Children and Young Persons Bill [Lords]

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Tim Loughton: We have had a helpful debate, but for the sake of clarity and Hansard, I shall refer to the inelegance of terminology that the Minister just used. Let me make it clear that his oratory was overcome not by an ejaculation but by a sneeze. We do not want the readers of Hansard to get any odd ideas about what goes on in Committee, do we? I know that his Welsh, fluent oratory can be terribly exciting, but it is not quite that exciting.
The Minister has said that the drafting of the new clauses is flawed—I would hate to dupe the Committee into passing a measure that was flawed—but he perfectly appreciates the aim of the proposals. Perhaps we need to revisit the measures so that they would have practical effects. However, I am still slightly confused. The Minister referred to the 2004 Act and the 1989 Act. Section 85 of the latter states that the accommodating local authority that has been notified should
“take such steps as are reasonably practicable to enable them to determine whether the child’s welfare is adequately safeguarded and promoted while he is accommodated by the accommodating authority”.
That measure is not quite as definitive and rigorous as the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole and that proposed by me and my hon. Friends. It is not clear from what the Minister said whether the terminology that is already in place, which is aided and abetted by this legislation and the regulations that will come with it, would give some of the additional safeguards that looked-after status would convey, such as the appointment of an IRO, the allocation of a social worker and contact plan, and so on.
I am pleased and grateful that the Minister has, in a spirit of positivity, said that he will look again at the issues to try to create change to achieve what he has acknowledged is our shared goal, but, clearly, the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign thinks that there is still a serious gap. It needs further assurances that those extra safeguards will be available to those children without formally offering them looked-after status. If the Minister could come back on Report and give rather more substantial guarantees to that effect, all sides might be satisfied, on the basis that there is a defect in the new clauses.
To go back to the proposal of the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole, if some establishments decline to accept and accommodate some of those 300 or so children unless they have looked-after status, there is a problem in the system. Perhaps that is because the authorities do not understand the system or that they come up against practical shortfalls in providing the level of support that they rightly deem the children will need if they are accommodated. In any case, they need to know and we need to send out a clearer message. We might have the opportunity on Report for further debate on the proposals, and the Minister will get the opportunity to send out that clearer message. There is clearly some confusion among various parties at the moment. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 11

Scope of inspections by the chief inspector
‘In section 147 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (c. 40) (inspection of premises in connection with adoption and fostering functions) after subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) The Chief Inspector must consider the promotion of the welfare and safety of a child when carrying out the inspections mentioned in this section.”’.—[Tim Loughton.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Tim Loughton: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
Very briefly, the issue dealt with in new clause 11 was debated and taken up in another place by my noble Friend Baroness Morris of Bolton, who was supported by the noble Lord Ramsbotham. It would ensure that the chief inspector considers the suitability of the accommodation not only in terms of door sizes and facilities and so on, but whether it is conducive to supporting the welfare and safety of a child. The new clause would broaden the scope of what is taken into account in an inspection of children’s homes. As my noble Friend said in the House of Lords, essentially the measure would place a duty on an inspector to make inspections about more than just the number of beds that a children’s home provides and the average costs of meals for children per day. There is a fear that the inspections are a bit of a tick-box exercise in some cases. In an earlier debate, I mentioned some of my experiences of children’s homes in my constituency at which, clearly, the level of care and supervision of the children was woefully inadequate. In one case, an Ofsted inspection had said that everything was okay with the physicality of the accommodation, but everything was clearly not okay with the children’s welfare.
It being twenty-five minutes past Ten o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned till this day at One o’clock.
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