§ 5.59 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will increase, in accordance with the Ingleby Committee's recommendation, the present maximum number of days of home leave allowed to children in approved schools. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a point on which it was rather strongly desired that we might have the opportunity of obtaining some information from the Government. It was not precisely appropriate to the Report stage of the Bill we have just considered, and with the agreement and assistance of the noble Earl I will raise it now, very briefly.
§ Your Lordships will be aware that the present maximum of home leave which may be granted to a child in an approved school is normally 24 days in one year. The Ingleby Committee, in paragraph 466 of their Report, recommended that this maximum be increased, in view of the great therapeutic value of home leave to those children, if, of course, the home leave is granted under the proper conditions and properly used and applied, as indeed it almost always is. The present annual maximum of leave is laid down in the Approved School Rules, which is why I could not really find opportunity to raise the matter under this Bill. I do not think there is any question at all that home leave at proper intervals under proper conditions and, as it were, as something to work for, is of great value in the approved schools system.307
§ One other point—and I hope it is a valid one—is that in view of the great call, or strain, on accommodation in approved schools, it could, I think, be regarded as at least a contributing factor in easing that strain if there were the right to increase the period of home leave. It can be argued that if the increase were too substantial there would be no point in sending a child to an approved school at all. But I would point out that the present maximum is 24 days in a whole year and no child is going to get leave from an approved school unless the school managers or welfare officers think it will be helpful and that the child will benefit. I should be very grateful if the noble Earl could say whether the Government have it in view to revise the rule with regard to maximum home leave within the reasonably near future; and, secondly, I shall be grateful for any other information he can give your Lordships on that point.
My Lords, the position is as follows. Home leave, as the noble Lord has said, for boys and girls in approved schools is governed by Rule 30A of the Approved School Rules. This provides that such leave must be granted to each boy or girl each year, unless circumstances make it undesirable—and, of course, circumstances may make it undesirable—and that, except with the permission of the Chief Inspector of the Children's Department of the Home Office, leave may not exceed 16 days at any one time or 24 days in any calendar year.
In girls' approved schools, leave tends to be granted for varying periods at different times, as circumstances require. In most boys' approved schools, however, ordinary leave is granted in three blocks of eight days, usually at or around Chirtsmas and Easter and in the summer. It is the practice for the day of return to the school not to be counted as leave, so that in effect most boys are away from their schools for 27 days in the year. In addition, most boys spend several odd days away from their schools, though not at home—for 308 example attending camps, on canoeing expeditions—a very popular activity in approved schools—or engaging in similar activities. If additional home leave is required in individual cases for special purposes—for example, if a boy is thought to need frequent contact with his family in their home—this is granted with the approval of the Chief Inspector.
As the noble Lord has made clear, the Ingleby Committee considered the question of home leave, as one means of maintaining contact between the child and his or her home, and in paragraph 466 of their Report they said—and I should just like to quote:We think that home leave, properly used, can be of great therapeutic value and are of opinion that, for younger children especially, it would be an advantage if school managers had discretion to grant more leave in suitable cases. We recommend, therefore, that for children of compulsory school age the maximum amount of home leave that may be granted should be increased.This recommendation is supported by the various associations concerned with approved schools. I am glad to inform the noble Lord and, through him, others who may be interested in this question, that we have accepted it in principle. Specific proposals will be put forward in the near future for discussion with the local authority associations and the Approved Schools Central Advisory Committee.
I can also assure the noble Lord that as soon as these consultations have been completed the necessary amendments of the Approved School Rules will be made. A number of further changes in the Rules are thought to be desirable as a result of other recommendations of the Ingleby Committee, and for other reasons, and a general revision of the school rules has therefore been undertaken. The Amendment on this subject will, however, be made separately if waiting for the completed revision of the rules would involve material delay.
§ House adjourned at six minutes past six o'clock.