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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, flying south yesterday afternoon after the VE service at St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh and travelling by Underground from Heathrow to Westminster, it was striking how friendly and amiable and communicative we passengers seemed to be. The offering of seats and of help with heavy suitcases and the agreeable chat between strangers were clearly in tune with the spirit that had been growing all weekend. It seemed to me during that journey that the VE Day happenings, whatever else they had done, had reminded us of certain things that matter to us all, and we found it a heartwarming experience. To an extent this Bill seems to be heartwarming in the same kind of way. The speeches so far in the debate have borne that out.
The Bill is about something which we can all agree matters to every one of us in Scotland. It is about our children and how they are brought up and cared for in a changing world and amid changing patterns of family life. It is not just because we are all concerned about children that the Bill has been welcomed in Scotland. It is also because, as noble Lords have indicated, its contents have been the subject of particularly widespread consultation and careful, unhurried preparation. The noble and learned Lord the Minister made sure that there was very thorough consultation and preparation.
It has also had the benefit of the new procedures for consideration by another place. Discussion in the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh attracted a good deal of public attention. The involvement of experts in the subject in the very thorough proceedings during the Special Standing Committee enabled Scottish MPs to make contact, during the passage of the Bill, with their
It is encouraging that the Law Society of Scotland welcomes the Bill. It has written that it is a substantial contribution to the rationalisation, improvement and reform of the law relating to children in Scotland. Likewise, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the consortium of organisations working for children in Scotland and Family Mediation Scotland, which also have much experience in these matters, all express general approval of the Bill. Of course, all these bodies have some detailed concerns and we shall doubtless be considering a number of them. The overall welcome is very encouraging indeed.
There is one general point I wish to make about the detailed views so far sent to me. Both the consortium and CoSLA have written mainly, although not exclusively, about concerns they have as regards Part II of the Bill and the public law provisions relating to the role of local authorities, children's hearings and the like, in promoting children's welfare. I hope that will not mean that our discussions in Committee concentrate so much on Part II that we do not look carefully at the private law provisions in Part I regarding the rights and responsibilities of parents who are separated or divorced, and the way they relate to their children and to one another in the interests of those children.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, said that in this context parents are irrelevant. We must get Part I of the Bill right because a child's home life and his or her relationship with the parents, including the absent parent, is, as we all know, absolutely critical to the development of a child's personality, welfare and life chances. Many of the problems which of necessity have to be dealt with by the provisions in the rest of the Bill would not in fact occur at all if children's home lives and parental relationships had gone better.
There are a number of points, particularly in relation to Part I of the Bill, which concern Family Mediation Scotland. I hope that we shall look carefully at them in Committee. As I know from working with Family Mediation Scotland on the Private Member's Bill which I steered through this Housenow the Civil Evidence (Family Mediation) (Scotland) Act and, I am happy to say, received Royal Assent last weekthat organisation has a great deal of hands-on experience in children's law matters. It feels that the Bill would be improved if it did more than it does to put responsibility on divorced parents to consult and co-operate with one another in the best interests of their children.
Perhaps the parent with whom the child lives should be required, as far as possible, to enable that child to have good relations with the other parent. I regard that as an important point and I hope that we shall look at it. Family Mediation Scotland is also concerned that where, in Clause 11, court orders are provided for in relation to parental rights and responsibilities, guardianship and the like, and the court is required to have regard, so far as is
Another point has been taken into consideration in the Lord Chancellor's recently published White Paper for England and Wales. It is the question of whether greater use should be made than at present of family mediation and the supply of information to parents who want to divorce. Family Mediation Scotland welcomes the power of the court provided in Clause 12(2) to delay matrimonial cases in order to ascertain as fully as possible the best interests of the child and how these might be met. Perhaps my noble friend who is to reply can tell the House whether the Government see the Lord Chancellor's thinking in this respect as the course to follow in Scotland and whether the Government would welcome an amendment to this Bill including a referral to mediation and an information session. My noble friend may or may not be able to answer that question, but I hope that at least he will say that it is going to be looked at, because it is of great interest to many people.
