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There are now powers to require schools, whether or not they see the benefit, to take account of children in care. Local authorities now have a power to require schools to admit children in care, not only at the beginning of the school year but at any point, because children in care so frequently move placements during the year. They will have to take account of that power, even though it may not enhance their success in GCSEs and other public examinations and tests. I hope that we are getting the incentives more aligned than was often the case in the past, but I completely accept that there is by no means a complete alignment of incentives at the moment, and we should examine that more during the Green Paper consultation.
Developing the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, made, in considering the minimum standards for childrens homes, and in the Options for Excellence programme to which the Minister referred, will he look at implementing finally the recommendation in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, in 1992, Choosing with Care, that staff in those homes receive
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Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his remarks. He has made an early contribution to the debate on many of the issues in the Green Paper, and we will take seriously his remarks, although some of them have a large price tag attached and we would have to work out their resource implications.
There has been a significant expansion of the CAMHS service in recent years, which goes some way to meeting the noble Earls first point. However, I accept that there is further to go and that to meet the full recommendations of my noble friend Lord Warner we need to seek substantial further progress on the track that we have started on.
Baroness Billingham: My Lords, the Green Paper is very welcome. I speak on this matter with some passion because I spent four years of my life, between six and 10, in care, which may be somewhat unusual for a Member of this House. The circumstances were not unusual: my father had been killed in the war and my mother got TB, as a lot of people did at that time. She was taken to a sanatorium and was away for four years before the health service and streptomycin, as I think it is called, cured her, and she came back home again. But in those intervening years I was taken into a very loving foster home in my own village of Wendover, in Buckinghamshire, where I was beautifully cared for. The teachers in my primary school looked after me and gave me additional help, and the day that my mother came out of the sanatorium was the day that I heard that I had passed the 11-plus. So I was the lucky one, but millions were not. That is why this Green Paper is so important to ensure that all the good fortune that I had is shared by others. I hope that the Minister will ensure that this happens.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, like my noble friend I spent part of my childhood in care, and I can only echo all the remarks that she made. This is a matter of the utmost national importance, not only for the individuals concerned, but if we are to have a fair and just society.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the Government, who have moved a very long way. There is still a great deal more to do, but there are some exciting ideas in this Green Paper. Can I have a tiny moan, however? It would be nice if
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I very much support all that is being done with regard to schools and the extra effort that local authorities will be making, as well as the requirement on schools themselves. I am sure that will help. The preventive side is vital and that is clearly in place. I add my support for kinship care. I gather from what the noble Lord has said that this is not a matter on which there has been movement but it could save much money and contribute to a great deal more family cohesion.
The local authoritys responsibility and the need for the child to be consulted have been re-emphasised. That is crucial. However, I wonder whether there is not still a place for those children who do not have any family or friends to have a mentoran extra person who could undertake the role of a parent, as it were. The local authority is not a parent in that sense. Such a person could befriend such children. Organisations such as HomeStart already have such schemes. Over the years trained volunteers have done so much in this country to map out new areas where government help is needed. They are vital partners in all this. Foster parents are volunteers and all the ideas for increasing their support and training are very welcome, but I still feel that there is room for the extra help which a mentor could give.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a good point about the need for enhanced mentoring and for the support which mentors can give, particularly to children in care who have no relatives to take an interest and support them. The previous Government introduced the very welcome concept of the independent visitor, who has a role in mentoring a child in care who has no relatives. In the Green Paper we are consulting on whether the offer of an independent visitor should be extended to other children in care and on how we can revitalise the role of the independent visitor. This is all set out in the Green Paper. We welcome the noble Baronesss views on it.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I too am pleased by much of the Green Paper, which I look forward to reading in detail. I endorse the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about people in prison. I was concerned to discover that those responsible for young people in care who were entering prison rather switched off once those young people went into prison and did not carry on that duty of care while they were there. That was particularly problematic when those people came out of prison, in the preparations for their coming out and in the transition to their being released. That was one of the reasons for the concern that the Children Act did not apply to those people when they were in prison. I hope that that will be picked up and added to all the other good things in the paper because it is badly needed in the whole context of offender management, particularly young offender management.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point about the welfare of children in care who end up in custody. There is a long section on that at page 82 of the Green Paper. We will greatly welcome the noble Lords comments on that when he has had a chance to read the Green Paper in full. As he knows, at the moment those in custody who are subject to a care order should be supported by their local authority. That includes visiting and the six-monthly review of care plans, as with other children in care. We need to ensure that that duty is taken more seriously, particularly when the children in care are about to be released, as the noble Lord said. It is so important that proper arrangements are made for them after their release.
However, the Green Paper proposes to go beyond that and to require local authorities to assess the needs of young people in care who are there on a voluntary basis, but who enter youth custody, with an expectation that those children too will continue to be supported as children in care. In most cases this would entail a social worker, a care plan and continued support as a child in care on leaving custody. We seek to enhance the provision for children in care who end up in custody, including for those in voluntary care. Although their care is voluntary, by definition they often have inadequate family arrangements to support them while they are in custody.
