Children England – Latest News

Briefing: The Children and Social Work Act
We’ve published a summary of the Children and Social Work Act (Part 1), and brought together useful briefings and commentaries relating to these provisions. It includes

  • Corporate Parenting Principles for local authorities
  • More educational support for previously looked after children
  • Significant changes to local safeguarding arrangements
  • Statutory relationships and sex education in all secondary schools

700,000 children living in unsafe rented homes
Analysis by the Labour Party shows that 1 million rented homes in England are unsafe and that almost 700,000 children are living in them, at risk from fire, vermin and other threats to their health and safety. Labour’s Bill to make homes fit for human habitation is currently going through the House of Commons
Child poverty exceeds 50% in some areas
The End Child Poverty campaign has published new figures for child poverty in each area which show that in 87 wards, a child is now more likely than not to grow up in poverty. They also indicate:

  • The areas of greatest deprivation have seen the greatest percentage point increases in poverty
  • The major cities continue to be the places with highest child poverty, including London, Birmingham and Manchester
  • There is huge variation between areas, with the local authority having the smallest number of children in poverty being the Isles of Scilly, at 5.17%

Sam Royston, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition, said,
‘It is scandalous that a child born in some parts of the UK now has a greater chance of growing up in poverty, than being in a family above the breadline. There can be little doubt that the Government’s policy of maintaining the benefits freeze despite rising prices is a major contributor to the emerging child poverty crisis.’

Insufficient progress on children’s health
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has published its 2018 report The State of Child Health in England. Whilst finding that some progress has been made in guidance for local authorities on child obesity and in collecting child health data, there is no evidence of change in areas such as:

  • Reducing child deaths
  • Developing research capacity to improve child health
  • Reducing child poverty

Children’s centres not being Ofsted inspected
Research by Action for Children has revealed that almost 1,000 children’s centres have not been inspected by Ofsted for over five years. The government’s freeze on children’s centre inspections was originally a short-term measure but two years later is still in place. Action for Children is calling on the Secretary of State Damian Hinds to review early years services and provide “a bold vision for the early years”.

The impact of free school meals
The Education Policy Institute has published extensive evaluation of universal free school meals for infants (UIFSM). Across the full calendar year, the estimated proportion of infants from the lowest quartile of household income receiving a free meal in the previous week increased from an estimated 25 per cent shortly before UIFSM’s introduction (equivalent to 34 per cent in a given school week) to 62 per cent (equivalent to 84 per cent in a given school week) afterwards. The research also found:

  • Some teachers thought attainment/progress in class (39 per cent); ability to complete deskbased activities (36 per cent); and ability to concentrate, not getting distracted (36 per cent) had increased as a result of UIFSM, with none reporting a deterioration.
  • 30 per cent of school leaders felt that pupils’ overall health had improved as a result of UIFSM being implemented, while 54 per cent of 57 teachers surveyed felt that the policy had had a positive impact on the health of children eligible for FSM.
  • 56 per cent of parents surveyed felt their child was more likely to try new foods following the introduction of UIFSM.

People power – supporting localism
The Commission on Localism, run by Locality and Power to Change, has published its research on how well policies supporting localism are working and what more is needed to empower communities. It calls for ‘radical action’ and recommends:

  • A strengthened partnership between local government and local people. For local government to embrace community-led solutions, including by transferring community buildings to local community organisations, more local control of budgets, and to strengthen community organisations who can make it easier for people to get involved in local activities
  • Central government to create a stronger framework for local decision making by strengthening the Localism Act including increased powers  for communities to take over important buildings with a new Community Right to Buy, to influence public services, through a new ‘services partnership power’, and by granting new powers to strengthen neighbourhood forums
  • Localism to be at the heart of the devolution agenda to ensure initiatives truly strengthen the power of community, enhance community accountability and neighbourhood control.