Following the recommendation to remove Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) in the ‘Foster Care in England’ report, I asked the Minister for Children and Families why anyone would want to remove people who act to protect children’s interests in the care process.
This is especially worrying as several organisations such as the Fostering Network, Action for Children, and even the National Children’s Commissioner have criticised the report’s recommendation.
In the Education Committee’s session with Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi on Wednesday, I raised my concerns about the immense pressure that head teachers are under to manage their school’s finances.
This pressure is so intense that in some instances pupil premium funds, which are intended to support disadvantaged children, are being moved away to patch-up budget deficits, according to research from the Sutton Trust.
My reaction to the decision from Leeds Crown Court to grant a full judicial review into the HRI business case:
I am delighted that the judgement from Leeds Crown Court has taken into consideration all of the evidence, and has ruled in favour of the Hands Off HRI campaigners and the thousands of residents, medical professionals and local politicians. We have said time and time again that the business case which Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust put forward was flawed.
This is a victory for common sense. It shows that together as a community, we can achieve great results. This is a really positive step forward. My thanks go to the thousands of people who have campaigned, chipped in money and supported the campaign in any way they could.
We must however, be aware that Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust may appeal this decision, and that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s report is still to be released. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, has given an inadequate answer to my Written Question on the date that he will release the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s report. He has said only that it will be released in “due course”. He cannot just sit on the report and expect us all to go away quietly without a fight.
I will once again make the offer to Jeremy Hunt to come to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, where I can show him around our fantastic hospital and he can meet the dedicated professional staff who work there.
We need to be ready for the next steps in the fight to save our hospital.
On Wednesday, I spoke in an Opposition Day Debate on refugees and human rights. In my speech, I spoke about The Buzz Project in Marsden, which was set up by Dr Ryad Alsous to help local refugees and job seekers to find a place and a purpose in the community.
On Tuesday in the Education Committee meeting on the quality of skills and apprenticeships training, I asked the panel about the barriers to accessing apprenticeships, including having to pay for transport, uniforms and childcare, and what can be done to reduce these barriers.
This follows a survey of apprenticeship pay in July, which found that 18% of apprentices were paid below the appropriate national minimum wage or national living wage.
The Young Women’s Trust found that 43% of apprentices said that the costs associated with doing an apprenticeship are higher than their earnings as an apprentice. It also found that more than half of apprentices struggle to cover basic living costs such as rent or utilities.
We have some fantastic, creative and inspiring businesses in the Colne Valley constituency, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and meeting many of them and will be talking with many more at the Colne Valley Business Conference which I am hosting on 9th February.
I’m always keen to learn more about the concerns, pressures and issues impacting on businesses and your ideas for what needs to change in the future, so today I am launching a short online survey.
If you are a small or medium business based in the Colne Valley constituency, your feedback will be very valuable and help my work in support of local businesses. The survey is open to SMEs of all types – private businesses, social enterprises, co-operatives and others – and from all industry sectors.
Over the last few months, the Education Select Committee have been taking evidence on fostering and how fostered children are supported. We have now released a report into our findings.
This is the first formal report that I have been involved with since becoming an MP, and I am delighted that we have managed to highlight some of the issues around fostering, allowing the Government to address those issues. One U-turn the Government has already made, is that foster parents will now be entitled to the full 30 hours free childcare for children they foster. This could help over 3000 children.
We still have a way to go to make sure that foster carers and children are fully supported, but this report is certainly a first step in the right direction.
Today, I asked my second question to the Prime Minister.
I asked her whether her Government would listen to education professionals, and fully and fairly fund our schools; end the toxic culture of targets and tests; deliver a broad and balanced curriculum; and most of all return the joy of teaching back to our classrooms.