HL Deb 22 June 1977 vol 384 cc674-744

3.2 p.m.

Baroness FAITHFULL rose to call attention to the needs and treatment of disruptive children and young persons and for a co-ordinated policy on the part of all those responsible for their wellbeing; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have sought this wideranging debate in your Lordships' House because of the disquiet being expressed in the media, by the police, by teachers, social workers, doctors, health visitors and magistrates, and not least of all by parents and some children themselves, concerning some, and only some, children whose behaviour is upsetting in their families, disturbing in their schools and disruptive in their neighbourhoods. Only this week a seminar has been held at the Department of Health and Social Security to discuss new ways of helping delinquent children. Disruptive behaviour, with perhaps the same root causes, takes on different guises and therefore is dealt with by different Departments.

There is the guise of juvenile delinquency. In England and Wales juvenile delinquents are officially referred to as children between 15 and 17 who are committing indictable offences. There is the guise of vandalism. A Home Office Working Party on juvenile vandalism showed, for instance, that in the Greater Manchester area in 1976 there were 476 cases of vandalism in 310 schools causing £415,000 worth of damage. There is the guise of non-school attendance. This is not easy to evaluate, as there is no national formula as to what constitutes truancy and no overall figures are kept. A Department of Education and Science survey, however, did show that Wales has a high number of non-school attenders whereas the South and South-West of England has the lowest incidence of non-school attendance. The National Child Development Study did show that of 14,000 children born in one week in March 1958 1.2 per cent. truanted up to the age of 11, and that figure had risen to 20 per cent. by the age of 16. I can find no figures of those children excluded from school on account of unruly behaviour, or for how long.

Then there is the guise of those children deemed maladjusted under the Education Act 1944, and these children are dealt with by the Department of Education and Science and are offered a service in schools for maladjusted children and in their own homes and schools, through the School Psychological Service, child guidance clinics and social workers. Then, lastly, there is the guise in adolescence of the addiction to drugs, vandalism, and homelessness when they leave home and make their way to the big cities.

My Lords, to counterbalance this disturbing picture it should be said at the outset that the number of juveniles who are emotionally balanced, physically fit, have a sense of purpose and an enjoyment of life far outnumbers the children with disruptive behaviour. However, as with one lost sheep, one child with disruptive behaviour can dislocate the environment in which he lives out of all proportion to the other 99 whose behaviour is disruptive no more than is normal in the growing-up process. For instance, Staffordshire and Cumbria set up Working Parties to look into violent and disruptive children. Cumbria's report indicates that in each school there are three vandals and eight or nine anti-social pupils. This is not a high proportion, but enough to deflect teachers from their unique and important teaching role.

My Lords, what are the causes of disruptive behaviour in its various guises? It would be impossible to summarise all the research done in this field. It could be said that there are the factors external to the juvenile and there are the factors peculiar to that child and his or her family. The external factors are our social policies, such as poor housing, lack of housing, poverty, and the fact that as a country we have no policy for the family. This theme will be developed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young.

The President of Chief Officers of Education Welfare told me that poor housing and the large conurbations contributed greatly to the disruptive behaviour, and his statement was borne out by the National Association of School Social Workers. I am bound to mention that there is the question of industrial strife, the effect of which is carried into the home, and, in the form of aggressive and worried attitudes on the part of parents, can and does inject a sense of insecurity and disruption in the minds of children, which is, I am told, then reflected in their attitudes to their teachers at school. Perhaps both management and the workforce should seriously reflect on this social condition in our society. Then there are the neighbourhoods where there is a low level of social censure of delinquency.

I turn to the factors within, and, if I may, I will now touch on the life of children under five. Research and experience has shown that the course of a child's emotional life is set from the age of nought to three years when the bonding process on the part of the parents occurs. A well-known child psychiatrist, the late Dr. Winnicott, said: The only true basis for the relationship of a child to mother, father, other children, and eventually to society, is the first successful relationship between mother and baby". Research from the Tavistock Clinic, the National Children's Bureau and the Robertson Centre has borne that out. The reverse can produce a seriously emotionally damaged child, leading to disruptive behaviour in later life.

Perhaps I may give two examples which I have experienced. I placed a child, who had suffered grieviously, with a foster parent. The foster parent rang me up and considerably alarmed me by saying that the child was stiff. I then went to see the child, whom I found lying in the foster parent's arms, unbending and stiff. So alarmed was I that I arranged for the foster parent to receive domestic help in the house so that she could permanently—every day, every hour and every minute—nurse, croon and talk to that child. Two days later she rang me up saying that the child had relaxed, was now bonding with her, laughing and smiling. Would it not be wise for us to consider not only the compassionate side of this story but also the financial implications? If that child had developed, as is possible, psychopathic, delinquent or simply disruptive tendencies the cost to the country from that moment until the death of that person could run into thousands and thousands of pounds.

I would tie this to one other story of 10 children for whom I was responsible—and I regret to have to say this and I hang my head in shame—seven of whom stole £180 worth of goods. Nine of those children had had no relationship with their mothers from the age of nought to three and the one boy who abstained from stealing had had a good relationship with both parents. I know that other Peers will be speaking on this subject, on the need for pre-school playgroups and a better supported child-minding service.

Suffice it to say that only last week I was talking to a Director of Social Services who said that if he has his financial expenditure cut further—heaven forbid!—he would put his scarce resources into social and medical work with families with children under the age of five, and if there was a further cut they would be directed to children under the age of three. Other known factors contributing to disruptive behaviour, to name only some, are marital stress, unhappy homes, inconsistent behaviour on the part of parents, a lack of appreciation of the worth of a child leading to a poor self image, and a lack of communal family leisure activities, especially with the father.

I would ask today how our present resources can be most wisely used, not only to cure but in a policy of prevention; I go further and say in a policy of the promotion of the wellbeing of our juveniles. Where children under the age of five are concerned, I would suggest that even now there is not the desirable interplay throughout the country between maternity hospitals, health visitors, general practitioners, social workers and community voluntary services, and that the professional services need to be broken down further. A gynaecologist whom I know suggested that a sensitive doctor could assess which mother, on discharge from hospital, would be in need of more support and help than is ordinarily required on a mother's discharge from hospital. In such cases he sees the parents, the health visitor, if practical the general practitioner, and the hospital social worker—who are now linked with the social services—together; they discuss their problems and get to know one another. The idea of the so often talked about inter-disciplinary practical approach needs to be translated into an accepted strategy throughout the country. With such guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Social Security, at least a proportion of prospective non-accidental injuries to children might be prevented.

I should like to turn to disruptive behaviour in schools. There have lately been three publications from different parts of the country on the same theme—that is, the unco-ordinated services for the children. There has been the Department of Health and Social Security document with an article by Professor Ronald Davie, the Professor of Educational Psychology at Cardiff University; there is the publication by Mr. Roger Watkins at the Centre for Information and Advice on Educational Disadvantage at Manchester; and the book by Mrs. Fitzherbert, written in London.

The evidence of the National Union of Teachers to the Seebohm Committee was that the school was the focal point for a child but that the school cannot overcome social disadvantages of family and neighbourhood. These should be carried out by supporting services. The teacher's skills are both unique and important, and should not be diluted with other skills. What have never been clarified by the local authority Social Services Act 1970 are the respective roles of the social service departments, the officers of education welfare and the social workers in schools. I have questioned teachers to whom they refer a young child who is showing problems at school at an early stage which are indicative of the problems in the home. I have received varying answers. One teacher said, "Well, I suppose the child guidance clinic"; another said the education welfare officer; another said the school counsellor; and another said, "I suppose the social services".

I would ask the Minister: has the time not come for the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of Education and Science to work out with the local authority associations and the various relevant professional associations an accepted and known overall strategy based on joint planning and corporate management at professional level on the part of Directors of Social Services, Directors of Education and the Health Service? These services have distinct and separate roles and cannot be combined, but surely there should be interplay between them which betokens understanding and a sense of mutual service to the child and the family. When considering such an overall strategy, may I ask the Minister whether the project of the Department of Health and Social Security carried out in Glamorgan could be extended to other areas? There, workers involved both in the voluntary and the statutory fields—magistrates, police and voluntary organisations—were brought together at grass roots level to discuss their problems, to get to know one another and to formulate policy.

