Edward Timpson – 2014 Speech at BASW Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the then Children’s Minister, at the BASW Conference on 10 June 2014.

Thanks, Bridget [Bridget Robb, BASW Chief Executive], it’s a pleasure to be here.

Many of those speaking here today will, quite rightly, pay tribute to what an incredible, inspiring, life-changing job all of you do – and I can only add my own gratitude and admiration.

But social work has a personal resonance for me that goes beyond politics, beyond my role as a minister.

Having grown up with around 90 foster children – 2 of whom we adopted – and worked as a family lawyer in the care system for 10 years, I’ve seen up close and personal the pressures that social workers are under – and also the wonders they can work in the most desperate circumstances. It’s something I always remind myself of when I see social workers being pilloried.

I remember, as a young child, social workers coming to our home so regularly that on occasion I naively thought they were family friends. But what I also saw were social workers (as I now know them to be) coming round irrespective of the time day or night, to settle in a new foster child fulfil a long-distance contact arrangement or deal with another emergency on their watch.

And I’ll never forget the look of sheer relief on the face of a social worker who arrived at our house to drop off 9-month-old triplets having ended a desperate search for a suitable placement. An example of never knowing what the life of a social worker and a foster family can throw at you.

And later, in my work in the family courts, there were many times I sat alongside social workers making difficult and momentous decisions that would change lives and having to justify them both in and out of court. Often cooped up in a stuffy conference room for most of the day, planning, negotiating, resolving conflict, seeking legal advice, seeking out a sandwich, all whilst trying to juggle the other cases outside of court they were responsible for. A tough environment and a tough job.

So I understand better than most what you’re up against and the hard work and dedication it takes to deliver for our most vulnerable children. Now I’m not in the business of ignorantly criticising the social work profession. Yes, I think it needs improvement. Yes, I think we can do better. And yes, I think the structures you work in are often outdated and don’t support you as they should. But I’m not negative about the profession as a whole.

Because, as the Prime Minister has also acknowledged, you carry out some of the most important work in our society – work that’s on a par with other front-line professionals – doctors, nurses, police and firefighters – who save lives.

But, as we know, too often you only get public recognition for the bad things – when things go wrong. I’m keen to work with you to break this cycle, to build public confidence in the profession so you can get on with doing what you came into social work to do: your best for our most vulnerable families.

It’s why we’ve supported Frontline and Step Up, programmes which both, in their way, are changing the image of social work; making it an aspirational profession rather than one which has too often been viewed by the public as a last-choice career. So it’s hugely encouraging that Frontline received 2700 applications for its first 100 posts, all of them from top graduates. That shows that we can change the image of the profession.

But it isn’t just about image, as you all know well. I also want to change the way social work operates. It’s right to say that we’ve made some progress already in reducing red tape and freeing you from unduly restrictive assessment timescales. But as social workers I’ve met on recent visits have told me, there’s no point us telling you we’ve removed a timescale if you’re spending your life filling in forms.

And there’s no point claiming that our new graduates to the profession are going to change the way we do things, if they end up operating in the same old unchanged structures of the past – undersupervised, overwhelmed by the responsibility of individual case-holding, exhausted within a few years and looking for a way out.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Work’s Inquiry into the State of Social Work, published by BASW last December, rightly picks up some of these themes too.

And that’s why our innovation programme is so important. It’s our attempt to free you from traditional structures which I believe have held the social work profession back.

We want to trust you to innovate and raise standards – as we do other professionals in health and in education – and not just when things are going wrong, but when they’re going right.

This isn’t about privatisation, as I’ve read a couple of times. If we wanted to privatise failing local authority children’s social care departments, we already can. The legislation already exists. But the fact is that we’ve never done it.

The innovation programme isn’t about failure. It’s about improving the adequate and the good – making them better, good, even great. It’s about letting you show us what you can do to raise standards if we liberate you from the same old structures that social work has operated in for so long. I want to see new partnerships with the third sector, with the private sector too if they can find a role to play – but driven by you, social workers and councils. This isn’t something that’s going to be imposed from the top. It’s the front line that needs to be in the driving seat, helping design services that are unashamedly geared towards the interests of children.

Look at Kingston and Richmond – an entirely new community interest company set up outside the local authorities to deliver social care for children in the two boroughs. This has been set up in the interests of children – and only for their benefit.

But I’m alive to the debate within the sector – and I know BASW’s own consultation response highlighted several concerns – and we will look carefully at what we can do to take account of concerns raised about profiteering by the private sector, but without limiting too far the freedom I want to give you.

Because, this freedom we’re trying to offer to social workers to create new, innovative modes of service delivery is an expression of our faith in you.

Why can’t social workers – like the ground-breaking Evolve YP practice, or local authorities – be trusted with any flexibility, any freedom at all in how they deliver services?

Family doctors – independent contractors to the NHS – are trusted with it. Academies – free to innovate subject to the same inspection regime as other schools – are trusted with it. But why not social workers? I find it frustrating that this case still needs making, so would welcome, really welcome it if the profession did more to stand up for itself here. And if you do, you have my support.

Because what we’re doing is freeing you, but yes also challenging you as never before, to do what you do even better. Which is why the proposals have been supported by the LGA, by SOLACE and to a large extent by ADCS – none of them exactly market radicals!

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more of this debate in weeks to come so I won’t labour it any more today, but I would ask you all to think about it and ask yourselves: why shouldn’t we be trusted with greater flexibility? Why does innovation have to be imposed from the top down and only when local authorities have failed, rather than us being allowed to develop it from the bottom up, to make good services better?

Isabelle Trowler, our Chief Social Worker, who spoke at the BASW AGM in April, worked from the bottom up in Hackney to transform services there. Reclaiming Social Work has been an effective model and offers an approach which others are considering around the country. We’ve had a number of bids into the innovation programme aiming to do similar things, and I‘m encouraged by that.

Isabelle’s now leading the work recommended by Sir Martin Narey, working with children and family social workers to identify and define what a children’s social worker needs to know and be able to do. We’ll be consulting on this in July, and I’m sure that BASW will wish to contribute.

And we’ll be piloting around the country the licence to practise, to see whether that is a better way of testing the high skills levels needed in the toughest areas of child and family social work which are critical to secure safer, better lives for children.

I’m also pleased to announce today that we’re supporting another cohort of Step Up to Social Work as well. It will begin in January 2016.

Step up has been a big success – producing 415 new social workers, with another 304 currently undergoing training in 75 local authorities.

According to an evaluation by Kings College London, an impressive 93% of those who completed the course have got a job in social work. And a whopping 97% of this second cohort of trainees, who come from varied backgrounds, tell us that the combination of intensive hands-on experience, academy study and close supervision left them well prepared to begin work. To quote a Step Up trainee Jessica, a manager with a background in youth work:

I’ve been raving about Step Up to all my friends and family, I’m really impressed and grateful to be on such a high quality course with such dedicated staff supporting us.

Jessica had previously been considering a move into social work, but wasn’t sure if she had the relevant skills and how she could cope financially with a more traditional entry route. Step Up has proved to be the perfect fit. We’ve had teachers and Samaritans, nursery nurses and legal executives, even a forensic examiner, joining the course.

So it’s hardly surprising that, as with Frontline, demand for places is high; with an unprecedented 3,633 applications for a little over 300 places in 2013. We receive over 200 inquiries a week about joining. So for this fourth cohort starting in January 2016, I’d like to encourage councils who haven’t yet participated to join in. We’ll be contacting all the local authorities currently participating – so if you want to join, please contact us.

Because, aside from the benefits for its trainees, Step Up stands out thanks to the way in which it gives councils the opportunity to take the lead on training social workers and raising standards.

But it’s worth remembering that when it launched in 2010, Step Up was seen as controversial and ground breaking. A bit of a daring leap.

And that’s exactly the leap I’m asking you to make when I urge you to contribute to the new children’s social care innovation programme. There’s £30 million available this financial year, and there’ll be more the following year, if the ideas are there to merit it. We want your proposals for how to develop and spread new, more effective ways of supporting vulnerable children. They don’t have to involve delivering services outside of the local authority – in fact we expect very many of the projects we fund will be about transforming things within local authorities.

We want people from every area – local authorities, social enterprises, companies, not-for-profit bodies – to come forward with their most ambitious, most adventurous ideas.

We’ll help develop, test and look to expand the most promising schemes; providing whatever tailored support is needed.

And although we welcome proposals for all areas of care, we’ve decided to focus particularly on two: rethinking support for adolescents in or on the edge of care, and rethinking how children’s social work operates.

But the innovation programme isn’t just about supporting a bright idea here and there.

It’s about creating the conditions where innovation can thrive throughout the system. Increasing incentives to excel. Removing blocks that stand in your way. And allowing the best in the field to expand and spread what works.

This isn’t – as you may have read – about ideology. It’s about what works.

We do hope that some people will ask how we can “combine the skills of local authorities with the best of the voluntary and commercial sector”.

These aren’t my words. They’re the words of Alan Wood, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and also Director of Children Services in Hackney.

Frankly, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

So, let me stress again, this isn’t about privatisation and nor is it about centralisation. It’s not about the government taking decisions and overriding local decision making.

It’s not about government letting giant contracts to big companies and losing sight of what – or rather who – really matters: the children.

But it is about saying to councils that they can decide how best to manage their children’s social care – by removing artificial restrictions. It’s the outcomes you achieve, not the structures you work in, that matter.

Some of our major children’s charities have welcomed the initiative, though I accept that several are anxious about private sector involvement and are keen for more discussion about the practical implications. And that’s absolutely right that that happens.

As Javed Khan, Barnardo’s’ new chief executive has said:

The future has got to be about how you invite an organisation like Barnardo’s to the table of the thinking, the planning, the rethinking and then service commissioning.

It is organisations like Barnardo’s that are big enough, experienced enough, knowledgeable enough about what the right thing to do is from the frontline that can be part of that right at the start as a strategic partner.

So my conclusion is simple. I want to do whatever it takes to help you to put children’s needs first. But you have to seize the opportunity here. It won’t be there forever – the money behind the innovation programme is only available for two years although we hope its impact will last a lot longer than that. So we’ll be seeking to spread the best ideas around the country and embed them in practice.

I’m under no illusions about the pressures you’re under to meet ever-growing demand for your services and I am genuinely grateful for all that you do. I only need to cast my mind back to some of the almost impossible situations social workers involved with my own family had to try and resolve over the last 30 years to appreciate the sacrifices you make in the pursuit of giving every child the protection, care and bright future they deserve.

But I’m also challenging you to do better, and offering you help and support if you want to step up and take it.

My hope is that we can work together to do this and give the most vulnerable children in our society what we want for own children – nothing but the best.

Thank you.

Edward Timpson – 2012 Speech on the Catalysation of Childhood

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the then Children’s Minister, on 17 October 2012.

Thanks for that kind introduction Mark. It’s a pleasure to be here.

This morning I want to concentrate on some of the big challenges facing parents, politicians and industry leaders in making sure advertising and media doesn’t catalyse children into adults too quickly.

Some of these challenges are still very new to us. We don’t know what impact they’ll have on children in the years ahead. Others are far more familiar. These are the age-old issues that parents have been fretting over for decades and continue to fret over today.

So on the one hand we have the march of weird and wonderful – sometimes frankly bizarre – technologies that are transforming the way our children access information and socialise. I read an article in The Telegraph the other day about a puffer jacket that automatically expands to give you a hug when someone likes your Facebook status. I’ve resisted the temptation to buy one…

On the other hand, we have what might be classified as the ‘bad penny’ challenges. The ones that keep on turning up over the years. Issues over the messages young people are exposed to in the home or in the street. Swearing, violence, sex or inappropriate imagery.

Neither challenge – whether originating in the 21st century or 20th – is remotely simple to deal with.

So I’d like to offer my real appreciation to the Advertising Association, and its members, for their thoughtful, positive engagement with Government on the Bailey Review over the last year.

It is very difficult for those not directly involved – and I have to include myself here – to appreciate fully the very fine judgements involved in regulating advertising and media.

