Examination of Witness (Questions 40 -
WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL 2001
40. Could we tease that out a little in terms
of not being intrusive. I can see your question to the Minister,
I have heard what it is, but questions of ministers that involve
a great deal of expenditure, especially a minister who is rather
pleased, I think, with how much money has gone into Early Years
over the last four years, may be asking a bit much. What sums
are you talking about? Do you know how much the cost implications
are for the services you are asking? And how do you provide that
service without being intrusive?
(Ms Roberts) The first question first: What sort of
sums? It is very difficult to answer that, of course, but we have
found that we know that between £200 and £300 per child
per year would enable us to deliver a good supporting service
which was not intrusive. I think, to come to the second question
of how to do it without being intrusive, it is very much a case
of (1) it needs to be a universal service so you are not targeting
people and them thinking, "What's the matter with me?"
That is the key of it. So a universal service. The other is that
it must be offered to families, not dumped on them. If one offers
support to families, and if we offer it really well, in such a
way that they want to access it, that is the other bit of the
jigsaw, I think. So a universal service which is effectively offered.
41. Good. Is there anything you came here today
thinking you might want to tell the Committee or ask the Committee
that you have not yet heard said?because we have two minutes.
(Ms Roberts) Well, I have got a different take on
smoking and smacking, which is very much alongside Gill's but
I would like to mention that.
42. What is the different take on that?
(Ms Roberts) It is about the result of it for children's
development, I think. It seems to me that the failure to take
a strong line about smoking is in direct conflict with the recommendation
that the physical security of the children being looked after
should never be compromised. I do not know how you put those two
together. The second thing is that I think until the Government
takes effective steps to end smacking, children in the United
Kingdom who are smacked as a punishment will continue to grow
up learning from their adults that physical violence is what you
can use when you are grown up to make people do what you want.
This is profoundly unhelpful for many children as they grow into
adulthood and it is also counterproductive to our efforts to reduce
crime and disaffection.
43. You still have one minute if you have anything
else you would like to say?
(Ms Roberts) We were rather dismayed by the low-key
response to the research recommendation because it does not reflect
the range of Early Years research in which the Government is already
involved. It will continue to be extremely important to the government
departments to formulate the questions we need to be asking about
how best to support the youngest children and their families and
actively to commission research which is designed to provide the
answers. Just monitoring what is going on seems to us not to be
enough. Lastly, the two questions for Mrs Hodge. One is that she
knows that making a difference by long-term investment in Early
Years is going to be effective and powerful, but only if it is
sustained. So my question is: What strategies can she use to safeguard
continuation of this vital work from the whims of political change?
The second question, which I spoke about already, is the one about
introducing the modest grant programme. If that were to happen,
it might help to address the previous question; and it would ensure
that all those things that she has instigated would be disseminated
for the benefit of every child.
Chairman: Thank you very much.