I must now turn to the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. In my view this is a wise Act which has suffered grievously from lack of resources, from the reorganisation under the Social Services Act 1970 and from the reorganisation of Government in 1973. Research studies carried out by the Home Office Research Unit indicate that as many as 80 per cent. of juveniles who have been in community homes with educational facilities—they have replaced the old approved schools—committed further offences again within two years, and some pass on to borstal and perhaps prison. The cost is something within the region of £90 to £100 a week, and in some cases even more. The feeling of some juveniles sent away from home is that of being segregated and stigmatised, even if they have committed an offence. It puts them among a number of juveniles who, like themselves, have committed offences, and with whom they remain and very often stay as a crowd when they come away from the community home and commit further offences.

I would not wish it to be thought that I do not realise that extraordinarily good work is being done in such schools against fearful odds but, at the end of the day, the child must come back to his own community, to his own family. I would suggest that we should change course, as indeed is being done in many areas, and that we should provide a service in the community both for those children who have not committed offences but who are likely to do so, and for those children who have. There are many such projects in this country: Coventry social services has a day scheme for such children; Kent County Council are boarding out and fostering children who are extraordinarily difficult.

I am very appreciative of the problems of the police and of the magistrates. They see children who are persistent offenders returning to court. But they have returned to court before. It was just that having been sent away they returned to different courts and, therefore, were seen by different magistrates. There are at present 9,000 juveniles in residential accommodation, and I would suggest that recognition should be given to the work of social workers in a residential setting, and that for the work which they do, which is the most difficult, they should have specialised training. But they would he the first to admit that such children should be kept in their own homes in their own areas, and that day centre schemes should be promoted.

It is regrettable that, while we are changing course to a community based service from the residential service, we must have some residential accommodation. We must, sadly, have some secure accommodation; but, my Lords, not in prison. Two years ago 4,000 unruly persons from the age of 14 to 16 were placed in prison, and I would submit that such cases should be placed in secure accommodation. I know that the Magistrates' Association wish to direct which children go to secure accommodation. May I say that while there are so few places in secure accommodation, magistrates will direct differently from different Benches, and therefore some children really requiring secure accommodation will not get it and those who least need it may be sent. So far, parents have not been specifically mentioned. Perhaps in the past we have not placed enough responsibility on parents; nor have we drawn them in on discussions as to how they may be involved with their children's behaviour, and we have not dealt with them on equal terms and sought their help and assistance.

My Lords, I would wish to link this debate with that of the Archbishop of Canterbury's debate on the family, and the debates of Lord Longford and Lord Blake on religious education. While having compassion, understanding, perception and skill for working alongside children whose disruptive behaviour may stem from adverse social and emotional conditions, yet adults gravely diminish the stature of a young person if they condone the disruptive behaviour, which is a negative and unhappy experience for the child, and brings them into disrepute with their neighbours.

A young person stole a suit and a tie from one of the Oxford colleges. He walked into a hotel and lived it up there for a week and had the bill sent to me. When I challenged him about this he said, "You do realise, don't you, I'm a case?" I said, "I realise it full well. You are a case, but that does not allow you to behave in this way". I think that we all, teachers, social workers, and the community must be careful, out of compassion, not to condone particular cases. Children and young people are diminished if purposeful demands are not made on them, enabling them to fulfil themselves to their full potential.

My Lords, I would make two last points. In your Lordships' House the fiscal policy of this country has often been debated, and I would suggest to your Lordships that the best investment that a country can make is to invest in its own children. I think that it was Sir Leon Radzinowicz, who was Reader in Criminology at Cambridge, who said that the ultimate cure for delinquency in juveniles lay in a society where the adults of the community created a climate of belief where disruption and delinquency were an unacceptable way of life. This is a far cry, but something to be worked for. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for raising this difficult and important subject this afternoon, and for doing so in such a comprehensive and constructive manner. The terms of the Motion cover a vast area, but I suppose that we can make a rough and ready division of the children we are thinking about between those who have fallen foul of the law and those who have not, and I should like to begin, if I may, by saying a word about those who break the law. Juvenile crime has been rising rapidly in recent years; in fact it has risen 40 per cent. in the last five years. The commonest juvenile offences are burglary, theft, shoplifting, criminal damage not endangering life, and wounding not endangering life.

The noble Baroness asked what are the causes of this juvenile delinquency, and she gave some of the reasons. I think that it is generally recognised that the primary cause is social rather than psychological, though it must inevitably be a mixture of both. Nobody really knows precisely what the reasons are, but it is possible to speculate. I would suppose that the anonymity of much of modern life is one of the reasons: the depersonalised urban areas; life in the high-rise flats; life in the larger schools; a prospect of unemployment at the end of one's school life with consequent lack of purpose. These must all be reasons.

Then there are the obvious reasons of the broken family. But much more potent than the broken family, I think, is the family which is not broken but which is subject to great tension: tension between the parents; tension between the various members of the family; tension perhaps in cramped and unsatisfactory conditions. Then there is the inadequacy of some parents living perhaps in poverty and in bad housing. There are families where there is within the family a criminal record already; perhaps on the part of the parents, perhaps on the part of other members of the family.

Then there is evidence to suggest that streaming in schools has some influence, in that some children who find themselves in a low stream feel that they have to compensate in other ways for what they feel to be their inadequacy. I am making no comment here on the educational aspects of streaming, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest that streaming has this effect on some children for it to be taken into account in a debate of this kind.

Then there is the question of a decline in moral standards. I approach this with some diffidence. No doubt there has been a decline in moral standards, but perhaps we sometimes tend to exaggerate it and to confuse the observation of standards with the acceptance of standards. However, there is certainly an uncertainty about the religious beliefs from which moral standards have been derived, and I say that as a member of a Christian denomination. I do not know how much that uncertainty has been influential in the creation of juvenile delinquency, but I feel that where there is no basic conviction about the validity of morality it must eventually affect the whole of society. I feel therefore that there is a great need for the development of a commonly accepted code of moral standards which can be promoted by the atheist and the Humanist alike, by the Jew and the Moslem, by the Christian and the non-Christian, by the believer and the agnostic.

Turning from causes to treatment, according to the report issued three weeks ago on children and young persons in custody by the Working Party set up by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, of which Mr. Peter Jay, our new Ambassador to the United States, was chairman, on any one day there are about 12,000 juvenile offenders housed in institutions in England and Wales; they constitute only about 7½per cent. of all offenders in the age group. As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, pointed out, the major piece of legislation concerning disruptive children is the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, which has, however, never been fully implemented. The aim was to place the emphasis on the need to provide for children in trouble so far as possible without removing them from the community; the emphasis was to be placed on intermediate treatment, a form of treatment falling between taking children into care and leaving them at home under supervision. It is argued that because significant sections of the Act have never been implemented, a child who commits an offence in 1977 is treated very little differently from the way he was treated pre-1969.

The number of children in care has increased. The number sent to detention centres or borstal has increased by over 150 per cent. since the introduction of the Act. The Jay Report and other reports, such as the recent report of the Working Party at the Howard League for Penal Reform, emphasise again the importance of the philosophy behind the 1969 Act, even if its implementation has not lived up to that philosophy.

The Jay Report points out—this emphasises a point made by Lady Faithfull—that of those sentenced while under 17 who were released from custody in 1972, 79 per cent. of male borstal trainees and 70 per cent. of juvenile detention centre trainees were reconvicted within two years. It is estimated that 55 per cent. of borstal trainees and 40 per cent. of detention centre trainees in this age group were recommitted to custody. The comparative figures for girls are 59 per cent. reconvicted and about 25 per cent. sentenced to further custody. The Jay Report argues that the custodial system is a failure and the Howard League Report also casts doubt on its effectiveness.