Arbitrating over matters of public taste and decency is not remotely straightforward: particularly when opinion varies so subtly between the regions, sexes and generations – even between parents. One person’s supreme indifference can easily be another’s grave concern.

In this context, I must applaud the industry as a whole – including major brands and retailers – for their intelligent approach over the last year in tackling the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.

Thanks to your leadership, we are now making steady progress against most of Reg Bailey’s major recommendations. Better than that, we are making swift progress.

In the space of a few short months, you have made it simpler for parents to navigate media regulation with the launch of Parent Port. Only a year after its launch, a good proportion of parents already know about it. A great achievement.

On top of this, the ASA has issued new guidelines on outdoor ads: aimed at reducing children’s exposure to provocative on-street advertising.

Internet Service Providers are making it easier for parents to police the material their children see online.

The Advertising Association has been working with Media Smart to develop the excellent new Digital Adwise Parent Pack – which is being previewed today ahead of its public launch later this month – to give parents invaluable guidance on digital advertising.

And the industry is meeting parents’ expectations better when it comes to pre-watershed TV, with new guidelines issued for TV and radio.

These achievements deserve considerable fanfare and fireworks. So my thanks again for your positive engagement with government – and my congratulations.

Over the last year, we have seen that advertising in the UK has some of the most rigorous protections for children in the world. It is exceptionally well regulated. It is responsive. It is effective. It is regarded globally as the gold-standard for all others to follow.

From a personal perspective, I have no desire at all to rock this particular boat. I am firmly of the belief that heavy handed and unnecessary government regulation of the ad industry is to be avoided.

But looking ahead, it’s vitally important that advertisers and the wider business community continue to contribute towards, and lead, this debate. I’m very keen on the ‘work together’ approach espoused by today’s conference.

So it is encouraging to see so many major brands here, alongside advertising agencies and the media. And to see them put pen to paper on improved ways of working.

The industry’s pledge, led by the Advertising Association, on reducing commercial pressures on children – restricting the recruitment of under-16s as brand ambassadors or peer-to-peer marketers – is a case in point: embraced by global brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Unilever.

On top of this, it is refreshing to see so many of the UK’s leading high street chains drawing up their code of good practice – through the British Retail Consortium – on appropriate retailing to children, including the design, materials and display of children’s clothes.

Edward Timpson – 2011 Speech about Children in Care

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the Conservative MP for Crewe and Nantwich, in the House of Commons on 10 February 2011.

Mr Speaker, I should like to begin by thanking you for granting this short but none the less invaluable and timely debate on improving outcomes for children in care. With Eileen Munro’s final report on child protection due out in April, the spotlight on looked-after children in this country is rightly intensifying, as we strive to narrow not the gap but the chasm that still exists between the life chances of children in care and others. As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on looked-after children and care leavers, I was disappointed not to be able to contribute to the recent excellent Backbench Business Committee debate on disadvantaged children, which was opened with great force by my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds). I am therefore delighted to have this opportunity to speak up for all those children and young people in care.

I also declare an interest as a non-practising family law barrister specialising in care cases and, perhaps more importantly, as someone who shared their home for more than 30 years with 90 foster children and two adopted brothers. I have no doubt that that experience not only shaped and hardened my strong sense of social justice but propelled what some would argue was my misplaced desire to come to this place and fight for better outcomes for children in care. Indeed, I had no hesitation in using my maiden speech almost three years ago to do just that.

I want to pay a warm—and, I stress, in no way sycophantic—tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who is replying to the debate today. He has shown a profound interest in and deep knowledge of this subject. In government, he has embarked on the direct, purposeful, common-sense programme of reform that he advocated in opposition. As he has said, the programme is committed to

“infusing the entire care system with a culture of aspiration, hope and optimism for each young person”.

I am sure that his recent appearance before the all-party group, when more than 100 passionate young people came to Parliament to make their views known directly—and, on occasion, quite forcefully—to the Minister, did not put him off his stride. Instead, I am sure that the experience provided him with ample proof of the importance of the work that he has undertaken.

I am sure that much of what I am about to say will sound as though I am teaching the Minister to suck eggs, but I hope to persuade him that, in supporting his efforts, there is even more we can do to help children in care to overcome the odds that are still so heavily stacked against them. Let us look at the facts. Looked-after ​children are four times more likely than others to receive the help of mental health services, nine times more likely to have special needs requiring assessment, support and therapy, seven times more likely to misuse alcohol and drugs, 50 times more likely to end up in prison, 60 times more likely to become homeless, and 66 times more likely to have children of their own who will need public care. As if that were not enough, there are four times fewer children in care getting five good GCSEs including English and maths than their peers.

The financial and societal cost of those appalling statistics is heavy. According to Demos’s recent report “In Loco Parentis”, published last year, a young person who leaves care at 16 with poor mental health and no recognised qualifications could cost the state more than five times as much as one who leaves care with good mental health and strong relationships and who goes on to university or an apprenticeship and finds a job. The costs to society are, perhaps, immeasurable.

I recognise that there are a number of counter-arguments to the picture that I have just painted. We must exercise a degree of caution about making direct, unqualified comparisons between children who have been through the care system and those who have not. In too many cases, children who enter the care system are already deeply damaged by their early-life experiences, which even the best possible care might be unable to unravel and overcome by the time they reach adulthood. We must therefore be careful to view such children’s outcomes in that context.

We must also acknowledge the tremendous amount of fantastic care and support that is benefiting thousands of children in care every day. I have seen it and lived with it myself; I have witnessed at first hand what good parenting and appropriate emotional support can achieve. We should not forget that there are many children whose time in care was an enriching life-changing experience that led to a successful career and a fulfilling personal life. We need to be better and more open about accentuating the positive work that is done and not drag all those who work in the care system down with the structural failures within it.

In many ways, we do not have a single care system, but more of a fragmented patchwork of care systems where good practice thrives in some parts of the country, despite the design of the system. In other areas, however, as noted in the Select Committee report on looked-after children during the last Parliament:

“The quality of experience that children have in care seems to be governed by luck to an…unacceptable degree”.

Let us be clear. As I know the Minister accepts and appreciates, there is no quick fix. This is going to require a cross-party commitment over a generation to build a care system that is proactive, responsive, joined up and brimming with high-quality multidisciplinary support, giving a real and enduring priority to improving outcomes for children both in and on the edge of care.

As Sean Cameron and Colin Maginn lay down in their paper of March 2007:

“The challenge for social work is to provide the quality of care and support that is to be found not just in the average family home, but also in the most functional of families.”

So how do we achieve that end?

Based on strong body of evidence and research by Demos, the three main factors associated with achieving the most positive experiences of care and the best ​outcomes for looked-after children are: first, early intervention and minimal delay; secondly, stability during care; and, thirdly, supported transitions into independence. This is backed up by Mike Stein of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who similarly identified the priorities for ensuring resilience and well-being for looked-after children in later life as preventing children entering the care system through pre-care intervention, improving their care experience and supporting young people’s transitions from care.

The fact is that we need a comprehensive response at all stages of childhood, but there is unquestionably in my mind, amid a growing consensus, the need for a strong emphasis on and commitment to early intervention and prevention, which are absolutely key. The hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen)—a standard bearer for all things early intervention—said in his latest report, which was commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that

“we need to rebalance the current culture of ‘late reaction’ to social problems to help create the essential social and emotional bedrock for all children to reap the social, individual and economic rewards.”

To that end, I welcome the Government’s financial commitment to that programme through the early-intervention grant, the expansion of family nurse partnerships and the widening of free nursery care for two-year-olds. Like others, I would also want to highlight the superb work done by Home-Start in my Crewe and Nantwich constituency and across the country to help families struggling with the demands of very young children. They deserve proper and longer-term support, so I look forward to the Minister taking the opportunity today to reiterate that to local authorities in no uncertain terms.

By getting in early before problems become entrenched, Action for Children and the New Economics Foundation have calculated a potential saving to the economy of £486 billion over 20 years—imagine that. Just as relevant would be the transformation of life chances for so many young people. The brutal truth is, however, that even with more targeted and consistent preventive work, there will still be children who need the state to intervene in their lives. For them, stability is the foundation stone.

Young people who experience stable placements providing good-quality care are far more likely to succeed educationally, to be in work, to settle in and manage their accommodation after leaving care, to feel better about themselves and to achieve satisfactory social integration into adulthood than young people who have experienced further movement and disruption during their time in care. With stability comes the security as well as the time for children to develop those all-important secure attachments, but much of that is undermined by frequent and disruptive moves, which are too often a feature of a child’s experience in care. As one year 8 child in care put it:

“What was the point in trying to please people, because you would just get moved on again?”

Children need and want a sense of belonging, of family, to feel reciprocal emotional warmth and to have someone who loves them unconditionally and believes in them.​

It is true that in recent years there has been a small drop in the number of looked-after children with three or more placements during the year, but there is still a long way to go. We are short of about 10,000 foster carers. Given that foster placements make up about three quarters of all care placements, and given that in 2010 the number of looked-after children stood at 64,400—up 6% on 2009—a relentless recruitment and retention drive for foster carers remains crucial if we are to increase the prospect of providing every child with the right placement, rather than providing the right child for the placement.

However, foster carers are only part of the stability equation. The recruitment and retention of social workers continues to cause concern, which is the driving force behind the Government’s new “step up to social work” scheme. With a high staff churn rate comes more instability for the child. That is not new. Lord Laming, Moira Gibb and, most recently, Eileen Munro have produced reports in the last few years that pinpoint the tick-box culture that has spread its tentacles across social work and has sapped the morale and professional judgment of social workers. Eileen Munro hit the nail on the head when she said:

“Compliance with regulation and rules often drives professional practice more than sound judgment drawn from freed up social workers spending meaningful time interacting and building a trusting relationship with children, young people and families.”

As the Minister has said previously, taking a child into care is not a science but a subjective judgment. To be able to make that and other judgments correctly requires experience, consistency, and the time and space that make it possible to really understand the needs of a particular child. A change of social worker every five minutes will not lead to good child-focused decisions. But it does not have to be that way.

I am conducting a cross-party inquiry into the educational attainment of looked-after children, with the welcome support of the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and Lord Listowel. A few weeks ago we visited Hackney children’s services to observe the way in which children’s social care in the borough had undergone a complete shift in the culture of practice and management by reclaiming social work through the establishment of social work units. There are teams consisting of a social worker, a family therapist, a children’s practitioner, a unit co-ordinator who takes all the red tape out of the hands of the social worker, and a consultant social worker who, under the old system, would have gone into management and had little or no contact with children of families, but is now using his or her experience on the front line.

The results have been dramatic. We have seen a reduction in the number of looked-after children from 470 to 270, a reduction in the number of agency staff from 50% to just 7%, a 50% reduction in sickness levels, a 5% reduction in overall costs, high levels of morale, and a strong increase in academic achievement among the children in the care of those teams. That example of best practice shows what is possible at a lower cost. Other local authorities have shown an interest in copying the model, but let us make sure that they all know about it. The Government have rightly embarked on a trial of flexible assessment time scales enabling social workers to exercise their professional judgment more effectively, and I note that Hackney council is among those taking part.​

Despite those welcome initiatives, the lines of accountability in local authorities remain cluttered, blurred and confusing. Local safeguarding children boards, directors of children’s services, children’s trusts, children in care councils, virtual school heads, corporate parenting boards, independent reviewing officers and others are all there to champion the voice of the vulnerable child, but, as Roger Morgan, the children’s rights director, will confirm, many children in care feel that their voices are lost in the myriad management decisions being made in their name. The problem needs to be sorted out. I would welcome a commitment from the Minister to look formally into how the voice of children in care can be better and more clearly represented, so that all who act as corporate parents have them constantly at the forefront of their thoughts, words and deeds.

