, easy thing to do. We can register people to vote in elections; we can register people with GPs; and we collect all sorts of information, so let us get that tick added to the box for these young people, to ensure that support is available when and however they need it.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Gary. I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) for securing this important debate, which I believe should have cross-party support. This should be a win-win solution for children. I pay tribute to the work done in support of bereaved children by charities and campaigners, which do such important work helping those in need.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West spoke with real passion and insight about her experience. We are all very grateful to her for sharing her personal story of the trauma, uncertainty and insecurity of losing a loved one as a child, and the impact that has on someone throughout their life. I pay my respects and tribute to her for her constant campaigning on this issue. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) also shared his insight and his concern about the challenges faced by bereaved children, and spoke of the need for mental health support in Northern Ireland. I thank him, and am grateful for his important contribution; his constituents will be proud of him today.

Losing a loved one can be devastating for any child, but unfortunately it happens to young people every day. While there are no official statistics on the number of children bereaved in the UK, according to the charity Winston’s Wish, one in 29 children—around one in every classroom—has experienced the death of a parent or sibling. A report by researchers at Cambridge University’s faculty of education found that those bereaved in childhood have an increased risk of being unemployed at age 30, and are more likely to report that they

“never get what they want out of life.”

The study found that although schools say bereavement support is a high priority, provision is “patchy”, with staff admitting that they lack the skills and capacity to help grieving children.

That is why it is so important that support structures are in place for struggling children, particularly when they lose a loved one, so that someone is there to talk to them, provide the support that is needed, and let them know that they are not alone in dealing with their loss. As we know, teachers are often the people children turn to when they do not know where else to go. It is therefore crucial that schools provide a truly compassionate culture for our children, and that teachers know how to speak with struggling children in a way that is sympathetic, careful, caring and helpful. On the whole, teachers and school support staff do an incredible job of that. Sadly, owing to the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, they have gained more experience of speaking with struggling children in recent years. We should not forget that school staff are not mental health staff; they are not bereavement or trauma experts, and we should not expect them to be.

The Government rightly ask that teachers direct struggling children towards expert resources in their community to help them deal with serious concerns and issues such as bereavement. However, for that system to work, those resources must be properly funded and actually accessible to those who need them. We need only speak to any teacher or school leader to know that, unfortunately, that is not the case. Right now, many children are dealing with loss and struggling with their mental health. They are struggling without support, unable to see a GP, stuck on a CAMHS waiting list for years, and left in limbo without support.

Mental health support teams are reaching only a fraction of the children whom they could benefit. No child should be left without the support that they need to be happy and healthy. That is why Labour has committed to giving children access to professional mental health counsellors in every school. We will ensure that children are not stuck waiting for referrals, unable to get support, and that children struggling with bereavement have someone to turn to—a specialist in that support. Teachers would not be expected to provide expert mental health services that they are not trained to deliver. We will make sure that every child knows that help is at hand.

For those young people for whom accessing support in school is not the right choice, we will deliver a new model of open-access youth mental health hubs, building on the work already under way in Birmingham, Manchester and elsewhere. That will provide an open door for all young people. All that means getting support to children early, preventing problems from escalating, improving young people’s mental health and not just responding when they are in crisis.

Alongside that investment in children’s mental health, Labour will oversee an expansion in the mental health workforce, resulting in more than 1 million more people receiving support each year. Labour will set a new NHS target to ensure that patients start receiving appropriate treatment, not simply an initial assessment of needs, within a month of referral.

For many children, losing a loved one can be an overwhelming loss. As we have heard, for some children that sadly spirals into more problems in the immediate and longer term. It is therefore essential that support is in place to help those children, and to ensure that the safety net is ready to catch every child in every school in every corner of the country, should they need that. Sadly, in recent years the Government have failed to provide that safety net for so many, with thousands of children across the country waiting far too long for support. We have set out our plan to make mental health treatment available to all in less than a month. In her response, I hope that the Minister will outline when her Department will start treating the matter with the urgency that it deserves. I hope that it will put a plan in place to ensure that all struggling young people, including bereaved children, receive its support.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary.

I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) for securing this debate on an important subject. I know that she has had personal experience of the issue, which is very close to her heart. I thank her very much for sharing that with us. I also thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who spoke movingly and eloquently about his own experiences with bereaved children. I know that many of us here will have experienced that and we share that profound sympathy for anyone going through bereavement.

The Government take the issue of supporting children and young people very seriously. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh West rightly pointed out, different elements of that support fall across Whitehall. I have a particular responsibility for children’s social services, which the hon. Member mentioned in her speech. Responsibility for responding to the needs of bereaved children ranges across the Department of Health and Social Care and the Home Office, and I will touch on that in my response. I should point out that the provision of support for bereaved children in Scotland is primarily a matter for the Scottish Government, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) for her contribution. My response will primarily focus on support provided in England, however, and I will reference the figures and policies that apply to England.

Losing a parent is heart-wrenching experience for anyone. I have experienced that as an adult, but it is profoundly disturbing for children to lose a parent. I welcome the work of Winston’s Wish—funnily enough, my father was called Winston—and that of many other people. How families, children and young people respond to the loss of a loved one is very personal to them. As a Government we recognise the deep impact that bereavement can have on a child’s life and the far-reaching consequences it may have on their mental health, which has been touched on, their wellbeing and their academic performance, which might require additional support.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West is right that there are no official statistics that record the number of bereaved children in the UK. The Childhood Bereavement Network—it too has been mentioned and I welcome its work on the issue—has estimated that 26,900 parents die each year in the UK, leaving approximately 46,300 dependent children aged zero to 17. Those figures are based on sources such as the census and mortality statistics in the absence of other data, so they can provide only a rough estimate.