The Jay Report says that those held in custody are not being cured of crime, and the members of that Working Party reject the concept that the main purpose of the arrangement is to deter juvenile crime among the population as a whole. They make the significant statement that they accept that view—that the main purpose of the arrangement is not to deter juvenile crime among the population as a whole: … not because we necessarily reject such an approach on principle, but because the evidence available to us about the causes and nature of juvenile crime do not suggest to us that it would be significantly amenable to any degree of general deterrence by penalties which society would currently tolerate". The Jay Report identifies three possible strategies for consideration. The first they call, ad hoc amelioration of institutions", by which they mean improving and reforming those particular aspects of present institutional arrangements and facilities which appear to be giving rise to particular difficulties. The second they call, amelioration with eased numbers", combining the first strategy with recommendations for reducing the number of children sent for institutional care. This would include a more comprehensive and speedier development of intermediate treatment in conjunction with very short periods of residential care, the introduction of community service schemes for juvenile offenders as a part of intermediate treatment and within the context of the deferment of sentence.

The third alternative which they put forward they call, "decarceration", by which they mean the closing down over a predetermined and limited period of years of all residential and institutional facilities for young offenders, except one or more small residual facilities with high perimeter security and intensive internal psychiatric and other provision for not more than about 400 young offenders judged to present a danger to the community, and the report explains how this third policy has been put into practice with apparent success in Massachusetts in the United States.

I have no doubt that it is either the second or the third strategy which we must follow, but something is clear; the third strategy could not be applied without the most thorough planning, without the fullest safeguards against too rapid an implementation—though equally it would be defeated in its purpose by too slow an implementation—and without substantial support from public opinion. Thus, there would have to be a very considerable campaign to explain to the public what was envisaged. However, under either the second or third strategy, an increase in intermediate treatment will clearly be required and I welcome the Statement made earlier this week by the Secretary of State for the Social Services when he announced plans to set up a trust fund to provide capital for the kind of projects and schemes which are an essential part of intermediate treatment. As the Secretary of State said, schemes very often need such things as a shed, a workshop or a boat.

Thinking now not merely of juvenile offenders but of all children, one is bound to agree with the Motion that there is a need … for a co-ordinated policy on the part of all those responsible for their well-being". Consider the different departments and agencies which are concerned with the welfare of children—the social service departments of local authorities, education welfare officers, the child guidance service, teachers, youth officers, community relations officers, the police, careers officers, the Probation Service and the Health Service.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, called for an overall strategy with regard to co-ordination and I should like to support her in that. A most valuable experiment has been carried out in Haringey. The co-operation of many of the different agencies to which I have referred has been obtained for the placing in the secondary schools of school-based social workers from the social service department of the local authority. Each of these social workers works within a school but is attached to the team of social workers operating in his or her district. So these social workers are dealing with whole families, not just with children, and all the usual social services back-up facilities—home helps, meals-on-wheels, child minders—are available to help to alleviate the situation.

These school-based social workers are the co-ordinating link between teachers, pastoral staff of the school, parents, police, educational welfare officers, child guidance services and voluntary bodies. One can only touch on the nature of the experiment in a debate of this kind, but I believe it constitutes a model that might well be adopted in other areas. It seems to me to be a much more practical solution than an attempt to tear the different services away from the departments with which they have always been associated to form one all-embracing, monolithic welfare service.

To facilitate such co-operation between the different branches of social work, training must provide for some knowledge of other people's work. Teachers need to know something of what social workers are trained to do and vice versa. Then, after training, there should be much more communication between police, social services, education services, the Probation Service, magistrates' clerks and so on, along the lines developed recently in Devon and about which the noble Baroness spoke in relation to Glamorgan.

Finally, there is the need to co-ordinate all the information and research available on the subject of disruptive children. There is also the need to promote further study. It has been suggested that this should be carried out by a body that would bring together for the purpose organisations such as the National Children's Bureau, the Cambridge institute of Criminology, the Community Relations Commission, the Schools Council and the teachers' unions to form a national focus for work in the area of behaviour. Techniques would be developed for dealing with difficult children and would be made available to teachers and social workers.

To sum up, it seems to me that our aim should be, first, the progressive reduction, with the proper safeguards to which I referred earlier, of custodial treatment. Secondly there should be the steady expansion of intermediate treatment for both offenders and those at risk. Thirdly, there should be a co-ordination locally of all the social services and agencies dealing with children, perhaps on the Haringey pattern. Fourthly, there should be the development of contact during and after training between those working in the different service agencies dealing with children and, fifthly, a national research or study centre should be created to provide back-up information and advice. Along these lines, I believe that we can begin to deal hopefully with a worrying and a growing problem.

3.43 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for having introduced this debate. She has chosen a subject which she knows well and has illustrated her speech with examples from her experience. She has picked on a topic about which people are very concerned. Although she has used the term, "disruptive children", she has so defined it that it covers many different sorts of disturbing behaviour in the young, from truancy in schools to delinquency and hooliganism.

No one who has canvassed at all can be unaware that the whole subject of law and order, of which this forms a part, is a matter of acute public concern. Of particular concern are hooliganism and vandalism among the young. The spate of reports that has appeared recently tackling one or other aspect of the lives of children and young persons shows that Parliament, too, is concerned. Not long ago, your Lordships' House debated the Court Report on the paediatric services. Now, we have had the opportunity to study the House of Commons Select Committee's report on violence in the family, published only a week or so ago, with its horrifying examples of the battering of babies. The report from the Department of the Environment on inner area studies stresses the correlation between housing problems, deprivation, decay and vandalism. If one picks only one sentence from the inner area study of Lambeth, one sees that the three are inexorably linked; We sought an area sufficiently typical to allow us to propose policies of wider relevance. This meant that it had to contain a fair concentration of inner city problems—poor housing, unemployment and vandalism". Then there is the enormous cost of making provision in many forms of secure accommodation to which the noble Lord, Lord Banks, has already referred. At a time of economic stringency, this seems an enormous amount to spend in this particular way and, again, if one looks no further than the Report of the Howard League for Penal Reform which is entitled Unruly Children in a Human Context, it sets out a table of costs which even I, who was expecting it to be expensive, found surprising. We now know that a child in a community home without educational provision costs on average £50 a week. In a community home with educational provisions, a child costs £110 a week. In a secure unit attached to a community home with educational provision, the cost is £200 a week and, in a purpose built secure centre, £400 a week. So the calculation would be that, for one child in one home, the cost would be anywhere between £10,000 and £20,000 a year. I am bound to say that I can think of better ways of spending such sums of money.

Despite the interest which these reports imply, there will no doubt be those who will ask what is the real point of a debate like the present one. Is the problem worth while and are we at all likely to be able to contribute anything constructive to the problem? I believe that it is right that your Lordships' House should debate such an issue of public concern, should draw upon its own experts, should seek to influence public opinion and should reassure those in education and social work and the police force and even those struggling to bring up a family—and "struggling" is frequently the right word —that there are those in public life who are deeply concerned about the problems confronting the young and who wish only to be constructive about them.

Secondly, I believe it to be right to have a debate about children. It is sometimes said—perhaps with a touch of humour—that the British love and care for animals more than they care for children. Certainly, your Lordships' House never hesitates at regular intervals to debate animals, whether it be the preservation of rare species or the care and welfare of domestic animals.

The House does not often debate children, though now that the birth rate is falling so rapidly perhaps they, too, will become a rare species. As a society, we know that there are no votes in children as they cannot operate as a pressure group in their own right. Until they get into the newspapers, they are often ignored or unheard of. When they do get into the newspapers, they receive no public sympathy at all. There is very little sympathy for the sullen, rude, violent youth of the most appalling and unkempt appearance. The temptation is to say, "Send him or her away to borstal or a community home", in the hope that while he is away he will undergo some kind of metamorphosis which will transform him into a different being. Yet the problems arising from these disturbed children are far more complex than such a simple solution might suggest.

