HL Deb 17 February 1960 vol 221 cc95-153

3.53 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in thanking the noble Earl for putting down this Motion on the Paper to-day, because I think it is a very important subject indeed, particularly for all of us who are interested in work for the care of people in trouble, difficulty or distress. But I find it an extremely difficult Report on which to make a speech because it is full of a large amount of information and a great many ideas. At the same time it is very long and it is difficult to pick out the few points which one feels one could stress to your Lordships now.

When I read the Report the first time I found it a fascinating document to read and explore, because it gives a very good account of what has been going on in the past in the social services, when they first started, and what is being done at the present time. I wondered too, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, wondered, whether the terms of reference were not a little too limited. I should have liked to see some reference which would have made it possible for the Report to discuss health visitors and their work for the social services, because that seems to me complementary to what is done by people trained in social work, both medical social workers and others. If they are excluded it is bound to lead to a rather one-sided view of the problem; if their work is not to be discussed it could lead to a certain amount of overlapping in conclusions and we might find the health visitor becoming supplementary rather than complementary. That I think we all want to avoid if we possibly can.

One of the things with which I think nobody who has read the Report can fail to agree is that some kind of training for social workers and some kind of qualification is a good and important thing. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said that a large number of people are not qualified, and I do not want to repeat his words now. I wonder whether it is really necessary to go to the trouble and expense of founding a new staff college for training. After all, quite a number of these people have been trained in various ways, in the universities and in colleges outside the universities, and quite a number get training from the British Red Cross Society, which gives a certain fundamental, basic training for people doing this kind of work on a voluntary basis. I wonder whether something of that sort could be expanded to avoid the need for making a new organisation for training these people.

I think, too, that the type of training put forward in the Report could be criticised as being a trifle on the theoretical side and not dealing enough with the practical side, the field work and the case work that people will have to deal with when they come to tackle these problems. I think that that is a perfectly valid criticism of what is said in the Report. The idea of a National Coordinating Council I think is a good point. It is a good thing if the training can be roughly on the same basis in various parts of the country, and the various people trained should be encouraged not to overlap too much in their training. Certainly the conception is growing up now that we do not want to keep people in hospitals and do not want to keep handicapped people in some kind of communal institution. That is a very good idea, and it will certainly call for more social workers if we are to get the work properly implemented.

But even then I think we have to be careful, when we take figures, not to think that more people want assistance to-day. It is a very remarkable thing. One hears a lot about the troubles and bothers of the elderly at the present time. But an enormous number of elderly people grow old and require no assistance from any outside body whatsoever. Those who do, want a great deal, and their needs become extremely clamant and their plights tragic. They tend to make the problem appear rather bigger than it need be. There, again, one of the things we have to be careful about, if we are to get the service going for the handicapped or the destitute, in whatever way we interpret "destitute", is not to have too many visitors. We do not want a whole procession of people coming and paying calls all day long. We want to cut the number of visitors to the minimum compatible with doing the work correctly. We have to be careful we do not get so many people involved with the work that the people visited get annoyed and irritated and do not wish to receive any more visitors. That is one of the troubles. It is almost impossible to find those who really require visiting until some really serious breakdown occurs. I hope that, with more trust in this service, that problem can be broken down in time.

A point which I think the Report stresses, properly, is the importance of the trained almoner and medical social worker in that field. The Report recommends, quite properly, that more of these should be employed by local authorities. At present I think that, according to the figures given in the Report, there are only about 70 employed by local authorities, as opposed to 1,039 employed in hospitals. One wonders whether it would be possible to get many more people to enter this profession, for a reason which I will come to in a moment; and one wonders whether one should not look carefully at the whole question. Again, that is why I think it is a pity that the work of the health visitor did not come before the Committee, so that they could see whether some of the almoners' work might not be done by a health visitor and thus allow the almoner, who is a trained and highly-skilled person, to confine herself to the work for which she is really intended.

According to the Report—I have to come back to the question of training again—only about 60 per cent. of the people working at the present time have no training at all, and although, as I say, it is a good thing that they should have some training qualifications, I am not at all sure that someone who is going to be a home help supervisor should need training lasting two years. It may be so, but I am not entirely convinced about that point. I should like to have some greater detail about it than the Report makes available. That they want some training is, I am sure, right; but that they want long training I am not sure is right. The Report says that there will be plenty of room in future for voluntary work closely tied up with what one might call the official, statutory people who are doing the work. For this I am extremely pleased, because although more and more work is becoming so technical and difficult that it has to be done by paid and trained people, there is a large field into which voluntary workers may still come, and I hope that they will be encouraged to do so as much as possible.

The bulk of the increase in social work—in fact more than 50 per cent.—recommended in the Report was for mental health workers. That point we discussed not so long ago when the Mental Health Bill was debated in your Lordships' House, and there can be no surprise that the figure is so large. Again, I think that if we can do anything at all to assist local authorities in keeping these people who need attention under some kind of care in their homes rather than putting them into mental hospitals, no one will regret at all that there is going to be quite a substantial number of new people trained for that kind of work.

I think it is most important—and the Report brings out this point quite well—that the lesser trained or not so well trained workers should, if they want to, be able to discuss matters with a fully trained and senior person. After all, that is what occurs in all professions. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, will support me when I say that it certainly occurs in my own profession. When one is young and quite recently qualified, one is apt to seek out senior people, not in order to put oneself under them but in order to learn from their experience. I trust that it will be made simple for the various tiers of social workers to discuss the various problems together as often as possible.

That is tied up with the question of whether the work should be as decentralised as is humanly possible. There comes a point where decentralisation becomes uneconomic. As an example, in my view it would be impossible for a large body like the London County Council to take on this work itself and to direct it all from County Hall. It must be delegated at the present time to the Metropolitan boroughs. What will happen when the Report regarding local government is published I do not know; but at the present moment the Metropolitan boroughs are doing the work, and I hope that, in large areas particularly, the work will be delegated down to the lowest possible economic factor. After all, one person who was a great success in the old Poor Law days—I am not saying that he should be recalled—was the relieving officer, because he was given a tiny part of the world to look after. He had only a small area, and it was his duty to know with whom he was going to be in touch, and he did know. That was a very good thing and it was a consequence of not centralising the work. Then decentralisation was practised on a large scale, and that is a principle that I should like to see encouraged.

There is another point in the Report with which I do not entirely agree and in regard to which the powers of reference of the Working Party are limited. There is some sort of medical aspect to most welfare and social work—I personally think that that is true of practically all social and welfare work, but I am prepared to compromise and say "most social and welfare work" in order to get more general agreement. Therefore it would be a good thing if the welfare and health departments could, if not be combined together, which would be an ideal thing, work closely together, with the medical officer of health being a member of the two committees or having both committees working under his care. If that could be done and one could get the social workers tied up with the combined committee, then a lot more efficient work would be done, with not so much danger of the work overlapping and probably with not so many staff as at present.

That, again, is tied up with another point which I think reflects a great danger to all social work—the fact that so much local authority work is permissive and not obligatory; they may do this, but they are not compelled to do it. That could lead to an enormous difference in the work done in various areas. Although this may not quite apply to the Motion we are debating to-day, I think it is sufficiently near to make it justifiable to bring in the point, that if we could get more compulsion and less permissiveness we should get a much better standard of social work in the country generally. There remains a great deal about which we know nothing at all. That is why I am so pleased to see that the Report says that there is a great need for research into what is to be done and what are the best ways of carrying it out. I trust that whatever parts of the Report are implemented, that particular side will not be lost sight of.

There are two other points that I wish briefly to bring forward. One point concerns the question of what we are going to pay these people. If we require a large increase in the number of social workers we have to make it worth their while to come into the profession. Therefore we shall need to pay them a wage which is comparable to what a well-trained and educated young woman will get in a corresponding job. It is going to become increasingly difficult, because the demand for the well-educated young woman is growing enormously. There are the nurses, working their shift system, taking more and more young women, and if we are to have a large number of social workers, too, it is important that they should be paid a comparable wage to what the same kind of girl can get if she goes to work as a shorthand-typist in a big business firm, or something like that. Broadly speaking, I think one can say that the Report has shed a great deal of light on various dark corners, and there are quite a number of the recommendations with which one can agree entirely. Therefore I hope that the Government will see their way clear to implementing them as soon as they can.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by associating myself wholeheartedly with all the observations which the noble Earl who moved this Motion made in praise of the devoted work which is done by a great many social workers, in praise of the values which they set before themselves in their profession, and in praise of the skill with which many of them discharge their exceedingly difficult and responsible duties. I should like also, if I may, to dissociate myself from the observations which have been the subject this afternoon of a good deal of the higher criticism—I refer to the observations which have been variously ascribed, as to their authorship, to the noble Earl himself and to Professor Richard Titmuss. I do not know against whom those remarks are addressed, but I suspect that their still somewhat dubious author must have had at least a sidelong glance at myself. I should like, therefore, to say, quite categorically, that I have never taken the view that our social services should not be staffed with an adequate, and indeed a much greater, body of competent social workers than they are at present. I may have something to say later about "snooping", but I am certainly not prepared to take the view that the social services could possibly be operated without such a body; and I am not open to the charge that by denigrating the work of social workers I am, in effect, pleading for the abolition of our social services.

If the still uncertain author of these observations would be good enough to read the thirty or forty pages I have written on this subject he would find in the latter half—which I fear he cannot have reached—some more positive suggestions, which I hope to repeat to-day, for the development of this profession. Even so, I think it is possible to differ from the particular view of this profession which is presented in some parts of the Younghusband Report, and I think it is also possible to see, perhaps, the shadow of Colonel Parkinson, the notorious author of Parkinson's Law, brooding a little over this document; and even at points to suspect that the pen of the distinguished colonel may have traced the rather numerous words upon some of its passages. I do say that in some of its recommendations this Report is a little pretentious, a little grandiose, and not, I think, entirely realistic.

May I start, since we are to-day clearly in something of a theological mood, by some observations about its trinitarian aspects? Your Lordships have been reminded more than once to-day that this Report proposes that there should be three grades of social worker and that by a similar classification our problems should also fall into three distinct grades. There are the welfare assistant, trained on the job at the bottom of the hierarchy; the two-year non-university-trained social worker, and what I may call the super-social worker who is to be academically trained. And to correspond with this there are those of us who are said to have simple problems, those of us said to have rather more complex problems and those of us who, alas! have problems of special difficulty. This is tidy, beautifully tidy; but is it realistic? The Committee, aware of certain latent dangers, have said that they do not propose, they certainly do not wish, to hand people about like parcels on a conveyor belt—meaning, I take it, that they would not wish that we should be handed about according to the grading of our social problems, first to one social worker and then to another. One is very glad to learn that, but I do not see how within the framework of their scheme it is to be avoided.

