To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what support his Department is providing to vulnerable children in (a) Stoke-on-Trent and (b) Kidsgrove during the covid-19 outbreak.
We are taking a number of actions to ensure vulnerable children and young people across the country are supported and protected during COVID-19, including in Stoke-on-Trent and Kidsgrove. We have prioritised vulnerable children’s attendance in early years, schools and colleges throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, and supported local areas to improve attendance rates.
We have also ensured that local authorities can continue to support vulnerable children through the provision of an additional £3.2 billion to cope with COVID-19 related pressures, including in children’s social care. To support contact, we are providing laptops and tablets to children with a social worker who do not have access to a device otherwise, either privately or through school. We are also providing 4G wireless routers to children with a social worker at secondary school in order to support them to maintain contact with their social worker and/or access remote education independently at home. The department is working to provide these devices in the shortest possible timeframe; deliveries to schools and local authorities began in May and have continued throughout June. As of 14 June, we have shipped over 100,000 laptops and 20,000 4G routers, including 1,433 to Stoke-on-Trent local authority for children with a social worker and care leavers and 1,588 to Staffordshire local authority for children with a social worker and care leavers, where Kidsgrove is situated.
We have supported charities that provide vital services that are helping vulnerable children and young people. This includes providing £1.6 million for the NSPCC to expand its helpline so that adults can report their concerns about any child’s wellbeing. We have invested more than £7 million to Barnardo’s for the See, Hear, Respond service that offers targeted help to vulnerable children, young people and their families affected by COVID-19 with measures put in place to stop its spread. The Vulnerable Children National Charities Strategic Relief Fund opened in June, and is a £7.6 million joint Department for Education and Home Office fund for national children’s charities that offer services to safeguard vulnerable children that have financially suffered due to the impact of COVID-19. We have also announced more than £12 million for 14 innovation projects in social services, each taking a holistic, family-based approach to addressing the increased risk some children and young people are facing.
As well as these actions across the country, the department has also established Regional Education and Children’s Teams (REACT) to provide additional support to education and children’s services in local areas, with the one for West Midlands covering Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, which includes Kidsgrove. These teams, which include support from Ofsted, have a particular focus on improving vulnerable children’s attendance at education, safeguarding and wellbeing.
The department is also continuing to provide funding to the Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area to provide support for vulnerable families across the city affected by COVID-19. This has allowed for the provision of academic resources for young people so they can continue to engage with education, and activities during the school holidays. The department’s delivery partner – The Hubb Foundation – also provides weekly food parcels for vulnerable families in need of support. Between April 2020 and June 2020, the Hubb Foundation delivered 70,740 individual meals and engaged with 19,839 people, of whom 11, 789 were children, and delivered food and activities in 32 schools across the city.