HC Deb 26 July 1999 vol 336 cc42-3W
Mr. David Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about the progress of the Quality Projects Initiative. [92936]

Mr. Hutton

The quality protects programme was launched in September 1998 and is designed to transform the management and delivery of children's social services. It is supported by a new £375 million special children's grant.

All local authorities are required to submit an annual quality protects management action plan (MAP) to show how they intended to improve their children's services. The MAPs for Year 1 submitted in January were all assessed as reaching an acceptable standard. As a result of this I wrote to all local authorities confirming that subject to Parliamentary approval they would be receiving payment of their allocation of the children's special grant for 1999–2000. In their MAPs due to be received in January 2000 we will expect to see evidence of real improvements in the quality of services being provided by local authorities.

On 29 June we published a national overview report, Mapping Quality in Children's Services: An Evaluation of Local Responses to the Quality Protects Programme, which presents the key messages and findings from the first round of MAPs. Copies of the report are available in the Library. It identifies many examples of good practice from across the country but it also highlights major areas where improvement is urgently needed. To support local authorities tackle some of these development needs we will be publishing a national work programme later in the summer which will set out a plan of work by the Department at national, regional and local level. Sixteen quality protects project teams have been set up within the Department to develop policy and disseminate good practice on a range of issues including disabled children, children's participation, placement choice, new child protection guidance and ethnic minority children.

We shall also be publishing our revised objectives for children's services, supported by a full set of performance indicators, which sets out clearly our expectations of the part to be played by local authorities in delivering better outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in our society.

We have appointed eight regional development workers to drive forward measures to improve services and to work with local authorities to help implement their management action plans.

When we launched the quality protects programme we said that elected members had a crucial role in ensuring that the programme was a success. In order to help members understand their roles and responsibilities, we have recently held seven joint Departmental/Local Government Association regional seminars for members.