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Department for Education

Part of Supplementary Estimate 2018-19 – in the House of Commons at 3:54 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 3:54 pm, 26th February 2019

The hon. Lady is absolutely right, and it is of course the local authorities that get the blame for not delivering the goods, even though we have not been giving them the money to do so in certain cases. There are also huge differentials in the way in which those local authorities use their money.

On children’s social care, I would like to hear more about sufficiency funding, which the Chair of the Education Committee, my right hon. Friend Robert Halfon, mentioned, and also about a 10-year plan. Children’s most important years are the ones before they go to school—those years will shape their careers in school and beyond more than anything else—so, for goodness’ sake, if we cannot have a 10-year plan for the social care needs of our children as they grow up, what can we have one for?

I am not going to have time to talk about schools today—I shall have to reserve those comments for the debate on Monday—but I just want to make the point that all the ongoing cost pressures on schools are going to be compounded by the recent directive from the Department for Education that was sent to schools on 6 February recommending a 2% pay rise for teachers this year. That is fine, but the Department’s report stated that

“a pay increase for teachers of 2%, in line with forecast inflation, is affordable within the overall funding available to schools for 2019 to 2020, without placing further pressure on school budgets.”

I am afraid that that is just not the case. School budgets are under huge pressure, certainly in my constituency and elsewhere in West Sussex, where we have been at the bottom of the pile for funding for many years. The cumulative effect of that underfunding means that there is no fat left to cut. All the savings have been made, so even a 2% increase in teachers’ pay, if it is to be paid for by the schools, will have enormous impacts on those school budgets’ ability to provide all the other services, which I will go into in detail in the debate on Monday.

On children’s services, a report commissioned by Action for Children, the National Children’s Bureau, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Children’s Society and Barnardo’s has come out today, and it confirms what we all know about the huge shortfall in funding for children’s social care. That shortfall was also identified in the work that the all-party parliamentary group on children did in the report “Storing Up Trouble” that we produced last year. It is estimated that there will be a £3 billion funding gap by 2025. One of the alarming observations in today’s report is that spending on early intervention services for children and young people fell from £3.7 billion to £1.9 billion between 2010-11 and 2017-18. That is a 49% decrease in spending on early intervention. At the same time, local authority spending on late intervention services for children and young people has risen from £5.9 billion to £6.7 billion—a 12% increase.

This is not rocket science. If we do not spend early to prevent the problems from happening to these children, we will pay for it later. We will pay for it socially—most importantly—and also financially. It is such a false economy not to do more in those early years around perinatal mental health, around child neglect and around making children ready for school, for growing up and for society generally. Some of the biggest falls in spending have been in some of the most deprived authorities in the country, where the impact can be greater because the other support services, including family support services, are not available to help those children.