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Lord Adonis: Information about social workers' visits to individual children is collected by Children's Services Authorities (CSAs) as part of the regular review of each child's case. This information enables CSAs to monitor their own performance as part of their quality assurance arrangements. Visits by social workers to looked-after children are not measured as part of the regular monitoring of children's services performance, but CSCI does inspect CSAs, quality assurance arrangements. The irregularity of social work visits was highlighted in the recent report of the Second Joint Chief Inspectors' Children's Safeguards Review Report.
Lord Adonis: Data for those with no assigned social worker are not collected. Local authorities report annually to the Commission for Social Care Inspection on the percentage of their looked after children who have an assigned social worker who is qualified as a social worker, who is not a team leader. The latest figures are from 2003-04, and show that 92.6 per cent. of children looked after in England had a named, qualified social worker.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Government are committed to ensuring that children and young people are consulted about policy and services for them. They should have the opportunity to make their views known in decision-making concerning their future. This work is ongoing and subject to review. Existing provisions offer a range of ways in which children's wishes and feelings may be ascertainedwhether direct to the court or indirectly through guardians and/or written reports to the court.
Lord Adonis: The Government published their Children's Workforce Strategy: Building a world-class workforce for children and young people for consultation on 1 April 2005. The strategy recognises the need for everyone who works with children and young people to be properly and suitably skilled and competent, and for there to be career pathways open to everyone in the children's workforce which recognises the common core of skills and knowledge. We will publish the Government's response to the consultation later this year.
In addition, the Government announced on 21 July 2005 that the General Social Care Council will be preparing early plans for the registration of the social care workforce beyond social workers, to include
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domiciliary and residential care staff. It is anticipated that this will include all residential staff in children's homes.
The qualification requirements for residential child care workers and managers are included in the children's homes national minimum standards. National minimum standard 29.5 of the children's homes national minimum standards states that: "A minimum ratio of 80 per cent. of all care staff have completed their Level 3 in the Caring for Children and Young People NVQ by January 2005. Staff may hold other qualifications that require similar competencies, and these may be courses developed locally which are accredited. New staff engaged from January 2004 need to hold the Caring for Children and Young People NVQ or another qualification which matches the competencies or begin working towards them within three months of joining the home." I understand that the chair of the Commission for Social Care Inspection met with the noble Lord on 27 July 2005 to discuss the performance of children's homes against this standard. We will consider the adequacy of the standards as part of our review of Children's Social Services National Minimum Standards.
An annual national training strategy grant is paid to local authorities to support training for social care staff. The grant is intended to support mainly NVQ training for local authority staff and staff in voluntary and private sector organisations contracted to provide social care services. The Government are also investing £14 million in 2005-06 in the development of learning resource centre networks, which will support work-based learning for all social care staff.
Lord Adonis: The vacancy rates in local authority residential establishments for children, including children's homes, in England in 2003 (the latest date for which data are available) were 10.3 per cent. for managerial staff and 12.5 per cent. for care staff.
The vacancy rate for staff based in statutory sector children's homes in Northern Ireland at 30 June 2005 is 4.3 per cent. headcount/4.0 per cent. whole time equivalent. The vacancy rate for staff based in voluntary and private sector children's homes in Northern Ireland at 30 June 2005 is 6.7 per cent. headcount/6.8 per cent. whole time equivalent.
Lord Adonis: The Secretary of State announced this week that we have expanded the very successful Bookstart programme which currently provides free books to every baby in England at around eight months. The aim is to encourage parents to share books with their children from the earliest age and to instil a life-long love of reading. From later this year, the programme will be extended to provide free books, library invitations and supporting materials to every child 18 months and three years, as well as continuing delivery of the eight-month pack. The programme delivers these packs through health visitors, librarians and early years practitioners. Not only does this reinforce the importance of parental involvement in children's learning, it provides an informal route for parents to access professional support for their own literacy skills development.
The department and the primary and secondary national strategies provide a range of materials to support teachers, school librarians and others to ensure that their schools both provide high quality teaching and learning in reading, and promote an environment which encourages children's enthusiasm for reading.
In addition, the National Reading Campaign, delivered on our behalf by the National Literacy Trust, promotes reading across the community and aims to ensure that as many people as possible enjoy the pleasures and benefits that independent reading and reading with others can bring. A key element of the campaign includes the reading champions initiative which finds and celebrates positive male role models for reading in educational and community settings and seeks to change boys' attitudes to reading.
We encourage schools to develop study support activities which focus on literacy, including reading and book clubs, whether they take place on the school premises or elsewhere such as the local library. Our Playing for Success study support centres which open out of school hours use sport as a theme in their reading activities to encourage children to read. We have also funded the national charity ContinYou to develop resource materials to help schools set up and maintain reading clubs.
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