Kemi Badenoch, the MP for Saffron Walden, has succeeded Nadhim Zahawi as children’s minister.
The appointment was made public on Saturday, 24 hours after Zahawi, who had been in post 18 months, was reshuffled to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) by new prime minister Boris Johnson.
When Zahawi arrived in January 2018, the minister for children and families role was downgraded from minister of state to junior minister level, and it will retain this status under Badenoch.
A staunch backer of leaving the EU, Badenoch, 39, was elected to Parliament in 2017 having previously served for the Conservatives in the London Assembly.
She was born in London to Nigerian parents before spending much of her childhood in Lagos, and has spoken in Parliament about her experiences of poverty, including living without electricity or functioning water supply, and doing her homework by candlelight.
After returning to the UK at 16 Badenoch studied systems engineering at Sussex University, later also gaining a law degree, and has worked in the IT and banking sectors, including for RBS and Coutts.
What’s in Badenoch’s in-tray?
The ongoing impact of budget cuts on children’s social care will be one of many items occupying Badenoch’s in-tray.
At the start of the year, a report by the National Audit Office said the DfE did “not fully understand what is causing increases in demand and activity” in terms of numbers of children in care and subject to child protection measures.
A select committee recently called on the government to increase core children’s services funding by £3.1bn by 2025, in line with Local Government Association assessments of what is needed to maintain services.
Another of the cross-party groups is currently examining whether social workers are able to do their jobs given the work pressures they face.
Beyond that there is the ongoing social work reform agenda to manage, with the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) due to be rolled out nationally in spring 2020. As of the end of May, just 300 social workers had taken the assessment against a government target of at least 1,200 by the end of the year.
March 2020 is also when What Works for Children’s Social Care – which is supervising key initiatives on the DfE’s behalf – is due to be operating independently, while the new regulator, Social Work England, is set to take over in December.
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