Weekly political news round up – 18th July 2014

July 18, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The King’s Fund has published its Quarterly Monitoring Report on NHS performance. It notes that, in its fourth year of effectively no real increase in funding and undiminished urgency to generate more care to meet growing demands, the NHS is under “huge pressure” and its finance directors are growing increasingly pessimistic about the financial position of health organisations and local health economies. The report also highlights an increase in the nursing workforce to nearly 315,000 over the past six months – the highest on record – meaning hospitals now face a difficult choice about whether to balance the books or maintain quality of services.

The SEND Code of Practice debate in the House of Lords was rescheduled and will now take place in the Grand Committee on Monday 21st July at 3.30pm.

SEND Code of Practice passed in the House of Commons

Following a debate by the Eight Delegated Scrutiny Committee, which lasted less than an hour, the SEND Code of Practice has been passed by the House of Commons. With the Code now approved, with the backing of Labour, it will be debated in the House of Lords before it is finally passed.

Shadow Children’s Minister Steve McCabe used the debate to quiz Children’s Minister Edward Timpson on a series of issues, some of which were relevant for the PCF, including:

–       Why it is not mandatory for all young children with complications around the time of birth to undergo early screening protocols by specialist paediatricians?

–       What is being done to ensure that intervention and support by health services and local authorities genuinely amounts to a co-ordinated, joined-up service?

–       The bodies subject to carrying out the Code have been given only a short amount of time to implement it and train their staff.

–       The Minister should commit to review the Code, with public consultation, and should provide timescales on the review.

–       It had been suggested that the Code is weaker than its predecessor because it is unable to show a clear journey through the SEN system. The Code should be a “living document subject to more regular revision”.

–       There does not appear to be a strategic assessment of the children and young people’s workforce on a national level.

In response Timpson said he would keep an open mind about the need to review the Code, suggesting that it is a live document and the Government will be constructive about the need to address issues that emerge as the reforms imbed. He also said the Department will work with Ofsted to look at the accountability of the system, including a multiagency approach, to ensure that inspections of SEN are much more holistic than they have been previously. Timpson added that Ofsted will look at the journey of a child through the system, rather than each specific condition.

On the issue of the identification and support of 0-3s, Timpson reiterated that the two-year-check is in place to establish developmental concerns – although did not explain how the needs of children younger than two will be addressed.

Responding to McCabe’s concerns about early screening protocols for certain conditions, Timpson said that he would be happy to raise the issue with the Department of Health, as it falls within their domain.

On the topic of joined up health, education and social care, Timpson said that not only were provisions in place through the Children and Families Act, but also through the Care Act 2014 and the NHS mandate, which specifically names SEN as one of the things against which health providers will be judged. The two Acts and the NHS mandate, he said, were pulling health, education and social care towards a much more integrated approach.

The Minister also confirmed that guides for parents, young people and children on the most relevant aspects of the Code to them will be published in August. Timpson went on to inform the Committee that the provisions on supporting young people in custody, which will come into effect in April, will be brought to Parliament in the New Year. Notably personal budgets were not discussed in any detail, suggesting that the Government is no longer keen on promoting them as a key aspect of the reforms.

Prime Minister David Cameron announces ministerial reshuffle

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a reshuffle of Conservative ministers within the Government. Ministerial reshuffles involve the removal of selected ministers from their positions, followed by the appointment of their replacements from within that department, from other departments, or from outside of government.

The latest reshuffle has been the largest of Cameron’s premiership, with one of the most notable features being the appointment of a significant number of women to ministerial positions.

Below is an outline of the changes announced:

Department of Health

There has only been one change to the ministerial makeup of the Department of Health, with George Freeman being promoted to Life Science Minister – a position split between the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The key ministers, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Health Minister Daniel Poulter, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison, all retain their positions.

The composition of the Department of Health’s ministerial team is now as follows:

  • Health Secretary – Jeremy Hunt
  • Care and Support Minister – Norman Lamb
  • Health Minister – Dr Daniel Poulter
  • Health Minister – Earl Howe
  • Public Health Minister – Jane Ellison
  • Life Sciences Minister – George Freeman (with the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills)
  • PPS to the Health Secretary – Tobias Ellwood
  • PPS to the Health Secretary – Andrew Jones
  • PPS to the Department of Health’s ministerial team – Andrew Jones

Department for Education

Michael Gove has been replaced as Education Secretary by Nicky Morgan, who had previously been Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Gove has been appointed as Chief Whip.

Nick Gibb returns to the Department for Education as Education and Childcare Minister, replacing Liz Truss, who is now the Environment Secretary.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson retains his role, and therefore will continue to oversee the implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEND Code of Practice.

Former Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock has been appointed as Energy Minister and has been replaced by Nick Boles, who had been Planning Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Sam Gyimah was also appointed as Education Minister, although his portfolio has yet to be revealed.

The composition of the Department for Education is as follows:

  • Education Secretary – Nicky Morgan
  • Schools Minister – David Laws
  • Skills and Enterprise Minister – Nick Boles
  • Children and Families Minister – Edward Timpson
  • Education and Childcare Minister – Nick Gibb
  • Schools Minister – Lord Nash
  • Education Minister – Sam Gyimah (portfolio not yet specified)
  • PPS to the Education Secretary – VACANT