17 December 2018
Education Questions

Nadhim Zahawi answers MPs’ questions to the Department for Education on his Children and Families portfolio.

SEND Services: Lancashire

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab)

3. What assessment he has made of progress on delivering the actions set out in the written statement of action issued in response to the 2017 inspection of services for children and young people with SEND in Lancashire. [908211]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)

Lancashire produced a written statement of action, which Ofsted has assessed as fit for purpose. Advisers from the Department and NHS England are now monitoring and supporting the implementation of the written statement of action. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission will revisit the area in early 2020 to assess progress.

Rosie Cooper

Will the Minister indicate what funding is being made available to Lancashire County Council, for example through the high needs block of the dedicated schools grant, to enable it to fix the failings outlined in the Ofsted report, given that Lancashire County Council is already £10 million overspent and it is estimated that there is an overspend in this area of half a billion nationally?

Nadhim Zahawi

Yesterday, we announced that local authorities will receive an additional £250 million of high needs funding over two years, plus £100 million of capital funding to make more places available. That will take our total spend per annum on high needs funding to over £6 billion.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)

That answer shows that the Minister has his head in the sand. In addition to what is happening in Lancashire, new research for the Local Government Association shows that by 2020-21 there will be a potential £1.6 billion gap in funding for special educational needs and disabilities nationally. Given that there is no new money, according to what the Secretary of State said on the television at the weekend, when will the Government ensure that children with SEND are able to access the education they deserve?

Nadhim Zahawi

This is new money—£250 million plus £100 million for capital spending—from the underspend in the Department. The additional funding will help local authorities and schools with the increasing costs of provision for some of our most vulnerable children and young people. I think it is a shame that the Opposition are scaremongering in this way with the most vulnerable families in our society.



Social Work Profession

Mr Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)

11. What progress his Department has made on strengthening the social work profession. [908219]

Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con)

12. What progress his Department has made on strengthening the social work profession. [908220]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)

Social workers do an invaluable job in protecting the most vulnerable children and families in our society. We are improving initial education standards, and providing professional development at key stages throughout a social worker’s career. A new independent regulator, Social Work England, will have a strong focus on better standards, while the national assessment and accreditation system will provide additional confidence in the quality of practice.

Mr Goodwill

The independent regulator will help to raise still further the already high standards of practice in social work. Does the Minister agree that social workers who achieve accreditation status should also earn the right to put some initials after their names—for example, ASW, standing for “accredited social worker”?

Nadhim Zahawi

My right hon. Friend is right to point out that the national assessment and accreditation system is a critical means of embedding high standards in the social work profession. We are currently in phase 1, and more than 100 social workers have been accredited so far. We will be considering questions like my right hon. Friend’s during the national roll-out.

Alex Burghart

Initiatives such as Step Up to Social Work and Frontline have done a very good job in bringing high-qualities graduates into the profession, but what is the Department doing to encourage better continuing professional development for those who are already in the workforce?

Nadhim Zahawi

Continuing professional development is crucial to high-quality social work. The Department funds it through the assessed and supported year in employment for new social workers, and an aspiring practice leaders programme. This autumn we launched a programme for more than 1,000 people moving into supervisory roles.

Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab)

The Secretary of State said that early help services delivered by social workers were vital. What assessment has he made of the proposals to abolish 90 social work jobs in Derbyshire—where the number of children in care has risen by 50% in the last five years—and to transfer the early help service to schools?

Nadhim Zahawi

In the Budget we announced a further £410 million for local authorities to invest in adults’ and children’s social care services in 2019-20. We also announced £84 million to scale up good practice from, for instance, Leeds, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire to 20 other local authorities. We hope that places such as Derbyshire will look at those models and scale up that good practice.

Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)

I know that the Minister will want to join me in congratulating Frontline not just on bringing 1,000 people into the profession, but on elevating the status of social work. Does he recognise, however, that notwithstanding the additional investment to which he has just referred, unless we deal effectively with the funding crisis facing children’s social services, we will not be able to keep and promote those people who do such wonderful work in keeping children and young people safe and well?

Nadhim Zahawi

The hon. Gentleman has made an important point about funding. We are working with the sector, and with the Local Government Association, to ensure that we are in a good place for the spending review.



Support for SEND Learners

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)

14. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the level of support for SEND learners. [908222]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)

A programme of local area inspections is under way to ensure that the SEND reforms are being implemented effectively and weaknesses addressed. Yesterday, we announced an additional £250 million to local authorities for higher needs budgets to support those with more complex needs across this year and next. The core schools and higher needs budget will increase from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £43.5 billion in 2019-20.

Debbie Abrahams

Although the additional funding is welcome, I am sure that the Minister recognises the absolute crisis in support for children with special educational needs and disabilities and the absolute desperation that the parents, who are taking legal action on this very matter, feel, so will he announce an early new year resolution to plug the gap—estimated to be £1.6 billion by 2020, which these children will need?

Nadhim Zahawi

I attended the conference that the Parents and Carers Network held in Coventry. It is important to listen to the sector. Many local authorities are co-creating their SEND provision with parents, and it is important that we listen and deliver the £250 million additional funding announced yesterday, and of course the £100 million in capital funding as well, taking the funding to over £6 billion per annum on SEND students. I know you take a great interest in this matter, Mr Speaker, as well.

Mr Speaker

Thank you; that is very much appreciated.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)

18. Brooke School in Rugby caters for children with autism, physical disabilities, medical needs and learning difficulties, and it has recently opened a shop in Rugby town centre where pupils learn to produce products from recycled materials and sell them to the public. Does the Minister agree that that is an excellent opportunity to learn workplace skills? Will he join me in commending the inspirational head teacher, Chris Pollitt, for this initiative?[908226]

Nadhim Zahawi

I commend the school for taking the initiative to provide its pupils with the opportunity to learn skills for the workplace in a safe environment. I hope that Mr Pollitt will share that excellent practice with other educational professionals and explore the possibility of running supported internships as well.



Topical Questions

Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)

T2. Parents and staff in maintained nursery schools are waiting for the Government to stop dithering on future funding. Excellent schools in Cambridge and all over the country face a funding cliff edge next year. Can the Minister give them the assurance they need, and commit today to the future of our maintained nursery schools? [908235]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)

We have made £60 million available to maintained nursery schools up to 2020 because of the excellent provision that they deliver. My message, and that of the Secretary of State, to local authorities is not to take any decisions until we get to the spending review.