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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I can assure the noble Lord that there is nothing sinister in what is proposed. The direction that would be given would be of a very limited nature—that is to say, it would relate to how frequently local authorities ought to be reviewing their plans and updating or modifying them. It would not be a direction that they must provide children's services in any particular form. It is to do with timing and the nature of the review.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 16, line 7, after ("persons") insert ("including children, young persons and persons with parental responsibility,").

The noble Lord said: This is a fairly minor amendment but it has some social significance. It deals with the persons who have to be consulted by the local authority, which are dealt with at the bottom of page 15, in Clause 18 (4) (a) and (b) and then on to page 16. The final bodies to be consulted are:

"(f) such other persons as the Secretary of State may direct."
The amendment was tabled because, in the context of this Bill, the children within the local community area are most important, and that is what the Bill is all about. It is, perhaps, an enabling or an explanatory amendment to indicate to the Secretary of State that he should certainly include—I am not sure about children, it depends how you define a child—but young persons and persons with parental responsibilities.

We go back to Clause 6 of the Bill, where the Government are encouraging people to enter into agreements on parental responsibility, whatever their age may be. It might be that, to reflect the provisions of Clause 6, something should be said. I may have the wrong clause, but it is the one where there was agreement about parental responsibility, whatever age the parties might be. It might be fair to indicate to the Secretary of State that he should include, if not children, then certainly young people, as proposed in the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Subsection (4) sets out the various boards, trusts, voluntary organisations and individuals to be consulted by local authorities when they draw up these plans. Paragraph (f) makes it clear that they must also consult:

"such other persons as the Secretary of State may direct."
There is absolutely no qualification about who those people might be and so the Secretary of State would be free to define children, young persons, or persons with parental authority, in just the way that the noble Lord has suggested. It is, however, tempting to ask who else might be included within the consultative process and, if there are others, whether they should not also be shown on the face of the Bill. I would prefer to leave it in this broader way so that such individuals could indeed be consulted.

It is also worth nothing that the plans which local authorities will produce under this Clause 18 are of a strategic nature. It is likely that most individuals, even if they were service users, would have a relatively limited contribution to offer. It is perhaps more likely that

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representative organisations of such young people could undertake the task more effectively. They are, of course, included within paragraph (b) (i). I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Lord will agree that the point he is concerned about is adequately covered in the clause.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I am grateful for that reply. However, the clause is headed:

"Local authority plans for services for children".
and the only people who are not mentioned in the consultation process are children.

If we look at paragraph (c) we find that the principal reporter is consulted and at (d) the chairman of the children's panel for that area is consulted. I quite appreciate the point the Minister is making about achieving a consultative basis on a group basis, but there is no provision for consulting with children or their representatives—apart from the principal reporter, who will only be dealing with children when they have been up to no good or require the decision of the children's hearing, and the chairman of the children's panel.

So where do the children who do not get into trouble feature in this consultative stage? They seem to be missing out altogether, and the amendment is tabled so that the Secretary of State will at least bear in mind that it is children who this Bill is all about, and they should be consulted in one form or another.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: At one point the noble Lord added to his remarks "children or their representatives" and I rather agree with him that I suspect that if anyone is to be consulted, it is unlikely to be individual children. It is more likely to be some group representative of them. He says that there is no reference to children. It may not be expressly stated, but it relates to what I said about subsection (4)(b) (i). It is such voluntary organisations as appear to the authority to represent the interests of persons who use, or are likely to use, the relevant services, and in those circumstances one would hope that there were organisations representing children in the local authority area and, if there were, they should be consulted as subsection (4) makes clear.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I take on board what the Minister says, but I wonder why the subsection says "voluntary organisations" which are supposed to represent the interests of children. Should there not be a broader base than that? No doubt the Government may wish to take some time to think about that and see whether this can be expanded to include children who are not dependent on voluntary organisations, not dependent on the principal reporter and certainly not dependent on the chairman of the children's panel for the area. It may be a matter for consideration. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 16, line 7, at end insert—
("( ) The local authority shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that those who might benefit from the relevant services receive the information relevant to them in a form which they can comprehend (including, in particular, appropriate languages

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and formats).").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 50 is concerned with communication between the local authority and the possible users of its services. Clearly, the local authority's child service plan will end up being a weighty tome and probably regrettably necessary. What I believe will also be required is a simplified easily-read booklet which should be freely available. That would probably be best described as a guide to services and should definitely be user friendly.

Just as the children's service plans have to be reviewed and updated regularly, so it will also be necessary to republish this proposed popular guide to children's service plans. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: If the noble Earl looks to the government Amendment No. 51, he will see that a local authority shall, within such period after coming into force, and so on, prepare and publish information about relevant services which are provided for or in respect of the children.

I very much see that what we seek to achieve under that new clause is essentially what he wishes to achieve under his Amendment No. 50. I suggest to him that where his amendment is inappropriate is that he wishes to amend Clause 18, which relates to the preparation of strategic plans. Some of that, as he doubtless knows from his own experience, might contain a considerable degree of turgid detail which would be of little value or interest to those who might use the services. I would suggest to him that what we propose in the amendment, which we shall shortly reach, is a better way forward.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I anticipated that I would have to make my mind up whether I was to not move Amendment No. 50 and let Amendment No. 51 run through. What I decided was that Amendment No. 50 was more weighted towards a readable version. It was for that reason that I decided to move the amendment. However, I accept the noble and learned Lord's answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 51:

After Clause 18, insert the following new clause:

Publication of information about services for children.

(" .—(1) A local authority shall, within such period after the coming into force of this section as the Secretary of State may direct, and thereafter from time to time, prepare and publish information—
(a) about relevant services which are provided by them for or in respect of children (including, without prejudice to that generality, services for or in respect of disabled children or children otherwise affected by disability) in their area or by any other local authority for those children; and
(b) where they consider it appropriate, about services which are provided by voluntary organisations and by other persons for those children, being services which the authority have power to provide and which, were they to do so, they would provide as relevant services.
(2) In subsection (1) above, "relevant services" has the same meaning as in section 18 of this Act.").

The noble and learned Lord said: When the Bill was being discussed in another place, amendments were

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tabled requiring local authorities to publish information about their services. These were not considered to be satisfactorily drafted, but my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State agreed with them in principle and we now have our response in the shape of this new clause.

It places a specific responsibility on local authorities to publish within such time as may be directed by the Secretary of State information about the range of services they provide in respect of children. Your Lordships will note that the new clause embraces all children, including those who are disabled or who are affected by disability. This then allows the deletion of subsection (4) from Clause 21. The new clause also allows for the publication of information about services provided by voluntary organisations when considered relevant by the local authority.

It is not difficult to imagine where it would be entirely appropriate for the authority to draw the attention of residents in their area to the availability of specialist services; for example, for children with special needs. We had originally considered that by preparing and publishing plans local authorities would make adequate information available about their range of child care services but there is no doubt that the new clause presents the requirement in a much clearer and more focused way and I hope the information will be presented in a readable fashion. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Promotion of welfare of children in need]:

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