'(1) If a person with parental responsibility for a disabled child--
(a) provides or intends to provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for the child; and
(b) asks a local authority to carry out an assessment of his ability to provide and to continue to provide care for the child,
the local authority must carry out such an assessment if it is satisfied that the child and his family are persons for whom it may provide or arrange for the provision of services under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 ("the 1989 Act").
(2) For the purposes of such an assessment, the local authority may take into account, so far as it considers it to be material, an assessment under section 1(2) of the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995.
(3) The Secretary of State (or, in relation to Wales, the National Assembly for Wales) may give directions as to the manner in which an assessment under subsection (1) is to be carried out or the form it is to take.
(4) Subject to any such directions, it is to be carried out in such manner, and is to take such form, as the local authority considers appropriate.
(5) The local authority must take the assessment into account when deciding what, if any, services to provide under section 17 of the 1989 Act.
(6) Terms used in this section have the same meanings as in Part III of the 1989 Act.'.--[Mr. Hutton.]
'an assessment under subsection (1) or (2)'.
'person with parental responsibility for'.
', grandparent, step parent or foster parent'.
'person with parental responsibility for'.
', grandparent, step parent or foster parent'.
'Except as provided in section (Assessments: parents of disabled children)(6),'.
Mr. Hutton: I am grateful to have caught your eye, Madam Speaker. Perhaps it might be helpful to explain why I, and not my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), have moved the new clause. My hon. Friend has been poorly recently. I am happy to take some of the burden off him. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health supports the proposal too.
On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (Mrs. Heal) and the hon. Members for Poole (Mr. Syms) and for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) all raised genuine concerns that persons with parental responsibility for a disabled child would be excluded from having an assessment under the Bill. Although support for that group of carers under the Children Act 1989 has been available for some time, and the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 has already given such carers a right to ask for an assessment of their ability to provide and to continue to provide care for their disabled child, reports from the social services inspectorate and from other sources have shown that they are often poorly served under the existing arrangements. Those points were made eloquently both on Second Reading and in Committee.
Experience of the Children Act indicates that there are problems not with the legislation itself, but, rather, with the implementation of that important landmark legislation. Therefore, during the Standing Committee, I made a commitment to look at how we might give that important group of carers a right to ask for an assessment under the Bill, which would be linked to the delivery of services under the Children Act.
The Government's objective in developing the national carers strategy and, in particular, in supporting the Bill, is to listen to what carers say they want, so that they feel cared for themselves, and can see that their needs are being understood and that progress is being made in ensuring that those needs are met. Parent carers in particular have asked me to ensure that, through the Bill, it is made explicit that the needs of persons with parental responsibility for disabled children must be supported to the same extent as the needs of any other carer who provides, or intends to provide, a substantial amount of care regularly for a person who is aged 18 or over.
New clause 3 underlines the existing arrangements whereby councils are empowered under the Children Act to provide a wide range of services to disabled children and their families. Those services include advice, guidance, counselling, occupational, social, cultural or recreational activities, home help and attendances at a family centre. The Government have listened to the concerns that have been expressed and, with my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, have taken action to strengthen the Bill in that important area. The new clause makes it clear that persons with parental responsibility for disabled children will have a right to ask for an assessment under the Bill. For those carers, services will continue to be provided under the Children Act to safeguard and to promote the welfare of those children.
Amendments Nos. 29, 30, 31 and 32 expand clause 4, so that, for the purpose of the community care assessment and an assessment of a disabled child under the 1995 Act, a local council may take into account, so far as it considers it to be material, an assessment under the new clause.
Amendment No. 35 meets the need for a minor technical consequential amendment to clause 10. It takes account of the fact that the definition of "local authority" is different in the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 and in the Children Act. Some amendments are technical and often do not look as if they make any sense. I assure my hon. Friends and the House as a whole that amendment No. 35 does make sense. It is purely technical. I hope that the House will support it, and, therefore, the new clause.
Mr. Hutton: I do not think that the new clause will add to the responsibilities of local authorities. It declares on the face of the Bill the existing provisions. These are services that local authorities are already able to provide for parent carers under the 1989 and 1995 Acts. Perhaps I did not make the point clear enough, and we need to look at the origins of the argument.
On Second Reading, the reasonable concerns of, for example, organisations that represent parent carers were aired. They felt that, inadvertently, we were excluding parent carers from the Bill. Consequently, they felt that a signal was being sent that we did not value the importance of their contribution and the role that they play--but nothing could be further from the truth. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde in particular feels strongly that the role of parent carers is very important.
A significant part of the national carers strategy itself is to ensure that the Government, working with our partners and local authorities, provide a better range of services to meet the needs of young carers and disabled children and parent carers. That is precisely what the legislation is about. New clause 3 is therefore essentially a declaratory amendment. It will not add anything to local authorities' range of responsibilities, but will make it clear that, under the Bill's provisions, a parent carer could seek
I shall now speak to amendments Nos. 41, 44, 45, 46 and 47. The Bill provides for direct payments and vouchers to parents of disabled children, but not to others who might have parental responsibility for disabled children, such as grandparents. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) has a particular interest in the subject and has tabled his own amendments, which we may discuss shortly.
This group of amendments will ensure that the advantages of direct payments and vouchers--which my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde is introducing as an innovation in the Bill--are available not only to parents, but to all those who have parental responsibility. The amendments are necessary to ensure that the new rights of parent carers are more widely available.
The Bill, by including everyone with parental responsibility, will encompass people in whose favour a residence order, for example, has been granted in respect of a child. A residence order automatically confers parental responsibility. Therefore, when step-parents or grandparents or other members of the family have parental responsibility for a disabled child, they will in future also have rights to direct payments and vouchers. It would make no sense at all--and there would be no justification for it--to exclude those people from the scope of the innovatory provisions.
The amendments will make the Bill more consistent with the policy, guidance and practice guide on the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995. A note in the policy guidance states that the word "carer" in the 1995 Act is used
The intention behind the amendments is therefore to make it clear in the Bill that all those who have parental responsibility for disabled children will have access to the benefits of the new legislation. I hope that hon. Members will be able to support new clause 3 and amendments Nos. 29, 30, 31, 32, 41, 44, 45, 46 and 47.