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Is it any wonder that there is a shortage of these committed individuals? The tragedy of Baby Peter and the media treatment have overwhelmed the service. The workforce is demoralised and service provision is at its tightest. In the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, where I chair the board, the numbers of referrals are higher than at any time in the life of the service, and we are a barometer of what is happening outside in the community. Despite this our unallocated cases continue to be held and reduced, so CAFCASS is doing better than ever through innovative work practices, partnership with judges and the support of the new president of the family courts. Much can be achieved through partnerships and finding new ways of working so long as the children and their families are central to our thinking. However, we, like local authorities, are still failing against our key indicators because our resources simply cannot match the demand. At the heart of all this for all social care services is the serious shortage of skilled social workers.
The one bright hope on the horizon is the report of the Social Work Task Force giving a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rise to these challenges. They are not challenges unknown to the government Benches. When
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For many working in social care there is pressure, uncertainty and, for some, low morale, but I do not want the picture to be totally bleak. Social workers, volunteers, carers and others continue to give of themselves day in and day out, and it certainly is not for the pay. New ways of working are being developed. What we need are ways of sharing experience and building on strength. We require a Government with a national vision that can have local implementation. The work needs to be integrated with health, housing and DWP to get the best out of public sector resources and reduce duplication and waste in the processes. It is needed now because the work simply does not stop for a change of government. We look to the Government for a better future for those in need.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, I will focus my comments on the impact of the Government's programme on higher education. I, too, welcome the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in his ministerial role for health. I cannot think of anyone better qualified in terms of knowledge, commitment and sensitivity. He is also pretty good behind the footlights.
Although I am no longer chief executive of Universities UK, my passion for higher education remains undiminished. I am anxious that investment in higher learning should not be an unintended casualty of the Government's determination to reduce the deficit. Several proposals in the Queen's Speech have a potential impact on higher education. Among them are the Academies Bill, the education and children's Bill and the health Bill. The Government also propose to put a cap on non-EU immigration. I also wish to touch on the dismantling of the system of regional development agencies.
Universities have invested considerable effort and resources into building closer links with schools in order to break down the social barriers that act as a barrier to participation in higher education. This has been supported by the previous Government's commitment to measures aimed at increasing social mobility. We must take care that the close links between schools and universities are not damaged by the administrative changes that the new Government are bringing forward.
Similarly, not everyone will be aware of the extent to which changes in NHS structures can have a major impact on higher education. Education for nursing and allied health professions in England is provided through contracts with strategic health authorities and universities. The proposals to establish an independent NHS board to allocate resources and provide commissioning guidance will directly affect this link. I urge the Government to ensure that this is borne in mind as the proposals are developed.
On the issue of migration, I understand that the non-EU cap will not apply to students. I warmly welcome this decision. A quarter of a million international
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Higher education is an international market where the UK can be proud of its leading role. Eighteen UK universities are in the top 100 in the world. The ability of our universities to recruit the best researchers and teaching staff from around the world is a key factor in maintaining this leading position. Any moves that make it more difficult to recruit the best staff can only limit our ability to compete in this global education market.
I turn to the future of regional development agencies. Often, universities are among the largest businesses represented on the boards of RDAs. The economic impact of universities at a regional level is substantial. In my region of Yorkshire, for example, there are almost 28,000 full-time-equivalent jobs in higher education, and a similar number that have been created by secondary means elsewhere in the economy. Universities' research and innovation can pay enormous dividends in terms of future economic development. I share the concern of university vice-chancellors that we risk damaging the capacity for cross-regional collaboration if RDAs are replaced with bodies that cover much smaller areas, and which perhaps will focus on more parochial concerns.
Beyond the measures outlined in the Queen's Speech, I will address the wider issue of the future funding of higher education. Many arguments that I would put were made by speakers across the House in the excellent debate on higher education initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, on 25 February this year, and I commend these points to the Government. They reflect my concern about the sustainability of our hard-won excellence if higher education faces again, as it did two decades ago, relentless underfunding.
The new Government face a difficult job in navigating the UK to sustained and sustainable economic growth: all noble Lords in this House have acknowledged that. I hope that the Government will recognise the vital role that higher education can play in securing economic recovery. The higher education sector already faces £1 billion-worth of cuts announced last December. The Chancellor's statement of two weeks ago added a further £200 million to the tally. Against this background, the noble Lord, Lord Browne, is conducting a review of future higher education funding and student support. This is the elephant in the room for the coalition; and, given the length of the Session before us, it could become a very restless elephant indeed. We know from the coalition agreement that the Liberal Democrats have an opt-out should the noble Lord, Lord Browne, propose an increase in tuition fees. This is hardly surprising, since virtually all of their Members in another place-including the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills-signed the NUS pledge not to support an increase in fees. However, is it credible to imagine Dr Cable abstaining on legislation sponsored by his own department?
My fear is not the immediate cuts to universities, tough though they will be, but that in the June Budget and the autumn Comprehensive Spending Review, higher education will find itself cut back further in ways that will undermine the teaching excellence that produces the highly qualified people that we so desperately need, and will undermine the world-class research that will give us the best advantage in emerging from the economic doldrums.