Noble Lords have already mentioned the general concern of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Law Society of Scotland about the financing of the provisions of the Bill and the timetable for its implementation, given the changeover to the new local authorities on 1st April next year. We shall doubtless want to look at these and other points. I follow the noble and learned Lord the Lord President of the Court of Session in his excellent speech. I welcome this Bill most warmly and I hope your Lordships will give it a fair wind.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, before I say anything about the Bill and its contents I would like to put on my hat as joint convenor, with Mr. Norman Godman, Member of Parliament for Greenock and Port Glasgow, of the Scottish all-party parliamentary group for children. Wearing that hat, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, for having produced this Bill. I thank him both for the tribute he paid to us and for the way he met us and listened to our concerns. I believe that the Bill is very dear to his heart, as it is to ours, but we all know what fierce competition there is between ministries for parliamentary time, of which there is never enough to go round. He is to be congratulated on having fought and won the battle for this Bill. I suspect that it was quite a hard fight.
I pay tribute also to the valuable help the group received from the consortium for children and Children in Scotland in particular both in organising evidence, which not only the group heard but also the Committee in another place, and in drafting amendments. As a result, considerable improvements have been made to the Bill. However, I
The group is still concerned that the Bill, unlike the Children Bill 1989, does not open with a statement to the effect that the interests of the child shall be paramountwhat it calls the "overarching principle". This was much discussed in another place and I believe that the Minister was of the opinion that the principle was stated while it was applicable. I do not know that the statement of principle at the beginning of the English Bill made it a better Act at the end of the day. I believe that that Act has shortcomings because of provisions which were left out which perhaps should have been in it or because parts of it are being disregarded. No amount of "overarching principles" stated at the beginning of a Bill will make up for deficiencies in that Bill. Besides, in family life, there is a balance to be maintained between the interests of the parents and the interests of the children, and if the interests of the parents are unduly subordinated to the apparent interests of the children, the children's interests may suffer in the long run.
In Clause 25(1), like other members of the group, I should like to see the age ceiling up to which a local authority must advise, guide or assist a young person who has been in its care raised to 21. I should also like to see the permission in subsection (2) of the clause extended to a ceiling of 25 years of age. I do not believe that to do that would be nearly as expensive in the long run as the Government fear. Both the Association of Directors of Social Work and the Child Care Law Review report disagree with the cost given by the Minister in another place, but one must also set against the cost the savings in trying to deal with young people who have got into difficulties and turned to crime, prostitution, drugs, etc. These savings are not easily quantifiable but are real nevertheless.
More importantly, I think there is a real moral duty here. No decent parents kick their children out of the family home at 18 and then have nothing more to do with them. If you take children from their homes into your care you have surely a duty to make sure that that care is as near as possible to that which they would have received from good parents in a good home. I wonder sometimes whether local authorities should be running homes or whether it is best done privately. I am sure there are very good local authority homes, but I am sure also, from some of the evidence I have heard, that there are also rather bad ones. I have always heard that Barnardo's homes were very good indeed.
Moving on to Clause 34, I keep wondering why the Orkney children had to be sent to the mainland. Presumably the social work department did not have any refuges, safe houses or foster parents available on the islands. I should like to see "may" in subsection (1) (a) changed to "shall". Perhaps, however, there was some other reason for sending the children so far away.
I am sorry that the Minister, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, was so adamant at Committee stage in another place that it would not be possible to appoint a curator ad litem in the case of an emergency protection
I listened with interest and sympathy to Mr. George Robertson moving New Clause 1 at Report stage in another place last week; I read also with great interest the Minister's reasons for not accepting the new clause. That was the clause which made it illegal to chastise a child with an implement. I wondered whether it would not be possible to come to some accommodation which would at any rate outlaw the use of hard objects as implements of chastisement. It has always seemed to me that if you hit a child with an object which cannot itself feel pain and which, being an extension of your arm, by the simple law of dynamics, enables you to hit a good deal harder than you could have done with your hand, you cannot gauge the pain you are inflicting in the same way you can if you do it with your bare hand. I said this to one of my daughters last week. She said no, as far as she was concerned the new clause would not be acceptable. She said, "If I were cooking in the kitchen and I had a wooden spoon in my hand, and one of my children tried to poke a pencil into an electric socket, I wouldn't have time to think about putting the spoon down first, I should just have to stop it as quickly as possible by hitting him, probably over the hand with the spoon. His life could be at stake." So there you have the practical view of a young mother. Having heard that view, I rest content with the present situation. The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, spoke about the necessity of educating parents. He has a very good point.