I mentioned my current inquiry into the educational attainment of looked-after children. I do not want to pre-empt its outcome, but the very fact of its existence demonstrates the central role that education plays in improving outcomes for children in care. Evidence that the inquiry has taken from young people in or leaving care suggests strongly that when they have had a stable educational experience not only are their prospects of future employability and independent living greatly enhanced, but their self-esteem, confidence and belief in themselves are significantly boosted. That is why I am reassured by the Government’s guarantees that all looked-after children will receive the pupil premium, and that that additional money will be attached—metaphorically speaking—to all children wherever their education is taking place. However, it would be remiss of me not to add a further plea to my hon. Friend the Minister. If it is right that the personal education allowance is to be rolled into the pupil premium, I urge him to make robust representations to his ministerial colleagues in the Department and the Treasury and to put to them the compelling case for looked-after children to receive an additional sum—a pupil premium-plus, as it were—to reflect their often acute problems, and therefore their heightened need for one-to-one support, psychological input such as cognitive behavioural therapy and other specific interventions relevant to ensuring their prospects at school are not compromised in any way by their looked-after status.

Good quality support does reap rewards. We need only look at the achievements of the Horizon centre in Ealing, which was opened by the Minister and which I recently visited. Through offering young people in and leaving care a safe space where they can get financial, emotional and psychological support, and education and training, the centre has helped to increase the number of children in Ealing borough going to university from 7% to almost 20%. It is an example to others that the transition from care into independence can be successful with the right level and length of support. The so-called cliff-edge that many children leaving care face needs to become a thing of the past, and be replaced by an appropriate and incremental release of support backed up by a safety net when needed, something their peers—who on average do not now leave home until the age of 25—often take for granted, me included. Why should looked-after children be any different?

If time had allowed, I would have wanted to cover much more ground, but before giving the Minister his opportunity to reply, there are four specific issues I want him to respond to in detail, if not today, then at a ​later date. First, we need to widen the range and choice of care. At present, about 14% of looked-after children are in a residential setting. That may be too high, or it may be too low; I simply do not know. Yet in Denmark and Germany more than half of looked-after children are in residential care. Why the huge difference? Is residential care in our country now seen as a placement of last resort? As my hon. Friend the Minister has said, there is scope for seeing whether a greater use of children’s homes is appropriate. The Select Committee report on looked-after children to which I have referred stated that

“the potential of the residential sector to offer high quality, stable placements for a minority of young people is too often dismissed. With enforcement of higher standards, greater investment in skills, and a reconsideration of the theoretical basis for residential care, we believe that it could make a significant contribution to good quality placement choice for young people.”

Indeed, the New Economics Foundation report, “A False Economy”, estimated that for every pound invested in providing an appropriate residential placement leading to good outcomes, a return of between £4 and £7 was created for the economy. With the continued shortage of foster carers and the hit-and-miss aspect of matching children to the right placement still prevalent, I invite the Minister to consider seriously the case for a full and proper national review of residential care, to ensure we can be confident that we are offering children the right placement for them, not simply the only placement available.

Secondly, on looked-after children in custody, I urge the Minister to look urgently at ending the continuing and unjustified anomaly whereby, unlike a child placed under a care order, a looked-after child who was voluntary accommodated prior to custody loses their looked-after status on entering custody and therefore the support of their social worker and other key professionals. I know that people’s minds have been on prisons for another reason today, but this is a serious issue that merits action. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister spoke in favour of putting this discrepancy right during the Committee stage of the Bill that became the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, so I hope that now he is in a position to do something about it, he will do so.

Thirdly, I echo the words of Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the family division, who has called for the prioritising of children’s cases in court above all other family law proceedings, especially judicial decisions on placement in care and adoption. I am aware that there is currently a review of all aspects of family law, so I hope this plea from our most senior family judge does not go unheeded.

Fourthly, more than 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are being looked after by local authorities, but there continue to be concerns about their access to fundamental services such as education, as well as their vulnerability to trafficking. I know the Minister is vexed by this issue and trust he will look into it closely.

I do not doubt that this Government and all previous Governments of whatever political hue have been, and are, determined to improve outcomes for children in care. So am I. With the tightening of purse-strings, the temptation for some will be to continue on a course of crisis management. My message to the Government, local authorities and all those who work with children in care is this: “Be bold, be smart and, above all, show you really care.”​

Edward Timpson – 2015 Speech to the Centre for Adoption Support

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Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the Minister of State for Children and Families, on 6 March 2015.

Hello everyone.

I’m very sorry to Delyth [Evans, Post-Adoption Support Project Manager at Adoption Matters] and everyone from Caritas and Adoption Matters that I can’t be with you today. But I hope the Max Headroom digital version of me makes up for it.

It’s been a real pleasure to see how far the Centre for Adoption Support has come in just 1 year.

Determining how long an adopted child will need extra support for is like asking “how long’s a piece of string?”

But, sadly, as someone with adopted siblings myself, and as all adopters will know – it’s impossible to know how long it will take to work through trauma and neglect that can be deeply embedded in a child long after the day they enter care. For new parents, this can be a confusing and overwhelming time.

Parents need somebody with a deep understanding, who can train them to develop strategies, and to work therapeutically with their child. That’s why experience is so important, and – with a combined 140 years between them – families coming into contact with Caritas and Adoption Matters North West are in safe hands.

Yours is a fantastic partnership for this corner of the country, demonstrating that partnership working, combined with the will of local authorities, is the way forward for adoption support.

The answer to how long a child needs support for is “as long as it takes”, and with the Adoption Support Fund, you’ve started to spread that ethos.

Now, your strong focus on education has been a really progressive part of the work you’re doing.

In January, I was delighted to be able to write to 11 schools who were successfully nominated by parents for the Adoption Friendly Award.

These schools have gone the extra mile to ensure the needs of adopted children are being met within the school environment.

Nominated schools have celebrated adopted pupils’ uniqueness, and helped them feel like valued members of their school.

Doing well at school is key to a child’s future life chances – which is why we’ve given adopted children priority admission to the school of their choice – and with £1,900 of pupil premium available for each adopted child, these schools can help them to achieve just as much as their peers.

Let’s hope we see more schools following your humbling example. Because the challenge ahead remains substantial.

Today, as I speak to you, there are more than 3,470 children waiting to be adopted.

And, although it’s a truism to say so, the only thing that’s going to change that is by recruiting more adopters.

To do that, we need the best system of adoption support in place to show potential parents that they’ll have a safety net.

Because an adoption order is often just start of the journey, not the end – and problems don’t just disappear as the ink on the legal papers dry.

Research by Adoption UK shows that a quarter of parents report major challenges in their placement – and in research by DfE and University of Bristol the majority of parents were very critical of the support they had received.

We know more than ever about early brain development and the effect of neglect and abuse – so the system needs to respond to that evidence.

That’s why, from 1 May, following a successful pilot in 10 areas, the Adoption Support Fund (worth £19.3m) will be rolled out across the country enabling adopters who could benefit from therapeutic services to get the help they need when they need it.

Already 160 families in the 10 pilot areas have accessed over £1m in funding from the Adoption Support Fund, which is making a real difference to their families.

And so I would encourage adopters in the audience who think they could benefit from therapeutic services to contact their local authority now and ask for an assessment of their needs and, where appropriate, apply to the fund.

I know that in the North West, families have access to a roster of services, including iMatter and the Nurtured Heart Approach. And the Centre for Adoption Support has become a real beacon for how to work in partnership across the North West region successfully, and it’s great to hear you are now working closely with the Maudsley Hospital.

We’ve helped fund your work to date and we want to continue to support the excellent work you are doing. I’m pleased you have been successful in reaching the negation stage to secure grant funding for the coming financial year. I hope the negotiations are fruitful and you continue to build on the excellent progress you’ve made.

A lack of support leaves adopted children in touching distance of a ‘happy ending’ – but never quite able to grasp it.

And when it comes to supporting some of our most vulnerable and troubled young people in society, there’s no magic wand.

There is, however, an adoption passport.

With the right specialist therapeutic support – and, let’s be clear, many placements will not succeed without it – that child will finally be able to embrace the new life ahead of them.

A life not beset by limitation – but empowered by boundless opportunity.

Their parents deserve nothing less than our unwavering support. As the saying goes, “you can’t choose your family”.

But, given the choice, I’m certain that children in the North West would choose the humility and kindness of their devoted adoptive parents a thousand times over.

To the social workers and staff of the centre, thank you for building them up and being there for them. And to the parents, thank you for being those people.

Without you, without people like my own parents, many children across our region would be struggling to see beyond their own horizons. But with you, they have, can and will reach higher and further than they ever dreamed possible.

Thank you.

Edward Timpson – 2016 Speech to Virtual School Heads

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Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the Minister of State for Children and Families, in York on 22 March 2016.

Thanks Alan for that warm welcome. The first thing I want to do is reassure you that I do really exist! Those of you who have attended this event before will know that my presence at your more recent annual conferences, for reasons beyond my control has, perhaps ironically, been virtual and through a pre-recorded message.

So, it’s a particular pleasure to be here with you today, a little croaky, but genuinely in the flesh and at a time when, having already achieved a significant amount as a body of professionals, you’re looking to be even more ambitious for your role and for the education of children in care.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to join others in thanking York St John’s University for hosting this conference and to everyone, especially Alan and Jane, who’ve been beavering away to make sure we have such a rich and varied programme on offer throughout the day.

From the sneak preview I’ve had of the next presentation, I can see that you’ve not let the grass grow under your feet since your role became statutory. As I’d expect, your 7 priorities are rightly ambitious.

And how exciting to be a virtual school head at a time when we’re planning and now delivering a raft of reforms to improve children’s social care more widely.

In January, we announced the setting up of a new social work body to ensure social work education supports a world-class social work profession.

We’re also developing a new Partners in Practice programme with the country’s best performing council and leaders, and we’re establishing a What Works Centre, so that social workers and others across the country, can learn from the very best examples of frontline social work.

And in all of this, you, as virtual school heads, have a key role to play in helping realise our ambitious once in a generation programme of whole system transformation of children’s social care.

Given the theme of today’s conference – “what can we learn from research and each other?” – it seems entirely appropriate it’s happening in a university. It’s true that we know more than we once did about the factors that impact on the educational outcomes of children in care

But, as the paper researched jointly by the Rees Centre and University of Bristol last year demonstrated, we need to know and understand more. So I’m encouraged that research and development feature in 2 of the 7 priorities the national body of virtual school heads has set itself over the next 12 months.

The importance of the virtual school head role

But why is this so important? Well, as many of you will know, virtual school heads are a passion of mine. And so is helping every child in care get the chance to fulfil his or her potential.

I know only too well from my own experience of growing up with foster siblings how easy it was for children in care to get lost in the system, for their education to take a back seat while other parts of their life were prioritised, something my father John decided to highlight in his agony uncle column in the business section of a national newspaper only yesterday – a shameless plug!

As virtual school heads you are changing that. I know that on so many occasions it’s you, as the virtual school head, who’s been that parent with sharp elbows, the educational advocate a child has needed.

It’s why as soon as I was elected to Parliament almost 8 years ago, I made it my mission to push the plight of children in care’s education to the top of the policy pile. And it’s why one of the first things I did as the Children’s Minister was to implement my own recommendation from a cross-party report and make the virtual school head role statutory – only the sixth statutory post that a local authority was required to have. It’s also why we introduced the pupil premium plus and gave the responsibility for its management to virtual school heads.

Celebrate virtual school head achievements

At your 2014 conference, the then Children’s Commissioner laid down a gauntlet at your feet. She asked you what you were going to do with your statutory status.

Your response? Well, you’ve risen to that challenge, both as individuals and as a professional body, to affirm loud and clear that we all have a responsibility to help looked-after children have high aspirations and to succeed, and you’ve also put some grease on those sharp elbows.

Within 2 years, your national body has taken you from a loose network of professionals that was not universally understood, to one where you have real currency and clout.

You’ve forged a working partnership with Ofsted at both a national level and across the 9 regional networks. And, although I know it may feel like a mixed blessing when Ofsted comes knocking to inspect local authority children’s services, they now want to know about the work of virtual school heads.

The work you’ve done over the last 2 years to foster links with Ofsted is significant and can only help in increasing your profile and status across children’s services and beyond.

