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  Kavita interviews Margaret Hodge MP
Updated 16 July 2003, 17.33
Kavita interviews Margaret Hodge MP
Newsround sent along Press Packer Kavita to interview the new Minister for Children, Margaret Hodge MP.

Kavita asked her lots of questions - including what how she's planning to help kids - and protect children from abuse.

Kavita: What exactly does your job involve?

Margaret Hodge: My job's a brand new job in the government and I've got responsibility for children, young people and families.

What that helps me to do is to think through all the services that government or local government and lots of other people offer to children, and make sure we do them in a way that meets your needs.

The other thing I want to do it to make all services work together and talk to each other so that the very extreme, the tragic death of some children like Victoria Climbie never occur again.

Kavita: What are your top priorities your job as Minister for Children?

Margaret Hodge: Do you know I've got so much to do it's difficult to decide where to start! But I'm bringing together a lot of people in one department.

Margaret Hodge MP
One of my priorities is to ensure teachers and all the people that work in schools work much better with social workers and all the people that all work with children.

Then I've got some really important focused things I want to do. For example, we've got 60 thousand children in care at present who don't do well at school.

What I want to do is make sure that more of them get the opportunity to achieve well at a school so they can contribute to society and fulfil their ambitions.

And my other immediate ambition is for [children] when parents split up, and there's a divorce and arguments about access to the children or when there is a child at risk from abuse.

It can take far too long - up to a year - to decide whether a child can be brought into care. I think a year in your life is too long to wait so we all want to speed up those processes so we can decide a children future much more quickly.

Kavita: How will we know if you've been successful?

Margaret Hodge: You'll have to judge that! But what I'm hoping is that by the end of two to three years you'll see lots of these children's centres opened up

I hope you'll see better services so that your mum, dad and you don't have to run around hunting them out.

I hope we'll see a much better children's work force. If you think about it lots of people want to grow up and be teachers or doctors or police officers. Not enough of you want to be social workers.

So I want to raise the esteem of social work so that more people can work in that very important job and play their part in protecting people and preventing abuse.

Kavita: How will the Children's Trusts help children and especially for those living in poverty?

Margaret Hodge: Children's Trusts are another a brand new initiative and what we're trying to do is bring together everybody who works with children.

That's everybody in education from the teachers to the people like education welfare officers to those who might work in a unit with children with behavioural difficulties.

Kavita
We want to bring them together with everybody in the health service (health visitors through the children's mental health services) together with people working on the juvenile criminal justice system (anybody from probation officers to people working in youth offending teams all around the country).

We want to bring them together with the Connections service - an advice and support service for young children - and the social services (social workers and care officers).

That's a big group of professionals who all work with children. In the past, if you're a social worker you work with other social workers, if you're a teacher you work with other teachers.

So what we're done with the Children's Trusts is we're creating organisations where they all put their money together and work together and look at the needs of a particular child and see how best they can meet their needs.

Kavita: What changes are you putting in place so that an incident or child abuse like Victoria Climbie doesn't happen again?

Margaret Hodge: We can never be certain that no child will be harmed or killed at the hands of either their parents of carers.

In fact one of the really really shocking things is that between 50 and 100 children die each year at the hands of their parents or carers - and that figure's been the same for the last 20 years.

There's a lot we want to do to ensure that we take further steps to prevent further tragic deaths like that one.

What's key to that is the failure of people to talk to each other and work together.

So in September the PM is going to launch what is called a green paper where we will consult the people out there on why how we can reorganise the services out there so we can get them talking and working together in a better way.

We failed with Victoria because nobody listened to her, nobody bothered to talk to her. And I think hearing children's voices is very very important.

Kavita: When will you reverse the trend of closing down playgrounds, youth centres and recreation centres?

Margaret Hodge: Well I think we've done a lot already. When we came into government - we've now been in government for 6 years - lots and lots of schools were selling off their playgrounds.

Now we've put into place quite a lot of tough new laws which mean schools have to go through lots of hoops before they can decide to sell playgrounds.

They've got to demonstrate there are adequate facilities in the area - not just for the school but for the wider community.

Some schools will, at the end of the day, have to sell their playgrounds and we will make sure the money they get from the sale is put back into facilities in the school.

Margaret Hodge MP
The other thing is we're putting much more money into renewing and improving playground facilities and providing more youth facilities.

There's almost a billion pounds going into repairing existing playgrounds, creating new facilities, employing people and encouraging sports activities.

If we're going to get the Olympics into London - which we hope we are - we've got to invest in you because you're the ones who are going to be the Olympics gold medallists when that happens in 2012.

Kavita: How will you include the views of children in your decisions?

Margaret Hodge: I don't think I can do my job if I don't listen to children and young people. I think one of the approaches of this government is turning right around from listening to professionals like teachers to listening to children.

I've already met representatives from our National Youth Parliament and I'm in the middle of a Listening Tour, listening to young people in the country.

And we're considering a number of things which I hope we can put forward in the Green Paper [where the government proposes new policies] about how we can better listen to children and make sure [the] children's voice is better heard in everything we do.

Come back and read Kavita's report on what she really thought of the new Minister for Children on Thursday.


Why don't you write us a Press Pack report - and get it published on the site?!

It can be about anything that's happened in your local area - or your views on the news.



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