Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 40 - 43)




  40. Could we tease that out a little in terms of not being intrusive. I can see your question to the Minister, I have heard what it is, but questions of ministers that involve a great deal of expenditure, especially a minister who is rather pleased, I think, with how much money has gone into Early Years over the last four years, may be asking a bit much. What sums are you talking about? Do you know how much the cost implications are for the services you are asking? And how do you provide that service without being intrusive?
  (Ms Roberts) The first question first: What sort of sums? It is very difficult to answer that, of course, but we have found that we know that between £200 and £300 per child per year would enable us to deliver a good supporting service which was not intrusive. I think, to come to the second question of how to do it without being intrusive, it is very much a case of (1) it needs to be a universal service so you are not targeting people and them thinking, "What's the matter with me?" That is the key of it. So a universal service. The other is that it must be offered to families, not dumped on them. If one offers support to families, and if we offer it really well, in such a way that they want to access it, that is the other bit of the jigsaw, I think. So a universal service which is effectively offered.

  41. Good. Is there anything you came here today thinking you might want to tell the Committee or ask the Committee that you have not yet heard said?—because we have two minutes.
  (Ms Roberts) Well, I have got a different take on smoking and smacking, which is very much alongside Gill's but I would like to mention that.

  42. What is the different take on that?
  (Ms Roberts) It is about the result of it for children's development, I think. It seems to me that the failure to take a strong line about smoking is in direct conflict with the recommendation that the physical security of the children being looked after should never be compromised. I do not know how you put those two together. The second thing is that I think until the Government takes effective steps to end smacking, children in the United Kingdom who are smacked as a punishment will continue to grow up learning from their adults that physical violence is what you can use when you are grown up to make people do what you want. This is profoundly unhelpful for many children as they grow into adulthood and it is also counterproductive to our efforts to reduce crime and disaffection.

  43. You still have one minute if you have anything else you would like to say?
  (Ms Roberts) We were rather dismayed by the low-key response to the research recommendation because it does not reflect the range of Early Years research in which the Government is already involved. It will continue to be extremely important to the government departments to formulate the questions we need to be asking about how best to support the youngest children and their families and actively to commission research which is designed to provide the answers. Just monitoring what is going on seems to us not to be enough. Lastly, the two questions for Mrs Hodge. One is that she knows that making a difference by long-term investment in Early Years is going to be effective and powerful, but only if it is sustained. So my question is: What strategies can she use to safeguard continuation of this vital work from the whims of political change? The second question, which I spoke about already, is the one about introducing the modest grant programme. If that were to happen, it might help to address the previous question; and it would ensure that all those things that she has instigated would be disseminated for the benefit of every child.

  Chairman: Thank you very much.

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