HC Deb 06 February 1973 vol 850 cc211-2
11. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what discussions he has had with local authorities regarding the inadvisability of receiving children into care as a result of homelessness as an alternative to rehousing.

Mr. Alison

It has always been the Government's objective to prevent children being taken into care as a result of family homelessness. This policy has been emphasised in the joint working parties' reports on homelessness, on which there have recently been discussions with local authorities.

Miss Lestor

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the latest figures given to me by the Department indicate that there are now about 3,000 children in care as a result of homelessness and that increasingly, due to various policies of the Government on housing, social services departments are being compelled to take children into care because there are no houses in which to accommodate homeless families? Will the Minister please do something about this situation quickly?

Mr. Alison

The latest figure I have on the number of children taken into care because the family was homeless is 2,811. I am happy to say that that is a drop from the figure for the preceding year.

Mrs. Knight

Has my hon. Friend any knowledge of the numbers of children who go into local authority care on this basis because their parents consistently refuse to pay the rent of the accommodation they occupy?

Mr. Alison

I cannot without notice give my hon. Friend a breakdown of the figure in that way. However, the social services departments have powers and in many cases assist families with rent problems.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the assertion he heard a moment ago from his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) is an appalling distortion of reality? What help do the Government propose to bring to areas such as mine in Hackney where there are tremendous problems of homelessness and where the local authority simply does not have the means to deal with this problem of children? Urgent help is needed now.

Mr. Alison

I think the hon. Gentleman knows that we have very recently met representatives of the London Boroughs Association and the Greater London Council specifically to discuss the two working party reports. I think that encouraging progress is being made.