Nadhim Zahawi: We must help children in need to achieve their full potential. That is why we are already implementing vital social care reforms to improve children’s safety and stability. On Friday, we launched the children in need review. That will develop the evidence so that we can understand what makes a difference to those children’s educational outcomes and what works to improve those...
Nadhim Zahawi: My hon. Friend has been a champion of children in need. The review is absolutely intended to establish best practice. It builds on work that we already do with our partners in practice local authorities, the expansion of which I announced last week.
Nadhim Zahawi: Local authorities have been increasing their investment in children’s services. I visited Hackney, Wigan and Doncaster, and my impression is that the real differentiator is leadership, which is why we are investing £2 million in the Local Government Association to look at leadership and the partners in practice programme.
Nadhim Zahawi: Different local authorities do things differently. I visited Stafford, and Stafford and Newcastle have improved the outcomes for children in need by reaching out to those families, rather than by investing in bricks and mortar. There are different ways to deal with this, and local authorities do it best.
Nadhim Zahawi: Local government spending for all services, including children’s services, is £200 billion. We do see leadership as a driver of better outcomes for those children. That is why we are making the investment, including the £15 million that we announced for eight more partners in practice, which help local authorities that are struggling. For example, Leeds is helping Kirklees.
Nadhim Zahawi: I commend the hon. Lady for her work as chair of the all-party group on knife crime and for securing a debate on the subject last September. I assure her that the Department is committed to making schools as safe as we possibly can, and that is why we are working closely with the Home Office to reinforce the important message that it is totally unacceptable to bring knives into schools.
Nadhim Zahawi: The hon. Lady has heard from the Secretary of State regarding school finance, and all I would add is that the Department is working with the Home Office, and of course other stakeholders—the police, Ofsted, and the Health and Safety Executive—on updating our school security guidance to make clear the risks of carrying knives and to provide advice on dealing with this important...
Nadhim Zahawi: I do welcome the Home Office’s commitment to this, and I hope the Mayor of London will do the same for the schools of the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) in Croydon.
Nadhim Zahawi: The hon. Lady knows we are making further investment in mental health in schools to make sure that every school is able to deal with the issue in an appropriate way.
Nadhim Zahawi: It is ultimately the responsibility of parents to assure themselves about the suitability of any private tutor they might choose to employ before they engage them, for example by seeking and checking references, and asking to see a copy of any Disclosure and Barring Service certificate. It is a serious criminal offence to seek to work with children in a regulated activity after being barred...
Nadhim Zahawi: I will certainly meet the hon. Lady to discuss the case about which she emailed us earlier today. I would be very happy to do that.
Nadhim Zahawi: We have increased high needs funding, including by an additional £130 million this year. Local authorities are responsible for their high needs budgets. I have not heard wide concerns about funding not being used to support special educational needs, but I am of course happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss the matter further.
Nadhim Zahawi: Our aim is that every child will have a plan in time. Those who do not can be assured that their support will be maintained, but most local authorities are on target to deliver the health and care plans.
Nadhim Zahawi: I certainly join my hon. Friend in his thanks, and I would actually like to meet him to look at what other support we can provide. I also commend the director of children’s services at Northamptonshire County Council for doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances.
Nadhim Zahawi: The Government are working with the sector via the Adoption Leadership Board to address the issue of adopter numbers early on, to ensure that there remain enough approved adopters for children who are waiting.
Nadhim Zahawi: The experience around the country does not reflect the hon. Gentleman’s view. The opposite is happening. Parents are getting places, especially under the 30 hours a week of free childcare for three and four-year-olds. Almost 300,000 children are now taking up those places, as we announced last week.
Nadhim Zahawi: Local authorities are responsible for how they deliver support to families, through children’s centres as well as other support. Many authorities are focusing on getting support directly to families rather than investing in bricks and mortar.
Nadhim Zahawi: We are currently in negotiations with the Communication Trust. We are looking at whole-workforce training to ensure that we deliver better quality outcomes for children with speech and other disabilities.
Nadhim Zahawi: We have done some excellent work on this, and an announcement is imminent.
Nadhim Zahawi: I congratulate the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) on securing this debate. I would like to thank everyone present for their contributions to this valuable discussion. I have twins who are now 21, one of whom is asthmatic. The hon. Lady talked eloquently and passionately about her own experience, and having an anaphylactic fit is similar to an asthma attack. We also have a...