HC Deb 07 May 1962 vol 659 cc171-5

Amendment made: In line 2, leave out "social workers" and insert training in social work."—[Mr. Powell.]

10.57 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Miss Pitt.]

10.58 p.m.

Mr. K. Robinson

It would have been pleasant to support the Third Reading with more enthusiasm than I can summon this evening. It is, admittedly, in minor respects a rather better Bill than that which come before us on Second Reading, but in my view, the view of my hon. Friends and the view of almost everybody who has attended the debates, it is a Bill which contains a flaw, and I can only hope—and I say this with all sincerity—that our suspicions that the flaw is fatal will not be justified.

As we see it, the Bill represents a machine without fuel. I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has been so obstinate throughout in rejecting the advice given to him from every quarter abouts grants. I hope that even at this late stage he will at least look into the possibility of introducing pooling arrangements.

Having said that, I hope that the passage of the Bill through another place will be rather more expeditious than it has been through this House. I hope that the councils will shortly be set up and will be enabled to get down to their work. We all wish them well. We recognise that they have an important job to do, and if I particularise the Social Workers Training Council it is only because that is the council which has the more groundwork to do, and it will have to do it with one hand tied behind its back by the Government. But I am sure that Sir John Wolfenden and his colleagues will do their best.

I would venture three hopes through you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the council when it is set up. I hope that it will do all it can to assist in promoting the employment of part-time social workers perhaps by establishing refresher courses or in any other way. This, I believe, represents a considerable reservoir of skilled social workers which is certainly not being employed at the moment.

Secondly, I hope very much that courses in social work training are instituted in the right places and in appropriate settings, and that we shall concentrate more on the colleges of advanced technology, the universities, and extra-mural departments rather than on colleges of commerce which seem to tend to house the preliminary courses.

Lastly, I hope that the councils will try to get more men into the social work field; and, in saying that, I have no intention whatever to minimise the very great contribution made by the many women workers, but I think that they would be among the first to agree that we do need more men in this field. I hope that that will be borne in mind by the two councils, and, with the important reservation I have mentioned, I give the Bill my support.

11.2 p.m.

Miss Vickers

I rise to say how pleased I am that the Bill is now in its final stages in this House, Although we have had some disappointments, I think that all hon. Members should be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister and to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for the consideration which they have given to a great many of our Amendments. For myself, I can say that we have really got a number of Amendments actually accepted and that, I think, augurs well for the future of the Bill.

I support what has just been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), that more men should be brought in, for they have a very great part to play in this work. It would be most beneficial if they could be encouraged to come in.

In discussing the Bill it has occurred to me that, so far as I know, it is the first Measure which has been put before the House which deals with the recommendations of the Younghusband Report, and I hope that it will not be the last. That was an extremely important Report and I hope that we shall continue to deal with the many other valuable proposals which are in it.

I wish the Bill a swift passage through another place and hope that it will help not only those social workers employed by local authorities, but will also inspire more voluntary workers to come in, because, although the Bill deals with what might be termed "the other side", the voluntary people are playing a valuable part in the social work of the country. I hope that they will find encouragement through the Bill.

11.4 p.m.

Mr. Pavitt

I join with my hon. Friends and with the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) in welcoming the Bill with a good deal of hope for its future, although with some disappointments during its passage through the House. I say that because I would have wished that we had been able to tighten it up, to make it a bit more solid. As it is, we shall have to wait during the next two or three years during which the two councils get into being to see if our work has been well done, or whether we should have taken other steps.

I have a special interest in the Bill in that it came before the first Standing Committee on which I have sat since being elected to the House in which, from the Opposition back benches, we managed to get an Amendment through against the wishes of the Minister. But I might have known that that good luck could not have lasted for long. It has been taken out again this evening, but it was an experience to find both sides of the Committee trying to bring in matters which, if accepted, would have been really worth while. I am sure that we all wish the members of these two councils every good fortune in the job they will have to do, and wish the same for the Minister who, in the various details to which he must attend, will find a reservoir of people, good people, able to serve, and that he will not have only a limited number from which to choose.

These two councils can do a considerable amount of good work, both for the National Health Service and for the community at large in social work. I am glad that we have at last reached the stage of putting the Bill on its way. I share the wishes of hon. Members on both sides that it will not be too long in going through another place.

May I once again pay tribute to the three hon. Ladies who have been on the Government benches throughout the whole passage of the Bill. I refer to the hon. Members for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mrs. Hill), Plymouth, Devonport and Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). In Committee, they were there Tuesday and Thursday week after week and everybody knew that they were there, because they always have interesting contributions to make to our debates. It has been a pleasure to be able to get together on matters of fact and of experience and to argue and yet often reach very similar conclusions.

One of the most pleasurable parts of seeing the Bill through all its stages in this House has been the amount of cross-bench co-operation which has taken place.

11.6 p.m.

Mr. Powell

In saying my last words on the Bill I should like to add a tribute to a fourth lady. That is my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has borne the main share of the work on the Bill at all stages. I was glad that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), at an earlier stage of the proceedings, paid such a well deserved compliment to my hon. Friend, who, I think, has deserved well of the Bill by the work which she has put into it.

Despite our major disagreement, the Bill leaves the House substantially improved. The functions of the councils are better defined. Their titles are certainly better. I am sure that our joint efforts have improved their composition. Happily, the work to which the establishment of the councils looks forward has already been afoot while we have been concerned with the Bill. The House will be glad to know that the four full-time two-year courses which are in progress this year at four centres will be repeated next year and that a further four we already know will be added to them.

While the Bill has been going through, the National Institute for Social Work Training has come into existence. It has already awarded two fellowships to prospective tutors on the new courses. It is to start an emergency one-year course for experienced welfare officers and mental welfare officers and, not least important, it is convening a series of group meetings for those who will supervise the field work of students on the courses which are running. This is just a foretaste of the valuable work which this body will do, as only an independent body of this kind can do in the field of the health services.

As I go round observing as best I can all branches of the Health Service, I find myself more and more penetrated by the scope there is for care in the community. Over and over again, I see hospitals attempting to cope with functions which could be far better performed or avoided by work in the social field and in the health field in the community. Health visiting and social work are two keys to the mobilisation of a great part of community care. Therefore, in setting up these councils, though it is, from one point of view, little more than a technical step, we are really doing something important for the future development of community care, which has a great part to play in the future development of the health services as a whole. I am glad, because of the councils that it will establish, that at its last stage the House has united to send the Bill on its way.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.