I know that many members of the Scottish all-party children group would like to see the provisions in the Bill for the exclusion of alleged abusers under Clause 70 extended so as to apply also to emergency protection orders, and that the Government are considering this. Where violence is the problem and a child may be at risk of his life or in danger of grave injury, I would support this, but subject to the discretion of the sheriff, as set out in Clause 70.
Where violence is involved, it is likely that the mother and others in the family may have been subjected to the same treatment. It is probable also that it is quite clear who the abuser is and that all except the abuser will be happy to see him removed. But where it is a case of suspected sexual abuse, it is very much more difficult. For example, the alleged abuser may be the mother's live-in lover, her "bidey-in", and she may well regard an abused daughter as her rival. You have to consider the child's quality of life if he or she remains in the home.
There may be situations where the alleged abuser is not only the breadwinner but earns his living by working largely from home, possibly with a computer and video link. This is an increasing trend and should perhaps be taken into account when considering exclusion orders. Where a chap occupies a tied house because, for example,
Where sexual abuse is involved, it has probably been going on for some time. I wonder whether emergency procedures should be involved in these cases. There may be other considerations to be taken into account, and it is a very difficult area in any case. I just do not want us to go overboard for exclusion without thinking very carefully what we are doing and without adequate safeguards.
I hope and trust that the Government will disregard the suggestion from the Law Society of Scotland that persons other than the local authority, such as siblings, grandparents or the child himself, should be able to apply for an exclusion order. Like the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, I can envisage all kinds of malicious applications, such as from a girl who did not like her stepfather and wanted rid of him.
Moving finally to Chapter 4, I am not quite convinced that "relevant persons" includes other relatives of the child such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins. The concept of totally cutting a child off from his family is a terrible one and should be avoided wherever possible. I am convinced that many psychological problems arise from rootlessness and not belonging to anyone. Every possible effort should always be made to keep a child in the family by which I mean the wider family where it exists and where it is possible, and just not the nuclear family, which, I am sorry to say, is what the word "family" seems to mean to so many people nowadays.
I hope that the Bill does not go into Committee too soon. Given that six new clauses have been added and Clause 29 has been rewritten, I shall need time to study the Bill between the conclusion of Report stage in another place and its detailed consideration in this House. With that number of clauses, all one's sequences have been thrown out.
While I accept the principles of the Bill, which are clearly intended to protect children's welfare and nurturethe drafting emphasises that the child's welfare is of paramount considerationthis is not an easy Bill to follow or to understand fully because there are so many cross-references between one clause and another.
Although I agree that the mother should be primarily responsible for her child, there does not seem to be the "whom failing provision" in Part I for a grandparent, uncle or aunt to fulfil that gap. I feel that few young married persons would have the foresight to appoint a guardian in the event of their death.
In Chapter 1 of Part II, it is the local authority that is mainly responsible for dealing with problem children. I make a further appeal, that when the Bill comes into force DSS staff co-operate with local authority staff and elected councillors better than they have in the past. Perhaps I may give an example. A clerk to a district court is not given the necessary information by the DSS of the whereabouts of a person who has failed to pay a fine to that court. The panel of a children's hearing must be given every assistance from DSS or local authority staff and not have to drag the necessary information out of the officials. After all, panel members usually have another job to do.
I was sorry to read that Section 25 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, which empowers a local authority to provide assistance for apprenticeships, is being repealed. When I was in my 20s, I knew a number of people who had been assisted in that way.
Children's hearings take place only when a child, or someone connected with that child, is accused of some misbehaviour. As newspapers today seem to thrive on sleaze, regardless of the damage caused, I am concerned that under Clause 39 a press reporter is permitted to attend a hearing. Witnesses must be able to speak freely and be truthful under oath.
Chapter 4 of Part II deals with parental responsibility orders. We there come across a new persona reporting officer. Is there to be a link between the reporting officer and the principal reporter. I hope there will be better co-operation between those different authorities than I had the impression was the case in the past.
Part III deals with amendments to the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978, at which I have not had time to look. I have asked a number of technical questions. I do not expect my noble friend the Minister to answer them tonight, but I shall raise them in Committee. I hope that by the time the Bill leaves its Committee stage the many doubts that have been expressed today will have been cleared up.
Baroness David: My Lords, I hope that, as a mere Englishwoman, my speaking on a Scottish Bill and jumping into the gap will be forgiven. My reason for doing so is my great interest in what was the Children Bill in which I played an active part. This Bill in many ways follows the Children Act, and I shall have an interest in this Bill too.