May I take one concrete case? The Committee envisage the sad but quite common case of a man who loses his eyesight and becomes blind. At the difficult stage at which he must adjust himself to his blindness the Committee see him as a suitable subject for grade 2, the middle grade of social work, with the two-year non-university trained social worker who may help him adjust himself to his blindness. When the man has made this adjustment he will not perhaps need more than the welfare assistant who will be able to pop in for what the Committee describe as a "routine visit" from time to time, in which, we may be sure, he will take great pleasure. Should it unfortunately happen, however, that after a time the man's family get rather tired of his condition and think he does not help himself as much as he should, and should there thus develop family tensions of an all too familiar kind, we should be hovering on the verge of a problem of special difficulty; and the two social workers who have successively called on this unfortunate man afflicted by blindness will be replaced by a third, the super-trained social worker with the fullest academic qualifications.

It seems to me that this is an entirely imaginary concept of the distribution of different gifts and different skills amongst the community. A certain basic knowledge, an important basic knowledge on which I should like to say something in a moment, will be needed by all these social workers, but it seems to me a great flight of the imagination to suppose that the skills of handling the complicated questions, family questions and others, that may arise are skills in which the more highly trained will necessarily acquit themselves better than those whose training has been less prolonged. It may well be—and in the experience of those of us who have had a great deal to do with social work often is the case—that the humble welfare assistant, with the delightful personality and easy way of getting on with people, will be by far the best person to deal with the problems of special difficulty when marital tensions arise, and that the high-powered semi-psychiatrically trained (and in the presence of the noble Lord on this side, I emphasise psychiatrically trained) social worker will make a thorough mess of it because she does not happen to have exactly the kind of personality which fits this kind of case.

I should have thought that the commonsense way of dealing with different levels of problem would be the way in which the general practitioner in medicine deals with them. When he has a simple problem or pays a routine visit, he stays a short time. When he has a very complicated problem he spends more time. But he calls in a consultant only when some definite technical knowledge of an expert character is required, knowledge that he himself does not possess. I think we are making over-rigid professions for profession's sake, and this is possibly one of the examples of the besetting disease of our community at this time—a delight in professionalism for its own sake.

In this particular instance I believe that the origin is to be found in the very great emphasis which of recent years has been laid upon the psychological or psychiatric aspect of social work. This change, which has been described by Mrs. Audrey Harvey, in her exceedingly important pamphlet on the casualties of the Welfare State, recently published, as "solemn amateur psychiatry", is an American importation, and on the whole, I think, one of the less desirable American importations. But it has been extensively imported, and a great number of our social workers and students to-day are very largely nurtured on American textbooks. I know this because I was for a number of years head of one of the schools for social workers in this country, and this bias towards the psychiatric approach had then already begun to make itself apparent.

I am glad that this particular bias is not very pronounced in the Young-husband Report. That is what I should have expected from its distinguished Chairman, whose distinction is to be seen not only in her academic record, nor in her extensive practical social work but also in her common sense. But there are some signs of this philosophy. For instance, in the Committee's description of the training to be provided the first subject of which the student must acquire "a good understanding" is the study of human needs, motivation and behaviour. Of this subject, my Lords, the student in the two-year course is to get a good understanding. Some of us have spent the whole of our lives in struggling to make head or tail of human needs, motivation and behaviour, and it is a matter of great regret to learn so late, alas! in life, for some of us, that had we but taken a two-year course in social-work training at the age of twenty its mysteries would have been revealed to us. This I quote as an example of what I mean by the undue pretentiousness, largely of American origin, that has crept into our social work conceptions.

Then, again, the Committee refer to the essentials of social work as dealing with a failure of personal or social function. There, my Lords, I think we run into another characteristic danger of our times, and that is the tendency to confuse the economic and psychological. I should be the very last to dispute that, where there is a problem of mental health or mental disorder, psychological training is absolutely essential in a social worker. I should be the last to dispute that it is most deplorable that so small a portion of our mental welfare workers have that kind of training, and I shall be delighted if this Report encourages the much wider development of that training in this particular field. But I think it is unfortunate when interest in what are genuinely psychological problems encourages a tendency to see the psychological in things in which it does not necessarily have any part, and a failure to discriminate between what is sometimes merely a very plain practical need, often of an economic character—lack of money—and a truly difficult mental or psychological problem. I have seen with great distress how many of our social workers, when faced with a simple, as it were, practical economic problem, are being encouraged to search for some more profound disturbance underneath.

Before I leave this aspect of the subject, I should like just to give one word of warning, as to where this may take us. It happened that when I was in the United States just before Christmas the New York Times issued an appeal for what was described as the 100 neediest cases in the City, an appeal of the ordinary charitable kind that we have so often at Christmas. I shall not weary your Lordships by reciting these 100 cases, but I will take one which I think is typical. It is case number 76. In this case, a young man, who is said to have a minimal salary as a clerk, came near to a nervous breakdown. His wife had been seriously ill and had an operation, which had made her almost totally helpless. He got a neighbour to look after his child while he himself, after doing his day's work, attended to his wife's needs. Then the neighbour became ill and could no longer look after the child, and there was no one to help poor Mr. G., with his helpless wife, his young child and his job on a minimal salary. So the charitable public of New York were asked to subscribe to this case. But what for? To meet his financial needs? To get him a better job? Oh, no! To pay for a counsellor to help him with his financial planning. I understand your Lordships' laughter, but I think this is dangerous, not to say in many ways insulting. And may I say that I have gone faithfully through the 100 cases in this appeal, and in over 90 of them the concluding observation is that funds are asked for to provide for a counsellor, when one would suppose that what the poor chap wants is a bit of money to make his way in the world?

A very large part of the problems with which the social worker has to deal is basically economic; and surely we on these Benches, of all places, should refrain from falling into the error of supposing that those whose lot is cast in a hard part of our economic system are therefore to be treated as though they were failures in personal or social functions. Many of your Lordships no doubt employ an expert to advise you how you should not pay more money in taxes than a minimal construction of the law requires, and much social work has an expert economic character somewhat analogous to that. Those of your Lordships who employ experts of that kind—as indeed I do myself, not wishing to contribute more than I need to a Government of which I do not approve—would be astonished if these gentlemen proceeded from a discussion of your intimate private financial affairs to explore your equally, indeed more, intimate private marital affairs, and to suggest that your financial arrangements, which might be perhaps a little chaotic, could be explained only by the fact that there were tensions between yourselves and your wives, or husbands (as we must now say), as the case might be. But that is what this kind of pseudo-psychiatric approach to social work encourages.

My Lords, social work, we all know, began as slumming, and I think that we on this side of the House may take credit, because the work done by many of our colleagues here and in another place has done much to destroy slums; and we are all now ashamed of slums. But there is a possible form of slumming which is psychological slumming. It would indeed be sad if we had abolished slumming of the old-fashioned kind merely to replace it by a new psychological version, and it is that aspect about which I hope the Government will be extremely cautious in the type of training which they provide for the modern social worker. I would hope, rather, that this Report might be made the occasion for fresh thinking, for a new orientation, in regard to the rôle of the social worker in our society.

As our social services become increasingly complex, it becomes clearer and clearer that only the expert can find his (or, more commonly, her) way about them. And it is, indeed, surely the primary function of the social worker to know that work; to know where help can be obtained for all the ordinary recurring emergencies of life, and to mobilise that help quickly and efficiently. That, rather than pseudo-psychoanalysis, is surely the function which the social worker exists to perform; and for that function very great qualities are required: sympathy, imagination, initiative and, above all, an encyclopædic knowledge. I hope that the Government are going to make this Report the occasion for seeing that at least the knowledge will be imparted, even if some of the other qualities are given rather than made.

I think it is significant that it appeared in this Report that over half the time of nearly all social workers has to be spent in discussion with colleagues, in ringing up people in other parts of the social services, in writing letters—in fact, in administration and organising work. This social work is work of the highest importance. It is no exaggeration to say that if it is efficiently performed, and performed with pride, it can make our social services something utterly different from the pitiful picture which they sometimes present to those who have to use them. I would conclude that this is the primary function which the social worker should seek to fulfil.

To that I would add something which is scarcely of less importance—if, indeed, it is secondary—and that is that the social worker should be a source of information about the anomalies and deficiencies which still blemish our social legislation. The pamphlet by Mrs. Harvey, to which I have already referred, is an admirable first sign that perhaps thought is turning in that direction. For the social worker at the circumference can see things of this kind which are hidden from even the most imaginative draftsman at the centre of Her Majesty's Government, and the social worker can bring these shortcomings to the attention both of the public and of the appropriate Government Department. Alas! at present most of our social workers have to work too hard and for too little money to have anything to spare for this important type of social research; and we greatly hope that one of the results of this Report will be to raise their status and increase their leisure to a point at which they might direct their attention to research into the places where amendment, extension or modification of the legislation is necessary as regards our social services—for, my Lords, I think it is social workers who see the potentialities of their profession in such terms as these who hold in their hands, perhaps more than anybody else, the power to make a reality of what is now often optimistically described as a Welfare State.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I count myself fortunate to have listened to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. In her description of the social worker's qualities—sympathy, imagination, initiative and encyclopædic knowledge—it seemed to me, if I may say so, that she was describing the virtues which her own speech displayed.

I rise from this Bench to support the reception of this Report and to endorse the welcome that has been given to it by the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, and others. I welcome it for four reasons: its breadth of vision; its concern with the needs of individuals; its emphasis on the importance of training for social work—a point that has been underlined by previous speakers; and the fact that it recognises the important part played by the voluntary organisations. I am glad to notice that the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and other noble Lords have stressed that point. The Report is still being given the close attention that it deserves; by universities, by institutions, by organisations and by social workers themselves. The Church also is in this debate, and is glad to be in it. The Church has her own responsibilities in the field of social work, and her own agents, and most of these are integrated into the national system. As has been mentioned, the Report is receiving careful study in many directions. In Church House and in the dioceses this study is going steadily forward; and certainly, also, among Christians who take a serious view of their social responsibilities.

By what criterion are we to judge this Report? The Report itself gives the answer: that the criterion is the criterion of need. It is the degree to which its recommendations, if implemented, would equip society, through its social workers, to minister in the fullest possible way to members in need. Hence the timely recommendations (which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, has said, take humanitarian form): that the local authority and welfare service workers should be trained for their work, and that workers with different degrees of skill are required. Need should determine whether voluntary agencies are to work beside, and in partnership with, the statutory agencies. The criterion is, quite simply, need, having in mind the conflicting claims on workers and on money, and the importance of spreading workers and money fairly between this country and the under-developed `countries in the Commonwealth. I hope that in our debate this afternoon we shall continually have in our minds, if not precisely in our speaking, the underdeveloped countries and their needs. Certainly the duplication of services and allowing a client to choose between a voluntary and a statutory service is a luxury which we cannot now afford.

As has been said, the Report pays a welcome tribute to the voluntary work of the past, and sees it still as an essential complement to the local authorities' own social work. It recognises that the voluntary agency unlocks resources of local goodwill which may be closed to a statutory authority. This master key should be as useful in the future as it has been powerful in the past; and the Report provides serious food for thought about what should be the work of voluntary organisations. They have freedom to pioneer new work and to venture on work which may be peculiar, unpopular, untried and despised, as some of the work of the Church has been in the past. I believe that some welfare organisations must now be more ready to pass on established work, and so keep a certain energy for new developments. We think that much work, and probably much pioneering work, remains to be done by voluntary organisations, including some of those for which the Church is still responsible. Of course, my Lords, local authorities have a statutory obligation to care for unmarried mothers and their children, and 70 per cent. of them do so through agreements with voluntary organisations. If the Report as a whole is implemented, a new form of partnership between voluntary organisations and local authorities should be created. The form of such a partnership must be shaped so that it provides the best service for those who need it; and therefore—and I emphasise this point—the social workers employed by the voluntary organisations must be equipped as competently as those who work in the statutory services.

