Looked-after Children - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-121)


26 MARCH 2008

  Q120  Annette Brooke: There are many questions on Care Matters that we could ask Margaret while she is here, but I would like briefly to ask her about unaccompanied asylum seekers. Many people see that as a missed opportunity as far as the legislation on child care matters and young offenders is concerned. With regard to the so-called joined-up thinking within the Department, which has some responsibilities that were former Home Office functions, why are they missed out and what should we do about that?

  Margaret Dillon: The reasons why they are missed out are somewhat complex, but I think that you have to see both unaccompanied asylum seekers and young offenders as children first, with the same needs as a whole range of other children. Therefore, you need to plan services that will best meet their needs. I think that that is the challenge and that there is a greater understanding across Government Departments of the need to bring everyone who has responsibility for different cohorts of children together around the table to say, "What can we do that best meets those needs in a much more joined-up way?" I think that if central Government can model that, it will certainly help local authorities to improve the ways in which they integrate thinking on joining up services that will meet the needs of children.

  Mary MacLeod: If the Committee could make a really strong statement about the use of physical restraint with young people in the prison estate and in young offenders institutions, it would be really helpful.

  Professor Tunstill: I have to say something about money. It is a Catch-22, but I am sure that local authorities would wish to do the very best that they can for asylum seekers. There will be pockets of local authorities who are under very much greater stress, depending on whether they are near Heathrow or wherever, which probably—if I can put in a plea on your behalf, Anne—need some more money.

  Q121  Chairman: This has been a fantastic session. We are on a steep learning curve. I hope that you have found it valuable. If we are going to write a good report we need you to maintain your relationship with the Committee. If you think that there are things that we have missed, and of course there have been, please communicate with us. I think you know how to do that. We are keen to make this an extremely good first report from the Committee. Will you stay with us?

  Margaret Dillon: I wanted to make an offer, and this applies to Anne too: if any Member wants to visit any of our services, we can facilitate that. That might enable you to see what a service looks like and to talk to some of the service users and hear from them at first hand.

  Chairman: That would be extremely valuable. If you could do that individually for members of the Committee near their constituencies or together, that would be brilliant.

  Margaret Dillon: We will work with the Committee.

  Chairman: Thank you very much for your attendance.

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