Children’s Services

Education – in the House of Commons at on 27 February 2023.

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Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

What steps her Department is taking to support local councils in delivering children’s services.

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We spend close to £11 billion on children’s services, helping some of our most vulnerable children through challenging times. In addition, we recently set out an ambitious package of reforms, the “Stable Homes, Built on Love” strategy, backed by £200 million, and our improvement and intervention programme is working, with 58% of local authorities now rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted, compared with 36% in 2017.

Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

Given the issues surrounding Devon’s children’s services, is it possible to look for a granular solution that recognises the differences between the more urban south and the rural north of the county; one in which more localised solutions such as the northern opportunity area can be considered, as well as expediting the Government’s promised funding safety valve?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I thank my hon. Friend, who has raised this issue consistently on behalf of her constituents. It is important that we see an improvement in children’s services in Devon, and I recently met the council leader and the chief executive to stress how important that is to us. Nothing is off the table, and I reassure my hon. Friend that the safety valve case remains open and still under discussion.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

I represent a cross-borough constituency, so unfortunately I have to see two of everything, deal with two of everything, and experience two of everything. The differences between the children’s services of my two local authorities could not be more stark. I appreciate that the Minister has said that children’s services have improved, but how do we get those councils that are stuck in a rut to improve far more quickly, so that children in both parts of my constituency have the best life chances?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. That is exactly what our reforms are hoping to do. We have set out things such as a new national framework and are looking at things like the agency cap. [Interruption.] Somebody has just mentioned our record; as I have just said, in recent years we have managed to increase the number of local authorities rated as good or outstanding from 36% to 58%, and we will continue to do everything we can to improve that.