HL Deb 05 December 1966 vol 278 cc891-3

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government the total number of places now available in after-care hostels in receipt of Home Office maintenance grants; and what plans are in hand for additional places.]


My Lords, 335 places in 29 hostels. Proposals for an increase in the number and type of after-care hostels have been made by the Working Party on the Place of Voluntary Service in After-Care, and these are now being studied by Her Majesty's Government. The House will have an opportunity to discuss this Report on January 25.


My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for that informative Answer, and ask him a further question? How far is the demand for places in excess of the numbers available? Also, to what extent has provision been made for special places, particularly to meet the needs of alcoholics?


My Lords, the Working Party made an estimate of the number of hostel places likely to be required, but admitted that their estimate was very tentative. We are satisfied that we need a very considerable increase in the number of hostel places available, and, indeed, an increase in the variety of such places, and we are taking special steps to ensure that hostels shall be available for alcoholics. In fact two are already in operation.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that answer.


My Lords, may I nevertheless ask the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, whether it is not true that the Working Party gave it as their estimate—perhaps the noble Lord has a better one now—that each year there were 5,000 discharged prisoners alone to be catered for by hostels? Would he not agree that, although his Answer shows an encouraging increase in the number of places, it is still a long way short of providing for these needs, and for many other needs—for instance, those of drug addict patients—which have still to be met? Is he satisfied that the present terms of grant are sufficient to induce the churches and other voluntary bodies to do more in this field; and does he not feel that very much more in the way of hostels, particularly probation hostels, will be required in order to implement the provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill?


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, seems to have confused quite a number of points. It is, of course, the case that the Working Party tentatively suggested that as many as 5,000 after-care places in hostels might be necessary. But that was a tentative estimate: there is no precise estimate, and my Department is now engaged on getting a nearer estimate to the actual need. There is, however, no question that we shall need very considerably more places than we have now. With regard to the question of probation hostels (by which no doubt the noble Lord means adult probation hostels), that is quite a different matter, and we are dealing with it separately as these hostels are almost wholly provided for by the Home Office. I think that covers the points which the noble Lord raised.


My Lords, may I ask one further supplementary question? What are the main problems involved in dealing with this question of the supply of additional places?


My Lords, the main problems involved are not, in fact, due to money, and I am satisfied that the maintenance grants allowed by the Home Office are sufficient for their purpose, although we may vary their incidence. The main problems are the provision of housing and, even more important, the provision of trained staff. With regard to the first, we are vigorously going into the question of setting up a housing association so that houses may be acquired by purchase, or for rent, for the use of voluntary bodies. With regard to the training of staff which is a crucial matter, NACRO, with whom we are in touch on this matter, is now actively engaged in considering training facilities for the recruitment and training of wardens and assistant wardens, and I hope before very long to be able to announce progress in both these matters.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply.

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