§ 6.7 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR rose to call attention to the provisions of Section 48 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, and of Sections 8 and 12 of the National Assistance Act, 1948, and to ask whether His Majesty's Government will give guidance to education authorities in Scotland when the parent of the pupil is in receipt of assistance from the National Assistance Board. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I rise to ask the Ouestion now standing 824 in my name in order that we in Scotland might have some guidance on the administration of two Acts of Parliament.
§ In order that your Lordships may understand what the actual point is, perhaps I may make a short statement. Under Section 48 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, educational authorities have a duty to provide clothing to a child who is found to require clothing in order to take full advantage of the education provided. If the authority consider that the parent is able without hardship to pay for the clothing, they may successfully recover the cost. But parents in receipt of National Assistance receive from the National Assistance Board a sum which, in the opinion of the Government, is adequate for those needs. The parents should therefore be able to provide clothing for the child. If, in fact, they do not provide clothing and the educational authority have to do so, should the education authority take action to recover their costs from the parent? If they do not do so, the National Assistance becomes, in effect, an addition to the National Assistance Board's scale, and this is unfair to the more provident recipient of National Assistance. Yet recovery may be difficult.
An alternative method of dealing with the situation would be for the National Assistance Board to give part of their assistance in kind, as they have power to do, under Section 12 of the National Assistance Act, 1948. Apparently, the Board are willing to do so only in the case of persistent neglect, and this appears to be the intention of the 1948 Act, since Section 8 of that Act states that:
subject to the provisions of this Act, the Board shall discharge their duty to give assistance by the making of grants in money.
The Board may provide the clothing as a supplementary grant, where circumstances justify it, and in other cases deduct the cost by instalments from the allowances paid in subsequent weeks. There is need for a clear limitation of the spheres of the National Assistance Board, on the one hand, and the education authorities on the other. It would be of great assistance to both parties if the Secretary of State could see his way to issue a Memorandum on the situation, so that there may not be confusion of action between the Board and the education authorities, and different decisions in
different parts of the country. I hope the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to satisfy the authorities in Scotland that there will be some guidance on this particular subject.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, I am glad to give the noble Marquess such information as I have in reply to his Question, and I hope it may be of sonic value to himself and to the education authorities in Scotland. The purpose of Section 48 (1) of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, is to ensure that no child is prevented, by reason of the inadequacy or unsuitability of his clothing, including boots and other footwear, from taking full advantage of the education provided for him. The section applies equally to the children of persons in receipt of National Assistance and to other children, and the education authority would be failing in their duty if, because of the question of the recovery of the cost, they did not ensure that the children of persons in receipt of National Assistance were sufficiently and suitably clad to take full advantage of their education. Where the parent of a child to whom clothing is supplied is in receipt of National Assistance, the education authority may, if they wish, consult the local officer of the National Assistance Board as to whether financial hardship would result if the education authority exercised their right under Section 48 (2) to recover the whole or part of the expense from the parent. These officers will always be ready to give all possible advice.