In preparing for this debate I found myself so overwhelmed—indeed, inundated—with briefing material, all of it suggesting a whole range of policies, that it has been difficult to pick my way through it all. Perhaps the most succinct in many ways is the National Children's Bureau's paper by Mia Kellmer Pringle entitled The Roots of Violence and Vandalism, which makes it clear that in order to find the causes of violence or vandalism we need to look at the development of the whole child throughout its life from birth to adulthood; to identify children at risk at school; and, equally important, to identify those at risk under the age of five.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has used as her main policy the suggestion of a need for a co-ordinated strategy for children. This was re-emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and I would wholeheartedly support it. Such a suggestion follows logically from the report of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and could, in my opinion, well complement the national debate on education, for truanting children will not do well in school. The noble Baroness's emphasis on a co-ordinated policy is, moreover, at a time of economic difficulties, more cost-effective.

One of the most interesting detailed reports that I have read is one entitled Working Together for Children and Their Families, which is a report of a project undertaken by the South Glamorgan County Council, with the support of the Department of Health and Social Security. Reading the recommendations of the report, it is quite clear that many of its proposals for a co-ordinated policy would actually result in a saving of cost by the removal of unnecessary duplication of functions; nor, indeed, would most of it require any legislation at all. There is nothing to prevent it being put into practice right away, except the will to do so; and I believe that we should have a will, because from re-reacting the report on Maria Colwell it is perfectly clear that that child died from many causes, one of which was lack of communication between the various authorities involved.

I believe, therefore, that there are entirely practical steps which should be taken now. I would go further: I would say that when we come to consider policies over the whole range of home affairs, defined in its broadest sense, we should, on each occasion, ask how will these policies affect the family as a whole. Our policies should be determined to support parents; to help parents to help themselves. It was a philosophy that was once called "enlightened self-interest", and at many times in the past it stood us in very good stead. I see no reason why it should not do so again. Not only should we support parents; we should encourage them to co-operate with the school, with the health services, with all the public agencies which have a responsibility, at one time or another, for the care and upbringing of the children.

In this sense the debate is a follow-on from the one last year, initiated by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the one in January of this year introduced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, on one-parent families. I should therefore like to add three further thoughts on this matter, which I hope will be considered as constructive.

I should like to say something about housing policies, which I believe have a profound effect on all aspects of disturbed children. It seems to me that all aspects of housing ought to be considered in relation to its effect on the family. In London alone it was estimated that in 1972 50,000 or more people were living in high-rise flats, including 3,000 children between the ages of one and five. The latest figures that I have been able to obtain indicate that by 1969 local authorities as a whole had built approximately 300,000 high-rise flats—that is to say, flats which are defined as being of five storeys or more—and had started about another 79,000. It is difficult to get hard evidence to support the thesis that these flats have a bad effect upon children, but it is the considered opinion of almost everyone who has looked at the subject that children living in high blocks do in fact suffer. The fact is that the difficulties and strain imposed on mothers, of having to cope in a high-rise block with prams, with shopping, with defective lifts, spread throughout the family. The frustration of children cooped up in flats and unable to play anywhere naturally has a bad effect on them, and, equally naturally, they take it out on everybody when they get to school. Therefore, I think that in our housing policies we ought to learn the lessons of this, and to see that those who are given the opportunity to have a high-rise flat do not have small children.

There is, however, firm evidence of a correlation between housing and truancy. The National Child Development Study, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has already referred—a study of the educational, social and physical development of all children born in England, Wales and Scotland in the week 3rd to 9th March, 1958—in its most recent follow-up, when the children became 16, produced clear evidence of the correlation between truancy and overcrowding. In this case overcrowding was defined as there being more than 1.5 persons per room and whether or not the child and its family had the sole use of hot water and other basic amenities, and whether they had to share these facilities with other families. I think that both these surveys show that we need to end the building of high-rise flats, and to press on with a policy of the rehabilitation of older properties. We need, in fact—and this would be my second point about housing—to end the policy of redevelopment and destruction of whole communities, and to concentrate on the rehabilitation of the older parts of cities, to keep communities together in the places with which they are familiar, and, above all, to keep families together; and in the allocation of new houses to have much greater flexibility in the allocation of council houses and council flats, so that what is called the extended family; that is to say, the parents, and grandparents and children, can keep together.

One matter which came out very clearly from discussions on one-parent families is the help that can be given to the single parent by having grandparents to hand, upon whom to lean and from whom to have support, and for the happiest of families one of the things which is most necessary is to have relatives who will look after the children at intervals, and so take the stress out of family life. A recurrent theme which I think has run through the speeches of everybody who has already spoken in the debate is the need to identify children at risk and to provide the services to help those families. As I have already indicated, we need to have policies which enable this identification to take place, for there to be co-ordination, but for the policies themselves to be designed to help families keep together and stay together, for it is my own belief that unless parents recognise their own responsibility for bringing up their children, no amount of public money, and no amount of professional work will compensate.

In preparation for the debate I read, among other matters, in The Times Educational Supplement of only a fortnight ago, a most interesting account of a speech by a Professor Hawkins of York University, in which he was talking about truancy in schools today and blaming inadequate parents for so much of it. I quote what he says: I have seen schools where as many as 50 per cent. of the homes from which children come are not homes in any real sense. They are merely shells, devoid of affection, of maturity, of unselfishness, empty of any routine or planning. There are no routines or times for getting up, or going to bed. Meal times do not exist. Meals are not even served on a table. Meal time chat is unknown. Food is grabbed from a shelf, from a cornflake packet or a tin in the intervals between TV programmes". That makes a very dismal catalogue of reading, and yet it is by no means the only such account that I have read, and anybody who has studied these matters at all knows that there are a number of children growing up in these circumstances. The ultimate tragedy of it is that they themselves will have no pattern by which they can show their own children how to live. These are the children who are at risk, and these are the children our policies should be designed to help—


My Lords, I hope the noble Baroness will not object to my interrupting what I find a fascinating speech, but I should like to add a caveat or a rider regarding much of this homelessness or the so-called "shell" in which these people live. I was given the key to my home when I was six because both my parents were working, and today much of the problem of the disruptive child arises because the mother herself, or both parents, are working, and there is this empty shell. Everybody in the house is working, and there is nobody there to look after the children.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, this may well be a fact, and I have not the slightest doubt that what the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, says is absolutely true. What I am saying is that there are many parts of the country where women have in fact always worked. But I think you will find that in the past there were nearly always grandparents or other relatives to help with the children; and it is the fact that in our policies we have broken down the communities and the fabric of life, which means that there is no one for these children to turn to, and that we have set in motion this cycle of deprivation that it is very difficult to break.

My Lords, this is an important subject for debate. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who is always so sympathetic on these matters, will tell us when he comes to reply that the Government will consider seriously the constructive proposals which have been made. I should like to end by saying that I do not believe that there is any reason to despair over all these matters. To anyone who stood in the crowds at the Jubilee celebrations only a fortnight ago, one of the most astonishing things was the spirit which was shown by the young people. It was all the more remarkable because it was in such marked contrast to the spirit that one sees at football crowds; and yet there is no evidence to suppose that these were not precisely the same people, only in a different setting. It is therefore very interesting to reflect why their behaviour should be so different. I am not someone who could make some very profound philosophical remark about it, but they showed thoughtfulness, consideration, kindness, helpfulness and joyfulness—something which was wonderful to see and wonderful to be with. I suspect it was because on that occasion they saw in the Queen someone who upholds the ideals of the family and someone about whom we can all be very proud indeed, on an occasion in which we could all believe. They had, therefore, a practical example and a faith put before them, and it seems to me that that, above all, is what we need.

4.2 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of ROCHESTER

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, in her most interesting and comprehensive speech, reminded us that last year the most reverend Primate introduced a debate in this House on the importance of family life today. Had he been able to take part in today's debate, I feel sure that it would have been the family aspects of the subject upon which he would have wished to comment. In his unavoidable absence it falls to me to speak from these Benches, and I do so with even more diffidence than usual because I lack the expertise which so many Members of your Lordships' House speaking this afternoon can bring to this intensely difficult and complex subject.

