HC Deb 21 February 1973 vol 851 cc452-3
9. Mr. Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to review the working of the Social Work (Scotland) Act.

The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

The working of the Act is kept under continuous review. The Act itself provides a sound basis for the development of the social work services, which are expanding rapidly.

Mr. Ewing

Will the Minister seriously reconsider that reply and consider the setting up of a committee of inquiry to review in depth the working of the Act? Social workers in all spheres are showing serious concern about the working of the Act and the need to review it against the background of experience since 1969.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The kind of inquiry or review that the hon. Gentleman suggests is not necessarily appropriate, in so far as we are keeping an eye on it all the time, and proposals by the various social work authorities are under consideration for the future. There are certain deficiencies but I hope that in time and with experience we shall get these right.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Has my hon. Friend received representations that some sections of the social work departments may not be receiving the same amount of consideration as others because of their size?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I accept that there are certain problems, for example the question of more effective supervision and the provision of residential facilities, particularly for younger people. We have identified these problems and we hope to deal with them as we go along.

Mr. Carmichael

My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ewing) is asking for something wider than simply looking at training and the provision of facilities for young people. Would it be possible for the Social Work Services Group to make a wide study of how the new services are working as against the old services and to publish the results?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As I said earlier, this is a continuing process. Nobody, particularly anybody within the Social Work Services Group, is complacent about what is happening. Certain aspects could be improved, but this is better done on a continuing basis rather than specifically.

Mr. David Steel

Pending any possible review of the working of the Act, does the Under-Secretary agree that the same importance should attach to the work of local authority social work committees and their directors as attaches to education committees? If so, will he emphasise that fact to the local authorities?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I certainly accept that this aspect of local authority work is one of the most important. In our dealings with local authorities we shall give the emphasis that we believe is needed to bring this home.

Mr. MacArthur

During his continuous review, will my hon. Friend pay special regard to the adequacy of provision of accommodation and care for mentally handicapped children?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, indeed. That is very important. It is encouraging that between 1970 and 1971 there has been an increase of 30 per cent. in the number of handicapped people who have received help from social work departments. That is one example of the good work that the social work departments are doing.