Children In Care

7th January 2016 - Graham intended to make a fuller speech, however as a time limit was imposed, this was cut short. To read the full version of what he hoped to say, click here:






Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): I shall make a brief contribution to the debate. If people wish to read the unabridged version of my speech, it will be on my website at the end of the debate. I declare an interest as the unpaid founder and chair of both the Rebalancing the Outer Estates charity and the Early Intervention Foundation.

I fully support the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Telford (Lucy Allan). I may surprise colleagues by not taking the opportunity to speak again about the need to change from a late intervention philosophy to an early intervention one, the need for evidence-based policy making, or the need for a “what works” organisation for the victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. Today I want to speak to the need for local people—real people in the localities—to make a difference in places such as my constituency, Nottingham North. In doing so, I pay a specific and well-deserved tribute to those connected with the Safe Families for Children programme for the phenomenal work that they are doing.

Safe Families was brought to the UK and started in the north-east of England entirely as a result of the energy and personal commitment of Sir Peter Vardy. After I spoke to Sir Peter about my constituency, with typical generosity he put at Nottingham’s disposal his fantastic team led by the unstoppable chief executive, Keith Danby, and we began to work out how we could take things forward for unsafe families in Nottingham North. We had several planning meetings involving the community convened under the auspices of the Rebalancing the Outer Estates charity. Nottingham city council put its considerable weight behind the idea. Alongside our own 20-year early intervention plan, the programme works with the many other facets of Nottingham’s early intervention city programme and with the strategy of our far-sighted and talented team led by Candida Brudenell, Katy Ball and Kevin Banfield.

Put simply, Safe Families works with three levels of volunteers. Colleagues might wish to take this up in their own constituency. Those three levels are, first, family friend volunteers, who are trained to help the families directly to overcome their problems; secondly, host family volunteers who, after proper criminal record checks, can look after the children for one night, a week or whatever, giving the family the time they need to get it together again; and thirdly, resource friend volunteers who, like us perhaps, can contribute a little bit of time here and there to help with supplying or delivering much needed household and other items to families in difficulties.

Building the volunteer critical mass has been crucial. The wonderful Kat Osborn and the local Safe Families for Children Nottingham team have been brilliant. They have recruited, trained and approved 240 volunteers in Nottingham and throughout the east midlands—sadly, far too many to name, but I have met many of them—starting with faith-based communities and spreading to involve people of all faiths and none. Starting just a few months ago from the base in Nottingham North, the city of Nottingham has now made 32 referrals and 49 children have been supported to date. These include 32 nights of hostings, with more in the pipeline over the next few weeks.

The financial benefits are enormous. A very small upfront investment of resource, time and effort avoids costs of tens of thousands of pounds for every child who did not go into care The average cost of a looked-after child is estimated to be £48,000, excluding legal costs and council staff costs. We in Nottingham are close to making our own evidence-based savings prediction as we grow beyond the 32 referrals we have made so far.

The Safe Families for Children extended pilot became a joint venture between the Department for Education’s children’s social care innovation programme and Nottingham council. As with all the ideas we trigger in the Rebalancing charity, the idea was to pioneer Safe Families in one place and then grow it. Now, using Nottingham as a hub, all four of our east midlands phase 1 Safe Families partners—Derby, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire—have been up and running for over a month and all are now making referrals.

Will the Minister raise with the Treasury the possibility of using this as a social investment programme? Also, will he ensure that every council takes up a similar scheme?