LAST week the government announced an extra £450 million of funding to upgrade school buildings across the country.

A total of 859 academies, sixth-form colleges and voluntary aided schools will benefit from improvements to school and college facilities, providing pupils with safer and warmer classrooms, and more energy efficient school buildings.

Five primary schools in our constituency will benefit – Hennock Community Primary School, Widecombe-in-the-Moor Primary School, Ide Primary School, Morchard Bishop Church of England Primary School and Dunsford Community Academy.

With the average parliamentary constituency seeing between one and two schools benefiting, this is a great result for Central Devon and recognises the investment needed in small rural schools.

In addition to extra school funding, the government has also committed £200 million to improve the care system to provide better support for vulnerable children and families.

A recent strategy and consultation on children’s social care, "Stable Homes, Built on Love", was based on three independent reviews and aims to transform the life chances of tens of thousands of young people.

In doing so, significant wider economic and societal benefits will be delivered. Around one in 10 18-20 year-olds are not in education, training or employment but this rises to one in four among care leavers.

And around half of all children in youth custody come from foster or residential care despite fewer than one per cent of children in England and two per cent of those in Wales being in care.

Greater investment in the care system will not only support more children but will save the tax payer more money in the long-term.

The new strategy focuses more on early intervention rather than dealing with crises when problems escalate and prioritises kinship care (where a child is placed with a relative or family friend).

To help with the transition to greater independence, the leaving care allowance will be increased from £2,000 to £3,000 and the apprenticeship care leavers’ bursary will increase from £1,000 to £3,000 from August 2023.

There will also be a £27 million foster care recruitment and retention programme – the largest investment in a generation – and foster carers will receive an above-inflation increase in their allowance to meet the financial costs of caring for a child.

There are around 44,000 fostering households in England, each making a huge difference to the lives of the children they care for. But thousands more are needed as around 30,000 more children come into care every year.

Last week, as part of Foster Care Fortnight, I caught up with Cllr Andrew Leadbetter (Devon County Council cabinet member for Children’s Services) to discuss this very issue – how we can boost foster care recruitment here in Devon.

I was encouraged by the wide-ranging action our County Council is taking and would encourage anyone who may be able to open their home to take the first step by visiting:  to find out more.

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