You’ve also been building strong links with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, and it was encouraging to see the joint policy paper you published with ADCS and the National Consortium for Examination Results, setting off a national conversation about improving outcomes for children in care.

I’m also pleased this work is being embedded through a new virtual school head website that will be a hub for good practice and robust peer review, 2 key elements to achieving an excellent service.

In the last few years you’ve also made much needed progress in raising awareness in schools about understanding children’s attachment and its impact on learning. Mike Gorman’s partnership work with Bath Spa University in this area has been nothing short of inspirational, and through the great work of Tony Clifford, the virtual head in Stoke, you’ve directly influenced the development of NICE guidelines on attachment.

And not only do virtual school heads now get invited to the Education Select Committee to give evidence on the mental health of looked-after children; it seems that the virtual school head model is being embraced by other countries – I know that, Ian Wren, the virtual school head from Melbourne, Australia is here, eager to share experiences and learn more from your endeavours.

So I wanted to be here today to pay tribute to your achievements, for your passion, your energy, your belief in making sure everyone does his or her very best to give children in care the support they deserve. It warms my heart to know that in every corner of the country there are dedicated professionals and carers championing their cause.

Conscious there is more to do

But of course – and you don’t need a minister to tell you this – there’s always more to do. None of us believe we’ve cracked it, making our roles redundant. Far from it.

So in reflecting on the theme of today’s conference I’d like to talk about 2 areas where I believe it’s possible to make even more of a difference: the first is understanding and applying research and evidence to practice – building on the learning from today’s conference; the second is increasing the focus on what it means to be a great corporate parent.

Using evidence-based research

We all know that the reasons why children who come into care don’t perform as well as their peers are both complex and enduring.

So if we’re serious about improving their educational outcomes, and helping them reach their potential, we need to avoid over simplistic conclusions and ensure that our policies and decisions are based on strong, reliable evidence.

Yes, some of the statistics surrounding the outcomes of children and care seem stark and troublesome at first glance, but we need to go much deeper to really understand what lies behind them.

That’s why I was so pleased to be at the launch of the joint research by the Rees Centre and University of Bristol last November on the educational progress of looked-after children in England. It was the first major study in England to explore the relationship between education outcomes and the care histories and characteristics of the young people looked after.

I’m sure you’ll have discussed the findings in your regions just as we’ve been discussing them with ADCS. I could talk about them all at great length as my officials know to their cost! But in the time, I have I’ll highlight 3.

Firstly, it appears that children who’ve been in care longer do better than those who have been in short-term care, therefore suggesting that care can provide a protective factor educationally. This is not the perceived wisdom out there in the public arena, an orthodoxy we now need to challenge.

Secondly, and this comes as no surprise, the research shows that stability is a strong indicator of educational attainment. In particular, the research revealed that:

– each additional change of care placement after the age of 11 was associated with one third of a grade less at GCSE

– young people who changed schools in years 10 and 11 scored over five grades less than those who didn’t

Serious food for thought, not just for virtual school heads, but the wider children’s social care workforce.

And thirdly, the other stand-out message for me in the research – one that on the face of it is blindly obvious but nonetheless under-appreciated – was that schools doing well for other pupils do well for children who are looked after.

That explains why the choice of school for every child in care is so important, and why that decision can have such profound consequences for that child in our care.

So what are the policy and practice implications from this comprehensive study for virtual school heads?

For me, research like this is all about helping you use the levers at your disposal to greatest effect.

You’ve got the pupil premium plus, looked-after children get priority admission to schools, and you’re one of the handful of statutory roles a local authority is required to have. Therefore I urge you to reflect on the research, and use this power – as I know you do every day – to bring about real, transformative change in the lives of children in care.

The good news is: we’ve already seen some outstanding, innovative, ground-breaking practice from virtual school heads restless in their pursuit of educational excellence for their children, refusing to accept watered down, tokenistic commitments from other professionals, prepared to use their powerful positions to push the boundaries of possibility.

That’s fantastic, but to help you achieve more for our looked-after children, I appreciate you need a sharper way of measuring the progress these children are making. So, for me, another significant conclusion from the report was that it would be better to measure the educational progress of looked-after children relative to those with the same prior attainment, rather than in relation to absolute attainment. I’m pleased and relieved to say that this conclusion reflects the policy position we’ve ourselves reached.

So, to take our thinking forward on this and on other strands of work emerging from what the research evidence is telling us – and in the spirit of working alongside each other – we’ve established an education working group co-chaired by a DfE official and Debbie Barnes, chair of the ADCS educational achievement policy committee.

That group, which also includes Alan Clifton as the chair of the national group of virtual school heads, and representatives from the voluntary sector, has already met twice and is establishing a joint workplan. A significant strand of its work will be focused on how we can use data better to help understand and measure improvements in what children in care achieve – and therefore, of course, track the impact of what we’re doing, and target our energies at the highest impact interventions. Because we all want to know that our efforts are achieving the maximum return in the form of outstanding outcomes for children in care.

Building partnerships with others

Another significant area for the group is around how you as virtual school heads, can work more closely with teachers and other school staff, and importantly with foster carers, to develop your understanding of the role they have to play in driving educational aspiration for looked-after children.

And, to that end, I was struck that the young people participating in the Rees Centre research said that teachers provided the most significant educational support to them. Yet teachers themselves felt they needed more training to do this effectively, particularly in supporting children’s emotional and mental health.

So I’m delighted that some virtual schools, like the Tri-borough, are rolling out training programmes to schools, something I would strongly support and encourage all of you to do too.

There’s also good work been going on in London through the Greater London Assembly Fostering Achievement as well as in other parts of the country to help foster carers develop the necessary confidence to engage with schools. After all, foster carers are the parent at the school gate, the parent able to reinforce at home what goes on in the classroom, the parent who can give you an invaluable insight into children under your wing.

I’m also pleased the government is funding a £3 million joint pilot between the Department for Education and NHS England for training single points of contact in schools and specialist mental health services.

Through 27 clinical commissioning groups and 200 schools the pilots will ensure that children have timely access to specialist support where needed.

And virtual school heads should quite rightly be at the heart of these developments, central to modelling the way in which their local authority, schools and even health professionals should live and breathe the principles of every good corporate parent:

– promoting a culture of high aspirations

– ensuring stability, and

– making sure everyone understands and is deeply committed to their role in helping every child in our care to succeed

Embracing new challenges

Looking a little further over the horizon, the eagle-eyed will have seen that schools white paper published last Thursday announced that we’ll consider changing legislation to extend your current role and the role and responsibilities of the school designated teacher for looked-after children to support children who have left care under an adoption order. Like children in care, adopted children face unique challenges at school. We know they often struggle to keep up with their classmates and I’ve followed with interest what some local authorities are already doing to support adoptive parents and their children.

Of course, you won’t be their corporate parent and so your role for this group would be quite different, more one of providing information and advice. But, we believe this is not only the next logical step, but the right thing to do.

In thinking hard about your future role and remit, I don’t doubt the scale of challenge in what’s being asked of you as individuals and as a collective professional body of virtual school heads, whether that’s spotting opportunities to tap into innovation, or trying to make meaningful links across professional disciplines and agencies.

But, I believe your very own National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH), puts you in a strong position to take on those challenges and more.

Yes, you’ve set them an ambitious to do list: to commission and disseminate research that drives change; provide an independent and consistent voice for the people who know the most about children in care and to provide strong links between virtual schools across the country.

But it’s a vision I commend, because it’s one that’s about getting it right for virtual school heads so that you can get it right for children in care. It’s empowering, isn’t it, to know you can be agents of real, meaningful and life-long change for some of our most vulnerable children. It’s why we do what we do – to see before our very eyes a child’s life chances transform from what might otherwise be a hopeless, hapless future, to one full of possibility, positivity and purpose. Not that you need it, but you have my permission to go out there and make it happen!

Thank you.

Edward Timpson – 2013 Speech to NSPCC Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, to the NSPCC Conference on 18 April 2013.

Thanks, Maggie [Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England]. I’m very pleased to be here and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to your conference.

As a champion of children living in fear and challenger to our collective conscience, the NSPCC has been a powerful force for good over the years. Your work to help victims of abuse and neglect through channels like ChildLine – which we’ve been pleased to support – has been especially valuable.

It’s crucial that we give young people a stronger voice. Which is why, as Maggie has said, straight after this speech, I’ll be returning to Parliament to debate our clauses in committee on strengthening the role of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in our Children and Families Bill.

But, arguably, the NSPCC’s greatest impact has been through its unflinching mission to make us, as a society, confront what is still so often incredibly hard to face – the desperate plight of our most vulnerable children and the urgent need to do more to protect them. And the report being published today is no exception to this long and proud tradition.

I’m encouraged by its findings that, in many ways, today’s children are safer, with child homicide and child deaths from assault and suicide down and a decline in some forms of maltreatment and abuse. I’m also encouraged by your acknowledgement that we’re on the right track, with child protection services working harder than ever to reduce harm, and getting smarter about doing so.

But I agree that there’s much more we need to do – to better understand child abuse and neglect, to intervene earlier and with even greater impact.

That’s why we’re fundamentally reforming the child protection system to put the needs of children at its heart – so the system fits in the needs of children and not the other way around.

These reforms and the issues being discussed today could not be more timely. From shocking revelations about child sexual exploitation to alarm about the exposure of children to online pornography, child safety is higher than ever on the public agenda and in the public conscience.

The never-ending revolution in technology, in particular, is, taking us into uncharted territory, with new opportunities opening up alongside new dangers.

But while there’s no way we can put the digital genie back in the bottle, we can certainly do more to equip our children to stay safe. And, with toddlers manipulating iPads more confidently than their parents, it’s clear you can’t start too young.

Which is why, primary school pupils will have the chance to learn about internet safety under our proposed changes to the National Curriculum. They’ll be taught how to communicate securely and responsibly online and how to keep their personal information private – essential skills in the information age.

But, technology aside, it still very much remains the case that children are, sadly, most likely to come to harm at home and in the hands of someone they know.

This, as we know, was the terrible fate of Peter Connelly, Victoria Climbie and Khyra Ishaq.

In many of these instances – as we’ve also seen with victims of child sexual exploitation – the children’s cries for help went unheeded time and time again. They were met by indifference, disbelief and, in the worst instances, vilification from adults who should have been protecting them.

And after every such tragic case, we hear the familiar refrain ‘never again’ – until the next time.

Of course, we all know that we cannot completely eliminate risk. We should always be realistic about that.

But there will always be a next time until we learn the fundamental lesson that a child’s needs (to be safe, to have their basic needs met, to be heard) must always come first.

Ahead of the rights of abusive parents who are unable or unwilling to change their ways and ahead of adults wanting to escape criticism or any challenge to assumptions and work practices, however manifestly ineffective or outdated.

Problems with the child protection system

This is something that, over the years, many politicians and professionals have pledged to do, but, despite some good work, we know that there’s still far too much variation in child protection around the country.

There are, of course, some highly effective examples of good practice, such as multi-agency safeguarding hubs, including the one I visited in Nottinghamshire. But, it’s clear that too many local authorities and other agencies are still failing to meet acceptable standards for safeguarding children – to look for and act on signs of abuse, to intervene early enough and remove children decisively in sometimes the most appalling of cases.

Having lived and worked, for many years, with children damaged by neglect and abuse, I’ve seen, first-hand, what failure to act can mean – both in terms of the huge challenges these incredibly vulnerable children face and what it takes to turn lives around.

Now, as you may know, I grew up with over 80 foster children and two adopted brothers. Many came from chaotic, troubled backgrounds. Their behaviour was, at times, extremely challenging to say the least. I’ve seen babies addicted to heroin go into spasms. I’ve watched on as an abused and deeply angry little boy shattered every pane of glass in my dad’s prized greenhouse because he didn’t know how else to let his anger out. And I became proficient in most swear words by the age of ten thanks to the foster children who parroted back to me what they had heard at home.

But, over time, I saw how love, stability and routine helped them settle and thrive. And it became increasingly clear to me that many could have been spared immense suffering and long-term damage if they’d got consistent and reliable help earlier.