My noble friend Lord Macaulay supported the Bill, as indeed I do, but said that it was not perfect. It is to point out one of the ways in which it is not perfect that I wish to make my brief intervention.
In his elegant maiden speech, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, praised the work of the Scottish Law Commissionoutstanding, he said it was. The Scottish Law Commission Report on Family Law proposed strict limits on physical punishment of children: that it should become an offence to hit a child with a belt, stick or other implement or in a way which could cause injury or significant pain or discomfort. But the Government did not include this proposal in the Bill when it was introduced in the other place and have opposed attempts to add it to the Bill. This provision has the strong support of the Consortium of Voluntary Organisations in Scotland and indeed throughout the UK.
In addition, when the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child examined the UK report on implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in January this year, it expressed its particular concern over,
The committee went on to propose legal reform against physical punishment. Here we have the Children (Scotland) Bill. Its passage is the first opportunity that the Government have had to respond to these formal comments and recommendations from the international body responsible for monitoring compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Surely the Scottish Law Commission proposal, which has such strong support among children's organisations, should be added to the Bill.
Baroness Faithfull: My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for jumping in as number two in the gap. It is somewhat presumptuous of me to do so because I have never worked in Scotland, although I am half a Scot. On the other hand, I have attended many panels by invitation and I am friendly with many social workers in Scotland. They have kindly invited me to the conference of the Association of Directors of Social Services in Dundee in a fortnight's time.
I wonder whether I may ask questions rather than make statements in case I am wrong and might not have understood the Bill. First, like the noble Baroness, Lady David, I took part in the passing of what is now the Children Act 1989 for England. I moved an amendment that children should be allowed to be cared for by the local authority if they had been in care until the age of 21. Believe it or not, I lost the amendment and on the grounds of cost. It has been proved that in England and Wales the introduction of the clause would have been cost-effective. Research has shown that many of the children who were not cared for by the local authority until the age of 21 became homeless and took to drugs. At the end of the day the provision would have been cost-effective.
I congratulate the Minister on introducing the clause and I hope that it is agreed to by your Lordships. However, its provisions will be costly, and I hope that the resources are available, in particular for housing. Perhaps the Minister will say whether the resources to pay for them will be available.
My second point relates to a Bill that is passing through your Lordships' House in relation to England and Wales; that is, the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill. If its provisions are introduced, they will help greatly as regards exclusions. Is it likely that they will be introduced, because they will be more satisfactory than the exclusion part of this Bill relating to Scotland? I have not sat in Committee on the Bill, as has the noble Baroness, Lady David, but I have been a social worker. One of the most difficult things in the world is to know what to do when a child is alleged to have been physically or sexually abused. If one leaves the child at home and there is then further trouble, one gets into trouble. If one moves the child, one is introducing a second suffering. It is bad enough to have been abused but it is even worse to be removed from one's home and family and made to feel the guilty person. As the Minister said, that is exactly what happens with children.
I and my staff were so upset by such events that we persuaded the housing department to make available an empty flat. In such cases, and if the man would not move out of the home, we were able to offer to the mother and children a flat in which they could live while the case was being discussed. Often when the man was not guilty he agreed to move out and to live with his mother or a relative. I am a little worried about the exclusion provision.
Thirdly, I turn to the views of the children. That point was raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. It is very difficult for social workers and the police to know whether to listen to the child and to believe him, to listen to the mother and to believe her or to listen to the father and to believe him. I am not sure whether we have properly worked out the issues relating to the views of the child, the mother and the father. I support the noble and learned Lord, but rather deferentially.
Although I do not understand the law of Scotland, I wish that England and Wales could have had the panel system. Many years ago I talked about that to Lord Kilbrandon who said that he was sorry that we had not adopted it. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will agree that in England and Wales there is too big a gap between the allegation being made and the case coming to court. Will that be minimised in Scotland? Social workers who deal with the child cannot question him and cannot give him psychological or psychiatric treatment for fear of interfering with the statement that he may make in court. Will that gap be shortened in Scotland? It is too long in England and Wales.
My next point relates to the training of social workers. The Clyde Report stated that social workers were not adequately trained. In this House two weeks ago I tabled a Motion proposing that the training of social workers should be at university level and for three years. Since the passing of the Children Act 1989, it has become evident that social workers are entitled to, and should have, longer
I turn now to resources, which I hardly like to mention. No Act of Parliament can be successful unless adequate resources are available. Have the provisions of the Bill been costed? Do we know exactly what the extra cost will be, including that for extra staff? Will adequate resources be made available to carry out the provisions of this extremely good Bill?
