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The Earl of Perth: My Lords, before the Minister sits down perhaps I may ask her just one question. On the matter of publicity, she said that that was my job. I shall certainly take on any job, but it seems to me that it is essentially the work of the department if it believes in the Bill at all and in getting the legislation through this House.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, it is not usual for governments to try to sell their Bills through publicity. There are, indeed, many occasions when they would rather not have publicity. If the noble Lord is promoting a measure that he very much desires and which is supported on all sides of the House, it is for him to raise the matter in order to gain publicity more than it is for me or any Minister.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can she confirm that right at the end of her remarks she said that the Government will be looking to introduce such a Bill in the next Session?

Baroness Trumpington: Yes, my Lords.

Employment Rights Bill [H.L.]

Reported from the Joint Committee without amendment, and recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House.

Industrial Tribunals Bill [H.L.]

Reported from the Joint Committee without amendment, and recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House.

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Official Report of the Committee on the

Children (Scotland) Bill

Second Sitting

Wednesday, 7 June, 1995

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo) in the Chair.]

Clause 25 [After-care]:

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 86:

Page 19, line 16, leave out ("nineteen") and insert ("twenty-one").

The noble Earl said: This amendment to Clause 25 is one of the more important in the Bill. The aim of Amendment No. 86 is to guarantee and fund the provision of aftercare on a mandatory basis for ex-care young adults up to the age of 21. The experience to date of these generally vulnerable young people is that they are effectively abandoned by the local authority. The Bill can be praised for extending the period of mandatory aftercare to age 19 from age 18 as previously. This still leaves a very young person to rely on his own resources at a time when studies show that the usual age for leaving home is around 22 years. The instability and contradictions of growing up in care and the disintegrating family life that preceded it are not a stable platform from which we can really expect ex-care young people to be able to accelerate to independence.

I do not want to encourage a culture of dependence but I do want to ensure that the children brought up by the local authority are subsequently treated realistically. The fact that ex-care children are found to be 70 times more likely to become homeless is the regrettable evidence which backs up this amendment.

I shall conclude with some remarks about cost. Although it was suggested by Lord James Douglas-Hamilton in another place that the cost of extending the duty to assist ex-care young adults up to age 21 might be £4.5 million, we now have three estimates to consider. The Child Care Law Review report said £965,000; the Association of Directors of Social Work has said £1.7 million, and Shelter has said £1.3 million. I beg to move.

Baroness Faithfull: I support the amendment. However, I cannot of course speak about Scotland; I can only speak on what we have experienced under the Children Act 1989 in England. During the passage of the Children Bill through the House of Lords I moved an amendment which very much resembles this amendment but unfortunately it was turned down and was not accepted. As a consequence, we have spent much more in England than we would have spent had the amendment been accepted. I say that because of the young people one sees sleeping on the streets. Research was done by the Salvation Army, the Church Army and the University of Surrey. They found that a great proportion of those children sleeping on the streets were

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children who had been in care. Some of them had gone home and could not settle and the parents would not have them and they left home. They had been in residential accommodation or perhaps in unhappy foster homes. As a consequence, they were sleeping rough and at the end of the day they were costing the country the most enormous amount of money. Finally, Centrepoint had to set up particular accommodation for them with the approval of the Department of the Environment and that was very costly. It was costly to the health departments because so many of them were ill later and it was very costly because, without accommodation, they could not get a job and without a job they could not get accommodation. So the situation was an extraordinarily difficult one. I can only speak of the English experience, but the English experience leads me to think that it would be more cost effective to accept the amendment than to put it to be rejected.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I have some reservations about this. I take on board what the noble Baroness has just said. The use of the words "shall" and "may", which we discussed yesterday at some length, carries with it the fiscal implications which the Government might not be able to take on board and indeed the local authority might not be able to take on board.

At Second Reading we mentioned that there should be an availability for young people—indeed another amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, will suggest the age of 25—to have advice and guidance, but it should not be a compulsory matter for the local authority. I find it difficult to construe subsection (1) of Clause 25:

"A local authority shall, unless they are satisfied that his welfare does not require it, advise, guide and assist any person in their area over a school age", and so on. How is the local authority to find out who needs the advice, guidance and assistance, unless that person comes to it?

I would like the Government to take another look at this and say that a local authority "may" provide that help to persons who seek it. I may be misreading this clause completely. I appreciate the reasoning behind the Bill, but I would not like to see local authorities, particularly since the re-organisation of local government in Scotland, which we have discussed at length on many other occasions, being saddled with this burden of seeking out people and asking whether they would like advice, guidance or assistance. It seems to be placing an unnecessary burden on the local authority. I do not know what the noble and learned Lord the Minister may say about that, but I shall listen with interest.

Baroness Faithfull: In answer to the noble Lord, may I say that in the English debate on this subject, I asked for the word "shall", and the Lord Chancellor then gave in to me half way by saying "may" in the Bill. As a consequence, I regret to have to say that the treasurers said that this is only "may" and the social services departments then could not spend the money because it was only "may" and not "shall".

Secondly, from the point of view of seeking out, I can only say that the children know perfectly well where to go when they have been in care. They do know exactly

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where to go to ask for help. However, if the social services departments do not have the right and the finance to help them, then of course they cannot help them. I do not feel that they would not know where to go for help if they needed it.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): Like the noble Earl who moved the amendment, I am keenly aware of the importance of aftercare. Indeed, that is why there is such specific provision for it in the Bill. There is, however, little sense in investing time, money and staff resources in looking after young people and then failing to provide them with the necessary support when they move towards independent living.

We are committed to seeing improvements in the existing arrangements for young people leaving care, but to my mind the key point is that services—the advice, the guidance and assistance—should be improved and not simply extended to people who are slightly older. I hope that if we get the services right at the early stage, we will avoid some of the difficulties which exist at present.

There clearly is an issue of resources here and the indication we had from the noble Earl in moving his amendment was that there is quite a wide range of estimates of what the cost might be, but all three of them are significant sums for local authorities to take on. I should like to make it clear that it is not simply a question of resources which leads me to take my view. We want to improve the services but I do not want to bring about any diminution in the quality of the services that might be introduced.

There is indeed a difference, if I may say to the noble Baroness, between what we are proposing in this Bill and what is to be found within the Children Act 1989. That provides at present only a power of assistance up to the age of 21. This Bill for Scotland provides a duty of aftercare up to the age of 19 and then a power to provide services for those aged 19 to 21. In those respects, I think we go some significant way to meeting the point that the noble Baroness would make, and while she may want to go yet further, I am sure that she will view what we have introduced as an improvement on what is provided on this side of the Border.

It is important that the services and the support should be carefully tailored to meet the needs of the individuals involved. I hope that we will set young people off on the right track and have good supportive services available for those vulnerable age groups which require it. Putting it simply, more of the same is not enough; what I hope we shall achieve and bring about are real improvements in aftercare where they will do most good.

Finally, I should stress that the clause provides the power for the local authorities to continue assisting young care leavers until they are 21. I am sure that providing that flexibility rather than creating an indiscriminate duty is the right way forward, and I hope that with that explanation the noble Earl will feel that he can withdraw his amendment.

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