One of the perplexing things, it seems to me, is that very often the family and home background of a child who becomes disruptive appears healthy and normal. What causes disruptive behaviour, as has already been suggested, are the cumulative pressures upon the child, due not only to such things as poverty and housing but also to the effects upon a parent of a breakdown in relationships, either at home or at work. The effect of marital disharmony is obvious and well known, but I share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, as to whether there is sufficient understanding of the effect upon a child of a parent being involved in a bitter industrial dispute or in prolonged unemployment. Children are quick to reflect adult attitudes and, on occasion, to repeat adult views, and I suspect that very often behaviour that an unfortunate schoolteacher has to cope with may be due to the distortion of normal family life and routine by a parent being involved in industrial trouble.

I am not of course suggesting that, while we may reasonably wish to protect children from whatever may harm them or stunt their development, we can entirely protect them from all the hurtful events of life. Part of the educative process must surely be designed to enable them to survive potentially damaging experiences, as well as to eliminate the possibility of such experiences for them. Nor do I want to suggest that what is sometimes called education for family life is a panacea for most of the ills of the family, for the very good reason that I believe that in such education there is required a degree of mutuality, of give and take, between parents and child, rather than just the imparting of knowledge unilaterally to children; and perhaps the lack of real communication between children and their parents is often a contributing factor to disruptive behaviour.

It is here that many parents need support. An educational programme known as "Family Clusters", in which groups of parents and children meet for mutual exploration into their family lives, has been encouraged by one organisation on the Continent. Nearer home, in Southampton, a local initiative has been taken to give supportive help to mothers with children under five. The aim of this particular project, which has the backing of the university as well as of the Churches in Southampton, is to reinforce the role of parents as educators of their own children. This is done by enabling groups of parents and children to meet weekly. While the children play in a crêche, the mothers examine the ways in which they bring up their children and are helped to learn from one another. These kinds of educative and supportive projects centre upon the relationship of individuals with their children, and give opportunities for people both to mature and to grow. This is surely the only possible basis for preventive work to be done to reduce the possibility of children's behaviour becoming disruptive.

However, important though this is, it would be unrealistic to suggest that the solution to disruptive behaviour in children can be found simply by providing opportunities for growth and maturity. As has already been indicated most forcefully, social, economic and environmental pressures produce all too often an accumulation of stresses which result in disruptive behaviour; and this is of course particularly true in relation to one-parent families and to the situation in which many young black children find themselves today, especially in urban areas. In helping these and other groups with special needs there is, as the noble Baroness has shown, a great need for a co-ordinated policy on the part of all those who are concerned for their wellbeing; but I believe that behind the question of co-ordination is the deeper one of interprofessional co-operation and the need for a greater recognition in many family situations of the role of the volunteer, as well as of the trained specialist.

The boundaries between professional roles, I think, have become much more blurred than many are prepared to admit. It often takes some courage and confidence to work with members of other professions and also to acknowledge that there is a part to be played by those whose service is voluntary. As so often happens, we find that the crucial area is that of relationships—of personal relationships between parents and children, of professional relationships between those who seek to help them—in that the ability to treat children in trouble needs that extra dimension, the ability to work across professional boundaries.

Those who are concerned with the spiritual welfare of children and young people and with helping them to right choices in relationships and behaviour, be they ordained or lay, need always to be ready to listen to those with expertise in other disciplines. Perhaps, in return, they may look at their colleagues in the education, health and social services for a similar readiness to co-operate and a similar humility in the service of young people, most particularly those whose behaviour disrupts the happiness and stability of society.

4.12 p.m.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, I should like to support strongly a number of things said by the right reverend Prelate and particularly his emphasis on the invaluable role of volunteers and the special needs of black people. If I may, I will turn back to the lead given by the noble Baroness who possesses a unique degree of experience of these problems. There is nobody else in this House, I venture to say—and there is much experience of social questions in this House—who could have made quite the speech, with quite the authority, that was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull.

I, like so many others, agree entirely that we must think about the needs of young people—that is primary—but as she would point out, and has indeed pointed out, one cannot think entirely of these needs in vacuo as though the behaviour of these young people had no effect on society. One point that I know she has much in mind and would wish me to stress is the need for more secure accommodation which would make it possible to keep these young people out of prison, but which is not the same thing, by any means, as treating them in the community. That need for secure accommodation is something which must complement any general approach.

As the House is aware, I am starting a debate on the penal system next week. Therefore I shall speak briefly. I am not going to try to say a few general words about juvenile delinquency; I must leave that to others. It has been treated very well already by a number of speakers. I shall try to concentrate on the category of disruptive young people—and I do not know if there is any definition of the "disruptive" young person. I do not know when this category first swam into our ken, but, at any rate, most of us know a disruptive young person when we see one, although the disruption may take various forms. The noble Baroness mentioned that one disruptive young person could undo the good intentions of 99 law-abiding or well-conducted young persons. The problem is, unfortunately, more complex than that described in the Gospels, although we must try to apply their message. We are told there that when there is a lost sheep one must leave the 99 and go into the wilderness and look for the lost one. The trouble is that the disruptive young person does not go into the wilderness but stays at home and disrupts the other 99. It is a slightly different problem, although, no doubt, the spiritual answer should be the same.

It is very difficult. Anybody who has had experience of any youth centre—there are many in this House; and I am the chairman of the New Horizon Centre, as I have said before—has probably been compelled to take the one step that one does not want to take, which is to exclude such a person from the centre. That is failure. It is like the headmaster who must expel someone. There should be some law that when one headmaster expels anybody, he should make a deal with some other headmaster to have that boy taken in; and if necessary he can take on one of the other headmaster's disruptive children. This problem does not solve itself by excluding somebody.

Many Members of this House are aware, perhaps, of the wonderful pioneering lead which has been given Mrs. Erin Pizzey in helping battered wives. Early in 1976, Chiswick Women's Aid purchased and equipped a home for the sons of some of these battered women. A home for the battered women themselves had been established some time before. Coming as they do from homes full of violence—not always the violence of the woman; usually, perhaps, the violence of the man and sometimes the violence of both—it is not surprising to know that all Mrs. Pizzey's boys had been in trouble with the police for violence before they came into the care of the Chiswick Women's Aid.

Here I bring in what has been so well said by the right reverend Prelate. The volunteers have been all important to Mrs. Pizzey—without becoming too much involved in the controversy between her and the Government, in which I am bound to say I feel she is entirely right; but for the moment I will leave it at that. The fact is that this home could not be kept going without a large amount of voluntary work for very little financial reward. With a great deal of help from these volunteers a work force was mobilised which could teach the boys various skills and, incidentally, maintain a one-to-one therapy influence. That is a very high ratio: one helper to one troubled young person. It would not have been possible without the volunteers; but there is no doubt about the exhaustion of this, and of how fatiguing this has been for those concerned. But they have stuck to it.

The lady in charge of the Boys' House at the Chiswick Women's Aid reports to me: Most agencies deal with violence by avoiding it. At Chiswick we try to deal with it by confrontation. That is, by not excluding anyone". They do not exclude anyone at all. She goes on: This means that we have had to accept a great amount of destruction". That sounds all right in the House of Lords in the afternoon, but to try to run a centre where destruction is rife is appalling. Indeed, last Sunday, only a few days ago, this same Boys' House was actually burnt down—not by one of the inmates but, it would seem, by a younger boy. That is destruction carried a long way by quite a small boy: by someone, it is thought—and I do not think they have identified the culprit—about nine years of age. That is disruption to the maximum, where somebody comes along and burns the place down. However, the work goes on and will go on. The spirit is undaunted.

The lady just quoted points with pride to the fact that these boys with their violent records have, in her own words, "not mugged anyone" since they came to the Boys' House. That is a claim which, in the circumstances, is of course more impressive than it might be in regard to your Lordships. If people said that no Member of this House has mugged anyone since he came to the House we might not be excited or surprised. But for these boys, with their record of violence, that is quite a big achievement. There is a lesson to be learned there if we know how to take advantage.