Before leaving the work of voluntary societies, I would refer to criticism of the Report made by certain organisations who have the special responsibility of caring for the deaf. The critics here are fearful lest the recommendations in the Report, if carried out, will lead to a less adequate service for these handicapped people. Perhaps workers among the deaf are too isolated in their service at present. That is the implication of the Report, and certainly here is a risk. But, my Lords, a danger is more apparent—namely, that a worker who has received only a general social training and who lacks the specialised training for deaf work would be unable to communicate adequately with the deaf, and would neither understand the limited vocabulary of those born deaf nor the psychological problems that result from deafness. Communication with the deaf really means learning a new language. The Church is greatly concerned about this work, and it is being debated in the Church Assembly this afternoon.

Then there is the further matter of the spiritual care of the deaf. The Report says: We do not suggest local authorities should at any time take over responsibility for spiritual ministration, though they should see that it is available. If adequate grants are not continued, so that some, or most, of the voluntary societies are forced out of existence in this field, who is to bear the responsibility for spiritual work? Can the hospitals provide us with something of a precedent and the Government make grants to local authorities to pay part-time chaplains? I was interested in the regret expressed by one member of the Younghusband Working Party that time and certain other factors made it impossible to undertake a systematic study of the consumer. I realise that the terms of reference might well have led the Working Party to decide to explore no further afield. Nevertheless, I hope that there may soon be an inquiry into the experience, wishes and feelings of those for whom the services are designed. I should expect this inquiry to support the view that we are still in danger of over-specialisation. Here I echo something that the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, has already said.

Admirable proposals for training under a National Council are given in this Report. Assuming that they are put into practice, certain questions are raised. I limit myself to one of them. What will happen during the first few years when officers are withdrawn from health and welfare services for training? What will happen when supervisors will be required in increasing numbers to carry out training, as well as to supervise workers in the field? What will happen when part-time training and refresher courses absorb the time of those remaining in the service? Will there be sufficient social workers left to deal with the urgent needs of clients? My contribution to this debate is brief, and I conclude by adding my tribute to the bold plan set out in the Report to improve the standards and methods of social work throughout the country.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I rise with great pleasure to take part in this debate, and I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, for having put his Motion on the Order Paper. I should like to say how much I have enjoyed the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. I find myself in agreement with many of the things she said, but if, in the course of my speech, I express some disagreement, I hope that she will appreciate that it is only a personal view, though one which comes from some experience of social work.

This Report is a painstaking and careful document, which has brought to light many things of great importance. It has been studied up and down the country by social workers in many different professional groups, and on the whole I think that it has had a great deal of support. Such criticism as there has been has been that the terms of reference were limited, and again because it was thought that it might interfere with the training of another category of social workers who have already had a report about their work—namely, the health visitors. However, I think it is clear that the Younghusband Working Party confined themselves to their terms of reference and were not trying to make any suggestions about any other type of training, so that the anxieties of some of our social workers can now be allayed.

I feel that there is room for a great deal of co-operation in the local authority services in the social welfare field. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, and other noble Lords have referred to this matter. I have had some experience in this field. For ten years I have been chairman of the children's committee of my county council. I have served on the joint pro- bation committee for three counties, and for fifteen years I have been a member of the health and welfare committee of my county council. I think that we could get greater co-operation between the various branches of local authority services, which would be an economy in some ways, but it should not lead to what is called in another field "take-over bids" between one group of people and another. A noble Lord raised the question of whether there is such a character as a trained social worker. I think that there is. I have done a great deal of social work but I was not trained, and it was hard work learning on the job, perhaps not so hard for me as it was for the people I was trying to help—those "at the receiving end", as a noble Lord has put it—who might have suffered because of my inexperience. I think that the people we wish to help should be spared that amount of difficulty.

The Report does not deal with other services, such as child care or probation, because they did not come within the Working Party's terms of reference. But I think that in the Report there are matters which are germane to the training of those other social workers. I should like to stress, what has already been pointed out, that the Report does not suggest an army of new social workers. They are already in the field, but their numbers are going to be increased, and one would like to see the new intake given every opportunity of equipping themselves for their new jobs. There are over 3,000 workers in these services. The Report mentions 1,619 welfare officers and mental welfare officers employed in the local authority services.

I should not like anyone to think that we, particularly those of us in local government service, do not admire enormously the very efficient and successful work which they do, in spite of the fact that 60 per cent. have had no training at all. The remaining 40 per cent. were largely trained under the old Poor Law authorities. Many hold certificates as relieving officers, while some have diplomas in public administration, and some have passed local authority clerical and administrative examinations. According to the Report, only 8 per cent. hold a social service qualification. In addition, the people who have the experience in the welfare service and are carrying the heat and burden of the day, are getting on in years and in ten years' time a great many of them will have to retire. So they are the first who will be anxious for a recognised training for their profession. That is why I think it extremely important to take cognisance of the Report at the present moment, while many of our social service workers are still within some years of retirement.

Your Lordships may remember, as I do, that in another sphere, in the training of youth leaders, we have had two reports—the Fleming and the McNair Reports—and successive Governments have failed to do anything about this subject. It is only now, thanks to Lady Albemarle's Report and the enthusiasm of the present Minister of Education, that youth leaders are really going to have some training and that their case is now being put before the public. One does not want the same fate to hang over the Younghusband Report.

I think it has been said—and I should like to repeat it, because I think a strong case can be made—that those of us who found ourselves in hospital would not like to be in a hospital where the nurses were not properly trained, and we should not want our children to go to a school where the teachers were not properly trained. So that we are now laying out, as it were, a blueprint for the experiences of the welfare services which will require many more people, and there is now a body of knowledge and teaching which I think can be given to these people which will help them in their profession. They are (and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, said this clearly) dealing with serious problems which it would be difficult for any of us to try to solve. Not only are there problems of handicapped people, mental health and so on, but there are problems arising out of broken family life, which are possibly the most difficult of all. So I feel that in this difficult field of experience we should try to get the best possible people.

I have also read with great interest the pamphlet to which the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, alluded, which has just been published, about the problems of the welfare services and where they do not seem to fulfil the needs. The question of the economic problems of families is extremely important, and I know that many cases do arise through that cause. We have gone a long way to do away with real poverty in the present age, but, as we all know, it has not been completely abolished, and there are still problems arising out of economic conditions. I would say, however, from my experience, that just as difficult problems can arise with no poverty or economic background difficulty. It is not only economic troubles that are at the bottom of a great deal of the breakdown of family life: it is also the general picture and difficulties, about which we read in the Press and we know of in our own surroundings, which have nothing to do with poverty at all. I have found in the child care service, in dealing with problem families, that often there is no question of there not being enough money in the family. It is just that circumstances are such that family relations break down. I do not think one can put the need for care and social work down to poverty only, because it occurs in all walks of life and in all types of families.

The need for the social worker is not, I think, the result of a sort of gloomy prognostication of what is going to happen, but simply that the amount of work that is being put on to the local authority staffs in the Welfare State is growing. The responsibility under the new Mental Health Act, for instance, and the fact, as many people have said, that we all want people to be treated at home, if possible, mean that more trained people are needed. So it is not, in my view, a depressing picture but an encouraging one, that we shall be able to deal far more with people outside their homes. But, as has been said, we shall need the staff to do it. I feel also that one could do a certain amount of preventive work by having skilled and good people who are working outside institutions or in the local authority services preventing the breakdown of family life. Certainly it can be done in the child care services. Technically speaking, it is not supposed to be done; but it is done, and most successfully. I think we could find in the new set-up for our local authority services a certain amount of preventive work that could be done by social workers. That is why I feel we should take urgent action at this time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, made some amusing comments about the three-tier type of training. In the first place, I should like to say that anything which can be described as "pseudo" would, I think, be quite wrong from the point of training. The pseudo type of training, whether psychological, psychiatric or anything else, must be wrong; if there is to be training, it must be real, genuine training. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that the "pseudo" business is all wrong. But I do feel that it will not be possible to have everybody with the same degree of training, or with the same skill, simply because of the numbers involved. The idea of people having, as it were, two-year courses—which in many ways would be equivalent in the teaching profession to the teacher-training colleges as against the university-trained teacher—will be useful and will help in the whole service. For you must have a teacher. You cannot have everybody at the same level, unless you are in an ideal State. But it would be possible to have types of training, and the welfare assistant that has been described will give opportunities to people who will not want to have a professional training of the category of the university, or the teachers' training college.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, that it would be a great mistake to say that every case must be dealt with by a particular grade of welfare worker, but I cannot envisage anyone being foolish enough to attempt to make such a tidy pattern for any particular or difficult case. We all know that one person gets on better than another with one family, another one with another family and so on; and the question of whether they are in tier one, two or three does not, I think, arise. I cannot believe, certainly in the local authority I know best, that such a thing would happen. Furthermore, this idea of having three tiers of social workers will operate only in an area containing a great many people. In fact, in many of the smaller counties it could not happen, because there will not be the number of social workers or the number of people, and it will be a case of one or two dealing with all the necessary people. I do not think we need worry too much about the tiers, because I think that matter will sort itself out, and that any sensible people will work together and deal with the people where they can give the best help.

I should like to support the idea of a National Council of Social Work Training. I think that would be valuable and would solve many of the problems in training of which we are thinking, because there you would have the advice and help of a whole variety of people in different training centres—the universities, professional bodies, local authorities and so on. I think they would all combine together and you would then work out—and I suggest we have not yet properly considered the working out of—a national certificate in social work which might be the basis for many other workers in the social work field, and would be simpler and, possibly, more applicable than a more complicated type of course. The idea of national social training, of which I think the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, were in favour I should like to support very strongly indeed. I think it would also speed up the plans for training and would establish better co-operation with the many professional bodies.

May I give my own experience of trying to get a social work training course for child care officers in Scotland, where we have the co-operation of Edinburgh University and, in fact, of all the people involved—the children's officers, the local authorities, the university, and so on? It has taken three years to get such a course going and it is only beginning in October of this year. That is not because of any opposition, but simply because to get all the interests consulted to make the necessary inquiries is a very lengthy business; and there is also the difficulty of getting the personnel. I believe that could be speeded up if there could be a National Council for Social Work.

I should like to support, too, those who have spoken of the importance of the voluntary organisations, as well as of the statutory authorities, in this work. There is a whole chapter in the Young-husband Report about the work of the great voluntary societies. These are, I think, of enormous importance. The professional societies and the voluntary societies, the National Associations for Mental Health, the National Old People's Welfare Councils, the Family Service Units, the National Institute for the Blind, the Central Council for the Care of Cripples, the British Red Cross and the W.V.S. are some of those mentioned in the Report. They are all of enormous importance in making up this real welfare service, and making it effective and applicable throughout the country. I think that those people who give and have given throughout all these years their services voluntarily, are people whom we would lose at our peril, and it would be a sad day if they were to go out of this type of work.

