On 28th January 2020 the Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, asked a question she had tabled to Government, on support for looked after and adopted children. She and the Archbishop of York, Most Revd and Rt Hon John Sentamu, asked follow-up questions and the transcript is below:
Looked-after and Adopted Children
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review support for children looked after by local authorities and those children who are adopted.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Lord Agnew of Oulton) (Con): My Lords, we are committed to undertake a review of the care system. We are already implementing substantial reforms to improve outcomes for this most vulnerable group of children and young people. Alongside the reforms, we are providing councils with an additional £1 billion for adult and children’s social care in every year of this Parliament. The review will allow us to go further in ensuring that children and young people have the support that they need.
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, I am grateful that this much-needed review has been announced and I trust there will soon be details of a specific timetable, not only for the review but for its implementation. In the meantime, what are the Government doing to ensure that 16 and 17 year-olds vulnerable to county lines exploitation are always housed in safe, stable and appropriate accommodation? Are the Government confident that councils have appropriate resources?
Lord Agnew of Oulton: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right that an increasing number of older children are going into care, and their preference is often to go into less-regulated accommodation. County lines is a phenomenon that has arisen over the last five years and we are now acting strongly to deal with it. In October we announced £20 million of targeted investment to increase our efforts against county lines, and £5 million of that is already in operational use.
The Archbishop of York: My Lords, I declare an interest. Margaret and I adopted a brother and sister; Davina was three and George was eight. Their long-term stay with us depended on a wonderful social worker by the name of Ruth. She visited regularly and was able to talk to our two children and the adopted children. Davina is now 33 and George is 38. They both have good jobs and are working very well. The key is really an increase in the number of social workers who can work closely with adoptive and foster families. However, I have not seen this. If we really want to care for young children who have been fostered or adopted, we need to increase the number of sensitive, able and capable social workers. Without them, relationships tend to go wrong.
Lord Agnew of Oulton: My Lords, it is certainly true that we have a huge demand for good social workers. This is also about establishing that as a profession and giving it a higher profile, which we have done over the last few years. We are also using interventions such as the Early Intervention Foundation, a charity established in 2013, to champion and support the use of effective early intervention. We funded this foundation, giving it some £2 million in 2018-20 to assess, evaluate and disseminate evidence. I entirely accept that good social workers are crucial.