I must not talk too much about our own centre, but I will make the point that here the causes of the disruptiveness might be different from those in a centre like Chiswick Aid. There one could say, speaking broadly, that the home life has been so horrific that the young people grow up in a violent state. The young people who come in their hundreds to our centre, and have done so for a few years now, are on the whole much more normal than the boys who attend Chiswick Aid. They have, for whatever reason, decided to leave home, perhaps in Scotland or the North of England, and have come to London with high expectations.

They find no outlet at all for their energies. Accommodation seems impossible, work unobtainable—and the latest unemployment figures underline the difficulties there. Whether it is the original home background or whether it is the social conditions for which we must accept a more obvious and direct responsibility, there is no doubt that the causes which make for disruptiveness are there. I am not going to attempt a list of detailed remedies. Here and elsewhere I have pressed—and now press again—for the inclusion of the young homeless in the proposed legislation which is trying to help the homeless generally. I do not like the look of things in that direction; the news does not look very good. I will support the remedies—one might almost say all the remedies—that are being put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and other speakers. The suggestions are in danger of becoming too numerous and complicated.

I have read with interest, as has the noble Lord, Lord Banks, the report of Mr. Peter Jay. I do not know what conclusions we are to draw from that report about the success of his mission in Washington. I suppose that he will cut down the staff very rapidly; I do not know whether that will be a good move. Leaving out his diplomatic potentialities, I regard it as a wonderfully dynamic report that points forward and challenges us to reach much more positive conclusions. I only hope something big is done about it in the direction which Mr. Jay and his colleagues desire.

I cannot forget that three years ago the Report of the Advisory Council on the Penal System, Young Adult Offenders, recommended for those aged 17 to 21 the same emphasis suggested in Mr. Jay's report—and which I think is in the mind of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull—on supervision outside institutions instead of incarcerated life. I am talking now of the report over the name of the late and most distinguished Sir Kenneth Younger. The Government welcomed that report, and I remember in this House, when I opened a debate on penal reform three years ago, congratulating the Government on their attitude to this. Nothing whatever has happened. For whatever reason, the answer to that is nil. There has been a lot of talk, but no action whatever. It dealt with a slightly older age group—17 to 21—than those dealt with by Mr. Jay and his friends, who deal with those aged under 17. They clearly cover a lot of the young people. One way and another, they cover all the young people whom we are talking about this afternoon.

I only hope that the Government will be able to say that they are going to do something. I beg them not to say that the matter is being transferred to some committee, that they are going into it in depth, and that many years hence a profound answer will emerge. The Younger Report was a brilliant one. In my opinion it was the most constructive report in the whole penal world for many years. But nothing has been done, and no good reason has been given for not doing anything.

I will end with one or two very brief general observations about disruptive young people. How can we define them? They are the biggest nuisance and the hardest to help. They are not the people who come for help. They may want help internally but they are very hesitant about asking for it. In despair, social workers, after doing their best, are driven to neglect them and perhaps to excluding them from the various centres. These are the last people who are capable of using the Welfare State as it is intended to be used. We have to help them to use the Welfare State in that sense. We have to face these facts about the disruptive young people, and whether or not we call ourselves Christians in any theological sense, we have to ask ourselves what is the Christian teaching in regard to them? Jesus Christ said: It is not those who are well who need the physician, but those who are sick. I have come not to call the just, but sinners to repentance". We must adopt the attitude of the father towards the prodigal son, who, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, will recall, went to embrace the younger son before he knew that the younger son was actually repentant. We must reject the attitude of the elder brother. The attitude of the elder brother inevitably tends to be that of the general public in this or any country, and that of the bureaucracy—these disruptive people are so tiresome that most people cannot bear to have any more dealings with them.

These disruptive young people require more help than other people and, it may be said, they require more help than they deserve. However, we can work out human deserts. If we are all concerned as we say we are—and as I believe we are—not only for their good but for the health of the whole community, we should realise that it is not just a question of forgiving them, not an abstract refusal to blame them, but of finding them work and accommodation and the chance of being good citizens and overcoming their frustrations in social fulfilment. My Lords, I, with all other speakers, am most grateful to the noble Baroness.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am very happy to support the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, in her most important debate. After so exhaustive, so admirable an exposition as hers, there is not really very much that I can add, but it is possible to underline certain points. The general theme is of particular importance, and it is one which keeps on recurring in your Lordships' House.

The problem of disruptive children and young persons is only part of the whole problem of what must be a re-creation of national family life, which, at the behest of the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, we debated a year ago. We came to it yet more recently when we debated religious education; and we have come to it in different ways on several other occasions as well. A very great proportion of our problems come back to the family. I have just been reading, as others have, the First Report from the Select Committee on Violence in the Family, a document very valuable in itself even if it was somewhat restricted by the terms of reference. For all that we may say here and, I say with great respect, may be said in another place, all depends upon the availablity, willingness, and knowledge of trained individuals in the social services.

At the moment the situation is by no means encouraging. There are currently 700 vacancies for university or polytechnic courses commencing next October—that is, in basic training in applied social studies for social workers. This figure does not include advanced studies for senior social workers. For the First group few grants are available and too few grants to make use of existing resources. For the second, local authorities are hard pressed to find money for intraining.

The fact is, my Lords, we ought to take a more careful look at our needs in terms of personnel: we may be wasting the resources that we have. We genuinely need an overall and comprehensive plan, one which will bring together the local authorities social services with the local authority education and health services, where they can work out a single plan especially with regard to the children with this particular need.

I have been particularly impressed by a recent article in the journal New Society for 16th June, entitled Society at work: Lock-ups for youngsters, which describes the secure house within the regional assessment centre at Aycliffe in County Durham. It is quite clear from the experience gained here that these disruptive children require treatment and affection rather than punishment. There are children who will respond best to being fostered and others who would never settle in a foster home but who need the constant supervision and support of a community home. It is crucial that the correct assessment should be made, and the author of the article expresses his regret that there has been no attempt so far: … to express the management skills which exist in the system". He means that there has been insufficient research and insufficient training of the staff, and that the Department of Health and Social Security: … have given considerably more emphasis to building requirements than to staff, as have most local authorities who operate such units". His anxiety is that the requisite trained staff are hard to find and that they need considerable support and guidance if they are not to work in such a way as to brutalise them or the children. Once again, we come back to problems of training.

I am very impressed by the work which has been done in one difficult housing area in North Yorkshire, where the local authorities have collaborated to provide premises, a community worker and a social worker. They have a mothers' club, a toddlers' club, a mixed youth club and a youth football club as well as an elderly people's club. In this difficult area, they find that those arrangements work very well, as they provide outlets for people's energies and frustrations and so prevent outbreaks of disruptiveness. They are also instrumental in preserving self-respect. They are now running these clubs themselves, with the supervision reduced to a minimum.

Clearly, it is preventive work which is of supreme importance and, my Lords, these preventive measures are needed at all ages. It is not just the under-fives but also adolescents; it is not just the toddler and the picture of the battered baby, but the teenagers in the families where incest is not unknown, whether it be father or brother. This I understand from social workers to be a traumatic experience for youngsters of either sex. It is so often the gate of the road to trouble, and it is not just teenagers being coltish, but parents growing older and less sympathetic. Once again, these problems are unlikely to be met successfully by untrained personnel.

There has been a good deal of criticism of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. I believe that criticism to be uninformed. Social workers that I have consulted find the philosophy behind it admirable. It lays stress on treatment rather than on punishment, and the criticisms directed against it should rather have been directed against the failure to provide adequate resources to implement it. Enormous sums have been spent. The cost varies from about £50 to about £110 per week to provide a place for a child in a community home, and social workers have found no evidence of automatic lasting benefit from them. They are suitable only in particular cases. Here, once again, we come back to the continuing need for trained personnel.