(3A) In discharging its functions under subsection 6(1) above, a police authority shall monitor the performance of the police force maintained for its area in carrying out any policing priorities and shall make arrangements to secure continuous improvements in the performance of that force.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment describes a function of police authorities that is so important that it should be in primary legislation: the job of monitoring the performance of a force to ensure that it is carrying out its duties to deliver the policing priorities and objectives that have been set for it. The amendment also includes wording that would ensure that police authorities were responsible for ensuring improvements in force performance. It is particularly important that this should be in primary legislation as it is proposed in the Bill that police authorities are to lose many of their best value powers. I will speak about best value under later amendments. For now, I commend this as an alternative to those provisions. It would enable police authorities to secure improvement, which is what best value does, without the bureaucracy that best value involves.
A police authority is there to ensure that local police are accountable to local people. A key element of that is ensuring that the local force is delivering against the priorities that are important to local communities. The ability to provide a level of independent monitoring of performance is vital to reassuring communities about their own safety, and demonstrating that they have a voice in deciding what their police should focus on and also ensuring that the police are tackling the issues that are of most concern to them. It is a function that underpins the relationship between the police authority and the people that it serves, and it deserves to be in primary legislation. I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, this is an interesting amendment which, as the noble Baroness set out, would confer an additional duty on police authorities; that is what it is. In principle, we would have no objection to the proposition, but our question is simply whether the provision as set out in the amendment is at all necessary, given that the ground is already covered elsewhere. Schedule 2(9) amends Section 6 of the Police Act to give police authorities an express function of holding the chief constable to account for the exercise of his or her functions. This is no more than a statement of what happens already, but it is as well to make such a function explicit.
The amendment would place a new two-part duty on police authorities. The first part requires a police authority to monitor the performance of the police force in carrying out any policing priorities. No one can argue with the aims of the amendment, but such monitoring is in effect a subset of the new function of holding the chief constable to account. No police authority will be able effectively to discharge this function without monitoring performance. Such monitoring is a means to an end, not an end in itself. As such, we are not persuaded that we need to write such a duty into the legislation.
The second part of the new duty would require police authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvements in the performance of their force. Again, while I entirely understand and could wholeheartedly endorse the appropriateness of such a duty, it is our contention that there is no need to write this into the Police Act 1996. To do so would be no more than to repeat what we see as the overarching best value duty contained in Part I of the Local Government Act 1999, which I am sure the noble Baroness will be well aware of. Police authorities are, of course, already subject to the best value duty. While Clause 5 will be revising the application of the best value regime to police authorities, the overarching duty will be retained. In short, we see merit in the sentiments behind the amendment, but I put it to the noble Baroness that the ground is already more than adequately covered. I invite her to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, predictably, having listened to the Ministers response, I am slightly disappointed. We may well have to come back to this at a later stage. I will hear what he has to
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(4) A draft of a policing plan required to be issued by a police authority under this section shall be prepared by the relevant chief officer of police and submitted by him to the authority for it to consider.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, government Amendments Nos. 28, 30, 31, 32, 49, 147 and 150 respond to the concerns voiced in Committee about the extent to which established functions of police authorities are moved from primary to secondary legislation. The Association of Police Authorities has made representations to us on this issue. In addition, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has recommended that, due to the wide nature of the regulation-making power in relation to police authority plans and reports, it should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
We accept the spirit of the committees recommendation, but opted for a slightly different solution. These government amendments go a step further and restore to the Police Act 1996 core requirements in respect of the planning process and in relation to consultation with local communities. We will now provide in primary legislation for police authorities to issue before the beginning of the financial year a rolling three-year policing plan. It will set out the proposed arrangements for policing the authoritys area during the three years that it covers. It must include a statement of objectives determined by the authority, following consultation with the chief constable, for policing the authoritys area for the period of the first year covered by that plan.
As the core provisions relating to policing plans will now be in primary legislation and the regulation-making power is much more tightly focused, we do not propose to make it subject to the affirmative procedure. ACPO and the APA will of course be consulted on any regulations made under the order. We will use the regulation-making power to stipulate what other matters should be included in policing plans. It would be our intention, and we certainly envisage, that the regulations would require, as now, the policing plan to include any performance targets set by the authority and a statement of the resources available.
Amendment No. 29 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, seeks to incorporate these requirements in primary legislation. Undoubtedly, these are important matters that should be included in the policing plan, but our argument is this: they are secondary details that can safely be left to regulations.
Amendment No. 49 also restores to the Police Act the duty on police authorities to obtain the views of their local communities. This will be supplemented by a power to make regulations covering review arrangements, persons whom the police authority should consult and reports to be made by the Home Secretary where arrangements are not adequate.
I recognise the importance of preserving key points of detail in primary legislation and, as we have made plain previously, the primary functions of maintaining an efficient and effective police force and of holding the chief officer to account for the way in which they discharge their functions will remain in the Police Act 1996and now, on the basis of these government amendments, so will the functions relating to the issuing of plans and consultation with the community.
First, I welcome the spirit of the amendments put forward on behalf of the Government. The ability of police authorities to determine and issue local policing plans has now been put back into the Bill. That represents real progress, but it does not go quite far enough. Two key elements of what is currently in the law have been omitted from the government amendment. Our amendment aims to put those back into the Bill. I acknowledge my debt to the Front Benches, as I have borrowed heavily from their wording in this amendment, except in the elements they have omitted.
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