Children’s Education Recovery and Childcare Costs

Debate between Alan Campbell and Will Quince
Tuesday 7th June 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Will Quince Portrait Will Quince
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Of course that is an important point, but let us not forget that this is the Government who introduced the 30 free hours and the offer of 15 hours for disadvantaged two-year-olds, so we do take this issue incredibly seriously. We do understand that parents are struggling now, and I am genuinely looking at what I can do with our spending review settlement to support parents with childcare at the moment.

It is also important that we take a step back and look at the broader issue in the round. The countries that the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) rightly referenced in her speech have taken many years to get to their position. They have taken an evidence-based approach, looking at the economic situation in their own countries, and particularly at female participation in the labour market and the difference that makes to the tax yield. I know that we will do the same. [Interruption.] As I said, we spend £3.5 billion, and we have done every year over the past three years on our early education entitlements. In the most recent spending review, we committed to an extra £160 million in 2022-23, another £180 million the year after, and £170 million the year after that, compared with the 2021-22 financial year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) is, of course, a passionate advocate for his great city, and he referenced the holiday activities and food programme, and family hubs. I had the fortune to visit one of the holiday activities and food programmes, organised by Port Vale football club and Adam and Carol. They are doing amazing work, offering enriching activities, healthy nutritious meals, and nutritional education to students across the city, and I very much thank them for that.

We will continue our investment in the holiday activities and food programme throughout the spending review period, so an additional £200 million per year over the next three years will ensure that those programmes continue to go from strength to strength. Stoke-on-Trent has been a successful beneficiary of family hubs, which represent a £500 million investment nationally. I very much look forward to the results and contribution that the great city of Stoke-on-Trent will make, because I know it has a huge ambition of going much further, and above and beyond the expectations of the family hub model in terms of the one-stop shop it can deliver.

There is no greater champion for Swindon than my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), and he is a strong advocate for parents within his constituency. I welcome the addition to his family just a handful of weeks ago. He rightly referenced the importance of provision for special educational needs and disabilities, and I would expect nothing less from a former disabilities Minister. He is right about the importance of units within mainstream schools, and that will be very much at the heart of the SEN review. As part of the spending review we secured an additional £2.6 billion of capital funding, £1.4 billion of which will be allocated for the next academic year. That will ensure that we build not just special school places, but those places within mainstream settings that are so important.

I was fortunate enough to go on a number of visits to nurseries with my hon. Friend, and I thank him for his words about early years staff and the role they play. I also thank Councillor Jo Morris for kindly showing me some of the challenges. My hon. Friend rightly raised the issue of business rates, which I will look at with the Chancellor. I must, however, correct him on one point, because schools pay business rates, but the issue is settled by the Department for Education.

To allay my hon. Friend’s concerns about ratios, I should say that we are consulting only on one extra child, and moving to the Scottish model, which has operated in Scotland for some time, but safety and quality are at the heart of everything we do. Finally, he mentioned the holiday activities and food programme and Draycott Sports Camp. It was a most fantastic visit, and I hope that the three-year funding settlement provides certainty that that funding will continue, and allows providers to be more innovative.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) rightly referred to free school meals and food insecurity. This Government have extended eligibility for free school meals several times, and to more groups of children than any other over the past half century. It would carry a hugely significant financial cost if we were to increase the income threshold, and it is right that provision is aimed at supporting the most disadvantaged, and those who are out of work or on the lowest incomes. I will, of course, continue to keep free school meal eligibility under review, to ensure that the meals support those who need them the most.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) speaks with great authority on this subject, given his experience. We always take an evidence based approach, and we focus not just on money in, but on outcomes and on what we are aiming to achieve. He was right to reference Sure Start. We are shifting to family hubs. I am not one to hugely criticise Sure Start, but there are a number of differences in the approach. He was right to focus on nurseries and maintained nursery schools, and that is an area I am looking closely at.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) rightly raised oracy. We are making significant investment in early years, but I and the Minister for School Standards would be happy to meet her and the APPG.

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions to today’s important debate. The Government are determined to create an education system that offers opportunity to everyone, no matter their circumstances or where they live. That is why we are leading the way and have announced a wider programme of ambitious reforms to truly level up outcomes and ensure that we build back better from the pandemic.