I suppose that most people have by now heard of the Samaritans. They exist in most towns simply to help those in need, and especially those contemplating suicide or other forms of violence, or who are suffering family crises. Like the good Samaritan in the Gospel, they are friends in time of trouble. From all the cases I have read of disruptive children, it is clear to me that it is possible to trace their troubles back to some family crisis. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has moved for Papers. Could not the Government arrange to have added to the list shown in telephone kiosks and elsewhere the number of the Samaritans, where they already have police, fire and ambulance? This means every telephone set in the United Kingdom and it can only be done over a period.

The first priority would be public telephone kiosks, where a child or young person could go quite anonymously. On BBC Radio Four on Monday morning, it was announced in the "Today "programme that since the Samaritans have operated—that is, since 1963—the suicide rate in the country has gone down by 38 per cent. They have even had children as young as nine years old ringing them, threatening suicide as a result of family crises. Surely, my Lords, a reduction of 38 per cent. in the suicide rate is worthy of your Lordships' notice and of Government action, in order to help the possibly disruptive child.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those of the other speakers to my noble friend Lady Faithfull for raising this important subject in your Lordships' House today. Every day, reports and studies by experts reach the public through the Press or, in some cases, are sent to us. There are so many different proposals and suggestions on this subject that there is obviously no one answer; but it is a very good thing that in your Lordships' House, where so many people have experience, we should share those experiences and discuss these matters together. My contribution, such as it is, will come from my experience, mostly in local government, where for many years I was chairman of the children's committee, the education committee and the social work committee, and from youth clubs, where I worked for many years with children, some of whom were delinquent and others not. I also had to work with the handicapped and was also concerned at the Home Office when the original Committee to study the treatment of offenders was set up by Herbert Morrison many years ago. The more I studied the subject and worked with it, the less I felt I could dogmatise about anything. But there are one or two points which stand out, some of which have been mentioned today, and which I would strongly underline.

First, there is the need to get to children under five and to young mothers. Often, when I was chairman of the children's committee, I said: "If only I could get to the parents the children would not be here and would not be our worry today". Parents are the most important influence on children, and in many cases must take the blame for so many of the disruptive children that we have in our society today. On the social work side, I always used to say to the social workers: "Don't sit at your desks. Get down into the homes and see what is happening on the ground. Files, records and typewriters are all very well, but they never cured anyone." I am sure that is one of the vital actions we need to take today—to get people on to the ground, to study and to help in the homes and to get as near to the trouble as they possibly can.

I have been tremendously encouraged in connection with the under five-year-olds by the great success of the playgroup movement; that is, with the pre-school child. The movement does many things, one of which is to enable co-operation between mothers to be very much better, because they all help each other and take turns in the playgroup in the community. When school life begins, co-operation between the education people and the social workers is vital. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, when she asks that there should be some structure which would keep together, or keep continuity between, the social workers, whose job at the present moment ends more or less when the child goes to school, and is taken up again when the child leaves school. You do not want that gap; you want that gap to be closed and to have the closest possible co-operation between the social workers and the education authorities. We often read of sad cases—someone has already mentioned the tragic case of Maria Colwell, which to some extent was due to the fact that there was not the right co-operation between the departments dealing with that particular case.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester made a remark which I thought was very apposite, when he said that we must get the professionals in all walks of life to co-operate. These boundaries, which so often crop up between professional groups, are very difficult and in many cases prevent a lot of very good co-operation. But I would speak particularly this afternoon about Scotland, and about what is happening there in regard to the treatment and methods used in connection with disruptive children. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbrandon, who was here until about five minutes ago, has left the Chamber, because it is on his report that I want to speak. It was his report which started a great change in the way in which we in Scotland deal with our disruptive children and difficult families, from what is still being done in the other parts of the United Kingdom.

In 1964, the Kilbrandon Committee on the treatment of juvenile delinquents and those in need of care and protection reported. It recommended the abolition of children's courts which were to be replaced by children's hearings. In 1966, the Government introduced a White Paper entitled Social Work and the Community and recommended the complete integration of the children's seryices —probation and all other social services. In 1968, the Social Work (Scotland) Act became law. This was much debated in both Houses of Parliament and had the support of all of us in both Houses. Then, in April 1971, the juvenile courts were abolished and the children's hearings began.

The hearings, which I have always supported, have had teething troubles but they are a success. The Act provides that any person may report to the Reporter a child in need of care and protection, and "care" can be generally described as in need of supervision, protection, guidance, treatment or control. The reporter is an independent official appointed by the regional authority, and he has to decide whether a case should be brought before the children's panel. He can decide that no action is necessary, in which case the matter does not come before the children's panel; or the child is referred to the local authority for social workers to deal with, or, if it is in need of compulsory treatment, it can go to the panel.

Here the children's panels come into effect, all the personnel on those panels having been carefully selected for the understanding and experience which they have in this field; and three members of those chosen volunteers take part. These hearings are very informal. Anyone who has knowledge of the family, who is perhaps a parent or a relative of some kind, or who is summoned to take part because of a professional interest—for example, doctors, schoolteachers and so on—can be called to discuss a case. The hearings consider only established facts. Something has to happen in the life of the child, or be about to happen, unless it can be prevented, and if the child is in need of compulsory care the panel decides what it should be.

It has been stressed to me, and I have had a lot of information from very experienced people who are doing this work in Scotland, that the word, "hearing" is of great importance. It is an opportunity for the child and the parent to be listened to. It is an opportunity for them to be helped to see the problem. It is an opportunity for them to be helped to express their feelings and attitudes. The hearing is a great experience for the child and for all those taking part. Even if nothing happens, they are being listened to and encouraged to see the problem in the light of the community, as well as from their own point of view. If a parent is not satisfied with the result of the hearing, he can ask for the case to be referred to the sheriff and it then goes before the criminal court. But, in the years during which this system has been established, very few cases, compared with the number which come before the hearings, have been referred to the sheriff court.

The strength of the hearings is in the fact that they are continually reviewing the cases that come before them. This is one of the differences between the old juvenile court system, where a sentence was given and had to be carried through without any reference back, and the hearings where a child can ask for a review, a parent can ask for a review or a social worker can ask for a review, and, automatically, there is a review within 12 months if none of the other parties seeks a review earlier. Furthermore, a child coining before a hearing is not within the criminal court system, and bears no stigma of having been before a court. So that in after life no one knows whether or not he has ever been before a judge.

There has been much criticism of the system. People have said that it is not sufficiently severe and so on. But criticism nearly always comes from people who have not investigated the procedures, or taken any part in them. The system is designed to integrate children and families into the community, and to involve the community in their care. I come back again to the home conditions, the broken families and the influence which violence has on children's lives. All these things we know and condemn, but what do we do about them? We all know about the violence which appears every day of our lives on television. We all know about the violence which is perpetrated throughout the world and in our own country, alas!, too. It is that permanent harping on violence which, I am sure, is one of the worst things in the lives of those who are growing up today.

It is interesting that more and more people are taking a very keen interest in the work which is being done in Scotland for the children in these hearings. It is having an effect, and enormous numbers of people put forward their names when members are being recruited for the panels, which is an encouragement. I should like to suggest that in England, where this system does not operate, people should study it to see whether or not it could be adopted in this country as well.

Keeping the children in the community is vital, and I so agree with everybody who says that we do not want them to go into residental schools, not only because of the cost, which is enormous, but because it is not the right way to deal with the problem—although there are a minimal number of cases which have to be dealt with in that way—if integration into the community is to be greater. This puts a great burden on social workers and on the social system. We need more trained social workers. How right the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, was when she spoke about that. I was wondering whether some of those who are currently unable to be taken into the teaching profession, because of the surplus of teachers, could be retrained and persuaded to go into the social work field, because I am sure that they would find great satisfaction and interest in this work.

noticed in the First Report of the Select Committee on Violence in the Family, which has been mentioned and which we have in front of us, that the Committee went to Scotland and made some comments which, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to quote from. In paragraph 187 they say: On our short visit to Scotland we were impressed by what we saw of the work of the reporters and the panels and appreciated their potential. We saw for ourselves that the multidisciplinary approach is as important in Scotland as in England, although formal local authority procedures for dealing with non-accidental injury have been more recently established. We were concerned, however, that adequate social work resources to back up the children's hearings system appear to be lacking. We recommend that the Scottish Office should give careful consideration to this matter in order that the valuable initiative gained by the introduction of the new procedures is not lost. I endorse that recommendation very strongly. May I say to those who were on the committee how grateful I am that they went to see what is happening North of the Border.