In the Younghusband Report it is made clear that the continuance of this pattern of co-operation between the statutory authorities and the voluntary organisations is invaluable. They want it to continue, so I do not think we need worry about that at all. I know, too, that quite a number of the voluntary organisations and also the national and professional bodies are extremely anxious that there should be a National Council for Social Work. They are willing and anxious to take part in this, and to help with the training of personnel throughout the country. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, mentioned a reference to this in the Labour Party manifesto. If I remember rightly—I cannot quote it—there was a reference to this in the Conservative Party manifesto, also. I hope the noble Lord when he replies will be able to give us some assurance that the Government's views now are the same as they were when we fought the Election, and that they are anxious to see that the opportunity for setting up a National Council for Social Work should be taken now.

I believe that this is an all-important moment for this work. We have in this Report a charter for the training of a band of exceedingly important people in the Welfare State. That it is not conclusive, or that there are things in it which will not appear in the final training schemes, is obvious. I do not suppose for one moment that the Working Party thought that every single thing they were writing down was likely to happen. But I am quite sure that they are on the right lines, and that the local authorities will appreciate this and will be anxious to help. I beg the Government to take this opportunity to adopt this bold plan, because I am sure that at this moment it will meet with great response from the local authorities and also from the social workers.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes on this subject, but there are one or two general points I should like to make. There have been references to the Labour and Conservative Party manifestos on this subject before the Election. As would appear from the speeches already made from these Benches, this is by no means a Panty subject. I say that because I want to make it quite clear that I speak only for myself and not for my Party on this occasion. My first point is a general one, not relevant only to this debate, but to many debates of this nature which we have in your Lordships' House. I think it would be most helpful to the House if, after the mover of the Motion has spoken, we could have an indication from the Government of what their attitude is on the Motion which is before the House. Unless we have that, subsequent speakers in the discussion really do not know whether they are knocking at an open door or are hitting heavily on a heavily barred door. I suggest that it might be brought to the attention of the noble Earl the Leader of the House that, when we have occasions of this nature, it would be helpful to the whole of the House if we could have a Government statement immediately following the speech of the mover of the Motion.

To come to the immediate matter under consideration, may I say that my own limited knowledge of it began before the war when I was associated with the work of child guidance clinics, which is now one of our welfare services but which before the war was one of the voluntary services. It is one of our prides, if I may put it this way, that so many services have been pioneered by voluntary effort and have later been integrated into our welfare organisation. At that time, I was particularly struck by the magnificent work which was done by the psychiatric social workers. Since the war, I have been rather more remotely, through the experience of my wife, kept in touch with the work of our mental hospitals, and I have been struck by the need for psychiatric social workers in that particular field. I am concerned with the fact that so many of our mental hospitals find it impossible to recruit the number of psychiatric social workers which their establishment would entitle them to have. This House recently spent a great deal of time on a detailed and thorough examination of the new Mental Health Act. It will not be possible for that Act to be effective in its operation unless we have a great extension of the recruitment and training of psychiatric social workers. Without that, the preventive work and the after-discharge work, which are both essential features of the Act, will be quite incapable of fulfilment.

The noble Earl who proposed the Motion, and to whom we are all indebted, said towards the end of his speech, "How long do we have to wait?" I think I have quoted him correctly. Might I put that in a different way: How much money are the Government prepared to put up for the work envisaged in this Report? It is money which is required, and in particular in two directions: money through the University Grants Committee, to provide for the training of those who in turn will become partly operatives in the field and partly the teachers of a still more extended army operating in the field; and in the second place money to raise the completely inadequate salaries which are paid to all our social service workers, in whichever category they come, not merely that they may be better rewarded but partly that their status may be raised and that their recruitment may be improved. So I hope that the noble Lord who is going to answer for the Government will reply to the noble Earl's question on "How long do we have to wait?" by indicating to what extent the Government are prepared to provide the finance which is essential to the implementation of even the most minimal recommendations of the Younghusband Report.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I could not be here for the early part of the debate because I have been literally wallowing in water boards upstairs, but I think from what I have heard that the great sense of this House is that not only is training essential but a national council of guidance for training must be set up so that the training can be channelled into the different priorities and arrangements made for that training to take place. If we ask ourselves why this training is so vitally necessary, I would say first of all from my experience—and I have had about thirty-five years with the Handicapped Children's Aid Society and a year or so with mentally handicapped children—that the social workers themselves need to be trained. The noble Lord, Lord Archibald, spoke about money. I believe that the training would be tremendously appreciated, and then you could increase the salaries of those who had passed some form of diploma or, shall we say, some categories of diploma.

What the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, said is tremendously true; it is not always a question of money in the homes. In some cases we find that where children are maltreated the mother or father may have the money but they have not the power or the understanding to cope with the household. They do not mean it; they just have not gat the understanding. My point here is that the social worker who is trained picks up what one might call the tricks of the trade. It is not always easy to get into these houses because so many people still think of it all as a kind of charity.

The first part of the training would be in general social work. Those people who wish Ito hive themselves off into such things as mental health or other categories of social work might have their special courses. They need not be very long. I would not know enough about the two-year course to speak about it. But the money must be there to start this National Council. Let us also remember that the National Council must be representative of all the social services; not just a lot of civil servants at the top. We must bring in people who have an understanding and a knowledge and are willing to give the time to work out the future training. I think this Report has brought to the notice of everybody what has to be done, and I can only hope that Her Majesty's Government will see that the first turn of the wheel is not too long delayed and will set up this National Council. Then they can decide how the wheel is going to continue to roll and the training take place.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I propose to detain you for only a few moments this afternoon, but I should like to say a word or two respecting the position of mental hospitals so far as psychiatric social workers are concerned. The Younghusband Report rightly emphasises the need for skilled work among the mentally sick. The establishment of one mental hospital of which I have some knowledge provides for the appointment of three psychiatric social workers. For years these posts have been advertised, but without result, until the Committee realised that the position was hopeless and these three posts have remained unfilled. I have reason to believe that this experience is not unique but that other mental hospitals are in the same position; and that has been amply confirmed by what my noble friend Lord Archibald said a moment or two ago.

It seems to me, with respect, that there are simple reasons for this state of affairs, and in my submission the first is that the number of trained psychiatric social workers from the London School of Economics and other schools is hopelessly inadequate to meet the demand. That is the first point. The second paint is that after a long period of training, four years, it is not surprising that the qualified people take up more highly paid positions, and, perhaps I might add, more glamorous posts, than work in mental hospitals. I would therefore, with respect, make two suggestions: first, that there should be a larger intake for training; secondly, that the posts in mental hospitals should be made more attractive than they are at present. The need for improvement in that direction will, I think, be obvious to your Lordships when I mention that the salaries at present paid in the National Health Service for trained psychiatric social workers are less than those paid at present to teachers in primary schools. These are simple suggestions; they are capable of fairly immediate action on the part of the Government. But, speaking from my experience, and I am sure from the experience of my noble friend, Lord Archibald, more trained psychiatric social workers in our mental hospitals will, in the long run, save money and bring happiness to many families at present denied that happiness.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, we have heard a great deal this afternoon in support of the Motion put down by the noble Earl, Lord Fever-sham, and I will not reiterate those things that have already been said. But I should like to take a different line from that which other speakers have taken, and look towards the future we all hope to achieve—that of domiciliary as against institutional care for the patient. I should like to look forward towards the co-ordination of all the social services which are the responsibility of the local authority. I cannot see that any system of training, whatever it may be, could overlook this necessity in the long run, and I feel that unless we examine it we are perhaps making a mistake on a long-term view.

Like all Members of the House I have been tremendously impressed not only by the work given to, but by the meticulous care that has been taken by, the Younghusband Committee. It is fantastically interesting to read the Report, and I am quite sure that all of us who work in the social services will count this as one of those books that has to be kept in our libraries and ought to be bound; otherwise it will be dealt with so often that it will get dog-eared. I accept with great joy the fact that there will be training possible for the future, but I must admit that I am very worried about the suggestion that the people who are at present doing a magnificent piece of work need to submit themselves to further training to qualify for the days ahead. I speak not as a Member of the House, but as a woman who for 21 years has worked for and with local authorities in their various social services. As such, I cannot pay a high enough tribute to the men and women who are to-day carrying the statutory responsibility at local level for the different sides of social service as we have been discussing them this afternoon.

It is wrong, I think, to say that these people are acting without having had any training. They have had training, but it is not the training that has been tabulated, formulated or devised by either school or university. When dealing with human beings, character, personality, dedication and experience outweigh theoretical training. But when these qualities are present as well as the professional proficiency, the fusion of the two leads to what I think every one of us would like to see for the future. I should like to pay a very sincere and deep tribute to the men and women who have instituted the Welfare State in the way it has been done, and to say that if it had not been for their integrity of purpose, their steadfastness of outlook, the achievements of to-day would not have been possible.

I welcome very much the idea of a form of training, but I am worried as to whether we might mistake one thing for another and think that training would be more worth while than personality or character. The thing we ask these men and women to do is a thing which is not to be bought for money, although I submit very sincerely that the pay of to-day must be examined and put on a better footing. Training as such is an excellent thing, but the over-elaboration which comes with an obsession of professionalism is a hazard which all of us who have worked in other countries than this have seen harm not only the people who have been touched by it, but the enterprises that have been engulfed by it. The finest training of all is obviously in the school of life, but because of the difficulties of graduating in that particular school a stereotyped form must be accepted. I do hope that Her Majesty's Government, in accepting a form of training, will consult not only the theoreticians but the people we serve and the people who, up to date, have made the pattern we know. A successful social worker or a good social worker is, in the minds of those whom they serve, not a professional adviser at all but a real friend. If we allow ourselves to be deflected into thinking that a piece of pasteboard enables a person to do this or that, because of that diploma, I think it would be very sad.

It seems to me that our ultimate aim must be to keep well in our minds the means of progress in our national life which will lead to a higher proportion of the population being able to maintain their own independence and sanity, so that in the long run fewer social workers will be required; and it should be the responsibility of the different sections of the community, in which I dare say each one of us has a responsibility, to bring this about. If such an aim is to be attained it must mean real co-operation between different responsible departments, and the achievement must be actual and not just a pious statement of hope we have so often heard both among ourselves and among our colleagues. That is why I regret that the terms of the consideration of the Report were not on a broader basis.

I also believe that social workers should not be debarred by educational hurdles from undertaking responsibility. None of us who have spent years on this work—and I have actually worked for and with local authorities for 21 years—would deny that there are many people who are superb in this field who have never had the opportunity of an education such as many of us have neglected to take advantage of. I should be very sad to see such people debarred in the future from being used because of new regulations. Yesterday morning and this morning I was working at local-authority level with people who are responsible for their own particular side of disabled work. I do not believe that I have ever met men and women of a higher standard of outlook, but their educational background is perhaps not of the qualification that we are envisaging this afternoon. To my mind—and I am a worker, not a desk worker—it is unrealistic to say that a foster-home cannot be registered except by an experienced person who has taken a four-year or a two-year training course. Just because a woman who has had the experience of life has not this qualification, she is to-day, in certain counties, debarred from visiting and accepting a foster-home as one to be put on a list. It is for this reason that I am fearful of our being overcome by the love of pasteboard which is so prevalent in North America, and losing the valuable possession we have for a thing that we perhaps do not want to have.