I do not know what the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, will be. He is charged with finding a sustainable way to fund universities. If the Government will not fully implement his proposals, universities will not have the freedom to respond to the increased financial pressures that they face, and higher education will not be able to play the role that it could in securing our economic future. I hope that, in replying, the Minister will be able to reassure me on this vital point.
The new Minister for Higher Education, David Willetts, knows the university sector well and is widely respected within it. I, with others, welcome the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Oareford, to this House and to his education role. He adds a further formidable brain to the two that Mr Willetts is said to have. All three will need to be applied to the task if they are to steer our universities through the challenges ahead so that they maintain their world-beating position.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on his new post as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Oareford, for his maiden speech. I shall speak about young people in care and care leavers, but I should like to raise a few points before I do so.
The principles behind the Queen's Speech were freedom, fairness and responsibility. The noble Lord opened the debate by talking about the need to free up professionals at the front line to do the job that they understand and know how to deliver. That is crucial. A general theme in this debate has been that professionals and users on the front line can make the most difference. We can deliver freedom, fairness and responsibility through teachers, social workers, foster carers and all those other workers.
Listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, I recalled that two months ago the former Secretary of State, Ed Balls, said in Church House that if he regretted one thing from his term in office it was that he did not do more for social workers early on. No matter how often we say that we need to support and develop teachers and social workers on the front line, somehow they manage to slip off the agenda. I pay tribute to the Government's excellent work in raising the status of teaching, but there is still a long way to go. The noble Lord will recall that, over several years, Finland has been the highest performer on the PISA tables. It is so demanding about who should teach its young people that it rejects 90 per cent of those who apply to become teachers.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, talked about social work training and the social work college. I look forward to hearing information about the future of this important new institution. The National Centre
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I do not believe that we have spoken this afternoon about early years. I remind the Minister that research by Professor Melhuish at the University of London highlights the fact that, working in particular with disadvantaged communities, if one provides good-quality pre-school education, pupils will still be doing well at the age of 11 whether they have gone to a bad primary school or a good primary school. I hope that the Minister will take thorough note of that. I am sure he is aware of the importance of early intervention. There has been much progress with the early years workforce, although there is still a high turnover of staff and the work is still regarded as low-status and is poorly paid. Much more attention needs to be given to it.
The noble Lord referred to unruly children. I hope that soon he will consider meeting exemplary charities, such as The Place2Be, which provides much-needed mental health support to children in primary schools, to the parents of those children and to the teachers in those schools. It has a very good track record in this area and I hope that the Minister will decide to meet its staff soon to discuss their work. Volunteer Reading Help is a charity that provides support to more than 1,000 primary schools, helping children to read. Volunteers trained by the charity work, over a year, with children who are identified by their teachers as having a particular need for support. Over that period, the children benefit not only from improving their literacy but from developing a relationship with an adult. I have visited the organisation's training sessions and have noted that many of the volunteers are men, so boys who are experiencing life without a father have an opportunity to develop a relationship over the period of a year.
I declare my interests as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children and Young People in Care, and as a trustee of TACT, the largest voluntary adoption and fostering agency operating in England, Wales and Scotland. I am also a trustee of the Michael Sieff Foundation.
I see that I am running out of time, for which I apologise, but perhaps I may take this opportunity to thank Her Majesty's Opposition for their huge commitment over many years to young people in care. I recall the Quality Protects initiative, which ring-fenced funding for children in care. I also recall the legislation,
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I ask the Minister how the Government will build on those achievements. I know that there has been some concern that, despite all the investment, the outcomes for these children have not improved as we would have wished. Professor Jackson was the academic who first alerted us to the way in which we had, over many years, failed these children in terms of their education. Two weeks ago, she told me that the admission rate to university for these young people has moved from 1 per cent to 9 per cent-an increase of 900 per cent. Although that is far below what we would want and what is acceptable, clearly progress has been made. Indeed, although these children's GCSE results are still not where they should be, they are at last beginning to follow the rate of improvement experienced among the general population. Therefore, the work invested in the past is beginning to pay off, but how will the Government build on that?
The previous Government introduced two pilots to enable young people to stay with their foster carers past the age of 18. Will the Minister consider how that might now be progressed and how such an arrangement might be made available to all young people in care? There is a shortage of 10,000 foster carers in England and Wales. Perhaps the Minister would care to write to me about how that will be addressed.
Many Peers among the Opposition have been strong champions of looked-after young people over the years. I shall briefly speak of the work of Timothy Loughton MP who, fortunately, has been shadow Minister for children and families for several years. He has built relationships with NGOs working in this area; he is well respected; he has visited Denmark and seen children's homes there and the excellent model of social pedagogy operated in that country; and he has several children's homes in his constituency of Brighton and Hove. It is reassuring that he now has an office within the children and families section of the Department for Education. We cannot expect too much given the budgetary constraints, but it is encouraging, especially as he chaired the committee on the excellent report on social work,No More Blame Game, to which my noble friend Lady Howarth of Breckland referred. I am encouraged that the Government are talking about freeing those at the front line to do their job. Of course, they need to be equipped to do that job. Through teachers, social workers, foster carers and early-years' workers, fairness, responsibility and freedom for our citizens will be delivered. I am grateful to the Government for taking these matters so seriously.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, this time of the day is not the moment for long introductions. However, I endorse the remarks previously made about my noble friends on the Front Bench and I congratulate the coalition on having put them there.
