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The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, many of the government amendments to the Children (Scotland) Bill are technical and therefore some groups will be dealt with very quickly. I suggest that we press on with the Bill because discussions with the usual channels are being initiated. We shall receive a response from them in due course.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, I am grateful for that assurance. We shall see how matters proceed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Duty of local authority to child looked after by them]:

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 15, line 6, leave out from ("authority") to end of line 8.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I apologise to my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench because I have had no opportunity to discuss the amendment with him. However, I must explain the position. It is a consequential amendment which arises because of the sensible government Amendment No. 124. That deletes the reference to a "relevant local authority" in Clause 68(3) and moves it, under Amendment No. 165, to Clause 90, which is the interpretation clause dealing with Part II.

The definition of a "relevant local authority" is now fully described in Amendment No. 165 and is inserted in its correct alphabetical position in Clause 90. I hope that your Lordships will agree that the government amendments make the legislation easier to read and understand.

As well as this amendment, which I spotted because of my own cross-referencing in the Bill, Amendments Nos. 122, 125, 127 and 128 are all consequential. I beg to move.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I am happy to accept Amendment No. 20 moved by my noble friend Lord Balfour which is consequential to the moving of the definition of "relevant local authority" from Clause 68(3) to the definition in Clause 90.

Having accepted that amendment, it may be appropriate to speak now to government Amendments Nos. 122, 124, 125, 127, 128 and 165. These are all minor clarifying amendments of the same nature as that moved by my noble friend.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1131

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 15, line 8, at end insert ("and for whom they are providing accommodation.").

The noble Lady said: My Lords, this is a purely probing amendment. It serves to limit the use of the term "looked after" to only those children and young people who are accommodated away from the family home.

One of the underlying principles of the Bill is to minimise the role of the state and to maximise parents' ability to continue to exercise their rights and responsibilities in relation to the care of their children. The effect of the recent change introduced by the Government in Committee is that a child subject to a supervision requirement at home will now be regarded as being "looked after" by a local authority. Parents may well view that as both confusing and over-intrusive, where the local authority's duty under Clause 68(2) is only from time to time to investigate that any conditions imposed by the supervision requirement are being fulfilled. That does not really mean that the local authority is looking after the child.

There is also scope for confusion from the point of view of the local authority. Does the duty under Clause 68(2) limit or circumscribe any duty of care owed to the child under common law? Would it not be possible to clarify that position in the Bill while at the same time allowing those children and young people subject to supervision in relevant accommodation access to aftercare and other support from local authorities? I beg to move.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I see difficulties in the inclusion of children subject to a domestic supervision requirement under Clause 68(2) (a) in the category of "looked after" children. Will such children be entitled to claim aftercare under Clause 28? I wonder whether the Minister has calculated the numbers of such children and the scale of the costs involved. I am advised by the Association of Directors of Social Work that the costs of including those children could amount to £8.77 million. I wonder whether provision will be made in the Bill for that sum. While there is no problem if that provision is to be made, children should be re-categorised if adequate provision is not being made for them.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: My Lords, I listened with care to what the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, said. I have some sympathy for her position. I know that it is a probing amendment but, nevertheless, it would have the effect of removing from local authority responsibilities and services the children who are subject to compulsory measures of supervision at home.

Clause 17 sets out a duty that a local authority has to children looked after by it. The intention is that this clause should embrace all categories of children who receive services or assistance or for whom local authorities have responsibilities under the Bill: that is, those who are accommodated, those who are subject to compulsory supervision and those who are subject to an order or warrant under the Bill.

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1132

Where a child is subject to a supervision requirement but continues to live at home, his parents still have a fundamentally important part to play in the upbringing of the child—and I am sure that that is what the noble Lady would wish. But in making a supervision requirement, the children's hearing will have concluded that the child has needs which the local authority has a role in meeting. I suggest to your Lordships that we cannot ignore the needs of such children and the duty which local authorities should have to them. It is a matter for the children's hearing to decide whether that is so in all the circumstances.

Most importantly, I should emphasise that by including children in the general category of being "looked after", we ensure that they qualify for all appropriate services. One such potentially important service is aftercare.

By redefining the category of children covered by Clause 17(6) (b), the noble Lady would be depriving any child who was subject to a home supervision requirement at school-leaving age of receiving continued support under the aftercare provisions of Clause 28. I should observe that aftercare is already a duty under the 1968 Act in cases of home supervision. I am sure that the noble Lady will agree that such children might well require further advice, guidance and assistance from the local authority. Therefore, it would be unfortunate if such an amendment were made which would have the undesirable repercussion of depriving the children of that advice and so on. I hope that with that explanation, the noble Lady will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

5.45 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 22:

After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

("Duty of local authority to child not looked after by them

.—(1) Without prejudice to the provisions of section 17 above, where under or by virtue of this Part of this Act, a local authority decide any matter with respect to a child, the welfare of that child throughout his childhood shall be their paramount consideration.
(2) In making any such decision a local authority shall have regard so far as practicable to the views (if he wishes to express them) of the child concerned, taking account of his age and maturity; and without prejudice to the generality of this subsection a child twelve years of age or more shall be presumed to be of sufficient age and maturity to form a view.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment follows on from the previous amendment. It attempts to define the duties of the local authority to children who are not categorised as "looked after" but are in receipt of social work intervention. That includes children in need and children in refuges.

Clause 17 provides clearly that "looked after" children shall be treated with their interests as paramount, but there seems to be no corresponding duty to children in need in the community or in refuges.

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1133

While the amendment would resolve that problem, I wonder whether there is an error or omission from the Bill. I beg to move.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, the noble Earl has raised a number of interesting points in moving this amendment. I assure him that there is no error or omission. He is right to suggest that when local authorities are contemplating taking action or providing services under Part II of the Bill, there will be many circumstances in which they should seek the child's views.

I believe also that the child's welfare should be a matter of considerable concern in any dealings which a local authority has with a child or the parents. But I am less clear that it would be appropriate to place a specific duty on a local authority to have welfare as a paramount concern when the authority is not actually looking after the child and therefore has no formal relationship with him.

I think that we have to differentiate rather carefully between public intervention in the life of a child or family and the simple provision of support services. The noble Earl's proposed clause would bite wherever and whenever a local authority were considering any action under Part II. I believe that writing such a sweeping provision into primary legislation would run a very serious risk of creating such a heavy and onerous requirement on local authorities that they would find real difficulty in meeting its terms and delivering their services—and in meeting priority needs. It is too prescriptive and would require a degree of consultation and interaction between the authorities and individuals which would probably prove impracticable.

I believe that the best of what the noble Earl seeks will be obtained through good practice and through guidance where that is necessary. However, they are not matters for the face of the Bill. On the basis of those reassurances, I hope the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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