HC Deb 27 April 1976 vol 910 cc182-4
12. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now make a further statement on his plans for increasing the provision of secure accommodation in accordance with the Children and Young Persons Act 1969.

Dr. Owen

Applications for loan sanction for 1976–77 have been received and are being studied. Some 20 of the projects include secure accommodation and would between them provide some 200 new places. Many should qualify for grants under Section 71 of the Children Act 1975.

Mr. Lane

Will the Minister bear in mind that even in the relatively law abiding region of East Anglia there is great anxiety about the shortage of secure accommodation? Will the new Secretary of State, as an East Anglian Member, inject more urgency into the efforts of central and local government to improve the situation?

Dr. Owen

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern, as I am sure my right hon. Friend does. We shall do everything possible, within the financial constraints within which we and local government must operate, to try to improve the provision of secure accommodation.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Will my hon. Friend accept that, whereas every year 4,000 juveniles go to penal establishments because of the lack of secure accommodation—more secure units are needed —as 40 per cent. of those children are getting non-custodial treatment, far more attention ought to be given to alternatives to residential treatment, such as day care and other facilities?

Dr. Owen

The Government are still considering the report of the Expenditure Committee in which many of these issues are raised. But I agree very much with my hon. Friend that there is a case for looking at alternative methods. We should not pin all our faith on secure accommodation, where the results are not always very satisfactory.

Mrs. Knight

Is the Minister aware that the majority of the disturbed children are sent home because there is no accommodation for them and that they then commit further crimes? Will he not agree that this situation is jeopardising both the correction of the offender and the safety of the public? Has the Minister had any consultations with the Home Office about reverting to the former numbers in the remand homes, because many of the homes no longer have so many children in them?

Dr. Owen

We are in constant consultation. There is under-utilisation of some of the community homes which were formerly the responsibility of the Home Office. We are trying, together with the local authorities, to increase the utilisation of these facilities. The real problem which underlies the difficulties relating to the Children and Young Persons Act is that since its implementation inadequate resources have been made available. It is not always the fault of local government, which has often asked for loan sanction and not been given the resources needed for full implementation.