Health and Care Bill: Bishop of Birmingham supports strengthening services for children and young people

On 18th January 2022, the House of Lords debated the Health and Care Bill. The Bishop of Birmingham, on behalf of the Bishop of London, spoke in support of amendments aimed at strengthening public health services for children and young people:

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, on behalf of my right reverend friend the Bishop of London, who cannot be in her place today, I speak in support of Amendment 141, to which she has put her name, alongside all the amendments, which I too support, having listened to the discussion and read them carefully. They all aim to strengthen the services for children and young people. The Government should be congratulated on continuing in the NHS a long period—perhaps 20 to 30 years—of raising the profile of children and young people. The work of the clinical director should be noted, and the involvement of young people in the design of services, although we have already heard this morning that this could be increased.

The pandemic has shown that there are still gaps through which children and young people fall. My right reverend friend the Bishop of London, and myself in Birmingham, are in regular contact with head teachers of Church schools and know about the increase in children’s mental ill health, continued inequalities, and the uneven provision of services across the country.

In the second day of Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, emphasised the need for focus in the NHS. Other noble Lords here have spoken of the need for levers in the Bill to ensure accountability. I think that this is what Amendment 141 attempts to do—to provide such a regular assessment and framework to ensure that the needs of children and young people are always included and that there is a general and regular accountability. I trust that the Minister will consider the amendment carefully, along with the others—but particularly this one—and accept it.


Extracts from the speeches that followed:

Lord Shinkwin (LD): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. I apologise to the Committee for not being able to be here at the start of the debate on this group, owing to a medical appointment.

I shall address my remarks to Amendments 141, 151 and 177. I do so because, like other noble Lords who have put their names to these amendments, and as I made clear at Second Reading, I believe that supporting speech, language and communication development and better outcomes for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, which I shall refer to as communication needs for the remainder of my contribution, is incredibly important and a cost-effective investment.

I should at this point declare my interest as a proud vice-president of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. I should also say that I have incorporated within my remarks those that would have been made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, who has a passionate interest in adequate support for people with communication needs as a former speech and language therapist.

Lord Kamall (Con, Department of Health and Social Care): Amendment 141 was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, my noble friend Lord Shinkwin and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and eloquently spoken to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham on behalf of his colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. It would require NHS England to publish a national accountability framework for children and young people and to use that framework to assess the boards. Again, I hope that I can give some assurance that this is already provided for in the Bill.

Under new Section 14Z57, NHS England

“must conduct a performance assessment of each integrated care board”

and produce a summary report. The assessment will look at a number of issues, including improvement in the quality of service and reducing health inequalities. It will also apply to all age groups; indeed, much of today’s debate and noble Lords’ contributions touched on some of the issues that we covered in the earlier debate on tackling health inequalities; I know that noble Lords across the House share those concerns.

Further, under the new section, NHS England

“must consult each relevant Health and Wellbeing Board … on any steps that the board has taken to implement any joint local health and wellbeing strategy”,

which is based on the assessment of relevant local needs and keeps that connection to place below the level of the ICB. As a result, I would gently advise against creating a separate national accountability framework solely for babies, children and young people simply because this would create an additional burden and risks creating confusion between accountability frameworks. We want to make sure that we have proper accountability and avoid confusion.

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