Alan Campbell Portrait Sir Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab)
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claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

Question agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House notes it is a year since the resignation of the Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins; condemns the Government’s continued failure in that time to deliver an ambitious plan for children’s recovery, including supporting their mental health and wellbeing; is concerned that the inadequate attention being paid to childcare, both for the youngest children and around the school day, is allowing the attainment gap to widen and costs to soar for parents at a time when there is significant pressure on household finances; and calls on the Government to match Labour’s ambitious plan for children’s recovery, including measures to keep childcare costs down for parents while the cost of living crisis continues.

Children’s Mental Health

Debate between Alan Campbell and Will Quince
Tuesday 8th February 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Will Quince Portrait Will Quince
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right: acute services, which are of course a Department of Health and Social Care lead, are very important. In the Department for Education, we have a role to play in doing as much prevention as we can and getting early identification and support in place for people so that they do not need to attend the acute unit, which then frees up space for those who desperately do need it.

Let me turn to some specific points made by hon. Members from across the House. Time is relatively short, but I will cover as many as I can. I remind the House that my door is always open; Members can come to see me if I do not address any of these points and I will be happy to meet them to discuss them in person.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron)—I have probably pronounced her constituency wrongly, so I apologise for that—and my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham) made positive and constructive comments about how it is so important that we remove the stigma and break the taboo about mental health, and put children and young people at the heart of our recovery. My hon. Friend mentioned Burnley FC and its work through football in the community. It does hugely important work and I echo his comments about it. Those Members, along with my hon. Friends the Members for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates), raised the issue of online harmful content, particularly about self-harm and suicide. They rightly said that the Online Safety Bill must tackle this issue, and I can certainly give the House the commitment and confirmation that the strongest protections in the Bill are on the safeguarding and protection of children.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) raised the issue of the Youth Concern charity in his constituency, rightly praising its work, and I echo his comments. He also rightly raised the issue of waiting times, which are too long in too many cases. We need to address them, and we are doing that in part with the NHS long-term plan. His experience of the Youth Custody Service is hugely welcome, and we will certainly be calling on him to discuss that further.

The hon. Members for Batley and Spen (Kim Leadbeater) and for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) rightly referenced the serious point about suicide. Of course every suicide is a tragedy, especially so when it involves a child or young person. DHSC has a suicide prevention plan, and we are investing £57 million in suicide prevention by 2023-24, as part of the NHS long-term plan. I know that the Minister for Care and Mental Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) will be happy to meet both of them to discuss that issue further.

My hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt) and for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) discussed the importance of green open spaces—I am amazed at the number of people in Cornwall who have not had access to the sea, so we certainly need to look at that. They also mentioned the importance of being in school wherever possible, and I have to say that there are no greater champions for the people of Milton Keynes, and Truro and Falmouth than my hon. Friends. The hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) raised the issue of mental health professionals in schools. We are rolling out mental health support leads and mental health support teams up and down the country, and I welcome his interest in this area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), a passionate advocate for children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent, has made a compelling case for family hubs and the family hub model and investment in Stoke-on-Trent, and we will no doubt discuss that further down the line. The hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) raised the issue of the importance of early intervention, and I totally agree on that; we are doing this in schools and colleges, and she was right to praise two schools in her constituency, in Whickham and Kingsmeadow.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) is a passionate advocate for children and young people with SEN and disabilities, and I am happy to discuss this issue with him later at greater length. I agree with him on the importance of early diagnosis. My hon. Friends the Members for Devizes (Danny Kruger) and for Sevenoaks, and the hon. Members for Bath (Wera Hobhouse)—I wish her a happy birthday—and for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake) rightly raised the issue of eating disorders. We have put additional investment in, and there is a new waiting time standard, but I know we need to do more in this area, and I would be happy to work with the hon. Lady.

I am proud of our record in supporting children and young people, and I am grateful for the ongoing support that hon. Members have given to this agenda. Can we do more? Yes. Can we always do more? Yes. We must do more and we will do more. I welcome the spotlight on this issue. Let me assure the House that good mental health and wellbeing for our children and young people remains a priority for me and this Government, and it will continue to be a priority as we recover and build back better from this pandemic, improving children’s futures and the future of our country.

Alan Campbell Portrait Sir Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab)
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claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

Question agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House recognises the importance of Children’s Mental Health Week; is concerned about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of young people and that there has been a 77% rise in the number of children needing treatment for severe mental health issues since 2019; calls on the Government to guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it and to provide specialist mental health support in every school, including a full-time mental health professional in every secondary school and a part-time professional in every primary school; and further calls for the Government to establish open access mental health hubs for children and young people in every community to ensure the best start to life for future generations.