I believe that people throughout this country and the world do not want to be treated as cases. There is an infinite danger in assuming that, because people are in financial need, they must be handled by trained social workers. The National Assistance Board (and anybody who has worked with them must pay them the highest tribute) have pointed out that the vast majority of their applicants are perfectly capable of managing their own affairs and should be treated accordingly, and I believe that social workers, instead of being looked upon as people of an unrecognised career, as was quoted in the Report, should recognised as in a sphere far beyond the trammels of that definition and people who, because of their special reason for doing their job, do carry a special place within the community.

Social welfare in its operating is a continuing process. It is not a staccato movement, and trained persons should have at their disposal, I think, volunteers who can continue to carry out the work at the local level. I do not plead for voluntary service. I believe that voluntary service is part of the life of our nation, and I cannot think that any intelligent or thoughtful community would ever do away with well-run and well-working volunteers. I believe that in a community where work is well carried out, voluntary service is the mortar between the bricks of officialdom; and if that is so the proper integration of voluntary organisations and volunteers into statutory aid is a mighty asset to a nation—and I do not make this assertion lightly.

If volunteers are real people and worthy of the name, if their contribution is in the shape which is right and suited in every way to the person they aim to serve, then not only their output but their example is valuable within the community; and if we multiply that by the numbers of areas and communities throughout the country, the benefit to the country is in the character of the nation itself, which surely is the object of every one of us. Voluntary service to-day is being given by many more people than ever before, and if it were weighable I believe that it would be found to be in greater volume. Many more people are participating, and perhaps the greatest strength of volunteers is the patience with which they undertake small, apparently negligible things, but nevertheless the things that a mother does in her home, which entirely contribute to the happiness of that home. Volunteers have shown not only that they can undertake and carry through a tremendous job, but that they are ready to take training for their skills and to use their training in the sphere in which it is demanded. The organisation responsible for such volunteers must take responsibility not only for the training but for the shape of its leadership.

I believe (and I have some experience in this field) that more volunteers are available to-day than ever before, and that as many volunteers can be had to do as much work as is needed, so long as they are handled as they should be and are given work of sufficient interest. Too many people think of volunteers as a means to an end, as cheap labour. True voluntary service is nothing of the kind. It is, in fact, the gift by thoughtful persons of their skill, their energy and their time. Such volunteers have thought seriously and decided to devote those things to the cause in which they believe. For them it is a practical way of giving expression to the view they hold, and in doing that the volunteer gets a clearer understanding and often a deeper dedication to the thing in which he believes.

Voluntary service, to my mind, is the proud expression of responsibility undertaken by an individual as an accepted duty, and I feel that if the social services of this country are to benefit to the extent which we all want them to do we should, each one of us, in our sphere, work towards a united whole. I feel that perhaps the most difficult and most important point that has been touched on in the Report is the co-ordination of all social services; and the way in which that co-ordination can advance towards its goal is one which all of us who are interested trust will be the start of an era in which the client will be served in a way which will help him and solve not only his difficulties but much beyond that.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened with the greatest interest to the extremely interesting and thought-provoking speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough. I believe she has raised more vital and fundamental issues than any other speaker in this debate. She raised the question of whether it is possible to assess capacity for social work by means of an examination—a very difficult thing to decide. We are, as the noble Baroness says and as we all know, living in a world of increasing professionalism, but professionalism means that there is a body of detailed knowledge which the professional has to have; and in some parts of social work that detailed body of knowledge does not exist. It is an empirical skill.

The noble Lady has spoken of the great work done by the old statutory welfare officers who have worked their way up in local authority service. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, spoke of those—the old relieving officers who, while they had in the old days rather an evil connotation, by the time we reached the prewar years were doing very useful social work. Now, in their new guise, they are doing other valuable social work. The same thing has happened with all kinds of officers in local authority service. Are these people to take an examination, or can they become social workers by experience? As I understand it, the Working Party recommend that officers over 50 years of age or with fifteen years' experience should be recognised as qualified by experience. That is roughly what happened when dentistry first became a profession. There were the old surgeon dentists who had trained as apprentices. They had never taken any university course in dentistry but were very efficient dentists. For all I know, some may still exist, although they must be getting very ancient. At a certain point dentistry was turned into a profession, and from then on everybody in it had to undergo an examination to obtain qualifications, although everybody who was practising up to that time was regarded as qualified. Here we say that those in social work shall be regarded as qualified only if they are over the age of 50 or have had fifteen years' experience. I should not like to express a final opinion as to whether that is right or wrong, but it is a point of very great difficulty.

The second point raised by the noble Lady is the welding together of voluntary and statutory social services. She has had more experience of this than anybody else in the country. In the Hospital Service we have a good example of the welding together of voluntary and statutory service. The hospitals are run by voluntary committees and have voluntary friends of hospitals. They have the British Red Cross and others running the library services, but there is not a great deal of voluntary social work. I have been immensely struck by the work of the noble Baroness's organisation in association with the prison which my wife used to govern. The W.V.S. ladies interviewed every prisoner admitted into Holloway and took a kind of brief social history to ascertain what troubles were brewing at home—whether the rent had been paid, whether the kettle had been left on, whether the gas was turned off and all those problems, sometimes small, sometimes very big, which were worrying people who suddenly found themselves in prison. That service has been going on for a good many years now and is a wonderful example of this welding together of voluntary and statutory work. I am sure that that can be done, but it rather depends on two things. First is the careful selection of the voluntary workers. I am sure that the noble Baroness, in doing so, goes for quality, and it is essential to have very high quality if good voluntary work is to be done. Secondly, they should keep on keeping on; they should persevere and not get tired after they have been doing it for six months or so, because that is no good.

This has been a most interesting debate. We have had a lovely spectrum of opinion, and yet the spectrum has focused into a beam of light thrown on the Government, demanding action. When the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, was speaking, he said almost at the outset that the social worker suffers from three disabilities: poor salary, poor prospects and a sense of inferiority. I do not think the social worker ought to have a sense of inferiority; I think that makes for excessive professionalism and bad professionalism. I think that social workers ought to feel proud of the work they are doing, because it is a real job, or at least there is a real job to do.

My noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger has raised a second vital issue: how far there is a real need for social case work, as opposed to economic relief. What she says—and she was supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood—is that there are economic problems in social case work. But there is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, reminded us, a great deal more than that. I remember one day when I was going round in general practice with a doctor in a town just north of the Tyne we saw what is described as follows: The house was Georgian; at one time it had been a fine house. Now a panel was missing from the front door and no effort had been made to replace it. The door of the ground-floor-hack was opened, after three minutes' hammering, by an indescribably filthy woman who had obviously just got out of bed and slipped on a frock. Although the doctor had not been sent for, she expressed no surprise at seeing us. I'm glad you've called, doctor; she needs another bottle' … pointing at one of two poor dirty little children. The roam was of fine proportions. Traces of elegant plastering remained. Elsewhere the plaster was off down to the bricks. There was a fitted kitchen sink with draining-board, but it looked as though it was never used. Everywhere there was the usual collection of filthy domestic litter, unwashed cups, a drying loaf, margarine still on its paper, unemptied chamber pots, a broken chair or so, and the usual pile of rags. The biggest pile was on the bed, covered with a patchwork quilt. Suddenly the pile moved, there was a groan, and a baleful eye looked out from the top, and disappeared again. It was the woman's husband. The time was nearly 11 a.m. Such sights are familiar to every general practitioner … to the police, and to many social workers. The picture they present is remarkably constant". But I do not think that the prime cause is poverty. It may be, and indeed it is, one of the factors in the maintenance of the situation that poverty is produced by bad management.

Professor Stevenson, who wrote a very good book called Recent Advances in Social Medicine, states this: Poverty is by no means the main problem. Both parents may be of average intelligence, though as a rule the mother is below average. Problem families may be found in good housing, though they tend 10 gravitate towards the worst slums. Any landlord naturally trys to get rid of them, both because of their habits and because they are bad rentpayers. The family size is double that of the average; one-third of the mothers are married between 15 and 19, as against one-sixth in the rest of the population. A high proportion of the mothers themselves come from really bad homes, and have never known anything better. They may first come to the notice of the authorities because of a mental defect. They may be first seen because of a mentally defective child detected at school or at an infant welfare clinic, or because of illegitimacy, or because of child neglect; and they may come up before the court. But the picture is always broadly the same, and it is not just a simple economic problem. It is a social failure to which contribute the physical conditions of the home, very often the behaviour of the husband, the incapacity of the woman as a financial manager, an excessive number of children, and very often the attitude of neighbours. That list of causes I am summarising from the Prison Commissioners' Report, from something my wife wrote about neglectful mothers when they are sentenced to Holloway prison.

On the other side, there is a hopeful note. Your Lordships will be aware that in Birmingham prison there was set up by the Prison Commissioners a Neglectful Mothers' Training Centre which has done very good work in training these neglectful mothers. But the situation has improved, and the supply of neglectful mothers from the courts is running out. So the title has been changed to a Domestic Training Centre, so that other women, in addition to neglectful mothers, who still need some training can get it. So it is not an insoluble problem.

One of the weaknesses, if I may say so, of this very voluminous Report is that the Committee did not make a serious attempt—and they admit this—to estimate the size of the problem and the nature of the work that faces the social worker. I think they should have done this. I think that had they turned to the Government Social Survey and invited them to make a survey of the incidence of the kind of problem which could call for social work, the Government Social Survey would have given them a very good answer in about three to six months. While one is speaking about this Report, I must say that I agree with my noble friends in saying that it is far too long. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried to read—I do not know whether that is due to me or to the Report; but I think that the people who wrote this Report ought to read Quiller-Couch's little book On The Art of Writing, which is infinitely better than Sir Ernest Gowers's Plain Words, which is sometimes pretty obscure. But this is not the way to write Reports on great social problems. If it were short, it would be so much more likely to be read. There are lots of gems, plums in the pudding, really good pieces of descriptive writing in the Report, but there is too much duff around the plums. That is a shame, because much of the material it contains is sound and good.

What is the size of the problem? I can tell you straight away, my Lords, that so far as problem families are concerned, one can make an estimate, although it is a bit of a "guesstimate". In North Shields, a town which I know a little about, in the very worst slum areas, in the 1920's and 1930's, the incidence of problem families was pretty nearly 50 per cent. Many of the people there were re-housed when the council built a new housing estate about 25 or 30 years ago. When they were re-housed, the incidence of problem families went down to something between 8 per cent. and 10 per cent. In other words, 40 per cent. were cured by the act of re-housing. Then the next generation were re-housed after the war on another housing estate in North Shields, and the incidence went down again, so it now became 1 per cent. And so far as I am able to assess, 1 per cent. is a sort of irreducible minimum of social problem families that can be obtained if one really tackles environment and produces a good home and good conditions and there is plenty of work.