Finally, as regards adoption, perhaps I may inform your Lordships that in England and Wales a charitable organisation has set up an international adoption society. I wish to make it clear that there is considerable difficulty as regards the adoption of children from overseas, and in England and Wales we have started a society called Adoption International.
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by declaring an interest in that I have no fewer than five children living in Scotland. Unlike most interests declared at this stage, it is far from profitable. Indeed, it is highly costly.
We have had a wide-ranging and useful debate on what is generally agreed to be a major step in legislation relating to children in Scotland. It will set a clear legal framework for the future. It is in that context that I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, on his most thoughtful and constructive maiden speech. As Lord President of the Court of Session, he has brought to the debate wide-ranging experience, wisdom and insight. We are grateful to him for his contribution to our consideration of this important area of law. The House will look forward to his further contributions on this Bill and on other related matters.
As my noble and learned friend the Minister of State pointed out, the Bill is the culmination of a wide range of work. It draws on comprehensive reviews and inquiries into particular issues. A number of noble Lords have drawn attention to some of the precedents that lie behind the Bill. In particular, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, drew attention to the Scottish Law Commission and the Social Work Services Group. They are two bodies which have made a great contribution.
The Bill takes the opportunity to recast substantial parts of the legislation affecting children in order to bring it up to date both in form and substance. An undertaking on this scale inevitably raises complex questions. Today's debate illustrates that, in particular when "gap" speakers such as my noble friend Lady Faithfull can spring up with about 20 complex and technical questions. I shall have to write to her about some of them.
In scope the Bill goes rather beyond the provision of the Children Act 1989 for England and Wales. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, was unnecessarily cynical about the delay that there has been between 1989 and the bringing forward of this Bill. As my noble friend Lady Carnegy pointed out, that time has been put to good use and very positive improvements have been made in the text of the Bill. The sensitivity that has been introduced generally makes the Bill better than it might have been had it been rushed out earlier.
The Bill will provide Scotland with its own children Act based on Scottish law and Scottish needs. The Bill has already been the subject of close scrutiny in another place and the Government have brought forward substantial amendments in response to that. Further issues have been raised today and I should like to respond to them. Before doing so, perhaps I may say that the Government welcome the continuing co-operative approach taken in relation to this legislation. We look forward to the discussions which will take place in Committee and on Report. I hope that further improvements will be made to the Bill before it becomes law. On the point which the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, made, I assure all noble Lords that amendments proposed to the Bill will be handled constructively and objectively on their merits.
The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, claims that Clauses 1 and 2 are without teeth. However, I must draw the noble Lord's attention to Clause 1(3) and Clause 2(4), which give title to sue in respect of both responsibilities and rights. In other words, those clauses allow either a child or a parent as appropriate to sue against the breach of a parental responsibility or infringement of a parental right.
The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, stressed the view that the Bill should not allow a parent who has deserted the family to return and seek parental responsibilities and rights. Clause 3 makes it clear that a father who is unmarried to the child's mother will not have responsibilities and rights but an interested and caring father can obtain such rights and responsibilities by drawing up an agreement with the mother of the child. Otherwise, such a father can obtain those responsibilities and rights only on application to the court for an order under Clause 11. I should emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, that in such circumstances, the court will grant an order only if it is in the child's best interests to do so. Therefore, if the father has shown no previous interest in the child, it is hardly likely that the court will grant such an order without having before it considerable evidence that it would benefit the child so to do. This Bill certainly
The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, sought confirmation that under Clause 5 all baby-sitters should be aged 16 years or over. I confirm that that is the case. Clause 5(1) assumes that a person given temporary care of a child will be aged 16 years or over.
My noble friend Lady Carnegy was concerned with the responsibilities of parents who are separated and that they should consult each other. That has also been an anxiety expressed by Family Mediation Scotland. On Report in another place, Clause 6(1) was amended so that, in reaching a major decision concerning a parental responsibility or right, a parent should consult not only the child concerned but also the other parent. Thus, even after separation or divorce, we hope that both parents will continue to consult each other on matters affecting the child.
