HC Deb 15 December 1998 vol 322 cc752-3
11. Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

If he will make a statement on his plans for the future management of children's homes. [62453]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Frank Dobson)

On 5 November, I spelled out to the House our plans for the future management of children's homes to ensure that children are better looked after and to protect them from abuse, exploitation and neglect. Further details were given in our White Paper, "Modernising Social Services", which I announced to the House on 30 November.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank the Minister for his reply. I sympathise with the view he takes, and admire the fact that he intends to do something about that serious matter. Given the risk that is posed by men running some care homes, which is obvious from the number of cases of abuse, he might consider recycling grannies—women who have raised families and who are good at spotting when something is going on. If such people were in charge of homes, the children in them would have a naturally sympathetic character to whom to turn. Will he consider that as a practical and serious proposition?

Mr. Dobson

The short answer is yes, I will consider it, as it seems to be a perfectly sensible proposition. My only point on the hon. Lady's introductory remarks is that for boys in homes, as in schools, it is a good idea to have safe men around to provide role models of how grown-up males should behave. However, we need to ensure that they are not among the abusers and exploiters of children. The hon. Lady's point is practical and sensible, and I will look into it.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre)

May I commend my right hon. Friend's commitment to the radical reform of the care system and the ending of abuse in it, to improve a situation that has brought great shame on this country? Perhaps he will reconsider his recent remarks. Surely men can play a tremendous role in the care system, in children's homes, in foster care and in social work with children. We have to get the protection of children in the system right, and we have to ensure that we have the right people in it, rather than making facile judgments based on gender.

Mr. Dobson

My hon. Friend may have misheard me. I said that, provided that the men are safe, it is as well to have men around, because they set a proper example to young people of the way in which decent adult males should behave. That certainly applies to boys, and to some extent it may also apply to girls, some of whom may have come from homes in which the adult male has knocked about and battered the women of the household. It is probably a good idea for children who come from such households to discover that there are men who do not behave like that.

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