One is left, then, with a residual 1 per cent. of social problem families, and this occurs even in the best-regulated areas—one thinks of Barnet and elsewhere. There are something like 15 million families in these islands, so there are at least something like 150,000 problem families, a concentrate of the social problems with which the social workers of the local authority services will be called upon to deal. They are the mental defectives, the criminal types, the unmarried mothers and all the rest of them; and this same distillate will be cropping up through each of the different channels time and again. But, of course, there will be many exceptions to this rule. There will be the individual problems occurring in very different types of family, but they will constitute a small part of the work. These problem families need constant support. They need constant propping up; and it is not enough to go and give them only one treatment, as it were, however pyschiatric it be. They need constant moral support and advice, and much patience spent on them, and it is the most exhausting and tiring type of job I know.

As to the other types of essential work that the local authority social workers have to do, there is first of all the psychiatric work of which we have heard a good deal this afternoon. My noble friends Lord Archibald and Lord Burden referred to the terrible situation in regard to psychiatric social workers. People say that local authorities are in competition with the hospitals for psychiatric social workers. Well, the hospitals have nothing like enough to do their job, and it is a question of how we should spread what we have until more are trained—and more will not be trained until the job is a better job. There are other jobs just as attractive, just as interesting, and needing not so long a training, which are far better paid. After all, many of these girls are pretty well up to medical qualification standards, and some of them, if they were prepared to spend six instead of three years training, could be earning £2,000 or £3,000 a year as psychiatrists in mental hospitals instead of getting £500 or £600 a year as social workers—less than a primary school teacher, as my noble friend pointed out. The fundamental problem there is just plain cash.

Then there is the mental defective work. There are the psychopaths, and the care of the psychopath in the community, though goodness knows how one does that. It is about as difficult a problem as there is. Then there is the care of the senile people and the pre-senile people. This merges with social work for old people. It also merges with social work for the chronic and the severely sick. One heard yesterday of the case of a caretaker living at the top of a block of flats. His job was caretaker of those flats. He had a coronary thrombosis. He was confined to his bed, and there was this social problem: that he might well be able to work again but there was no lift in this block of flats and he clearly could not go on living on the eighth floor. That is typical of the social problems which would confront a social worker, and it requires great perseverance and great energy, though perhaps rather less in the way of professional skill, to sort out and to find a ground floor flat for somebody who cannot move himself.

There are the problems of the permanently handicapped, the blind, the partially sighted and the deaf. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans was quite right, I think, to stress the situation of the deaf worker, of the expert who trains the deaf, who has in fact learnt another language. I think it would be an insult to such a person to be graded as a social assistant. It would be quite wrong. Indeed, that person has a very special skill and a very valuable skill; and we should make sure that there is no down-grading of those who have special skills in order to fit them into a pattern of local authority social work.

Now there has been mentioned—my noble friend Lord Amulree mentioned it—the overlap between the work of the health department and the welfare department when it comes to doing social work. Under Section 28 of the National Health Service Act the care and after-care, first of the tuberculous patient and now, by extension, of all other sick, is entrusted to the medical officer of health. That is the care and after-care of those who have been sick and have come back into the community. In so far as they need social help, they look to the medical officer of health. But Section 29 of the National Assistance Act says that the care and the social welfare of the permanently and substantially disabled shall be looked after by the welfare department of the local health authority. These are exactly the same people, and owing to this there has been a lot of friction. There is this awful word "client". I wish I could think of an alternative. It is a horrible word: but the social workers are seeking to avoid the word "patient", because they say that these people have ceased to be patients, because they have got better. Although they have only one leg or one eye, or whatever it may be, they are better, and now they must be called something else. Perhaps some philologist could produce a better word than "client" to describe the person whom the social worker seeks to help.


Not "case".


I think the answer to the double responsibility is a very simple one; I believe it has been found by the Buckinghamshire County Council. It is to have joint appointments—that is, that a social worker should be appointed jointly by the health and the welfare departments; that she should be responsible to them jointly; and, when she is looking after people who are sick, or who have been sick, that she should be working for and with the medical officer of health. Strangely enough, this dichotomy of control leads to some other complications. For example, many of these permanently disabled people need the service of an occupational therapist.

You are stuck in bed and need something to do, and here is somebody who is trained to give you things to do. I must say that I myself have benefited from the services of an occupational therapist. Now if they are looking after people at home they have to be working under a doctor, because officially they are medical auxiliaries. We shall be discussing a Bill dealing with medical auxiliaries very shortly. These occupational therapists will work only under a doctor, even though they are employed by the welfare department of a local authority. That can be easily overcome if we can link the medical officer of health with the welfare department—at least as regards the disabled, though not for all the other activities of the welfare department which are clearly welfare matters and which should not be taken over by the medical officer of health.

Then, my Lords, there is the nature of social work—and this, I think, was the burden of the attack by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger. That was a much less vigorous attack than I thought it was going to be, and I found myself agreeing with at least 90 per cent. of what she said. But this is one point where she had a very powerful criticism to make. When we look at the work that the social worker does we do not find it very clearly described in this Report. There are. I think, three bits to it, and possibly a fourth which the noble Baroness raised. First, there was social history-taking. Now the actual taking of the social history of a family or of a patient needs a real skill. It is something that can be taught just as much as medical history taking can be taught. It is something that can be learnt, and I do not think that any voluntary social worker should be ashamed to learn it. I hope my noble friend will agree that it is a genuine skill, and that it is something real. Secondly, I agree with her 100 per cent. about the need to be a sort of social service directory: a Solomon of the social services and of the social facilities available, both voluntary and statutory. These workers must have an encyclopædic knowledge; and that, also, can be taught, though it is probably largely learnt by experience.

The third thing which the noble Baroness mentioned, which I had not thought of but which is a real function, was a social intelligence service: to tell the places where the shoe is pinching. That, again, is a real function, but it is a much more difficult one because it involves reporting back, and this art of reporting back is quite difficult to acquire. The fourth one, and this is where the controversy really arises, is what might be called supportive therapy. This is an awful term. All it means is helping a family or individual to make the best of a situation, whatever it be. As my noble friend says, it has become bedevilled by pseudo-Freudian jargon and not very helpful partial psychiatry.

Some medical officers running mental hospitals have found that they get the greatest help from employing trained social workers rather than psychiatric social workers, because ordinary social workers do not know any psychiatry. The real thing is that the social worker should know about social work and social problems, and not worry too much about these difficult personal relations—which, of course, are now called interpersonal relations; this is a favourite American term. What is needed is a great deal of patience, willingness to listen to people, and a great deal of common sense of the kind that the ladies of the noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, seem to possess in abundance, and a great deal of sympathy. It also needs one technical requirement—that is, experience, which social workers get over the years, because these are recurring situations. You see the same situations over and over again, as noble Lords who have served on magistrates' courts or children's care committees know. It is by having seen it before and getting the answer, and not from some great corpus of knowledge contained in learned books, that one gains the necessary experience.

Above all, success in this kind of work depends on the calibre of the people doing it. I think that, generally speaking, this will be related to intelligence. The more intelligent the person is, the better social worker he will be, although there are many character factors to be considered as well. The dangers of it are too much talk, too much paper work, though we cannot dodge paper work, because there are so many letters to be written and so many facilities and people to be contacted, and too many case conferences. Among all the time- wasting rubbish, case conferences take a very high place. All sorts of people get together and discuss something which two of them could solve in five minutes, and they go on doing this for years and years. I think that case conferences are a good thing when learning, but later on, when doing a real job, there is not time for them.


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but I remember that in the debates on the Mental Health Bill the noble Lord quoted the instance of the City of York, where there was close coordination and co-operation, which had as one of its main facets case conferences between representatives of the health and welfare departments of the Regional Hospital Board and the local authorities. Am I now to understand from the noble Lord that he no longer agrees with case conferences?


My Lords, we can have too much of a good thing. That is the short and simple answer. These case conferences are necessitated by a bad situation, which is, that there are two lots of social workers who have to be knitted together. In ordinary life, the job is done by popping into the other person's office and saying that you have a problem over so-and-so, or the other person comes in and asks you to have a look at Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so, and in three or five minutes the matter is settled. But this sitting round for an hour or so discussing cases two or three times a week can easily be overdone. I have overstated it and I think the noble Earl was right to pull me up. But it is a danger.

Overlapping with health visitors is a very important point. There has been a Working Party on Health Visitors and I think it would have been wrong, and indeed disastrous to the volume of this Report, had it included health visitors, and my noble friend Lord St. Oswald and I would never have got through it. I have had a great deal of experience now of working with health visitors, whom I used to dislike but now like very much. Many doctors dislike health visitors, until they get working with them. There used to be a great deal of antagonism between general practitioners and health visitors, but it is dying down. In our new town of Harlow, we have five group practice centres where the local authorities have lent health visitors to general practitioners to act as social health visitors. These health visitors have been taken off routine visiting of well families, who do not need visiting, and concentrate their efforts on places of greatest social need. But they have their limitations. They are primarily nurses and I think that if there were trained social workers available, cases would often be referred to them; but there is not.

At the Darbishire House general practioner health centre, run by Manchester University, the general practitioners have been provided with a social worker, and I believe that that has been most successful. In other words, there are two ways of tackling this. Either health visitors link in with general practitioners, or social workers link in with general practitioners. But fewer than a dozen general practitioners have any social workers to help them. On the other hand, there are 3,000 to 4,000 health visitors available and capable of doing some of this sort of work. Certainly they are a very good point of ascertainment. They are excellent at picking up social problems in the first instance, because they have to visit so many homes and pick them up with the general practioner. One would hope that they and the social workers would work together and feel that each has his proper sphere and proper limitation. Another thing to remember is that health visitor training is a longer affair than the training of social workers, though the standard of qualification, I should think, is rather less high.

We have heard a good deal about the categories of social workers proposed in the Younghusband Report. The noble Earl, Lord Feversham, referred to the welfare assistant, who is to be trained in service, as the first level, then to the middle general purpose and to the top degree level. I think that perhaps this is either making too much of the thing, or else making vacancies for the very people of whom the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, was speaking, these excellent local authority self-trained social workers, who would now find themselves welfare assistants. I hope not, but that was the impression I gained. I think it would be as well if the idea of welfare assistant went. I have no inherent opposition to trinitarianism, unlike my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger. But on this occasion I think that my noble friend is right when she says that it would be much better not to categorise too much, though we are bound to have at least a long course and a short course. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Pakenham is right when he says that the social service and the social worker will be no loser if there are graduates in other spheres of activity than in sociology, and that it will be a great gain to have some people with good English degrees and good history degrees, who may often be very good people and, therefore, excellent raw material.