My noble friend Lord Balfour suggested that a provision is needed to allow a grandparent or aunt or uncle to share parental responsibilities or rights with the child's mother. Indeed, other noble Lords have also drawn attention to the status and role of relations other than the parents. Clause 11(3) allows for such persons to apply to the courts for parental responsibilities and rights. In considering that, the court will treat the child's welfare as its paramount consideration. However, as noble Lords will recognise, that is a formal step and there is nothing to prevent the child's mother relying on the assistance of other relations as happens on a day-to-day basis in many families.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hopeand this was echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfullmentioned the challenges and difficulties involved in seeking the views of children and the way in which the rules of court might handle that. I understand the views expressed in relation to the formulation of detailed rules of court for taking the views of children. I hope that the Bill will provide an admirable framework for that to be done and that it will assist in consulting widely and on an informed basis as to the details of the necessary rules of court. On that issue, as on many others, we shall listen carefully to the views expressed today and at later stages of the Bill.
My noble friend Lady Carnegy stressed the benefits of mediation. I should point out to my noble friend that the Government have considered carefully whether it is necessary to have a reference to mediation in the Bill. I understand that the present arrangement whereby the courts can refer cases involving children to mediation under rules of court is working successfully. If it is necessary to extend that provision, that may be done also through the rules of court.
Noble Lords will be aware that in formulating rules of court, extensive consultation is undertaken with relevant interests wherever possible. However, I should stress to my noble friend that we shall watch developments south of the Border, especially in relation to proposals made by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. We shall consider whether any fresh legislation is required for Scotland in the light of those developments.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, also drew attention to some of those issues and I hope that some of the remarks which I have made will reassure her. In Scotland, courts can and do refer divorcing couples to mediation. Moreover, there are provisions in Clause 12 which require a court to postpone granting a decree in a divorce case until it is satisfied that satisfactory arrangements have been made for the children. While I shall look sympathetically at any suggestions to encourage further mediation, the Government are not convinced that the time is right for any steps which would involve, for example, centrally-funded mediation.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull drew attention to the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill. That Bill contains exclusion provisions for England and Wales only and relates to the Children Act 1989. The Children (Scotland) Bill contains provisions which are parallel to those provisions but which take account of the different body of law which exists in Scotland.
The noble Baroness, Lady David, the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, and others have drawn attention to the difficult area of physical punishment for children. As many noble Lords will know, that issue was debated widely in another place and I predict confidently that it will be debated at the various stages of the Bill in this House. The view expressed then by the Government is that both the statutory law and common law as it stands already offers sufficient protection from assault by parents, teachers or others who have charge of children. We believe that that continues to be the case but we acknowledge that that area of activity commands considerable interest, and we shall no doubt discuss the finer points of that.
Many speakers referred to the problem and challenge of resources as they see it. However, I should stress that many of the proposals outlined in the Bill can be implemented with relatively little extra cost, but sufficient resources will be made available to fund new procedures and statutory requirements.
The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, asked how the resources needed for the young homeless have been calculated. Figures included in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill were derived from calculations set out in the Child Care Law Review and brought up to date to take account of inflation. The £4.5 million provision made reflects the cost of providing advice, guidance and assistance from the social work authority. It does not cover other forms of assistance which may be available such as housing benefit and support from the Department of Social Security; nor do the costs cover all homeless young people. The provision covers only those who were in the care of the local authority at the time of leaving school.
The importance of ensuring good aftercare for young people who were previously looked after by local authorities is self-evident. Local authorities will have made a considerable investment in such young people; residential care is not cheap. Effective aftercare makes obvious sense not only for the benefit of young persons but also to protect the investment of local authorities. The revised aftercare provisions in the Bill set out in Clause 25 are a significant improvement on existing legislation. They contain a new duty to assist 18 year-olds who were previously looked after by local authorities. A new power
The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, my noble friend Lady Faithfull and other speakers focused on the age at which such local authority duties might cease. Certainly during the discussions in another place it was suggested that local authorities should have a duty to provide aftercare for young people up to the age of 21; indeed, some speakers suggested that that age limit should be increased to 25.
I have to tell the House that such extensions would not be helpful on two counts. First, they would make major resource demands on local authorities; and, secondly, while it is extremely difficult to quantify them, resources are finite. I take the point made by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and by my noble friend Lady Faithfull that costs may not be as great as has been assumed and that the cost generated by those who are not looked after properly might also be taken into account. However, we want to see services improved for those who most need them and not simply spread resources more widely. We are firmly of the view, therefore, that the duty and the resources should be concentrated on the most vulnerable youngsters; for example, 16 and 17 year-olds. We do not want to dilute that focus.