I went on to become a family barrister often representing children in care; an experience that reinforced what I’d seen at home – that timely intervention still wasn’t happening anywhere near enough.

By the time a case landed on my desk, the damage had, all too often, already been done, and it was a matter of trying to make the best of a bad job. It was apparent that cases were managed, all too often, for the convenience of adults rather than the interests of the child.

So if we’re to seriously raise our game and do better at keeping children safe, it’s vital that we reverse this wrong-headed emphasis. That we re-focus on the child protection system where it should always be – on the needs of the individual child.

What the Government is doing

Our reforms are focused on doing just that.

We’re implementing recommendations from Professor Eileen Munro’s valuable and widely-welcomed review of child protection; helping us move towards a much more child-centred system in which there’s a greater emphasis on early help, on identifying and tackling neglect and on multi-agency working – where possible, before formal intervention is needed.

One of Professor Munro’s most important recommendations was the need for guidance on the core legal requirements on all professionals working to keep children safe.

A clear framework within which professionals could exercise their expertise and judgement. And which spelled out what different agencies could expect from each other.

Working Together

We’ve delivered on this in the revised Working Together guidance, that Peter referred to, which has just come into force just this week. And we’re also producing an equivalent young person’s guide for the first time, with the Office of the Children’s Rights Director, to make sure we reach those whose needs are at its very heart.

Crucially, the guidance emphasises that safeguarding is the responsibility of all professionals who work with children, reinforcing, once again, the importance of multi-agency working.

As you know, Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCBs) are absolutely vital to driving this at a local level so that different services; police, health, education, social care, work closely together and properly share information.

This is happening in a highly effective way in some parts of the country, such as Lancashire’s excellent Engage project – a multi-agency team that has been especially successful in tackling child sexual exploitation, whether that be better prevention techniques, bringing criminals to justice or supporting victims.

I want us to do more to understand what works and why so we can spread best practice further through the LSCBs.

Serious Case Reviews

And when things do go wrong, we need to confront, honestly and openly, the mistakes that were made.

As your study, last month, into neglect, showed, one of the most critical vehicles for learning lessons – good and bad – are Serious Case Reviews (SCR).

Yet, until recently, all that was published were bland executive summaries. This certainly suited the adults who had made mistakes. But the price of sparing their blushes was paid by our most vulnerable children who were condemned to suffer from the same failings, over and over again, because we didn’t learn vital lessons.

That’s why this Government has insisted on SCRs being made public. Some local authorities, such as Leicester, north Somerset and Nottinghamshire, have responded positively to our call for greater transparency and accountability.

And we can see the benefits of publication beginning to be felt on the ground. In Southend, for example, findings drawn from SCRs triggered targeted, multi-agency audits of domestic abuse referrals to children’s social care. These audits identified that not enough was being done to engage with men in families, which had implications for children’s outcomes. So, training was introduced to raise awareness among practitioners and improve this engagement.

Yet, despite their potential to drive improvements, the number of SCRs being published remains disappointingly low – around half (99) of the 181 SCRs started since June 2010 have been completed, but only 44 have been so far been published.

This does show an increasing trend – 10 SCRs have already been published in the four months of this year compared to just seven for the whole of 2011. But too many SCRs still take too long to complete and too many are not published.

We’re keen to see these numbers rise significantly. It’s why we’re establishing a new national panel of independent experts to scrutinise and advise on LSCB decisions not to initiate or publish SCRs. One of the big issues to emerge from published SCRs and which bedevils multi-agency working is the failure to share information effectively.

Only yesterday, I met a council lead member for children’s services who was frustrated that many professionals still don’t know what facts they can share with other professionals about children at risk, often because of confusion about data protection rules – which is madness, when you consider that passing on the right information at the right time to the right organisation could quite literally mean the difference between life and death for a child in danger.

The modified Working Together guidance addresses this issue head-on, making it clear that, where a vulnerable child is concerned, the presumption should be to share information.

Health – information sharing

It’s right to say that the health service’s track record in this area has been a notable source of frustration. It’s a common complaint from LSCB Chairs that the NHS has an abundance of information, but doesn’t necessarily share it with other agencies.

So I’m pleased that my colleagues at Health are making moves to tackle this, with Dame Fiona Caldicott working on a statutory code of practice for information sharing.

And in December, there was the launch of a new system to make child protection information available to NHS doctors and nurses who suspect abuse or neglect when treating children in emergencies and unscheduled care.

The NHS Commissioning Board has also just published its accountability and assurance framework for safeguarding in the NHS, making it much easier for health professionals to understand what they need to do keep children safe.

But what we’re really grappling with, when it comes to better information sharing and, indeed, refocusing the system on the needs of the child, is the need for a shift in attitudes and culture.

Looking ahead

Fundamental to this are our reforms to bolster the workforce and improve practice.

Social workers do one of most critical, most demanding and, yes, potentially, most rewarding jobs in our society.

Something apparent when I accompanied social workers on family visits in Halton, in the north west, a few weeks ago.

One of the visits was to a family with four young children, in which the mother had learning difficulties and the father, mental health problems and suicidal tendencies. I was hugely impressed by the strong relationships and meaningful communication the social worker had established with the family.

This meant that her direct, practical attempts to support the parents by, for example, attaching a checklist of small steps to follow on the fridge, really hit home, rather than just eliciting platitudes that change nothing. I was also struck by the high morale and signs of strong leadership I saw when visiting the council offices. I was particularly interested to hear about a case file audit system they’d introduced, that had initially been greeted with unease by social workers, but had now been embraced it as a useful tool to motivate staff and manage performance.

This is just the kind of positive approach I’d like to see spread more widely – a commitment to self-improvement where professionals are not afraid to challenge one another.

And our reforms to provide greater leadership and support to the profession should go a long way towards this.

We’re appointing a chief social worker to lead the debate nationally about reform and ensure the profession has a strong voice at a national level.

Locally, each council is appointing a principal child and family social worker to lead on standards of practice and on learning locally. We’ve also set up the College of Social Work, a Step up to Social Work programme, and initiated a strengthened Ofsted inspection framework. And we’re keen to do for social work what has been done for teaching through TeachFirst.

Which is why we’re so supportive of Frontline, a brilliant idea by a TeachFirst Graduate, to get talented, committed graduates into social work.

I’m hopeful that we can get it up and running so some of our brightest and most committed graduates can start making a difference to our most vulnerable children and provide a welcome boost to the profession.

Conclusion

It’s by investing in people working on the frontline in this way that, I believe, gives us the best chance of driving the decisive shift in culture that’s needed to truly put children’s needs at the heart of the child protection system.

There’s little doubt that the fight against child cruelty continues to challenge and test us as a society as no other issue.

Even in our supposedly cynical age, we’re shocked by the extreme violation visited on the victims of child sexual exploitation. We worry about new threats to our children online.

Thankfully, as your report recognises, we’re making good progress towards keeping children safer, but it’s clear we need to do more to intervene earlier and more effectively, especially in a technological landscape that’s rapidly changing.

As I’ve just outlined, our overhaul of child protection and social work and proposals to put internet safety on the National Curriculum aim to do just that.

There’s nothing more important than protecting children from harm. Where children are suffering abuse or neglect they should be taken into care more quickly.

By re-focusing the system on children’s needs through our reforms, we’ll help ensure that each child gets the right support at the right time. And key to such timely intervention is the need to listen to the children and young people involved.

This message emerges loud and clear, time and time again, from the children who contributed to Professor Munro’s review, from the victims of child sexual exploitation and from the many letters I receive from young people.

As one of the older children interviewed for Professor Munro’s review said: ‘You’ve left me for too long.’

It’s, sadly, a plea that many vulnerable children would echo; starkly illustrating the uphill struggle they face in getting their voices heard and getting the timely help they so desperately need.

It’s only when young people no longer feel the need to make these pleas, that we can honestly say that we’re making the leap required of us – to properly protect them from harm and to reduce our chances of having to say ‘never again’ in years to come.

Thank you.

Edward Timpson – 2014 Speech on Adoption Support

timpson

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson at Somerset House in London on 13 May 2014.

Thanks Sheila (Durr, Chair of the London Adoption Board), it’s good to be here.

Just a month ago, I was pounding the streets of London in the marathon, sporting a T-shirt with the words “I’d adopt” on it in the hope that if that got just a few people thinking about the possibility of offering a child a loving home, then it will have done the job.

Because, with 6,000 children – and around 800 in London alone – still waiting to be adopted, we must take every opportunity to bring them and prospective parents together – and to be there for them every step of the way.

And the good news is we’ve made really important progress this year.

Progress

The Children and Families Act is sweeping away many of the identified barriers to adoption and there’s been a much stronger focus on wider recruitment and better support for adopters.

And thanks to your hard work and dedication – for which I’m naturally hugely grateful – we can see this determined drive from government beginning to pay off.

Adoptions are at record levels following a 15% increase between 2011 to 2012 and 2012 to 2013. There’s also been a 34% increase in the number of adopter approvals.

Huge numbers – over 96,000 people in 12 months – contacted the First4Adoption online information service that we fund – and whose phone number was splashed all over my marathon T-shirt. And over 6,800 of these people went on to look at an adoption agency’s website – a vital next step to becoming an adoptive parent.

We’re already aware of one couple who have gone from contacting First4Adoption to being approved as adopters and having a child placed with them. It shows what can be done if we all pull in the same direction.

Three new voluntary adoption agencies also opened last month with a commitment to attract over 300 adopters and offer hope to more children – just the latest advance in a massive £217 million push to improve the system and boost recruitment.

And there have also been welcome developments on adoption breakdowns. Professor Julie Selwyn’s recent report showed that far fewer adoptions fail than previously thought – around 3% as opposed to a 20 or 30% breakdown rate.

But this very timely and important research also reveals that we need to do much more to support adoptive families who are struggling with the fallout from earlier abuse and neglect – something I’ve seen first-hand, whilst growing up with my own 2 adopted brothers.

So there’s a lot to do, but also a lot of great work that we can build on.

Good work in London

And, the reason I’m here today is because, in many ways, London is leading the way.

Research shows that Londoners – particularly single women and those aged over 40 – are more likely to adopt than people anywhere else in England. Londoners are also more likely to contact First4Adoption’s phone line than any other group.

And this is in the face of many of the same challenges as other parts of the country, particularly when it comes to finding matches for BME children.

As we know, black children spend, on average, a year longer waiting to be adopted than white children. I know that this is as unacceptable to you as it is to me – which is why, through the act, whilst continuing to recognise its clear validity as a factor to be taken properly into account, we’re ending the undue emphasis on finding an ethnic match between adopters and children whose chances of being adopted diminish with every day they have to wait.

And we can see some really excellent and innovative practice beginning to tackle this and wider recruitment challenges head-on.

Like Redbridge’s partnership with the children’s charity Coram, which, with its keen focus on reducing delays and on tracking children’s progress right through the process, has sent adoptions through the roof – by an astonishing 175% – and, in the process, attracted a wider pool of adopters.

Southwark too has excelled with its Find 40 Families campaign to attract BME adopters, driving up the number of adopters by 50% since its launch a year ago. A fantastic achievement.

Traffic to its website has also soared by 70% through a combination of work to raise awareness and myth-bust in local communities along with imaginative approaches to publicity – for example, by adding personal touches to its website, such as profiles of children waiting to be adopted.

We’re keen to do all we can to support these kind of inspirational ventures and see many more children gain from the wonderful gift of adoption.

Adoption reforms

Which is exactly what our adoption reforms aim to do, with a strong focus throughout on boosting recruitment as well as support for adopters at every stage.

There’s no question that the 2 things go hand in hand. People are far more likely to consider adoption if they’re confident they can count on good support – not just in the early days, but years down the line if needed, which I know from my own family, can often be the case.

So, through the act, through the new Adoption Support Fund, the new Adoption Leadership Board, chaired by Sir Martin Narey, as well as through the significant funding we’re injecting into the system, we’re simplifying and improving the process every step of the way. And, crucially, giving prospective parents much more choice and control over the support they get.