One thing upon which I think we have all agreed is the need for many more social workers; I do not think there has been a dissident voice on this. I am sure that we all owe a great debt to the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, and to the authors of this most important Report for driving home this point. But again I return to what my noble friend Lord Archibald said: that it depends not on pious words, but on money. That is really what we are wondering: where the whole nub will lie. Will the Government pay the extra salaries which these people have got to have?—and that will mean ugrading social workers in the hospital services, where most of them are, and the local authorities will have to follow suit. Until the profession is itself worth while, it just will not get the people. It is being argued that this is the alternative to an expensive institutional service. The alternative is to have many more beds in all sorts of institutions, or to have more care at home. So I think the case is agreed. It is now up to the Government to act.

I should like to pay a small tribute to those who made social work. I was trained by the late Doctor Fairbairn of St. Thomas's, who was a great obstetrician. He really started the hospital lady almoner, as she was known at St. Thomas's—and she was so known because the hospital chaplain was called the almoner and she had to be called the lady almoner in order to distinguish between them. Miss Morris, head of the social workers at St. Thomas's was a wonderful lady and she built up there a first-class training school. Social workers do a very tough job. Whether they are in the probation service, whether they are psychiatric social workers or on whatever aspect they are engaged, they are dealing with people who are in the greatest need, and often those who are the most difficult to help and the most needing help. I was glad that one of your Lordships mentioned the Family Service Units. They do a tremendous job looking after problem families. But there is a danger all the time—and I think it is right that this should have been emphasised—of an over build-up, of over-professionalisation, in what is a real, a good and a new profession.

There is a need for humility in social work, and the social worker must never be ashamed of doing the dirty job. In medicine we often have to do dirty jobs. The district nurse often does dirty jobs. And just sometimes I hope that social workers, when they are faced with dirt and squalor, will not mind taking off their coats and doing a bit of scrubbing to get it clean. I am always reminded that we have a great precedent for that, in that Out Lord was willing to wash the feet of his disciples when the need arose.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, this is a daunting task, but rendered perhaps a little less so by noble Lords who, possessing so much greater familiarity with the subject than myself, have also pronounced themselves daunted by the detail and comprehensiveness of this Report. My heart went out to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, not for the first time, and I am sure not for the last, when he described his own reactions when it first came into his hands.

The Government, and I am sure the whole House, are grateful to my noble friend Lord Feversham for initiating this debate: it is exactly what is required at this stage. And although a great deal of thinking and sorting-out of ideas remains to be done, partly as a result of this debate, perhaps I can comfort my noble friend by saying that it is bound to assist, and even accelerate, the action of the Government upon these complex and far-reaching proposals. The main message of this Report, as it seems to me, is that social work services need more training and more manpower; and in a very clear sense these two are seen to go hand in hand. The recommendations call for recruitment on a grand scale, and one of the incentives to recruitment will be training. It is plain that welfare officers in general, while proud of their service, feel that they could be doing an even better job; and an increase in training would enable them to do that job so much the better. To this end the Younghusband Report makes purposeful and detailed proposals, most of which have been described and discussed by your Lordships this afternoon.

It can hardly be said that the discussion has provided unanimity of opinion. When my noble friend calls upon the Government for speed in implementing these proposals I am not conscious of any real guilt of procrastination when I point out that to adopt them wholesale—or for me this evening even to announce wholesale approval of them—without prior consultation, would be to offend a good many thoughtful people and bodies, by sweeping aside their arguments, expressed inside and outside of this House. They include bodies whose co-operation and goodwill would be essential to the implementing of these proposals. Equally, to reject any of the proposals—such as those to which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, feels it will be almost impossible to obtain full agreement—would be wrong, except, as I say, after prior and careful consultation. I am myself temperamentally better fitted for stepping on the accelerator than for standing on the brake, but in regard to this particular road the surface is uncertain, the crossroads are somewhat confusing and signposts sometimes contradictory. I am sure that I shall have all noble Lords with me in saying that, once we decide upon the course, it must be the right one; and it would be lamentable to have at some later stage to retrace our route.

Before attempting to answer some of the points raised by noble Lords, I am setting myself to describe, briefly, my impressions of the three requirements of the Welfare Service, as it stands, and as they are seen in the pages of this Report. The function is well described at the beginning of the Report as being to trace and identify the home problem; to give help and offer a supporting relationship when required; and to give people confidence in meeting their own adversity. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, has the impression that welfare workers give themselves airs in this task. She must know such examples, but I feel that they cannot be general. It has been impressed upon me in the last few days that the aim of the social worker is to enable the sufferers, in this sense, to win their own victory over their own particular adversity and certainly not to regard themselves as typed for ever as "unfortunate people." This work requires human qualities beyond the strictly normal: it also requires skill—the skill that comes with training and experience.

Time after time in the last few days I have heard, in so many words, the dictum that training plus experience, experience plus training, are the keys to effective social work. It is not enough for a social worker to have good relations with, and the confidence of, those he is trying to help: he must also know precisely where to go for statutory help—the National Assistance Board; many departments of the local authority; the voluntary services. He must be on excellent terms with all of them. He must also be knowledgeable, and even ingenious, in various practical aspects of home help, in gadgets, in adaptations to the home, and in his judgment on the question of rehabilitation, when and if required. His assessment must be full and sound. He must know whether a person can best be helped in his own home, whether he should be provided with other accommodation by the housing department, or whether he is a case for care and attention in a home provided by the local authority under Part III of the National Assistance Act. A misjudgment formed with the best will in the world may do positive harm.

This is not, and must never be, a service of amiable "do-gooders" and nothing more. The existing welfare officers are the most vehement in stating this. For such demanding work, training and a qualified status are required. At present, almost the only form of training available to social workers is at a university. It was felt by the Working Party that such a restriction was entirely wrong and against the interest of the officers and of those whom they serve. It is urged that training should be thrown open to those who, for one reason or another, are not able to go to a university. The suggested form that this training should take has been described by other noble Lords. The present four-year course at a university, including a degree, would remain available, as would the shorter two-year course leading to a certificate and diploma followed by one year's professional casework based on the university and with considerable work in the field. It is now proposed that there should be, in addition, a different two-year course run by the local education authorities, not directly connected with a university and leading to an award to be known as the National Certificate in Social Work.

What is hoped for the future is that some of these workers, after their two-year course, would be accepted for the one-year university course that I have mentioned. Until now this has only been open to those who have taken a two-year university course and possess a certificate or diploma. Unless this is made possible, these "generally trained" workers, holding the National Certificate in Social Work, would not be able to take the one-year professional course without starting again at the beginning at a university. The top posts might well be open to these two-year trained workers who have proved particular aptitude and understanding. They may reach what the noble Lord, Lord Burden, has called the "glamorous" posts. I think paragraphs 752 and 871 of the Report give the Working Party's view of the importance of seeing that the ladder of promotion is a real thing, and that promotion, as well as training, is what will lead to the necessary recruiting. This new category of social worker would fit into the proposed three-tier plan which has also been described. I should like to describe it once more as briefly as possible.

One characteristic of this plan has to be emphasised in the light of what has been said already, and unless it is, the whole plan is open to the criticism of departmentalism, which the Report seeks precisely to cure. The recommendations are for three categories of worker to cope with the gradations of needs, and the emphasis is on gradations, as opposed to grades. The proposed system would be wide open to attack if, in fact, it envisaged watertight departments of cases and rigid ranks for those who deal with them. If noble Lords will bear with me, I will run over the three types of gradation between which it is recognised there may be no definite frontier and certainly no permanent frontier. I will describe them in the ascending order of gravity.

The first is the straightforward and obvious need, requiring material help, some small unspecialised service and periodic visits. The next is the more complicated problem requiring, it seems to me, help from trained personnel. Thirdly, will come problems of special difficulty, needing skilled help of highly trained and experienced workers.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I still do not understand the difference between his categories one and two. It seems to me that there is a remarkable similarity between the work required of these two people.


I shall try to illustrate what I think is meant by the difference between categories one and two. It is fairly natural to think of these categories in terms of rigid demarcation, but in practice these last highly trained workers would only in rare cases deal with, or make themselves directly responsible for, an individual case. I think that has not been brought out so far in the course of debate. Their part would be largely consultative and supervisory. They would limit themselves to giving special advice when asked for, and only in the minority of cases would they actually take over. The main range of work would then be done by the two-year generally-trained workers. But where the need of the client is straightforward and recurring, without complications, a simple type of visit can be done by the welfare assistant.

I do not know whether I have clarified the matter so far. In this way, the three gradations of need are only very loosely matched by the three grades of worker. The officer in the middle—that is, the generally trained man—might well be the first to take charge of a case. He might then have to remain with it indefinitely, or hopefully pass it on for simple visiting to the welfare assistant. On the other hand, if the case showed special problems with which he felt unable to cope, the advice and supervision of a university-trained officer of a first grade would be called upon. Let me give your Lordships an example of such a possible case. The middle-range worker has helped a family with a handicapped child and has discussed getting it to a training centre, explaining to the parents the purpose of that course. He runs into trouble when the father says he cannot stand the situation any more and is leaving home. In such a desperate case the generally-trained worker might feel that he could not cope, and would urgently consult the top-grade worker. These social workers with the highest qualifications will be equipped with both training and experience; those who have studied the causes in tension in family life and the pressures of looking after a defective child in a family. They will have certain leads, and can therefore give more practical and specific advice, possibly in a more convincing way. A good analogy might be that of a family doctor calling in a consultant specialist.


My Lords, my noble friends and I are not quite sure whether the noble Lord is giving an account of what is in the Report or of Government policy.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, I wonder whether at the same time he could deal with one other point. I am quite at a loss to know what kind of training will be given to these highly trained workers that will enable them to stop fathers from leaving home. Would he particularise a little?


My Lords, I cannot particularise more than to say that they would be more experienced in similar cases. They would have advice open to them and they would have leads, as I said before; which means that they would have more knowledge of whom to call upon in cases of this kind. I am perfectly certain that I should never qualify for such a post myself, and I am therefore unable to describe to the noble Lady how they would work.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us whether he has had a personal example of this? Is he talking about what might happen, or what did happen? He gave the example of a defective child. Is that an actual case?


My Lords, I should imagine it was a typical case of a certain kind. I am not speaking of a precise case with names available, but I have been studying this question with people who have dealt closely with these problems during the past few days, and that was given to me as a case which might come into this category. That is all I was attempting to do.

As to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I am giving no more than my interpretation, with the help of advisers, of what I think the Report is saying and aiming at. Certainly my interpretation is of no more value and, indeed, considerably less, than that of the noble Lord, but perhaps he would be good enough simply to take it into account.


My Lords, I do not want to press this point on the noble Lord too hard, but I see what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is directing his question to: that is, is the noble Lord speaking with a view to the advice of his right honourable friend the Minister of Health in saying that the service obviously would be similar to that service adopted by the Home Office in relation to probation officers, or is he expressing a personal view as to the likelihood of the contents of the Younghusband Report being implemented?


My Lords, I am speaking with the assistance of some of my right honourable friend's advisers. As I shall explain a little later, he has to consult a great many more before final decisions are taken. I should like to say, in passing, that I was very distressed to hear the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, suppose that welfare assistants would consider themselves degraded by bearing such a title. I am wondering with some anxiety how degrading he must think it is to be a Junior Minister.


My Lords, the point is that a Junior Minister can become a Minister without having to pass a further examination.


