HL Deb 05 November 1975 vol 365 cc1307-10

[No. 170]

After Clause 59, insert the following new clause:

Review of case of child in care in Scotland

". In the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 the following section is inserted after section 20—

"Review of case of child in care

20A.—(1) Without prejudice to their general duty under section 20(1) of this Act, it shall be the duty of a local authority who have at any time had a child in their care throughout the preceding six months and have not during that period held a review of his case, to review his case as soon as is practicable after the expiration of that period, and if a supervision requirement is in force with respect to him, the local authority shall consider in the course of the review whether to refer his case to their reporter for review of that requirement by a children's hearing.

(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations—

  1. (a) amend subsection (1) of this section by—
    1. (i) substituting a different period for the period of six months mentioned in that subsection (or for any period which. by previous regulations under this subsection was substituted for that period);
    2. (ii) specifying different periods in respect of the first review under that subsection occurring after a child has been taken into care, and in respect of subsequent such reviews;
  2. (b) make provision as to the manner in which cases are to be reviewed under this section;
  3. (c) make provision as to the considerations to which the local authority are to have regard in reviewing cases under this section."."


My Lords. this is a situation in which. for once, Scotland is behind England. I beg to move this Amendment, which places a new statutory duty on local authorities in Scotland. These duties have been in existence in England since 1968. With the leave of the House, I should also like to discuss paragraph 51B in Amendment No. 294, upon which we touched earlier and which extends existing legislation in England and Wales.

Amendment No. 170 places a statutory duty on local authorities in Scotland to carry out reviews of children in their care every six months. There is already a corresponding power for England and Wales in Section 27(4) of the Children and Young Persons Act of 1969. The Amendment also enables the Secretary of State for Scotland to prescribe by regulations the manner in which local authorities should carry out these reviews and the factors that should be taken into account. This power has been taken to meet points made in another place, that where possible parents should be involved in reviews, and that the emotional needs of the child and his personal relationships should be considered, in any decision about his future—for example, whether the local authority should pass a resolution assuming parental rights and duties in respect of the child. Paragraph 51B in Amendment No. 294 enables the Secretary of State for Social Services to make similar regulations in England and Wales. The remaining paragraphs in Amendment No. 294 are amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, consequential to changes made by the Bill.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Winterbottom.)

9.50 p.m.


My Lords, this appears to put considerably more work on social work committees,and I take it that the social work organisations in Scotland have been consulted about it. This is the first time I have realised what is involved here. I am strongly in favour of reviews, particularly when circumstances change so quickly, as they do in the lives of children. It is a good idea, but I hope it will be capable of being carried out by a sufficient number of social workers engaged in local authority work and voluntary organisation work in Scotland.


My Lords, I gather that this was brought in at the Report stage in another place. The six-month review is in most care cases a very good thing indeed, and I welcome it. However, it is not so necessary for the long-term foster cases, where a child has settled down. I am not entirely clear about the advantages of this system over the boarding-out regulations. It does not seem to be entirely clear and I should he grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, could give a few more details on this.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is discussing a separate issue. I was just bringing to the attention of your Lordships an Amendment which places a new statutory duty on local authorities in Scotland. I was talking about the duties; not whether the duties are good or bad. This is purely a technical point. May I just say that nothing is being imposed on Scotland as a region, because the Secretary of State for Scotland will be the ultimate authority in deciding what happens.


My Lords, by leave of the House, I was talking about Amendment No. 294.


My Lords, it would be fair to comment in this case that, once more, we have the effects of Amendment No. 210 to consider; that none of this will become operative in the immediate future. We have no date when it will become operative, and I take it that it will not become operative until we have the manpower to make it work satisfactorily. That is a lot better than having it on the Statute Book and its not working because of lack of manpower. We should like an assurance that the manpower will be available as soon as possible.


My Lords, I think this is obvious. We are in a period of stringency and retrenchment. I am certain that, with all the pressures being brought to bear on local authorities, no one will set up a vast and unnecessary organisation if he cannot be assured of the funds for it. However, in a Bill of this importance there is no harm whatever in giving Secretaries of State, be they in England or Scotland, the power to do certain things when the resources are available. I hope we are looking beyond the present slough of despond to the day when the resources will be available for creating the sort of social services we wish to see, particularly in this very important area. So we are creating the framework within which the various local authorities, voluntary associations and Secretaries of State can operate.