So what does this mean in practice? For adopters, it means they’ll get much clearer information about their entitlements, the same pay and leave rights as birth parents and will no longer face the ‘cliff edge’ of support provided while the child was in care suddenly being withdrawn.

We’re also giving them a more active role in finding a match by opening up the Adoption Register. We’ll start testing access to the register in the summer to see how this might help adoptive families come together much more quickly. And how it might highlight, at an earlier stage, what support is needed.

Adoption Support Fund

And this support is about to ramp up as families access much-needed therapeutic services through the Adoption Support Fund.

Last year, I announced that we’ll be contributing £19.3 million to help kick off this new fund. I launched this during a visit to the highly impressive Family Futures in Islington, an adoption support service where I met several adoptive families and heard from them how successful therapeutic interventions had been the difference between them sinking and swimming.

In fact I’ve recently received a letter from one of the parents I met on my visit updating me on the terrific progress her son is making after years of, as she put it, “firefighting.”

It’s one of the main reasons why we’re currently working with 10 local areas, including Lewisham, to trial a smaller version of the fund and using the insights gained to shape the national fund, which will be fully up and running in 2015.

We’ll also be testing personal budgets, with the input of social workers to really put adoptive families in the driving seat – families, for whom, these vital therapeutic services have often remained out of reach, despite their potential to change lives.

Adoption Leadership Board (ALB)

Better support is also a big focus for the new Adoption Leadership Board, which Mark (Owers, CEO, CVAA), of course, manages.

It’s early days for the ALB, but I’m confident that the board will thrive under Sir Martin Narey’s leadership and will galvanise real improvements by bringing together local and central government, the voluntary sector and academics as never before.

Its success will rest, in large part, on effective regional boards. London, with its regional set-up, is especially well-placed to take this forward. Indeed, the London model has been discussed at Adoption Leadership Board meetings and is likely to form the blueprint for boards in other regions.

Andrew Webb at the ADCS is currently setting these boards up. Each will have a designated lead ADCS member for the region, representatives from the voluntary sector and a ‘sponsor’ from the national board.

Universal services playing their part

It’s also, of course, vital that universal services like education and health play their part. Adoptive families rely on them as much as specialist services.

An Adoption UK survey from last year, for instance, found that two-thirds of adoptive parents felt that their children faced specific challenges at school due to past trauma and neglect.

And it’s with this in mind that we’re providing extra support for adopted children through our education reforms.

From 2014, children adopted from care will be eligible for the pupil premium plus and for free early education under the programme aimed at the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds.

This comes on top of our move to extend priority school access to children adopted from care.

And I can announce today that, from now on, this will apply to all children adopted from care, not just those adopted under the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

We’ve issued new guidance about this and have asked admissions authorities to apply it with immediate effect. We will amend the School Admissions Code at the earliest opportunity.

There’s also significant work underway to improve the understanding of adopted children’s needs among health professionals. Their support is critical for adopted children, given their known high level of mental health needs.

So it’s great to see pioneering approaches like the work being done at The Maudsley, where specialist services are provided for young people who are fostered or adopted. These are highly rated by parents who report improved relationships with their children, a reduction in difficult behaviours and improved wellbeing – things we want to see many more parents achieving through improved support.

But there’s clearly more to do.

Which is why we’ve commissioned the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce clinical guidelines on attachment.

And why we’re encouraging national and local health service commissioners to consider adopted children’s needs when developing integrated services for vulnerable groups.

Adopted children are now recognised as a key group by the NHS Commissioning Board and in statutory guidance on Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies – which are important steps forward.

Improving the access that adopted children – indeed all children – have to CAMHS is high on the agenda across government at the moment and we’re working closely with the Department of Health to see what more we can do.

I have to say that this is a particular priority for me, as is ensuring that social workers are well-equipped to meet the needs of looked after and adopted children.

Which is why we commissioned Research in Practice (RiP) to produce new training materials for social workers who work in these areas. These are currently being rolled out and are now available on the RiP’s website – so would encourage you to take a look.

Conclusion

So we’re on the right track. And, together, are overturning expectations of what can be achieved when the ambition and commitment is there.

But we need to keep up the pace and continue to push the boundaries to drive up performance even further.

Adoption scorecards that show how long it takes for each local authority to place children for adoption are vital to this endeavour.

As is access to real time performance data by region – and I’m hugely grateful to the north London consortium of local authorities for helping the Adoption Leadership Board develop its new data collection arrangements to provide continued focus and insight into what works and how we can do better.

Because it’s only by continuing to inspire, support and challenge each other that we can really raise our game – on both adopter recruitment and also improved support for adoptive families.

I know just how critical this support is from seeing how my elder adopted brother Oliver continues to struggle with issues stemming from the mental and physical abuse he suffered before he came to live with us, over 30 years ago, as a 6-year-old foster child.

In those days, therapy was neither well-known, never mind easy to access. And while Oliver has gained a great deal from his adoption – as we all have in our family – I’m sure that these issues wouldn’t be affecting him as much if he’d had the therapeutic support he needed.

Which is why I’m so determined to ensure that other adopted children and their parents get the help they need, when they need it.

They deserve our utmost support, so let’s continue to work together to make sure that’s exactly what they get.

Thank you.

Edward Timpson – 2014 Speech at Council for Disabled Children

Ed Timpson
Ed Timpson

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the Children’s Minister, at an event hosted by the Council for Disabled Children on 24th February 2014.

Thanks, Christine [Lenehan, Chair and Director, CDC]. It’s great to be with you today.

And firstly, a huge thanks to you and the Council for Disabled Children and In Control for hosting this important event. The first in a series of 5 that are all over-subscribed – an indication that they are much-needed.

And to NHS England too, for their continued support in bringing these events together and for their work with clinical commissioning groups and my department to help deliver these substantive reforms to special educational needs.

I hope you’ve found it to be a productive day so far and are feeling more confident about what these changes – the biggest for 30 years – mean for the health service.

Now I know that you’ve been through some significant changes of your own in the NHS. I don’t underestimate the challenge this brings. But as your attendance today testifies, I know that you also share our ambition to do much better by some our most vulnerable children – children for whom support has, sadly, too often fallen short.

When I first took on the SEN brief 18 months ago, I kept hearing the same refrain from families; about how they faced an endless and excruciating fight with a system that’s supposed to help them. About how they found themselves falling through gaps in services that failed to work together. And how they had to repeat their stories over and over again to different agencies.

I’m afraid to say that too many singled out health as especially hard to engage and get around the table. This is particularly worrying given the significant number of children needing health support under the current system, but perhaps in some ways it’s not entirely surprising.

I think we would all acknowledge that the existing set-up hasn’t made it easy for you to do your best for these children and join up with education and social care in their interests – something that we know has caused frustration on all sides and that we know is absolutely key in securing better outcomes and a better transition to adulthood.

New duty on health and drive for integration

Which is precisely why we’re overhauling the SEN system, through the Children and Families Bill and the new 0 to 25 code of practice, to provide you with the framework and freedom to support much better integration, both for children with SEN as well as disabilities.

And through the Care Bill, currently going through Parliament, extending the provision of services beyond 18 where this makes sense, rather than using the blunt instrument of a birthday to determine need.

As you’ll already have heard from Christine, Andrew, Amanda and Martin, these changes promise to be truly transformative; requiring much closer co-operation between services and a bigger say for young people and their parents – whether through the local offer, setting out the support that’s available in an area, or through new education, health and care (EHC) plans.

But perhaps the most vital change in all of this is the new duty on health to provide the health aspect of these new plans and to work with local authorities to jointly assess and meet children’s needs.

This represents a real breakthrough; rebooting the relationship between health and social care firmly and decisively in favour of families. Dissolving the barriers in language, culture and approach that divide team from team, department from department, agency from agency. Spurring professionals to no longer just zero in on their piece of the jigsaw, but to see the whole picture from the perspective of the child and their needs.

A truly integrated approach that we’re championing in a number of ways – such as the enhanced role for mediation; making the disputes process less adversarial and, with a single point of redress for health, education and social care, making it much easier for families to navigate.

Now, I know that, with health having different structures for complaints procedures, there was concern about whether families would have to go down separate routes to challenge provision. So I’m pleased that we’ve been able to make improvements and provide greater reassurance in just this area.

We’ve also listened to worries about schools failing to support children with disabilities or medical conditions, with reports of parents being forced to come into schools to administer medication and pupils even being excluded.

That’s why we’ve introduced a new duty to make it easier to hold schools to account on managing medicines. This will be underpinned by statutory guidance – that’s currently out for consultation – based on existing good practice. So parents can have more confidence that their child’s needs, both health and educational, will be met in schools.

But, in many ways, the real acid test will be joint commissioning; with the scope it offers, for instance, to create integrated care pathways with health services. If we can get this right, we’ll not only get a better match between need and the support provided, but also generate better results as well as save costs.

All of which should make your job easier and also more satisfying – and I think it’s important to stress that this is central to our ambitions for a better SEN system. Professionals who are freed and supported to do the very best for their patients.

NHS reforms

Now, believe it or not, I don’t want to load you with unnecessary changes on top of the ones you’ve already gone through. Or demands that conflict with your broader work in the health service.

On the contrary. This drive for more collaboration on behalf of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is very much in line with the NHS constitution and reforms to the wider NHS, which advocate greater integration wherever possible.

And as you know, there’s an objective in the NHS mandate regarding children with SEND – that NHS England will be monitoring clinical commissioning groups against.

So there’s a real opportunity here, on the back of acknowledged difficulties in the past and changes to the NHS, to do things differently and better for some of our most disadvantaged children – with health playing a pivotal role as equal partners alongside social care and education.

It’s an agenda that involves us all. Quite simply, we can’t do it without you.

Progress, pathfinders and personal budgets

As has been said, the Children and Families Bill has completed its passage through Parliament and the legislation will shortly receive royal assent. But this is very much the beginning, not the end of the work that needs to be done.

We all know that the real hard work, the effort that ultimately pays off, doesn’t happen in Parliament, but in classrooms, GP surgeries, nurseries and clinics, not to mention family homes. A change in law must go hand in hand with a change in culture if it’s to have the impact we all want to see.

And I’m encouraged that we’re starting to see this important shift.

As the bill’s progressed and the 20 pathfinders testing the SEN reforms across 31 local authorities have made inroads, there have been growing signs of a change in the approach, understanding and involvement of health providers.

And as you’ve just heard, families and professionals are starting to feel the benefits.

The pathfinder in Southampton, for example, has developed an integrated health and social care service that has cut right back on duplication of assessments through joint visits and by co-ordinating information provided in previous assessments.

Hertfordshire, another pathfinder, has brought parents and health and education professionals together to better understand the family’s journey through the system and how this can be improved when developing new education, health and care plans.

And there’s the app, developed by Early Support, our SEND delivery partner, which helps families receive, record and share information with all manner of health and education professionals and, in doing so, offers the prospect of useful discussion without endless repetition.

I’ve seen also for myself, on visits to pathfinders in Surrey and Bromley, what a difference this level of engagement can make. How much more involved and empowered young people and their parents feel in drawing up their own package of support through the education, health and care plans.

And also what a rewarding experience it is for the professionals involved. As one consultant paediatrician put it:

I’ve found the new process really positive. The live documents we’ve generated with the parents capture a much better description of the child. Their personality really shines through.

Not something, I think, many health professionals would necessarily have said before.

Personal budgets are also having a similar effect; shifting the focus from the mechanics of provision to the potential of each young person, resulting in better conversations between families and professionals.

And giving children and their parents more choice and control over the support they receive – support such as the dedicated one-to-one health worker who was employed to help a 3-year-old girl with complex health needs that were stopping her attending nursery.

In her case, at the pathfinder in Oldham, education, health and social care joined forces to provide the funding needed to ensure that the child didn’t miss out on her education – which is surely what integration is all about.

As one parent, who is using a personal budget, put it:

It was really lovely to feel…heard on an equal footing…Now I feel part of a team…Now it feels as though there is someone on my side.

