CAROLINE ANSELL MP: Every child needs the best start in life

There was much coverage about the Queen’s Speech this week but I would like to concentrate on some aspects of the government’s upcoming legislative programme that didn’t get quite so much media exposure.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 11:16 am

I was really pleased to see the Government commit to improve early years learning and that every child has the best start in life and can fulfil their potential. Education is the best way out of poverty and the better the quality of that education from the earliest possible time, the better.

Ministers will now look to bring forward a manifesto commitment to roll out Family Hubs to bring services together.

Other measures include: developing a skilled workforce to meet the changing needs of families with babies and new ways to support, train and retain skilled professionals. Encouraging councils to publish a clear Start for Life offer for parents and carers. And implementing policies to improve child health including a childhood obesity plan, transformation of children’s mental health and maternity services. Importantly, as we move out of the pandemic, there will be further measures to ensure no child is left behind as a result of the education and extracurricular activities they may have missed out on.

Funding is certainly an issue in early years provision and I will be making that point to ministers as more detail is released. However, this is good news.

I was also pleased to see the government commit to a Skills and Post-16 Education Bill to introduce a new “flexible loan” lifetime system that will allow everyone the chance to access new training. More powers to intervene with failing sixth form colleges are also welcome. Plans to make voters show photo ID at general elections is also something I support. I do not see how this can be controversial. It has occurred at elections in Northern Ireland since 2002. There are concerns that people who do not have photo ID might be effectively excluded but anyone who does not have an approved form of photographic ID will be able to apply for a free local electoral identity document from the council.

Showing ID is something people do all the time when they pick up a parcel at the post office and this never causes a problem. Finally, the Electoral Commission has argued for a voter ID scheme since 2014 and pilots in England have been successful.

The Government has indicated there will be an independent public inquiry into Covid from next spring. We must learn lessons from what has happened - we owe that to those who sadly lost their loved ones to the virus or are suffering from long Covid. But we also need to know what we can do better to avoid such a scenario again and we need to be better prepared.

New freedoms are coming from Monday like inviting friends and family (up to six or two households) back into our homes. This is a significant step change but to protect our progress, we have to be mindful of the spectre of variants and do all in our power to engage safely.