My Lords, the noble Lord takes a very useful point there.

I should perhaps point out that up to now I have been referring to welfare officers as if they were men, as most are to-day, but the new recruitment scheme is addressed equally to women.

Searching criticisms of the Report have been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. The noble Lady is bound to have some idea—perhaps not adequate—of my regard for her views and my admiration of her powers of expressing them, but on this occasion I am going to disagree with some of the former and pit myself against the latter—a hazardous undertaking. Before the attempt I should like to make one observation. The noble Lady is suspicious of psychiatry and punitive towards pomposity.


I was very careful to say "pseudo psychiatry."


Then what I have to say goes even more firmly. I should like to say, on both those scores, that I will enrol myself under her banner as soon as she will have me. I can only hope that by the end of what I have to say she will not consider I have deserted before signing-on. She complains in the first instance that the Report takes a too exalted view of social workers and their abilities or supposed abilities, and unduly stresses the value of their psychological influence. I hope I am not misquoting her. This was not an entirely new argument as, while taking on daunting tasks, I have already in my hands a giant volume created by the noble Lady. I cannot claim to have got as far as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and be prepared to demand an extra hundred pages; there are still a few pages in hand before I reach that point. Her complaint, as I infer, is that social workers are mistaken in thinking themselves a profession in the same way as other professions, which provide services at the request of their clients. I do not know if she would pass the same stricture on politicians.

She also implies that they pry needlessly into personal problems instead of confining their tasks to the immediate services the client needs. In this I sincerely think she is being less than fair to those concerned. My own experience—minute compared to that of the noble Lady—is that these officers are marked rather by the humility they bring to their task, and the conviction that the most they can do is to help and encourage unfortunate people to help themselves, and instil in them a restored self-reliance. Equally, it seems to me that in her dismissal of them as not professional she overlooked the fact that any professionalism they may lack has been due up to now to the unavailability of training. That fact will not have escaped her, but I do not think she took account of it in her speech. Another of her criticisms of social workers is that they are not sufficiently concerned with putting material conditions right, and that the proper function of those engaged in social work is to get rid of social problems and distressing conditions. To an extent that is true, and this is accepted as a major part of the social worker's task. But there are cases, such as those concerned with mental disorder, which cannot be answered by improved conditions, and in these cases there is a distinct place for the social worker.

The noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, was disturbed as to the rôle of voluntary organisations in a welfare service growing increasingly and by intention more professional. I should have thought her mind would be set at rest by paragraph 1060 of the Report, the first sentence of which says: We are in no doubt that the continuing vitality and the creativeness of voluntary organisations and voluntary workers are of the utmost importance for the future of the social services, not least for those within our terms of reference.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I was not in the least worried about the voluntary services: I stated that specifically. They have a place of their own which is irrefutable.


In that case I misunderstood the noble Lady, and I apologise for wasting her time and the time of the House. I had understood the implication that she was worried, not that they were not needed, but that they might receive less regard in a more professionalised service.


The people I was worried about were not the voluntary services but the local authority officials; the people who had not had the training and who would have to submit to training having had what I call the experience of life.


I have completely mistaken the noble Lady's meaning. It was in the early part of the speech that I understood her to say that. Not that it is now necessary to say so, but I should myself have thought it quite impossible to ignore the particular and irreplaceable value of the voluntary workers. One important advantage is that they can give their time when and how it appears to be needed.

There is one important quality of welfare work which was pointed out to me, the ability to let other people talk. I should have thought the voluntary worker had a special opportunity and responsibility in this direction. There is, in addition, an entirely new body and activity proposed for them by this Report. That is the National Staff College to provide courses, especially pioneer courses, and to serve as a forum for discussions of social workers' problems. This is foreseen by the Report as a field for the voluntary trusts, and if any of them are already thinking of approaching my right honourable friend I can promise them a very friendly reception. No doubt the forecast of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, will give anticipatory pleasure.

There have been recommendations and differences of opinion in the matter of the proposed Training Council. The Association of Municipal Corporations has said that this work could be done by the Local Government Examinations Board, suitably modified, and so avoid the creation of a new body concerned with the training of local authority employees. On the other hand, it may be argued that the Examinations Board which deals with general grades of local authority service should not concern itself with this sort of professional training and that a primarily professional body would command more confidence. This is an argument which has not been put this afternoon, but it does exist, and I have merely put counter-arguments for consideration.

I suppose that I stand now, personally, in this beam described by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in being asked to name the Government's intentions and by the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, in being asked what money the Government are going to provide, and also to answer the question on salaries. That question is a little difficult to answer because salaries are a matter for local government. The provision of money to meet the requirements of these extended services will come from the block grant to local government and presumably, should this scheme gain Government approval, allowance will be made for that. But I do not think that here to-night, at this Despatch Box, I can be expected to say more. As regards the direct finance by the Government for the National Council, I should have thought it was clear—I hope I am not being unduly evasive now—that if the Government approve these plans then, quite clearly, money would have to be found for them. The Government are not going to approve and establish an institution and then say, "We are sorry; we have not got any money for it." So I should have thought the answer was bound up in the general attitude of the Government to these plans, and I have tried to explain why there cannot be any immediate answer, at any rate this evening.

My Lords, in the course of my studies for this debate I have heard the argument that society may one day outlive or outgrow the need for such a wholesale service; that as the blessings of education enable people to occupy their own time more fully and intelligently the social worker may find less and less work to do. We may well hope, and even pray, for that state of affairs to come about. But scarcely anyone will believe that it will happen in the next few years, which are now our responsibility. I have heard the charge that the Report contains no suggestion that the service should liquidate itself. On this point I should like to say that the work can fairly be called self-liquidating, in so far as each worker tries to get each particular family off his list. The aim, case by case, is to help people to find their own solution, and, where this is impossible, to contain the problem—to prevent the situation from graver deterioration at further cost to the community and further suffering to the individual. Whatever course we take arising from this Report, our hope is that the Welfare Service will adjust itself over the years to changing needs. But to hope that all human need may disappear, this side of Heaven, seems to be reaching into the more rarefied heights of optimism.

My Lords, apart from anything else, this seems to me to be a great and absorbing human document. To read it is to come out with a clearer understanding of one's fellow countrymen, not only of those in need, but of those who are capable of giving, and are willing to cultivate, the moral sustenance which is the fruit of all the welfare services. Small and cautious though my contribution to this debate has been, I am the better for having read this Report and for having listened to those noble Lords and Ladies who have taken part in the debate. Clearly, noble Lords did not set out to benefit me, but to benefit the welfare services. I hope that in what I have said I have made it clear that the Government warmly welcome the Younghusband Report and are immensely grateful to those who gave their time and talents to its composition.

The Government are now weighing, not only the advice of the authors but the advice they have drawn and perhaps will continue to draw from other quarters. Its recommendations affect, and therefore must be considered in the light of, local authority views. Equally, several Departments, including the Ministry of Health, that of the Secretary of State for Scotland, tile Home Office, the Ministry of Education and, last but not least, the Treasury are very closely concerned. The local authority associations and the main voluntary bodies have been asked to express their general views on the Report. This they have done. It may be necessary now to obtain their views on specific details. Time is not being wasted, and will not be wasted. The Minutes, memoranda and other correspondence which this Report has excited are even now spread over many ministerial and departmental desks. To-day's Hansard has still to be added, and when this great flood of paper is finally and effectively channelled I hope that the result will give satisfaction to as many of your Lordships as possible.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I feel at this stage that your Lordships have spoken nearly as many words as were written in the Report that has been under discussion, and I do not wish to add to them at any length. I feel confident that your Lordships will agree with the purpose which the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and I had in mind in putting down this Motion to-day and having the debate in your Lordships' House—namely, to give us an opportunity of discussing the merits and the demerits of the Young-husband Report. That has been fully fulfilled—in fact more than fulfilled—by the most valuable contributions that we have had from your Lordships. I want to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, for the courteous and conscientious reply that he has given. Quite clearly, he has given great thought and much interest to ascertaining facts about this exhaustive Report, and I know that he has done so at short notice, because I was given to understand that until only a short time ago the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal was to answer on behalf of the Government.

The area of disagreement which has shown itself in the course of the debate is not on fundamentals, as wide as many people believed it to be. I have been greatly impressed with the arguments put forward by the noble Baronesses, Lady Wootton of Abinger and Lady Swanborough, on two points. The first is the importance, not only now but in the future of this country, of maintaining the voluntary spirit in all work that comes under the general entitlement of social service. It is quite clear that at no time during the course of this present century can we anticipate any such perfect statutory service that voluntary organisation would be absolved from the recruitment of volunteers to assist in the way that has traditionally been done in this country. I share their view, too, that it would be disastrous if, in any discussion and consideration about new training methods in the twentieth century, we were to create such a condition that professionalism would arise which would fulfil many of the fears of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger.

I myself, many years ago, when I was a probation officer and working closely with the men and women who belonged to the Church of England Missionary Society, and many other voluntary bodies working within the petty sessional courts areas, shared the fears that she has expressed in this House and in other places. I, with many others, sat on the Committee which finally recommended a training scheme for that service. I felt that there might have been a danger that the high standard and integrity of that personnel would suffer professionalism which might react unfavourably on the recipients in that field. I have not heard, out of the many thousands of justices of the peace throughout the country, a criticism of the professional probation officer, man or woman, who for a number of years has had the benefit of a highly organised training scheme. Therefore, I do not share to the same degree of apprehension the views that have been expressed in that direction this afternoon.

I should like to say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood, the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, and others, who have united in the view that the first stage of the implementation of this Report is the introduction of legislation giving the Minister of Health similar powers to those of the Home Secretary to spend money on training and to set up a National Council with sufficient staff to guide the training bodies. I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has said when he tells me, and the House, that time is not being wasted and will not be wasted. This is a matter of degree. The Report has been published for nearly a year. We know that the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Association of County Councils and many of the main public bodies have already submitted their views in evidence to the appropriate Ministry. How long does a matter of this kind require? I quite agree that it would be a mistake if we were to institute new provisions, either in staffing or in training, which had to be finally done away with, and that therefore time is needed; but I hope that this plea for time will not run out so long that many become restive as to the date of declaration by Her Majesty's Government.

Secondly (this is my main plea, and I am very glad to see that all who have spoken have in general agreed to it), I hope that training, especially for mental welfare officers, will not be delayed. I believe that all who have been good enough to take part in this debate will have shown that, owing to the recent statutory provision made in respect of the mentally ill, there is an urgent necessity to get training for that category of social worker.

May I conclude by making a personal explanation and apology? I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for having, very properly, pointed out to me that I made reference to a statement of Professor Titmuss without attributing that statement to him. I had those words in my notes in italics, but unfortunately refrained from giving the reference. I apologise to Professor Titmuss and to the House for that omission. If I may assume, for a moment, the rôle of speaking on behalf of all social workers in statutory and voluntary services I should like to say, on behalf of them individually and of their organisations, how much they will appreciate the opportunity to read the full Report of the debate in your Lordships' House to-day which quite clearly has gone far to establish the interests of those engaged in such vital and important work on behalf of the country. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.