Implementation

All fantastic examples of what can be achieved when services really come together – and examples that I hope will inspire you as you gear up for the new system which, as you know, kicks in this September.

And looking forward, we all want to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for vulnerable families and for them to be able to take full advantage of the new arrangements. So now is very much the time to step up your preparations.

So I’m pleased to see that, in many places, these preparations are already underway, but we know there’s still a lot to do.

Pathfinders tell us that it takes a least a year to get ready, not least for the cultural change to take hold. So it’s essential that everyone involved; the NHS, education, local authorities and others services, intensifies their efforts.

And there’s no need to wait. Wolverhampton and Richmond aren’t pathfinders, but they’ve already begun involving families in developing education, health and care plans and a draft local offer.

Doing more now saves time and energy later and can even lead to savings, so there’s every incentive to act with urgency and make the reforms a success.

And we want to do everything we can to help you with this.

Which is why we’re providing local authorities with a £70 million SEN reform grant that they can use, with no ring-fencing, to work with health and others to deliver these changes.

It’s why we’ve made £30 million available to recruit and train – with the help of the Council for Disabled Children – over 1,800 independent supporters to help families navigate the new system.

And it’s why I’m working closely with Dan Poulter, my ministerial colleague at Health, to provide advice on implementation to clinical commissioning groups, health and wellbeing boards as well as to chief executives and lead members in all local authorities.

We’re also extending the pathfinder champion programme until March 2015, so that local areas can readily draw on lessons from those who have trodden the path, including in the vital area of health.

Listening to young people

But, in many ways, the best guide to how services should be flexed and fused comes from children and young people themselves; brought to home me most powerfully in my regular meetings with EPIC, a group of disabled young people assembled, again, with the help of the CDC. They’ve provided me with valuable advice on the SEN and disability reforms – and held my feet to the fire on a few occasions too! I’m thinking, in particular, of a highly articulate and astute young man called Cory, whose wisdom and practical insight I’ve benefited from hugely.

They remind me, time and time again, that no-one else has a keener understanding of what will make their lives better. And that services could save themselves a lot of time, money and effort if they just took the trouble to sit down and listen to them.

Conclusion

After all, they’re the reason that we’re all here today – because we want children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities to be able to aspire and achieve as other children do.

Because we want them to do well at school, form strong relationships and find success and fulfilment in work and further study as independent adults. Nothing more, nothing less than we want for our own children.

And all of you in the health service are absolutely critical to making this happen.

So I very much hope that you will continue to work with us and work ever more closely with your colleagues in education and social care to make a difference to the prospects of some of our neediest children.

Now I know that this may seem a lot to ask given all the changes that you’ve already been through – and I can’t thank you enough for the hard work and dedication you’ve put in so far.

But with the new duties on health, which reinforce wider changes in the health service, there has never been a better opportunity for you to play a full and active role in transforming SEND provision – backed by the significant support that we’re providing.

The fact we can see that this more ambitious approach is already working wonders in the pathfinder areas and beyond gives us real cause for optimism. Like you, I want families everywhere to be able to enjoy this kind of outstanding support.

Support that fits in with their needs and not the other way around. That sees children’s potential and not their limits. Support that’s truly on their side.

Thank you.

Edward Timpson – 2014 Speech on Young People and Sport

Ed Timpson
Ed Timpson

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, a junior Minister at the Department of Education, to the Youth Sport Trust Conference on 5th February 2014.

Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Before going any further, let me get a confession out of the way: I’m a big fan of the Youth Sport Trust. Not just because your work to give every child access to sport – and change their lives through sport – is essential – but because your passionate belief in the power of sport can be – and often is – an inspiration to others.

Because any sports fan can remember those defining moments when we were inspired to go and compete.

I remember mine.

It was 1982, and I was excited. My dad was running the second ever London marathon, and I was standing with my family along the Mall, waiting for him to come cantering past. If anyone recalls Hugh Jones – one of our best runners back then – he dashed past in first place, the crowd erupting as this blur of red hair flew by, a human gazelle speeding towards British glory – and with unrivalled anticipation I waited for my dad to come through behind him.

And waited. And waited.

Two hours later, there he came, running around the corner.

Well, I say running – staggering would be more accurate.

So it maybe wasn’t first place – but I went wild as he plodded past. And over 30 years on, as I try and knuckle down to training for my ninth London marathon this year, it inspires me still.

And that’s exactly what you do – inspire and encourage and train and support – and give young people access to sport. It’s great work, and it’s great to be here today.

Collaboration in government

And the theme you’ve got for your conference – excellence through collaboration – it made me think.

It made me think about the culture that surrounds sport – its special nature – and what those 2 ideas really mean.

And I came to the conclusion that we’re probably on the same page.

For instance, collaboration is at the heart of our approach at a national level.

We all know that school sport is important for so many different things.

It’s important for health.

I’m not sure if anyone saw the figures on child obesity released before Christmas. Obesity rates in children fell to 14% in 2012 – the lowest level since 1998.

That’s encouraging, though it’s certainly not enough to be complacent. But we’re so used to bad news on child health – a creeping barrage of headlines about an inactive, inert generation. These numbers show it just isn’t inevitable.

We all know that school sport – getting children active – is an essential weapon in the fight against obesity.

And I’m sure I don’t need to convince you that sport and PE have a real and lasting positive effect on pupils’ wider attitude towards school.

Sport offers children something quite distinctive. A chance to compete, to push yourself – but also lessons about teamwork and people. We even have a word – sportsmanship – for the particular respect and ethos that sport, at its best, creates.

Whether it’s generosity in victory, discipline in training – or simple humility after an absolute thrashing at the hands of a better team – sport isn’t a bad way to learn about life.

Put that way, it sounds like quite good training for politics, too.

So sport is about health, and about competition, confidence and character. And if it’s something that affects so many aspects to growing up – often referred to as our physical literacy – then we need to get the health, education and culture departments all working together.

That’s why we set up a cross-ministerial working group last year, so that different departments are all working together – really working together – for the first time. It’s collaboration, at the heart of government.

We meet every month, bringing together colleagues from across government and real experts from the sector – including, of course, Sue and John from YST.

Sport for all children

And we don’t just want sport to be for the minority, either.

Many of you I’m sure will know of Rachel Yankey. She plays for Arsenal and England.

She’s the most-capped England player of all time – beating Peter Shilton by just 1 game – which is fine by me, because anyone who’s talked to me for more than 5 minutes will know my hero is the goalkeeper Joe Corrigan, and Peter Shilton kept Joe out of the England men’s team for most of the late 1970s.

So, that 1 extra cap makes all the difference.

Anyway – when she started to play football aged 7, Rachel and 2 male friends tried to join a local club.

Except the club was boys-only.

So she said her name was Ray – which was near enough the truth – and cut her hair short to fit in.

And she got away with it for 2 years. I’m not sure her parents approved of the new hairdo.

But she went on to become England’s first ever female full-time professional footballer.

I think we can all agree that it’s just wrong if ambitious girls like Rachel have to fight against the system to get a chance to play. About two-fifths of all boys over 14 play sport each week. But for girls, it’s just a third. That’s such a waste of talent.

But if we look over the Atlantic to the USA, we see the rewards for letting that talent blossom and grow into a national force. There are now 1.7 million women registered with US Soccer – not far behind the 2.5 million we have. It can be done.

That’s why Maria Miller, the Sport, Culture and Media Secretary, set up a group to look specifically at how to encourage more girls into sport – bringing in high-profile businesswomen, athletes and sport experts.

And that’s why Sport England’s Active Women campaign got £10 million from the lottery to work with low-income women. There’s a £2.3 million project in Bury, too, called ‘I will if you will’, seeing what sort of activities would bring more women and girls into sport. And we funded the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation to understand where future efforts should be directed.

And the same goes for disabled sport. It’s wrong for special educational needs or disability to prevent access to sport, or physical activity.

So 10,000 disabled children now have the chance to play meaningful, competitive sport . Fifty schools – like the Marjorie McClure School in Bromley that I’ve visited – run the Project Ability strand of the School Games, which aims to increase sporting opportunities for disabled young people. And for the first time, Change4Life clubs now offer the Paralympic sports, boccia and wheelchair basketball.

Now, everyone remembers the Olympics opening ceremony, with Sir Tim Berners Lee sending a tweet that flashed around the stadium – saying ‘this is for everyone’.

He was of course talking about the internet – but he may as well have been talking about sport.

Because not everyone will win an Olympic medal. Only a few will ever score for Arsenal. Or win the London marathon.

But everyone can get excited about sport if we encourage them – and if we give them the opportunity.

That, to me, is what collaboration really means – working together, government departments and sport experts, so that the passion and excitement and sheer fun of sport is accessible to every child, at every level, from every background.

So collaboration is a principle that runs through our work.

Excellence in sport

But what about the other theme of this year’s conference – excellence?

Well, we’re backing excellence through competitive sport.

With your help, with substantial support from the National Lottery and from Sainsbury’s, the School Games are growing year on year.

Last year, around 16,000 schools took part – that’s almost two-thirds of all schools.

I’ve met headteachers and children who took part in the finals in Sheffield, and the excitement and pride was obvious. The games really were the talk of the playground and staffroom alike.

We want them to go on, growing each year – so that every child, in every school, has access to competitive sport – to have the chance to excel on a national stage, to have the chance to surpass their personal best.

And as you know, PE remains very much part of the national curriculum – and compulsory for children at all 4 key stages.

We think PE teaching is a specialist role too. So it deserves bespoke support.

That’s why we’ve invested three-quarters of a million pounds in creating a new intake of specialist primary PE teachers. The first 120 trainees will be qualified to teach from this September – and it’s already attracted some high-calibre graduates who want to share their love of sport.

But it’s not just about what we do in central government.

We want to see these principles at a local level, too.

Local lead for school sport

Look at the primary sport premium, for example. We’ve committed over £450 million up to 2016. It’s the only money for schools that’s ring-fenced.

But it’s up to schools to work out how to spend it. Whether it’s bringing in specialist sports experts to work alongside staff, or buying new equipment, investing in facilities, or using that money for continuous professional development or staff training – we’ve given real discretion over how it’s used.

And across the country, with the help of the Youth Sport Trust and others, we’re seeing some schools taking some really imaginative approaches.

Some are pooling their money, for example. They realised that they get better economies of scale for buying equipment, or benefitting from a PE specialist. That they can share facilities, or staff. So they’ve joined forces, and created their own local networks.

And again, it’s not just about education. Health and wellbeing boards are getting involved too – because in health, like in education, local conditions vary – so local organisations should lead.

And it’s not just primary schools benefitting.

We’ve always been eager for schools of all ages to work together.

Projects like Access to Schools in Birmingham are trying to find ways to get better use of secondary school facilities by the wider community, while Sport England aims to have 4,000 ‘satellite clubs’ at secondary schools by 2017.

And we’re now seeing that the sport premium is bringing primary and secondary schools together.

In Southwark, for example, Bacons College has taken the lead in setting up a network, the London PE and School Sport Network. They work with YST and 72 primary, 17 secondary, 5 special and 4 independent schools across the borough – working together to give the best PE teaching possible, and make the most of that premium money.

So we might be keen on collaboration at a national level.

But I’m even more delighted that schools have taken it on at a local level.

There are no one-size fits-all policy solutions for school sport.

And this sort of local energy and teamwork is exactly what we hoped the premium would foster.

Tribute to the Youth Sport Trust

And in that context, I want today to pay tribute to the work of the Youth Sport Trust.

Because you’re at the forefront of grassroots work. Your help with using the premium wisely. Your sessions for cluster co-ordinators. Your essential work with the School Games. Your training for PE coordinators in schools, National School Sport Week, your sport camps and more – all these things drive up interest and participation in sport.

And nowhere more so than with the Youth Ambassadors programme.

It’s so important to make sure the memory of that amazing summer in 2012 doesn’t die. I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the hugely impressive ambassadors who, up and down the country, are keeping the spirit of 2012 alive.

And today, I’m delighted to announce that we will be renewing the funding for the programme.

