HC Deb 09 July 1975 vol 895 cc525-7
19. Mr. Buchanan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the waiting time for admission to senior, intermediate and junior List D schools; how many pupils are on the waiting lists for each category; and what are his plans for extending the service.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The period is usually between two and five months for senior and intermediate schools and from one to three months for junior schools. On the waiting lists at 22nd June were 207 children for senior schools, 156 for intermediate schools and 93 for junior schools. Extension schemes due to be completed this autumn at existing schools will provide 69 additional places.

Mr. Buchanan

Is my hon. Friend aware that I am grateful for that reply, which gives some indication of the seriousness of the problem? Will he seek to introduce into the service a system of flexible intermediate treatment centres to receive youngsters whose sole crime is playing truant? Is he aware that social work panels send these children to approved schools, which cannot always take them because others are committed there for more serious misdemeanours? Is he further aware that these children continue to play truant and eventually qualify for these approved schools by committing a misdemeanour? Is it not possible to set up these centres quickly?

Mr. Hughes

I am glad that my hon. Friend has drawn attention to the desirability of intermediate treatment centres. I have had discussions with a number of local authorities, managers of List D schools and directors of social work about this. I believe that there is now a much greater awareness of the desirability of operating these centres. As my hon. Friend will know, Springboig St. John is at present making an application to the Department in this connection. I commend those who have brought forward this imaginative proposal.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does the Under-Secretary agree that the figures he has given underestimate the problem because there are many cases when social work panels have not referred children to these schools because they know that they are full and that there is a waiting list? Would he not agree that the work of the social work panels is being substantially undermined in view of the acute shortage of places in List D schools?

Mr. Hughes

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can state with such certainty that panels are refusing to put people on the waiting list for List D schools because of the difficulty in getting a place. What we have done is to make a thorough review of the waiting list situation. The present list of 456 has been reduced to that figure from the figure of 726 at which it stood in March. It was discovered that a number of applications had been left on the list when other measures had been taken. We now have a true list. There is, of course, pressure on the List D school system, but I do not accept that we are anywhere near breakdown point or that the situation is anything like as serious as the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the Minister admit that, despite the improvement in the figures, the severe shortage of accommodation must be undermining the whole system of the juvenile panels and that the system is coming under attack from members of the public, whereas the real problem is the shortage of facilities available to the panels to which the children can be sent when circumstances so demand?

Mr. Hughes

It is a question of where the circumstances so demand. It is quite wrong to assume that the only treatment desirable or needed for a youngster in trouble is placement in a List D school. If we take a youngster for a limited period out of the community in which he lives and then send him back into that environment, he has to face the difficulties of readjustment. If we can deal with youngsters in trouble by giving intermediate treatment, which means trying to find a solution within the environment and the community from which they come, that is a far better solution. I accept, however, that there are children for whom a List D school place is the only answer. We are increasing the number of places, but I do not think we can say that List D school places are the only answer to the problems of juvenile delinquency.

Forward to