HC Deb 24 July 1969 vol 787 cc2101-3
1. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, after the coming into operation of the Children and Young Persons Act, he will issue a circular to local authorities giving advice to them on the use of the ward of court procedure for young persons in care who make undesirable associations as an alternative to committal to an approved school.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)

I do not think that this would be helpful. The local authority must judge, on all the facts of the individual case, what action is called for in the interests of the young person for whom it is responsible.

Miss Lestor

While I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, does he not agree that large numbers of people were horrified to find that many young people in approved schools had not committed any crime? In an instance of this nature, would it not be advisable to suggest that it would be much better to take action against the man involved in an undesirable association with a young girl who has not committed any crime, or to make her a ward of court, rather than commit her to an approved school, which is likely to be a stigma in her future life?

Mr. Morgan

As I have explained many times, in these cases the local authority has to balance the question of seeking an approved school order against the possibility that the person concerned will be exposed to very great danger. The question of making such an order as that referred to by my hon. Friend depends also on the attitude of the girl herself. It may be that in certain cases such an order would be appropriate, whereas in others it would be inappropriate.

Mr. Ford

Is my hon. Friend aware of the apprehension concerning the operation of Clause 1 of the Bill where it is thought that some inequality of treatment might arise between pool children and others? Will he look carefully at Amendments which may come from another place on this?

Mr. Morgan

That is much wider than the original Question, but certainly I do not accept my hon. Friend's hypothesis with regard to that provision.

20. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent the ward of court procedure has been used by local authorities in the last three years as an alternative to committal to approved schools.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

If the needs of a child or young person for care or protection appear to a juvenile court to call for residential treatment in an approved school, the courts may order accordingly, and have regularly done so for many years. Such treatment cannot be provided by making the child a ward of court.

Mr. Lipton

Does not that answer reveal that very inadequate use is being made of the ward of court procedure by juvenile court magistrates? Es not that responsible for the fact that there are no fewer than 742 girls in approved schools who have committed no offence whatsoever?

Mr. Morgan

It is not the juvenile court magistrates who decide whether they shall follow this procedure but the local authorities. I understand that there are six or seven cases every year where such an order is made, but normally they are cases where there is the danger of a child or young person being taken out of the country or where, without an order having been made, there is a danger of the natural parents who are estranged actually taking the child back from the physical custody of the local authority.