§ Mr. Brewis
Before I ask my Question, Mr. Speaker, may I reciprocate from this side the good wishes to you expressed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay)?
§ 4. Mr. Brewis
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many probation officers are in service in Scotland; and how this compares with 1968.
Mr. Edward Taylor
Since local authorities in Scotland assumed responsibility for probation in November, 1969, as part of their responsibility for social work, no social workers have been designated as probation officers. In December, 1968, there were 279 probation officers.
§ Mr. Brewis
Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the working of the Social Work Act, and that there are sufficient properly qualified people to do the work of the courts now that the Act is in operation?
There have been difficulties in some areas due to staff shortages, but these are being gradually overcome by measures which have been taken to increase the number of trained social workers. Over 1,000 full-time social workers are now employed by local authorities, but no central record is kept of how many actually undertake probation as part of their duties.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
Would the Under-Secretary please give us some indication of when he will activate that Section of the Act which will bring into operation children's hearings?
I indicated previously that it was our intention that the new arrangements would start at about the beginning of April, and it is my hope and intention to adhere to this programme.
§ Mr. Carmichael
The Minister has mentioned recruiting. Will he keep this point before him, because one of the problems just now is that so many of the social workers, particularly probation 40 officers, have such very heavy case loads that it does not allow them to use their talents and training to the best? We need a great increase in the number of trained social workers, and I should like to hear from him that he will in future take steps to increase the number of trained people in this field.
I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman said, but I think he knows that the Government have indicated their concern for expanding social work by the fact that it is the fastest growing social service in Scotland at present so far as finance is concerned.