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Lord Northbourne: I should like to support the amendment because I believe that respite care can do an enormous amount to enable disabled children particularly and children in need to be able to live at home and to enable their parents to cope with them. This must be an important objective.

I should like to take the opportunity of the amendment to ask the Minister whether he really means "provision" throughout the Bill and in particular this clause. Surely it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government for local authorities to procure services as well as to provide them. I happen to be president of an organisation which provides respite care to severely damaged Down's Syndrome children. I believe it is extremely important that provision or procurement by the local authority should be included in the Bill.

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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: May I say to the noble Lord that it is a very good point and I entirely agree with him. I certainly do not intend to indicate in the way the Bill is drafted that the only organisation to provide the actual services is to be the local authority itself. In the way the Bill is drafted—and I will look at it again—I certainly intended that it should be conveyed that the local authority, in providing such services, might procure them, as he would describe it, from either the voluntary or the independent sector. He is absolutely right. It is very desirable that there should be that range of opportunity provided.

May I also say in relation to respite services that I acknowledge the great desirability of having such services and the very important part that they can play in keeping families together. It was in the light of a discussion on this very matter in another place that we considered very carefully whether it would be helpful to bring in a definition of the type brought forward in this amendment.

However, it is not only those respite services which can be of great assistance in keeping families together; so can other support services of various types, including support within the child's own home. We do not know what new and innovative services might be developed in the future. On balance, and I stress on balance, we believe that it would not be helpful to highlight one particular service in primary legislation in the way proposed by the amendment, nor would it be appropriate to require the Secretary of State to make regulations. What might be practicable in one area of Scotland might not work at all in another. Local authorities in our view would be best placed to develop services to meet local needs.

With the indication I have given of the desirability of such respite services, I hope the noble Lord will appreciate that we are going for very much the same objective but do not want to single out one range of services.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I thank the Minister for his reply. I agree with him that respite care is a very valuable contribution. It is certainly quite new, and I can say as a social work student from round about 1970 that that word did not exist then and nor did the concept. It is certainly a new idea, and a very useful one. I believe that local authorities have the go-ahead to develop respite services on what amounts to a statutory basis, so on that basis I beg to leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 16, line 40, at end insert—
("( ) Every local authority shall make such provision as they consider appropriate for the following services to be available with respect to children in need within their area while they are living with their families—
(a) advice, guidance and counselling;
(b) occupational, social, cultural or recreational activities;
(c) home help (which may include laundry facilities);
(d) facilities for, or assistance with, travelling to and from home for the purpose of taking advantage of any other service provided under this Act or of any similar service; and

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(e) assistance to enable the child concerned and his family to have a holiday.").

The noble Earl said: This amendment has the purpose of spelling out how the local authority shall go about its task of providing services to children. It goes so far as to state the range of ways that a local authority may help a family in their own home. The amendment provides a lead to local authorities by suggesting a practical minimum level of services which they should be maintaining. Some of the services are domestic; some are in the form of guidance; others have a "use of leisure" input, and the final subsection suggests a practical form of respite care. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: As I have already indicated, I readily accept that the types of services listed in this amendment would, in appropriate circumstances, be of great value and help to children in need. However, I again make the point that I doubt whether it is helpful to introduce quite this degree of specification. Specifying one particular type of service and not another could, I fear, give rise to the notion that one particular service is necessarily more important than another, or more seriously—I think that there are those who are concerned about the drafting of the legislation—that services which were not specifically mentioned could not then be provided. I am sure the noble Earl would not want that to happen.

We prefer the approach presently adopted by the Bill which enables local authorities to provide a range of services for children in need, and which offers a flexibility not only in terms of the child's current needs, but also in terms of his or her changing needs. With that further explanation, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I thank the Minister for his reply. These very detailed amendments stem from concern that the category of "child in need" is too narrow and that it is therefore necessary to spell it out in order to establish that "child in need" does not cover just a very small group of children, but relates in fact to many children. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 16, line 47, at end insert—
("( ) Every local authority shall take reasonable steps to identify the extent to which there are children in need within their area, and provide them and those who might benefit with information on available services.").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is concerned with the local authorities' efforts to find out the scale of need among children in their area. The amendment will have the beneficial effect of causing the various agencies to co-operate with one another and ultimately make joint plans. Finally, the amendment requires the local authority to publish information about its services in an easily read form. I beg to move.

Baroness Faithfull: I should like to seek information from the Minister. We are talking all the time about

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children in need. I wonder whether we are right in doing so throughout this clause. It seems to me that the needs of the whole community should be looked at—not only the needs of children in need, but the needs of the whole community partly to supply a service but partly to prevent children from becoming "children in need". I wonder whether one ought not to be recommending that the community be looked at and that services be started to meet the needs of the community. Then, one would hope, the children in need would be referred to whatever organisation there is.

For example, I do not believe that we should put all children in need together; they should be mixing with normal children. With a difficult child you might, arrange for him or her to join, for example, the Scouts or a club. We should perhaps be looking to the community to encapsulate the requirements of children in need. We should not start up organisations just for children in need; we should start them up for the community so that the children in need can attend alongside normal children.

I think that my question about this covers Amendments Nos. 60 and 61 and, therefore, the next amendment, but I should like some guidance from my noble and learned friend the Minister.

7 p.m.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: As I previously indicated to the Committee, the definition of a child in need is modified by Amendment No. 201. I offer the view to the Committee that that is now sufficiently wide. Initially there were some misgivings about the narrowness of the original definition, but while I understand my noble friend's desire to see children properly established and cared for within the community, I am bound to say that we have gone sufficiently far in the new definition that we have provided for in Clause 84. Amendment No. 201 is the one which amends it.

As regards this amendment, perhaps the noble Lord might reflect on the government amendment, Amendment No. 51, which I moved and allows for the provision of information for those children who have needs. In the light of the amendment that the Government have introduced, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, was right in saying that preventive services were very important. As we have not yet reached Amendment No. 201 we are still having to deal with the old definition of children in need; hence the worries about the definition being too narrow as it stands at present. I suspect that when Amendment No. 201 is dealt with we will move into a broader and more desirable category. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

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