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Lord Bassam of Brighton: Amendments Nos. 53 to 57 would make the default powers in Clause 10 inoperative. Amendment No. 57 prevents a management order made under Clause 10 from being renewed by requiring a 12-month gap between the arrangements unless, in the opinion of the Secretary of State and the chief inspector, the circumstances have changed in such way that the making of a further order is warranted. It may not be right to make a management order hastily within three months of a formal inspection. It may be better to allow a board time to improve, or to agree an action plan for improvement and demonstrate whether it can follow it.

Providing good value for money is an important part of a board's remit. It is a specific failing which should be subject to being tackled through the powers under Clause 10 if it is clear that an alternative arrangement can offer better value to the taxpayer.

A management arrangement which could not last for more than 12 months and then could be renewed only if the Secretary of State and the chief inspector agreed that circumstances had changed sufficiently to warrant the making of a further order would be impractical. No contractor would want to take on such a short term contract with no scope for renewal. No one could be expected to turn around a failing service in such a short period of time.

I believe that these are unwise amendments. They would not serve a great and useful purpose. They could inhibit the way in which boards operate. I trust that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I am sorry the Minister did not take up the point about providing some stability in fairly difficult situations. If it takes rather more than 12 months to bring round a service, the problem is very serious. There are many default powers in the Bill which allow the Secretary of State to replace the board, or even the chief executive. It is important that a service is not allowed to run for a period of more than 12 months while not performing to the level and giving

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the quality of service expected of it. That is the reason for the inclusion of the 12 month period. The Secretary of State should use some of his other powers.

No one suggests that nothing can happen within those 12 months. If the Secretary of State is satisfied that the service is back on track, he can revoke the order. If he is not satisfied and believes that the situation is becoming worse, he can invoke his other powers.

If, within a 12-month period, a service improves to the extent that no further intervention is required, it seems right to give it some breathing space. When a service has suffered the indignity and trauma of having failed and has made the effort to improve, 12 months is a relatively short period in the special circumstances allowed for in these amendments.

I am sorry that the noble Lord interpreted the amendments as he did. I am clearly not getting anywhere with them. I think that the edict has gone out that no amendments should be accepted. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 54 to 58 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 59:

    Page 50, line 36, at end insert--

("( ) the establishment of committees which include persons from the local community, courts and court users, the function of which is to advise area managers on the provision of local services and local recruitment.").

The noble Baroness said: We now move to the part of the Bill dealing with CAFCASS. I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 59, 61 and 62. In the same group is Amendment No. 60, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.

A good deal was made on Second Reading of local accountability. The noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, said:

    "I particularly welcome the fact that the Bill will result in a stronger national identity and consistency for probation services, together with strong local accountability and service delivery".--[Official Report, 3/7/00; col. 1316.]

I shall enlarge a little on local accountability.

Paragraph (4)(a) says that regulations may provide for

    "the establishment and functions of committees".

I am asking for a local area advisory committee. That would be of significant benefit to CAFCASS in facilitating good links with communities, courts, court users and other service users. Such committees could include membership from local community and court user groups and would be in a position to give crucial advice to area managers on particular local issues as they affect the delivery of local services. That is particularly important if CAFCASS aims to be an

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exemplar organisation in the way in which it deals with anti-racism and diversity. Local input is very important.

Amendments Nos. 60 and 61 refer to training and qualifications. Chief probation officers are concerned that the necessary training and qualifications are put in place to facilitate the recruitment of people from minority ethnic groups. The current profile of the three organisations whose functions will be taken over by CAFCASS does not reflect the diversity of this country's population. It is vital that arrangements are put in place early in the life of CAFCASS to encourage applications from minority ethnic groups. The chief probation officers are in favour of training that is locally available but centrally specified to meet national academic and professional standards. That is an important point.

Amendment No. 62 is about the supervision of staff. The probation officers believe that the nature of the work that CAFCASS undertakes requires clear lines of accountability on standards and the quality of service. The Association of Chief Officers of Probation believes that a managed service is essential. The Waterhouse report supports that view, clearly identifying the importance of the supervision of practitioners. The probation officers know that there is an intention to establish 22 area managers and they hope that the new arrangements establish proper line management within the structure, so that all staff dealing with children are properly supervised. That is another important point.

There are only a few people in the Chamber at the moment, but I hope that they will support my amendments. I beg to move.

The Earl of Listowel: I shall speak to Amendment No. 60, standing in my name, and to Amendment No. 62, standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady David.

A recognised social work qualification is currently considered the barest minimum requirement for guardians ad litem. It is possessed by the majority of family court welfare officers. Soon, social workers engaged in work with families and children will be required to have a recognised qualifying award in child and family work. I submit that CAFCASS officers who undertake public law cases should have at least the same qualifications as the social workers whose actions they scrutinise. In Committee in the other place the Minister, Jane Kennedy, proposed to introduce a trainee grade of CAFCASS officers.

CAFCASS officers with responsibility for working before the court have a demanding and challenging task. My amendment would ensure that there was never a risk of juniors or unqualified trainees undertaking such work. It would prevent the dilution of the service in the face of financial or other pressures. It would ensure that CAFCASS officers working before the court had sufficient social work experience and analytic capacity to be a credible and trenchant advocate for the child.

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I move on to Amendment No. 62. With great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady David, I question her amendment regarding supervision. Given the complexity of the task of reconciling the two very different management structures of the family welfare court officers and the guardians, it would be premature to prescribe the management arrangements in primary legislation. I believe that that is best left to regulation.

By way of illustration of the difference between those two organisations, the approximate ratio of managers to officers in north London in the guardian service is 1:70; that is, one manager to 70 officers. In the family welfare court service it is 1:10; that is, one manager to 10 officers. Yet both services enjoy good reputations.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Hanham: My name and that of my noble friend Lady Blatch are also attached to the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. Briefly, I support what he has said.

The amendment to which he has spoken fills the gap left in the current paragraph 5(2). As he said very cogently, the problem created by the formation of this new, very inaptly named service is to provide a uniformity of qualification which will ensure that the new family court officers have sufficient experience and expertise in dealing with families and, most particularly, as the noble Earl said, with children.

All guardians ad litem and most court welfare officers currently hold a social work qualification. However, the new clause put forward by the noble Earl would ensure that future recruits to the service come from a similar background. In time--and it is intimated in the Bill that this will happen--there may also be developed specific qualifications for this service. However, the social work background would give assurance of appropriate qualifications and standards.

It is necessary to have officers with experience which enables them to identify quickly the children who are vulnerable and emotional, to assess their needs, to take their views, conduct interviews with other people related to the case and then, most importantly, to present a cogent and helpful report to the court. That requires confidence, maturity and experience, as well as academic ability-- something which practically all guardians ad litem hold at the moment, as well as the court welfare officers.

The new service will also need people at various levels of management, and a career structure for them will be important. Therefore, I support the second and third paragraphs of the noble Earl's amendment.

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