|Children (Leaving Care) Bill [H.L.] - continued||House of Commons|
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New section 24B
65. At present local authorities can support formerly looked after young people who qualify for advice and assistance under section 24 in education and training up to the age of 24 only if they have embarked on the course before they reach 21. The new provision at subsection (3)(a) removes the requirement that the course begin before the young person is 21, recognising that many young people who have been in care are likely to be ready for higher education later than their peers.
66. Subsection (5) obliges authorities to provide or enable the same young persons to pay for suitable vacation accommodation, should it be needed, if they are in full-time higher education. These measures are intended to encourage and enable more care leavers to enter Higher Education. At present, 75% of young people leave care with no educational qualifications of any kind, but the Quality Protects programme in England, and Children First in Wales, should help to ensure that more of them are prepared for further and higher education. Regulations will define "full-time higher education" and "vacation".
New section 24C
67. New section 24C provides for the necessary communication and liaison between local authorities for care leavers who move around the country. Subsection (1) extends the existing notification obligations under section 24(11) to all children with whom the local authority is under a duty to keep in touch, including eligible and relevant children, and former relevant children. We know that care leavers tend to be particularly mobile. In the case of children and young people who have a Young Person's Adviser, it is envisaged that it will be for the Young Person's Adviser to do the necessary liaison work between authorities when the young person for whom they are responsible moves from area to area. In all these cases, the relevant local authority must inform another local authority if a child or young person plans to live or is living in their area.
68. Subsections (2) and (3) restate with minor amendments the provisions of existing section 24(12) and (13), with the addition at subsection (2)(b) of the new Primary Care Trusts as organisations which may accommodate a child such that he becomes a qualifying person.
69. This clause inserts a new section 24D into the Children Act.
70. New section 24D requires local authorities to establish arrangements for dealing with complaints about their services under new sections 23B and C, and sections 24, 24A and 24B. Regulations will be made setting out the procedures to be followed.
Exclusion from benefits
71. Clause 6 falls to the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Social Security and covers all of Great Britain.
72. The purpose of this clause is to remove entitlement to income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit from those young people who will be supported by local authorities under the arrangements made in this Bill until age 18.
73. Currently, young people can be discharged from local authority care at age 16 and can claim DSS benefits. If they have to pay for their accommodation they can claim Housing Benefit to help with the rent. If they are available for work or training they may claim Jobseeker's Allowance. Unless they come within a prescribed group they will only be eligible to claim severe hardship payments which are available only for a limited period until a suitable training course or work can be found. Those young people who are not required to be available for work can claim Income Support.
74. To support the main purpose of this Bill, these benefits will be withdrawn in most cases, to remove the perverse incentive for early discharge from care. It is thought that the current trend to discharge young people early from care is in part a cost saving measure by local authorities, as after discharge they are likely to move onto the benefits budget. The funds previously available to 16 and 17 year olds through these benefits are to be transferred to the Department of Health, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Scottish Executive for distribution to Social Service and Social Work Departments as necessary.
75. There is a provision at subsection (3) to provide in regulations for certain groups of eligible young people to be exempted from this loss of benefit. It is envisaged that this provision will be used to ensure that Income Support will still be available to care leavers who would otherwise be relevant children but who are lone parents or disabled.
76. There is no provision to remove non-means tested benefits (such as Disability Living Allowance) and these benefits will continue to be paid to all those care leavers who qualify for them.
77. There is no reference to Council Tax Benefit because people under age 18 are not liable for Council Tax.
78. This clause makes consequential amendments.
79. Subsection (3) makes provision for local authorities to recoup costs from each other in respect of services provided following a request for co-operation under existing section 27(2), for children who fall to each other's responsibility. At present local authorities may recover costs for services only where a child is ordinarily resident in the other's area. This may not always be sufficient under the new arrangements as they are based on the concept of the responsible authority. The subsection amends existing Section 29 of the Children Act to take account of the new concept that the responsible authority for an eligible child, or one who is still receiving support by virtue of his having been an eligible child, will be the last authority to look after him. It does this by amending subsection (9) and inserting a new subsection (10). New subsection (10) provides that one local authority may recover its expenses from another in the case of relevant children, those aged 18 and over who have been relevant children; and those who, having been looked after, are being helped under section 24.
80. Subsection (4) amends paragraph 1(2)(a)(i) of Part I of Schedule 2 to the Children Act by adding the new services detailed in sections 23B to 23D and 24A and 24B to the list of those services about which a local authority is obliged to publish information.
81. This clause deals with commencement and other issues. By subsection (3) Commencement Orders other than in respect of clause 6, may be made separately as respects each of England and Wales.
82. The effect of subsection (7) is that regulations made under the provisions of this Bill which amend the Children Act, will be made in respect of England by the Secretary of State and in respect of Wales by the National Assembly for Wales.
83. Subsection (8) puts it beyond doubt that clause 8(7) does not affect any power to vary or revoke the reference to the Children Act 1989 in the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999 by further Order.
EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SECTOR FINANCES
84. It is intended to implement the Bill by drawing together into a single budget head current expenditure by local authorities on eligible young people; current expenditure on Housing Benefit, Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance for eligible young people; and part of the Children's Services Special Grant, which supports the Quality Protects programme in England (in Wales the funds supporting their Children First programme). This new budget will be re-allocated in England by the Department of Health to local authorities as a ring-fenced grant to be spent on services for eligible and relevant young people. In Wales the National Assembly for Wales will determine how to distribute its resources to local authorities in Wales.
85. Local authorities will be expected to meet their new duty to assist eligible young people through the ring-fenced budget but they will be able to add to their provision if they so choose.
86. In subsequent years, the appropriate size of the ring-fenced budget will be decided in the light of the Government's spending priorities.
EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER
87. In England in the first year around 780 Young Persons Advisers will be needed, rising to around 1,000 in the second year and 1,200 in subsequent years. In Wales the provision will be pro rata at about 6% of the English need. The existence of Young Persons Advisers under the new arrangements will mean there should be a decreased role for the social worker. However, it is possible that some Young Person's Advisers may be social workers. In addition, one of the aims of the new arrangements is to increase the number of young people who stay looked after until they are 18. This will increase the number of young people who require a social worker and it is therefore expected that on balance the new arrangements will be cost neutral in terms of social worker hours.
REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT
88. Since this Bill affects only the public sector it has not been necessary to carry out a regulatory appraisal.
89. The Bill is concerned with functions, powers and duties of local authorities and its provisions will fall to them to implement. It is possible that local authorities may wish to work with voluntary sector organisations to fulfil their functions - they might, for example, wish to contract with them to provide Young Person's Advisers - but this will depend on local circumstance and cannot be quantified. The Bill does not itself impose new burdens on voluntary organisations. There are no implications for businesses.
90. The Bill will come into force in England and Wales on a date or dates to be determined. It is anticipated that in England and Wales this date will be 1 April 2001. Clause 6, as applied to Scotland, will come into force in Scotland at a later date to be determined.
EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
91. Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement about the compatibility of the provisions in the Bill with the Convention right (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The statement has to be made before the Second Reading. On 23 May 2000 John Hutton MP, Minister of State for Health, made the following statement:
In my view the provisions of the Children (Leaving Care) Bill are compatible with the Convention rights.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2000||Prepared: 25 May 2000|