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Vulnerable Children: Support

Volume 708: debated on Monday 7 February 2022

5. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Education on support for vulnerable children. (905450)

I met the Secretary of State for Education in January to discuss shared priorities on a wide variety of issues, including vulnerable children.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that our Education Committee is doing an inquiry into the educational outcomes and opportunities of children in care. We know that 41% of care leavers aged 19 to 21 are not in education, employment or training. I welcome the Government’s bursary scheme, but a care leaver over the age of 21 is eligible to receive the bursary for apprenticeships only if they are in education, employment or training. Will my right hon. Friend look into the policy and work with colleagues across Government to see what more can be done to support the 59% of care leavers not eligible for this support?

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s passion for this particular group of people looking to find work. This is really a matter for the Secretary of State for Education, but the information I have been provided is that all care leavers aged up to 25 who take up an apprenticeship are considered to be in education or training and therefore would be eligible for the bursary.

From April, the Scottish Government are doubling the Scottish child payment to £20 a week a child. The Scottish child payment, together with the Best Start grant and Best Start Foods, will provide a package of financial support worth £8,400 by the time eligible families’ first child turns six. None of this support is available anywhere else in the UK. Have the UK Government considered matching the level of support that the SNP Scottish Government are offering to families with children in Scotland?

I do not think we have undertaken that assessment. Of course, a benefit of being part of the United Kingdom is the subsequent extra money per head that is given through the Barnett formula, and the Scottish Government can decide what to do with that. I am sure they will be carefully costing their independence things, or that sort of financial support will simply not be there.