HC Deb 24 July 1979 vol 971 cc323-4
1. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he is taking to increase the resources available for community homes and schemes for the care of children in the community so that they will not have to be remanded to prisons.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Sir George Young)

Expenditure on facilities for children remanded into care is the responsibilty of local authorities. It is for each local authority to decide, in the light of its own needs and priorities, how to deploy the resources available to it. We are continuing to make available in the current financial year £2 million for capital grants to local authorities for the provision of secure accommodation.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Will the Minister say, first, when sufficient resources will have been provided both in community homes and in alternatives in the community so that we no longer have the despicable practice of remanding children to prison establishments? Secondly, will the hon. Gentleman accept that it is far more constructive and sensible to deal with difficult and recalcitrant children in the community or in community homes than to mess about with this nonsense of so-called short, sharp sentences?

Sir G. Young

I share the hon. Gentleman's general view that it is better to try to deal with children in the community than in institutions. In response to his specific question I can tell him that at present there are 86 secure places available for boys on remand and that a further 108 places are under construction.

Mr. Dubs

Does the Minister accept that his answer to my hon. Friend's original question will not bring much comfort to local authorities when they face enormous cuts in expenditure, and that it will be difficult for them to make the right sort of provision for these children?

Sir G. Young

The Government's recent call for reduction in expenditure by local authorities means that they have to review their priorities. However, a recent circular has made clear the priority which we attach to law and order services, and we are prepared to regard secure accommodation and other facilities for children remanded into care or found guilty by the courts as an integral part of the national pattern of those services.