Not all children will need access to services when they experience bereavement, which is largely testament to the wider family network support that so many children receive. Where additional support is needed, the Government are committed to ensuring that it is provided. It is important that we draw on all arms of Government, including the Department of Health and Social Care, to provide mental health support and services, as well as many other Government Departments working on programmes for families, which includes the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to ensure that we provide that joined-up support.

We are always looking at how we can improve support for bereaved children. As a result, the Government are committed to ongoing engagement with the voluntary sector and across Government to assess how we can provide further support for children who have been bereaved. Before coming to the issue of the register, I want to set out some of that support. One of the most important ways we can support bereaved children is through providing support for their family. Early help services play a pivotal role in supporting families, and can be used in some cases to support children through bereavement.

We have taken a number of actions to prioritise such services. “Stable Homes, Built on Love”, published earlier this year, sets out our bold and ambitious plans to reform children’s social care. Family help reforms are central to delivering our vision of a reformed system, will provide effective and meaningful support for families and will feature multi-disciplinary teams, bringing all those different partners together to meet the whole needs of a family. We are providing more than £45 million of additional funding to pathfind family help.

That builds on our wider support for families, including the £695 million supporting families programme, which this year sees its 10th anniversary. It has helped more than 650,000 vulnerable families by supporting the whole family to achieve positive and sustainable outcomes. The Government have also invested more than £300 million to establish family hubs and transform Start for Life services in 75 local authorities. Those family hubs will provide mental health support for parents and young people, with guidance on where to reach more access to mental health and emotional wellbeing support. Further, the statutory guidance, “Working Together to Safeguard Children”, is clear that local areas should have a comprehensive range of effective evidence-based services in place to address needs early.

I want to turn to mental health support, which has been rightly mentioned today. Hon. Members will be aware that that falls under the Department of Health and Social Care, but we are looking at expanding the help that young people can get in schools via the Department for Education. We are expanding specialist mental health support by investing an additional £2.3 billion a year into mental health services by 2023-24, so that 345,000 more children and young people a year will be accessing mental health support by then.

In schools, we are introducing mental health support teams, which will offer support to children experiencing common mental health issues such as anxiety and low mood, and will offer smoother access to external specialist support that we know can be so helpful. They cover 26% of pupils in England, a year earlier than originally planned. That will increase to 399 teams, covering about 35% of pupils, by April 2023, with more than 500 planned to be up and running by 2024.

More than 11,700 schools and colleges have received senior mental health lead training grants so far, which includes more than six in 10 state-funded secondary schools, backed by £10 million this year. In May 2021, £7 million was invested in our wellbeing for education recovery programme, building on the success of our 2020-21 £8 million wellbeing for education return programme. More than 14,000 state-funded schools and colleges in England benefited from the two programmes, which provided free expert training, support and resources for staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional pressures from covid-19, which included a focus on supporting pupils with bereavement.

We have announced £1.3 billion recovery premium funding for the 2021-22 and 2023-24 academic years for schools, which on top of pupil premium can be used to support pupil mental health and wellbeing. That can include counselling and other therapeutic services. As part of the support we offered in response to the covid-19 pandemic, we have provided a list of resources for schools to draw on in supporting pupils’ mental health and wellbeing, which includes signposting to the Childhood Bereavement Network, Hope Again, and resources from the Anna Freud Centre.

Bereavement is also considered in our thinking on the mental health and wellbeing part of the relationships, sex education and health curriculum, so that can be taught in schools. We are all aware that attendance is an issue post pandemic, and it is in our minds that bereaved pupils might find it harder than others to attend school, and to think about how schools and partners should work together with pupils, parents and carers to remove any barriers.

As the hon. Member for Edinburgh West is aware from our recent meeting, responsibility for the registry of bereaved children sits primarily with colleagues from the Home Office. The Home Office has recently confirmed there are no plans to change the law in that respect, but I would encourage the hon. Member to continue having such conversations with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Miss Dines), who is the Minister responsible for safeguarding. Everyone will agree that support for bereaved children is incredibly important. I know the hon. Member has already had some good conversations, and there is a lot of sympathy for the work that she talks about. I look forward to working with her, and continuing to talk about how we can best support children who have experienced profound loss, across the whole of Government.

I thank the hon. Member for her eloquent and emotional speech, and for securing a debate on this important subject. Loss, and other traumatic experiences, have a profound impact on children, and I pay tribute to the children and their families who are dealing with unimaginable grief. The Government are committed to providing support through early help services as required. That is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later, as has been mentioned. I look forward to the further work we can do in this area.

I thank the Minister for her comments, and everyone for their contributions. The thing that I take away from the debate is that we all agree. There is no dispute about the need to get the support that the Government are providing to those who need it. The family hub sounds like an excellent idea. The mental health support is there. Charities and organisations such as Winston’s Wish, as we have all mentioned, are doing tremendous work. They are running special camps for children to help support them; they are doing everything they possibly can. There is just one missing link in the chain, which is knowing where the children are.

We have learnt a lot of lessons from covid. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) mentioned to me, one of them is about safeguarding. As the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) said, children were deprived of hugs at a time when, for many of them, hugs were what they needed most. From today’s debate I have taken away a great deal of comfort, reassurance and belief that we will manage to do this. I will take the Minister’s advice and speak to the Minister responsible for safeguarding at the Home Office, and hopefully we will move on and achieve what we all want to achieve.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the potential merits of a registry of bereaved children.

Sitting suspended.