Clause 17 - Framework

Children Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:30 pm ar 19 Hydref 2004.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Shadow Minister (Women) 4:30, 19 Hydref 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 46, in

clause 17, page 14, line 18, at end insert—

'( ) A children's services authority must make special provision for the inspection of nurseries within its area'.

If the amendment is not made, there will be no provision for the inspector of children's services to inspect nurseries. I am particularly concerned about nurseries because, by definition, all the children in them are vulnerable because they are so very young. The intention behind the amendment is not to undermine the work of Ofsted, which is, at present, being done extremely well, but to complement it.

Recently, much concern has been expressed in the media—quite well-based concern—about safety in nurseries and about the inspection regime. If parents are to have confidence in nurseries, it is essential that there is a tough inspection regime. It therefore seems strange that we have examined all the other work that will be done under the auspices of this part of the Bill, but nurseries have been omitted. I believe that they should be included, because they are an essential part of caring for children.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children) 4:45, 19 Hydref 2004

I reassure the hon. Lady that the framework will ensure that inspections evaluate and report consistently on the extent to which all children's services improve the well-being of children and young people. The framework applies to the inspection of front-line provision, including nurseries, and to joint area reviews. It governs the coverage of inspection and guides its methods, but it does not replace specialist inspection frameworks.

Ofsted will finish its current inspection of nursery provision next March. The last thing that we want is for parents to worry about the safety of nurseries, so it is worth putting it on the record that Ofsted carried out 23,900 Children's Act inspections of child care provision. Overall, the quality of care was adjudged unsatisfactory in 120 settings—that is 0.5 per cent. In unsatisfactory cases, Ofsted decides on a case-by-case

basis what should happen to bring about improvement: as the hon. Lady knows, that can range from enforcement action to the setting of conditions and actions, with a further inspection.

Most of those settings, therefore, are absolutely safe and are inspected regularly. However, to address some of the concerns raised by hon. Members, I am having discussions with Ofsted. We are revisiting the framework to see whether it is appropriate and rigorous enough to ensure that children are safe, happy and well cared for in every nursery. If that is not the case, quick action will be taken to ensure that children's safety is protected.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The Minister's speech brought to my mind a case in my constituency concerning a sports centre that operated a creche, where something went badly wrong. I wonder whether there is any provision for checking on the sort of creche provided at a public body; one would expect there to be some checks.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

I urge the hon. Lady to write to me about the particular case. Any provision that operates for children for two hours or more must be regulated.

Amendment No. 46 is not needed, and I hope that the hon. Member for Epping Forest will withdraw it. I also hope that she joins me in applauding the wonderful work that most nursery workers do in providing a safe, stimulating and happy environment for the children who are entrusted to their care.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Shadow Minister (Women)

I join the Minister in applauding the work done in nurseries, which are an essential part of family life in Britain today. I am entirely reassured by what the Minister said about the content of the framework, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.