It is also worth recognising that we have proposed a new power under Clause 22 to allow local authorities to accommodate young persons up to the age 21 where that would safeguard or promote their welfare. That new provision, along with the enhanced aftercare powers, should ensure that local authorities have a sufficient range of services and powers to safeguard the welfare of vulnerable children and young persons. I should stress to the House, and specifically to my noble friend Lady Faithfull, that the Government have thought through the need for resources very carefully. We are certain that such resources are in place.
My noble friend Lord Balfour asked about the repeal of Section 25 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. He was concerned about the repeal of that section because it empowers the local authority to provide assistance for apprenticeships. I can assure him that local authorities will still have the necessary powers to assist as regards the financial costs of education and training under Clause 26 of the Bill.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, drew our attention to the Orkney children and their removal from the islands. Indeed, it has been asked fairly widely why in February 1991 those nine children had to be taken away from their home in South Ronaldsay. As she will know, the Orkney case was the subject of a very thorough public inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Clyde. The decision to remove the children and how it was done was made by the social work authority, Orkney Islands Council. Its decision to remove the nine children from Orkney
One of the recommendations made by Lord Clyde dealt with the need for Orkney to recruit more foster carers. The island's council has taken action on that recommendation. Removing a child from his or her home is a traumatic experience. It is clearly important not to remove a child to a completely different environment if it can be avoided. The expansion of foster places in Orkney is in part to reduce the need for children looked after by the local authority to be removed to the mainland.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, raised the question of appeals and expressed concern about the provisions for them in Clause 47. He wondered whether there might not be too many rungs in the ladder of provisions for appeals. In the light of the noble and learned Lord's comments, we shall certainly want to look again at the provisions in Committee. We are grateful to him for drawing our attention to the matter.
A number of speakers dwelt on the issue of exclusion orders. Such orders will no doubt be widely, deeply and thoroughly discussed in Committee and on Report. Suffice it for me to say at this stage, the Second Reading of the Bill, that the decision to introduce an exclusion order is very much in keeping with the broad thrust of the legislation, which focuses on the needs of children. The order provides for an abuser to be excluded from the family home on application by a local authority. It will thus allow the child to remain in familiar surroundings with supportive members of the family rather than be moved to foster or residential care away from home. That principle has been widely supported. As the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, knows, we shall be bringing forward government amendments to the clause. However, I can assure him at this stage that there is a right of appeal and the right to be heard by the person who is the subject of an exclusion order and that that right can be promptly exercised. But I believe that the other details that have been raised on the matter will be more successfully dealt with during our discussions on the clause in Committee.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, asked whether other relations could apply for an exclusion order. Under the provisions of the Bill, only a local authority can apply for an exclusion order, but a spouse can also apply for such an order under the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981.
The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, felt that the definition of the words "in need" had been drawn too narrowly. Certainly the definition set out in Clause 84 is one that we believe quite properly targets the provision of services to those children most in need of assistance. However, in another place my honourable friend agreed to reconsider the definition of "in need" to make it reflect the positive promotion of a child's welfare. We still have the matter under consideration. No doubt it will be raised again in Committee.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull very properly drew attention to the needs and resources as regards training. We envisage that it will be necessary carefully to draw up an implementation plan for the Bill. Training has been mentioned on several occasions. We acknowledge that it has great importance. It will clearly be important to
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, quite correctly doubted the wisdom of an overarching principle. The matter was thoroughly debated in another place both in Committee and on Report. The Government have given careful consideration to the issues involved. It is necessary to take a hard look at what such a principle could possibly achieve without confusing the principles already laid out in different parts of the Bill.
Many detailed points have been made and questions lodged. If I have been unable to cover some of them in the time available to me this evening, I shall deal with them in writing. But I should like to conclude by saying that recommendations for improvements have formed and will continue to form an important part of the Bill. However, the Bill also builds on the successes of childcare with a greater emphasis on supporting families and the practice of keeping children in their families and communities wherever possible, while recognising that, for some, residential care may be the right choice. It builds on the strengths of the children's hearing system and the confidence in Scottish adoption law. It builds on the growing appreciation that we need to listen to children more and take their views into account. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said when
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