We will extend funding for an additional 12 months – £250,000 for 2014 to 2015 – to help continue the Ambassador’s efforts – and get more and more children into sport.

So at a national level, at a local level – collaboration and excellence – that’s what we want.

I think we all agree on that.

Conclusion

Now arguably, in sport, collaboration can go too far.

At the first ever London marathon – the year before my dad raced Hugh – the first 2 people to cross the line, American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen held hands in a public display of sportsmanship.

Now I’ve run a marathon with my wife. We ran the London marathon together in 2012, the Olympic year. And I’m ashamed to say that, although we ran stride for stride the whole way, as we came to the finish line on the Mall – almost on the same spot I’d stood and cheered my dad on 30 years before – rather than grab my wife’s hand in a gesture of solidarity, mutual respect – and dare I say, love – I grunted a self-motivating ‘come on’ and did a Linford Christie style dip – in order to come 7,836th rather than 7,837th.

My excuse? On the field, collaboration sometimes has to take second place to excellence.

But when we’re talking about how all of us can inspire the next generation – about how we build up and maintain active, healthy kids who enjoy sport and get everything it has to offer – it’s a different story. Collaboration and excellence are 2 things we should insist on.

And as we move forward with a sustained drive to push them both through the power of sport, I thank you for your help, and commitment, in making it happen.

Edward Timpson – 2013 Speech at Sexual Exploitation Conference

Ed Timpson
Ed Timpson

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson at the Sexual Exploitation Conference held by the LGA on 13th February 2013.

Thanks, David [Simmonds, Chair LGA Children and Young People Programme]. I’m glad to be here.

I’d firstly like to say how extremely grateful I am to the LGA, Ann [Coffey] and others here today from many sectors for their efforts to combat child sexual exploitation.

I would echo much of what Ann has just said, especially her emphasis on how pivotal local agencies are to the fight against this most horrific of crimes. I know how deeply Ann cares about this subject – her thoughtful insights on it are always greatly valued.

Now, let’s begin with some good news.

More perpetrators are being prosecuted and jailed; sending out the message, loud and clear, that those who prey on children face stiff punishment.

And there’s also increasingly focused and effective work underway to fight this most horrific of crimes – we’ll be hearing more about this from speakers representing councils in Birmingham and Kent. It’s also good to see Rochdale represented here today, to share lessons learned from when things do go wrong.

But there’s clearly much more to do.

I was very interested to hear what you had to say, David, about doing some further work to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and producing more resources for councils on this.

I very much welcome this because, as we know, greater recognition of this despicable form of abuse is fundamental to the fight against it.

It’s fair to say that awareness has improved locally, but we know there are still too many areas that haven’t got to grips with the problem, even though it’s become increasingly apparent that it’s a much more widespread than previously thought.

Barnardo’s – which, of course, has done much to highlight this issue and is being represented here by Anne Marie Carrie later today – recently reported an alarming rise in the number of cases known to them, with increasing numbers of children being trafficked around the country and victims getting younger.

So, as a first step, it’s crucial that local areas urgently establish the true scale and nature of the problem.

Key to this, I believe, is the need for a major re-think of our attitudes towards victims and their families.

Understanding that this manipulative and coercive abuse can happen to any family and that the children affected are to always be treated as victims means that this abuse is less likely to go undetected – making it easier to track what is really is going on the ground.

This greater awareness and understanding is also more likely to galavnise the partnership work that’s so vital to tackling this issue.

Because it’s a poor understanding of the issue; particularly disbelieving attitudes towards the young victims, that has largely kept this scourge in the shadows for so long.

Having grown up with many foster children and worked in the care system as a family barrister – including on cases involving sexually abused children – I have some experience of living and working with traumatised and damaged children.

But it’s hard to comprehend the extreme violation and suffering to which these children have been subjected.

They deserve our every support and yet, too often, agencies haven’t listened to them or believed their allegations, meaning more children being abused for longer. It is clearly completely outrageous and unacceptable for the young people affected not to be treated as victims.

I’m absolutely determined that we should do all we can to change this. To make sure we punish and prevent child sexual exploitation wherever and however it occurs. And, crucially, put victims and families first.

Progress so far – national action plan, CSE round table and LSCB meeting

This is why that we’ve made raising awareness of this abuse and promoting partnership work central elements of the national Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan we launched last year.

Last July, we published a progress report on the plan and followed this up with a roundtable meeting in December, which I chaired, involving other Government Ministers and a range of organisations.

We discussed the progress we were making, but also challenged each other on whether we were all really doing  everything we could.  I’m keen to hold more of these meetings so we keep up the momentum.

And just a few weeks ago, I chaired a meeting with the Association of Independent Local Safeguarding Children Board Chairs (LSCBs).

I was pleased to hear that they’re taking a number of important steps to prioritise action in this area – for example, making it easier to share the best approaches to tackling child sexual exploitation through the creation of a Practice Development Group. And through regional leads on child sexual exploitation, supporting all Local Safeguarding Children Boards in addressing the issue.

Given their key local role, I’ll be watching the progress made by the Boards with great interest.

Raising awareness

There’s much positive work for them to build on.

Over the past year…

Over 8,000 professionals, from health, social work, the police and other agencies, have benefitted from sessions to raise awareness delivered by the National Working Group (for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People).

We’ve just re-issued a step-by-step guide for frontline professionals on what to do if they suspect abuse, so they should be better placed to intervene.

Frontline police officers will also be better equipped to deal with child sexual exploitation thanks to a new training film on the subject issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers. The film is also freely available online for others to use.

And we’ve also raised awareness among young people by, amongst other things, re-running a Home Office teenage rape prevention campaign in December and January. We will also be re-running a teenage relationship abuse campaign from this month to the end of April.

Partnership work – prosecutions, criminal justice system

Much of what’s being achieved powerfully demonstrates the benefits of partnership working.

An impressive illustration of this is the work of Engage, a multi-agency team from Lancashire. Since it was set up in 2008, the team has secured almost 500 years of custodial sentences and achieved a 98 per cent prosecution success rate. And in working with over 1,500 children experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation, the team has also driven down school absence and cases of children  missing from home or care.

A fantastic example of what can be done, even against a difficult economic backdrop, when agencies come together and are determined to act.

It’s good to know that other Local Safeguarding Children Boards around the country; in Rochdale, Bradford, Sheffield and Oxford, are following Lancashire’s lead and setting up similar multi-agency teams. I want to see others following suit.

An important lesson that local areas would do well to heed from Engage’s experience is the team’s decision to involve parents in developing a “victim and witness care package”. This has not only helped boost conviction rates, but reduced the distress of victims going to court, a significant factor in their chances of recovery.

It’s true that court appearances can heap further trauma onto children who have already been through so much. So I want to see the criminal justice system continuing to strive to make sure victims of child sexual exploitation are treated with much greater understanding.

Work is underway in this area. The Crown Prosecution Service will be publishing new legal guidance on prosecuting child sexual exploitation cases early this year, which will include advice on information sharing and improved support for victims. This complements existing work to make it easier for young victims to navigate the criminal justice system – such as giving child witnesses more choice about how they give evidence.

Action on missing children, NHS database

Engage’s success in reducing the numbers of children going missing is also highly significant.

Because as Ann has said, these absences are one of the key warning signs that a child is being groomed or exploited. It’s a risk factor that’s also been highlighted in checklists issued by several organisations, not least my own Department, and by Sue Berelowitz, as part of her inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups.

We know from Sue’s inquiry and Ann’s work on the Joint All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry, that children who go missing from care are at particularly serious risk of being exploited and harmed.

As a first step to keeping them safe, it’s clear we must have robust data on the numbers going missing.

The Working Group we set up last year to look at this has now reported and I announced last week that we will begin piloting a new data collection in the next few months.

This will, for the first time, collect information on all children who go missing from their placement – not just those missing for 24 hours – enabling better analysis and more effective practice to prevent and combat the problem.

In addition, we will shortly issue revised statutory guidance on Children who go Missing from Home or Care based on the best local practice. This will complement guidance issued to police forces by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Ofsted’s new looked after children inspections and the new multi-agency inspections, which will begin in June, will also shine a powerful light on agencies are working together to protect children.

Sharing information about children at risk is a vital part of this joint work. We can see this happening, for example, with the launch of a new project, in December, that will help the NHS do more to protect vulnerable children.

This initiative will link local authorities’ children’s social care systems with systems in the NHS; making critical child protection information available to healthcare professionals who suspect abuse or neglect when treating children in emergencies and unscheduled care. And making life harder for sexual predators.

Residential care reform

Predators who, as well as benefitting from gaps in information, are also exploiting weaknesses in the residential care system – particularly an “out of sight out of mind” culture, which has seen too many children being placed in children’s home many miles from family and friends.

In March 2011, children’s homes in 15 local authorities were entirely occupied by children from other local authorities.

At the same time, 13 other local authorities, which had children’s homes in their area, made no placements in these homes; instead preferring to send their children to homes in other areas.

Good children’s homes provide young people, for whom other placements aren’t suitable, with just the intensive, caring professional help and stability they need.

But we know that there are some homes where support for children and security are poor. Which are located in parts of the country with meagre facilities and, worse still, where there are disproportionately large numbers of sex offenders often synonymous with organised criminal activity.

We know that these children in these homes, many of whom are already damaged, are especially vulnerable to these dangers. We’re determined to do much more to protect them.

We’re already on track to make it possible for Ofsted to share information on the location of children’s homes with the police and we will be urgently consulting on a number of further changes…

That require local authorities, at a senior level, to take more responsibility for out of area placements that are a significant distance away.

That ensure there’s rigorous independent scrutiny of the quality of care in each home.

And that clarify the roles and responsibilities of the placing authority, the children’s home and the area where the home is located, so there’s a real, shared responsibility for safeguarding the child and promoting their welfare.

We’re also proposing to reform the qualifications framework to address the low level of qualifications among staff in children’s homes.

By this summer, we’ll publish a revised data pack on residential care which will include more detailed information about children’s homes by local authority and region. This should go some way towards helping local authorities make much better choices.

Given the vulnerability of children in care to these and other kinds of dangers, it’s crucial that we do all we can to keep them safe which is why I’m delighted that Sir Martin Narey, the government’s adoption advisor has agreed to expand his role and will advise us more generally on children’s social care. His experience and expertise will, I’m sure, make a significant contribution to progress in this area. As a first step, the Secretary of State has asked Sir Martin to look at the quality of education and training for child and family social workers as part of the on-going reform of social work. Today we have also advertised the Chief Social Worker posts; they will play a pivotal role in driving up quality and the status of the workforce.

Conclusion

In all of this, we will continue to work with you all to find the best way forward.

Because, as the national action plan makes clear, what happens at a local level is absolutely critical. It makes clear that child sexual exploitation must be seen in the context of wider safeguarding responsibilities that cut across sectors and agencies.

So it’s vital…

That local authorities and LSCBs map the extent and nature of the problem in their area as a matter of priority.

That they work together and share information; across children’s social care, health services, education, the police and the courts, to spot the warning signs early, take swift and co-ordinated action and reduce the opportunities for abusers.

And that they transform attitudes, at a senior level and on the frontline, towards victims and their families.

Doing this will not only help save young people and their families from terrible suffering, but, as Ann has said, should help save money in the long run.

I would urge you, wherever possible, to work in partnership with young people and parents – their experience and insights are critical to battling these abhorrent crimes- and, of course, in the long, hard road to recovery.

Statutory agencies and voluntary organisations need to be mindful that those affected may need support to avoid becoming victims again and to pick up their lives for a long time after the abuse has ended.

I recently met a group of parents whose children had, tragically, become victims of this abhorrent abuse. Their heartbreak at this appalling betrayal of childhood innocence was tangible. But I was also deeply moved by their courage and determination – to support their children, but also to make the world a safer place for all our children.

They’re counting on us. To change our mind set and see the child in need of protection. To act and fulfil our first duty to keep them safe.

I know you’re as committed as I am to doing this; to fighting this abuse head-on; ensuring perpetrators pay for their crimes and making sure children and their families get the support they so desperately need and deserve.

Thank you.