Children’s services boosted as Hodge lands new post

Sure Start, the Children and Young People’s Unit and the
Connexions National Unit are to be brought together within a single
organisation within the Department for Education and Skills under
the new minister of state for children, Margaret Hodge.

Hodge is set to take responsibility for children’s social
services as well as provision for under-fives, family policy and
family law and for taking forward the forthcoming green paper on

The changes mean the Department of Health will no longer have
responsibility for children’s social services. Also moved
into the DfES from the DoH are the Teenage Pregnancy Unit, while
the Family Policy Unit will be moved to the DfES from the Home
Office and responsibility for family law will be transferred from
the Lord Chancellor’s Department.

Hodge will be responsible for overseeing Sure Start and Early
Years, Childcare, Connexions, local education authority special
educational needs and the youth service. She will also be
responsible for the Children and Young People’s Unit.

The exact organisational structure for the DfES’s new
functions will be decided over the next few months, according to an
official statement, but Sure Start, the CYPU and Connexions,
together with their budgets, “will be brought together in the new
organisation, as will aspects of support for school age

Hodge commented that her first job would be to work with
colleagues on proposals in the green paper.

Under Hodge in the ministerial hierarchy, Cathy Ashton remains
minister for Sure Start and Ivan Lewis is minister for young people
and adult learning.

Hodge’s appointment has been welcomed by Paul Ennals,
chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, who said
it was “a promising sign of the government’s commitment to
joining up services for children”.

But he questioned how the new DfES would maintain strong links
with children’s health, and proposed that the National
Service Framework for Children would need to be developed jointly
between the DfES and DoH.

Ennals also asked how youth justice policy would be influenced.
“For too long Home Office policy has been out of step with other
government approaches to children.”

Barnardo’s also welcomed Hodge’s appointment. Chris
Hanvey, director of UK operations for the charity, urged Hodge to
set up a task force to address the national crisis in staff
recruitment and training for people who work with children.

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