Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness David: My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for sending me the amendments at the weekend. I was most grateful and I congratulate him. I do not know whether the lateness of the amendments was a sign that he had to fight hard in the department to get them. However, he has done extremely well. We are very pleased and grateful to him.

I am glad that he said what he did about those who enter education rather late. They may not have finished by the time they reach 18 or 21 but they will continue to receive some help and advice, perhaps by means of accommodation or cash. However, I believe that altogether it represents a very happy outcome for the Bill and, again, I congratulate the Minister. I hope that it will not be too long before it can be implemented, and I hope that he will continue to fight for that.

Lord Carter: My Lords, perhaps I may remind the House that at Third Reading only the mover of the amendment should speak after the Minister. However, in the general atmosphere of good will that prevails, perhaps we shall ignore that.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I much regret that, due to other duties in the House, I have not been able to take part in the Bill before now. I have one specific question to which I should be most grateful for an answer. That question arose because of experience that I have had in connection with children's committees at local authority level. I have known of occasions when children who leave care have been allocated a flat but have not had the slightest idea how to shop, cook or do anything connected with looking after themselves in

22 May 2000 : Column 484

that flat. Do the amendment that we are now discussing (which I have been following carefully) and other amendments deal with that point?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I believe that the noble Baroness has made a very important point. The whole purpose of the Bill as it stands before your Lordships' House is to ensure that a pathway plan and young person's adviser provide an infrastructure of support which will not allow a young person simply to be placed in accommodation or elsewhere and left to fend for themselves. The purpose of the pathway plan and the advice from the young person's adviser is to enable young people more easily to cope in those circumstances. I believe that the noble Baroness has raised a most important issue.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I noticed the Chief Whip's eye on me and I shall be brief. I wish to ask a very short question. During the course of the Bill, I noticed with interest that the Minister talked of cash being available in exceptional circumstances. However, just now he referred to "appropriate circumstances". They are not the same. The words "appropriate circumstances" provide a wider definition. I was about to question the Minister as to whether "exceptional circumstances" are, indeed, wide enough.

At First Reading I raised a question, which I believe my noble friend has just amplified, with regard to the necessity for young people to be able to budget and to be taught to budget. I believe we agreed that cash would be available. I noticed that in both new Section 24C and now in the new Section 11 it will be available in "exceptional" circumstances. I wonder whether that is too tightly framed.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I want to raise two points. When we debated this matter at Second Reading and in Committee, I believe that we agreed that part of the whole package of measures which arise from this legislation is to enable young people to go out into the world with the ability to survive with support that can be given through the young person's adviser and through other mechanisms contained in the Bill.

The question in relation to resources is important. One of the main purposes of the Bill is to remove the perverse incentives which encourage local authorities to encourage young people to leave care as soon as possible because those young people are eligible to receive benefits and the bill does not then fall on the local authority. Importantly for 16 and 17 year-olds, the Bill changes the circumstances so that a ring-fenced budget will enable a local authority to provide proper support, including, of course, issues in relation to the handling of resources.

I believe that the point raised by the noble Baroness relates to people aged 18 and over who become eligible for benefits. Therefore, the circumstances in which

22 May 2000 : Column 485

additional assistance may need to be given in cash would be exceptional. I hope that I have clarified that point.

Earl Howe: My Lords, as always, the Minister has been very clear and helpful in speaking to his amendments. I shall not spoil the mood of general rejoicing by qualifying my thanks to him in any way. It was not realistic to expect that a commencement date for the new provisions would appear on the face of the Bill; nor, indeed, was I seeking that. It must be enough for us to place our trust in the Minister's assurances given today about the commitment that exists in his department on the importance of these matters.

This has been a most rewarding Bill in which to take part, not simply for the subject matter which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, rightly said, is of great importance, but for the way in which the Minister personally has listened and responded to the concerns expressed by noble Lords throughout the Bill's stages. I thank him for that. I believe that the House has done its work well and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

3.45 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 3, line 18, leave out ("subsection (8) or under section 24A or 24B") and insert ("this Part").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendments Nos. 5 to 11:

    Page 4, line 19, leave out from ("the") to end of line 25 and insert ("duties provided for in this section towards--

(a) a person who has been a relevant child for the purposes of section 23A (and would be one if he were under eighteen), and in relation to whom they were the last responsible authority; and
(b) a person who was being looked after by them when he attained the age of eighteen, and immediately before ceasing to be looked after was an eligible child,
and in this section such a person is referred to as a "former relevant child.").
Page 4, leave out lines 26 to 29.

    Page 4, line 30, leave out ("The first duty is") and insert ("It is the duty of the local authority").

    Page 4, line 31, leave out ("him") and insert ("a former relevant child").

    Page 4, line 34, leave out ("The other duties are") and insert ("It is the duty of the local authority").

    Page 4, line 36, leave out ("him") and insert ("a former relevant child").

    Page 4, line 38, at end insert--

("(5) It is the duty of the local authority to give a former relevant child--
(a) assistance of the kind referred to in section 24B(1), to the extent that his welfare requires it;

22 May 2000 : Column 486

(b) assistance of the kind referred to in section 24B(2), to the extent that his welfare and his educational or training needs require it;
(c) other assistance, to the extent that his welfare requires it.
(6) The assistance given under subsection (5)(c) may be in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.
(7) Subject to subsection (8), the duties set out in subsections (3), (4) and (5) subsist until the former relevant child reaches the age of twenty-one.
(8) If the former relevant child's pathway plan sets out a programme of education or training which extends beyond his twenty-first birthday--
(a) the duty set out in subsection (5)(b) continues to subsist for so long as the former relevant child continues to pursue that programme; and
(b) the duties set out in subsections (3) and (4) continue to subsist concurrently with that duty.
(9) For the purposes of subsection (8)(a) there shall be disregarded any interruption in a former relevant child's pursuance of a programme of education or training if the local authority are satisfied that he will resume it as soon as is reasonably practicable.
(10) Section 24B(5) applies in relation to a person being given assistance under subsection (5)(b) as it applies in relation to a person to whom section 24B(3) applies.
(11) Subsections (7) to (9) of section 17 apply in relation to assistance given under this section as they apply in relation to assistance given under that section.".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 3 [Personal advisers and pathway plans]:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 5, leave out lines 4 to 7 and insert--

("(2) Personal advisers appointed under or by virtue of this Part shall (in addition to any other functions) have such functions as the Secretary of State prescribes.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on previous occasions many noble Lords have recognised the central importance of the personal adviser to the success of the new arrangements for young people in and leaving care. On Report I stated that the Government intended to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading to allow for greater clarity as to the functions of the personal adviser and his or her relationship with the local authority. That is the purpose of the amendment before us.

The amendment makes clear that regulations provided for at new Section 23D may set out the functions of the personal adviser in respect of all the groups of children and young people who may be entitled to one. That means eligible children, relevant children, former relevant children and any other group of young people for whom the Secretary of State prescribes a personal adviser.

This amendment is straightforward. It seeks to provide greater clarity as to the functions of the personal adviser and the regulations that the Government will be putting in place to prescribe those functions. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

22 May 2000 : Column 487

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page