This afternoon's debate could perhaps be politely described as a bag of liquorice allsorts. I intend to confine my remarks to the culture bit of the package. In so doing, I declare an interest as chairman of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, although I shall draw on some of my other interests which are declared in the register.
As your Lordships will know, this country is one of the world's cultural centres; and as such it is not only a great cultural bonus for all of us who live here, it is also an extraordinary generator of inward spending from abroad and a raiser of revenue for the Government. In that context it is interesting to note, as some noble Lords may know, that a number of the Gulf states are building up large museums and cultural centres in anticipation of the end of their oil riches, to encourage visitors in the future and to generate income.
In this Chamber, as everywhere in this country, there has over recent weeks and months been much debate about public expenditure. We sometimes seem to overlook the fact that, in certain circumstances, public expenditure is a kind of clearinghouse between those who enjoy something and those who actually produce it. Let me give an example. I live near the English Lake District, and I am both a hill farmer-among other things-and president of the Cumbria tourist board. Visitors come to the Lake District to look at the fells. If the fells were not grazed by sheep they would be covered in birch trees and the visitors would not come. If there is no money in farming, the land will not be farmed, and that in turn would destroy the tourist industry. Of course, in practice, it is impossible for those who come to visit the locality to pay the producers of the landscape they come to see directly. The paradox that emerges is that the by-product has become more valuable than the principal output of the underlying activity.
In many ways, the same can be said of museums. It goes without saying that we are living in economically difficult and hard times, and we have to recognise the problems that that poses. However, it is also important to recognise that our museums and-particularly, but not exclusively-our national collections in London are enormous generators of public revenue. How we as a society respond to the cuts and the way in which the Government impose them must recognise that.
Another paradox is that you cannot successfully set out to create a good attraction, in precisely the same way as you cannot set out to make yourself happy by deliberately trying to achieve it. That became apparent to me when I was doing some work for Carlisle cathedral. People do not go to Carlisle cathedral because it is an attraction; it is an attraction because it is Carlisle cathedral. The way to underpin that important economic part of our society is to ensure that it retains its level of excellence, to ensure that it remains the best.
Part of the way to achieve that is to ensure that acquisition budgets do not simply evaporate. There are two reasons for that. First, our national institution collections are permanently evolving. If items leave this country, the chances are that they will have gone for ever. If the money to prevent that is not to come directly from the public purse, we must find other ways of leveraging that money. That is why I and my committee very much welcome the emphasis on philanthropy in this area, which was first raised and debated more widely by the outgoing Government and has been emphasised by the new Secretary of State in the past few days. In parallel with that, there is the evolution of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will have increased funding. In order to make philanthropy work in this country in the way that will be essential for our institutions in the years to come, it is important that the tax reliefs available for those who support those institutions are extended-particularly to capital gains tax and, I suggest, to income tax. The douceur to encourage people must be extended in the same way.
Secondly, the rules about reserved benefit need to be changed. If anyone else was to, say, build a new wing to the Tate Gallery at a cost of several million pounds, it would be galling to find that if you wanted to hold a party there once it had been completed, you would have to pay tax on any value which happened to have been conferred on you over the sum of £500. That is not the way to achieve philanthropic giving. We must ignore the sirens who say that this is all some kind of "toys for toffs". In society, you have to decide what you want. There are and will continue to be rich people in this country. If you think about it carefully, the point about being rich is that you have more money than other people. If you have more money than other people, you can spend it the way you want. We should aim to achieve a system which encourages rich people to spend money on things which are in the public interest, rather than to be merely self-indulgent. In that way, we can have our cake and eat it.
I am fully aware that to an economist, some of my remarks may sound rather flaky and woolly, although I rather doubt whether JM Keynes would have shared that view. That does not alter the fact that if you look at national institutions and museums from a bean-counting perspective, I dare say that the monetary investment in our national collections is one of the best investments that the country has ever made. "Ah!", you may say, "but of course they will never be sold". That is probably true, but equally an awful lot of money is spent by the public sector on things that no one else would ever buy-such as the IT system in the Rural Payment Agency.
In the economic predicament that we now face, difficult choices have to be made, but I believe that on our national collections, we must take the long view and concentrate on ensuring that when again we reach the sunny uplands of economic prosperity we do not find that we have debased our inheritance and relegated ourselves to the second division. Acquisition and maintenance are the two long keys to sustainable excellence. It is important that they are not subsumed to shorter-term, more populist claims sung to more populist tunes. As I say to my children, the easy solution is almost invariably the wrong one.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, as the financial crisis grinds on, noble Lords on all sides of the House now accept that public spending must be reduced, but today many of us plead for our favoured causes. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, I will also argue that public spending in support of Britain's cultural sector is a sound economic investment.
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