Cabinet reshuffle: what’s on the cards for Theresa May’s new government?

Posted by Amy Woodworth / Monday 08 August 2016 / Public Affairs

Huge changes have shaken UK politics in the last month.

David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister on June 24th, only a few hours after the country voted to leave the EU, starting a contest for leadership of the Conservative Party and therefore Prime Minister. What could have been an extended election was ultimately over very quickly, with Theresa May becoming the last candidate standing on July 11th

Mrs May has now had the opportunity to set out her priorities for the Government. She has carried out a substantial cabinet reshuffle and begun to outline her policies across a number of areas. So what does that mean for children, young people and families?

New ministers 

Almost every ministerial position in Westminster has changed hands in the last few weeks. This creates a period of both uncertainty and opportunity, with fresh energy being applied to existing areas of work. 

Damien Green becomes Secretary of State at the Department of Work and Pensions. His views could be key to whether the forthcoming Life Chances Strategy may dictate whether it remains narrowly focused on getting more adults into work, or truly looks at the way experiences from birth affect us over a lifetime. 

Justine Greening has become Secretary of State for Education, replacing Nicky Morgan. This gives her oversight of many of the areas of policy which Action for Children influence, including children’s centres and children in care. 

Edward Timpson remains in post as Minister for Children and Families, where he will undoubtedly continue to be a champion for the needs of children in care and care leavers; he grew up with dozens of foster siblings, and was instrumental raising the age of leaving foster care from 18 to 21. 

The Minister for Childcare and Education, Sam Gyimah, has moved to the Ministry of Justice. It’s not entirely clear at present who will be taking over his brief. Caroline Dinenage, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, has been answering Parliamentary Questions on the early years in his stead, however her role does not explicitly cover this area so far. 

The Department for Education has also been restructured to include universities, apprenticeships and skills – all vital areas that we hope will give a fair deal to the disadvantaged young people that we work with. 

Fair by Five – making sure the early years matter 

The early years must not be lost in the shuffle. Giving every child a chance to reach a good level of development by age five is the best way to equip them for education, work and life. Children’s first teachers are their parents and carers, so they can’t wait until they enter formal nursery care. Curiosity, health, confidence and a thirst to learn all start at home. 

Children who start school at the bottom at age 5 are six times more likely to be at the bottom by age 7. The impact carries on through primary and secondary school – for more information, read our Fair by Five briefing. The Conservative Government has continued to affirm its commitment to improving life chances, and that must include early child development. 

We hope to see a renewed commitment to the early years, and will be engaging parliamentarians on this issue as part of our Fair by Five campaign.

Looking ahead 

Parliament has now entered its summer recess, which will give new ministers time to become familiar with their briefs. With a brief return to Westminster in September, followed by party conferences, Parliament will swing fully back into action in October.

That’s the point at which we’ll start to see what the new Government’s priorities look like in practice – especially Theresa May’s promise to  “do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you” – and what impact that will have on children and families.  

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