On the question of the shortage of social workers, I should like to stress that we could make up some of the shortfall by employing older people who may not have been to university and taken a social science degree, which is now the norm, but who, because of their experience in many fields, would play a valuable and useful part in the type of community social work that I am discussing. I should also like more people to take what I think are still called the young husband courses. These are courses for people who are older and who have other kinds of experience.

Regarding the use of social workers, I should also like really experienced social workers not always to be put on to the ladder which leads them to the top of administration. It is valuable to be a good administrator, but a good social worker can really influence the lives of disruptive people. This is somebody quite special. If I may draw an analogy with coalminers, in all the discussions about coalminers' remuneration it is always the pitface worker who gets the highest remuneration. I should like the social worker on the ground, the one who is dealing with the difficult cases every day, to get higher pay than the administrators.

I have spoken for long enough, although there is still very much that could be said. I want children to remain in the community, not to be in custodial care. There is a shortage of different kinds of schools and of treatment. When decisions are taken, either by hearings or by the sheriff, there should be different types of treatment and also different types of places to which difficult children can be sent. They do not, however, exist, or there are very few of them. Therefore when it is proposed that a child should go to a List D school, he may have to wait for six months to go there, during which time nothing happens —except a struggle and a wrestle at home, with nobody there who is able to help. So there is still a big gap in terms of the variety of treatment which can be recommended but which does not exist and therefore cannot be used.

I am very interested in a subject upon which I shall not embark, although many noble Lords know about it—that is, the way in which community services are being used rather than a sentence which might require offenders to have custodial treatment. I believe that this scheme has been very successful. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, recommended it very strongly and I have a little experience of it. If difficult young adults help handicapped people, or do work for the community, it makes them feel that they are wanted. Therefore the scheme has been quite successful. My main object in intervening in the debate today is to say that we in Scotland have a new, interesting and successful system. I hope very much that all noble Lords who are interested in the subject will make a study of it and possibly decide to do something of the kind in England.

4.55 p.m.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for instigating this debate and to say how pleased I am to be following the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. As a Scot, I am only too pleased to congratulate Scotland on a system that is working. Perhaps England will follow the good example of Scotland.

The questions that we should be asking today are these: are we investing enough time and resources in our future generation and are our attitudes towards the handling of children who have problems, and so become disruptive, the right ones? The problems are far from easy to solve, and some of them can never be solved, because there can be no full compensation for a child not having its own stable home, with two loving parents. Children need to be attached to people they can trust and love, and they need security. Sometimes, making new relationships is devastating for a child who for some reason may have had to leave home, or whose parents have done so. They can feel rejected, isolated and emotionally wounded, and delinquency follows.

I live in North Yorkshire, a rural county which covers a wide area. Many people may think that the problems of children who are disruptive are ones belonging only to inner cities. I want to bring to your Lordships' attention today the fact that these problems exist with us and are causing great concern on the part of those who are responsible for their wellbeing. In the last few years, there have been in this area some of the worst cases of child abuse in the country. The names of Coldburn and Hipswell, districts near Catterick Military Camp, are becoming renowned for problems concerning children. It seems that the problems are manifold—for example, young wives with no mums near at hand and with their husbands in Northern Ireland; discharged soldiers as fathers with their own problems unsolved. A problem ghetto has emerged, causing a unique situation in a rural area.

Throughout the country the setting up of the area and district review committees must be helpful and a wise step to have taken. They are bringing together people of different disciplines, but they are for the so-called children at risk. There are thousands of other children, and their families, with problems who need assessment and help. It seems to me that if there were more shared responsibility and joint funding, more professional people would take an interest and work together. Progress is being made with courses for teachers so that they are more aware of the problems and can help to prepare children for parenthood. This so often is done by the voluntary associations.

For years now I have been a visitor at a borstal and have met young persons, all of whom have been disruptive and many of whom have been through children's homes, approved schools or community homes, detention centres, remand centres, prisons for allocation and thence to borstal. All of these young people have differing social, emotional and educational problems. If there had been proper assessment and help given to the families and the children at an early age, I have often wondered whether a long institutional career could have been avoided.

Very little research seems to have been done to see how many of these children or young people may have been autistic or dyslexic. They do not know why they disrupt the community and truant from school, but perhaps if society had helped them earlier they would not be hitting back now. Sometimes the parents will say that they do not understand why their children behave as they do; they have done their best. I believe that the influence of other children can be very great, and sometimes it is not the fault of the families but of the children's own peers, who disrupt and lead them to a life of delinquency.

I have found it much easier to make good relationships with these young people outside the institutions; but the problem here is the number of these young people—it is alarmingly increasing—and the few people who are willing to give time and help in the community. In the last few years the number of schoolboys in the borstal I attend has grown considerably, and the period of training they receive has become so short that one wonders whether it is doing any good at all. I am convinced that juvenile drinking and alcoholism is one of the factors which increases violence and disruptive behaviour, and I do not think it has been mentioned today.

When parents begin to realise that their child may have some handicap they sometimes do not understand the problem. They will go to the general practitioner, and often all the general practitioner does is to prescribe tranquillisers for the child or parent or both. When the problems become greater, so often the siblings suffer from the neglect that the parents may have to show, and the marriage becomes strained as the handicapped child becomes more and more disruptive.

It is impossible to treat a problem or handicap unless it has been correctly diagnosed. At the present time in our region in North Yorkshire there is no comprehensive assessment unit for these children with numerous social, emotional and educational problems, except acute wards for children in general hospitals. I should like to ask the Minister whether or not he agrees that this is an unsatisfactory situation. A clinical ward environment with a changing staff cannot be correct, and a disruptive child in an acute ward must be a danger to acutely ill children and an anxiety to nurses in an understaffed ward. It seems to me there is a need for a homely unit where children can be fully assessed with all the staff concerned from different disciplines, where parents can feel part of the process and can stay with the children when possible, and everyone gets to know each other and there is time for people to sit down and talk and listen to the parents. There needs to be a team approach to these matters.

I am sure there should be plenty of space and play facilities and I hope the Minister will say something about the need to assess children, because in rural areas like ours so much time is spent by social workers, paediatricians and psychologists in their cars that the services seem to be very fragmented. In this way, apart from the expenses of petrol and travelling, valuable time is lost. Also psychiatric help is very limited. One Director of Social Services told me that he found it very useful to have psychiatric help to support his staff, but this was now not forthcoming.

Yesterday I read in the Scotsman an article headed "Broken homes make girls prone to delinquency". The conclusion of a report after a survey of more than 11,000 Aberdeen schoolchildren states that girls from broken homes are twice as likely to appear in court on delinquency charges as females from a normal home background. If that is so, when there is a fatherless family, perhaps the girls should have male social worker support to help fill the gap.

When girls have to go into residential care, which sometimes cannot be avoided, it is important to have the best possible staff at the homes, in order to take on the role of parents. I have heard it said many times that, because of the demanding work and low pay in residential homes, the children are "dumped" with unsatisfactory staff. One voluntary worker who had taken three girls to a children's home when their mother went into hospital for psychiatric treatment told me that the girls each had a pot plant and were frightened that the plants would die while they were away from home. He told the girls to take the plants with them. When they arrived at the home, the woman in charge would not allow the girls to keep the plants. Their eyes filled with tears. The voluntary worker told the girls that he would keep the plants for them. But were the plants not just the very link to help bridge the gap between the home and the institution? Are not these insensitive attitudes the sort of thing which can damage young, worried children who most need kindness and understanding? Surely the residential staff who have the responsibility and care—sometimes night and day—of young people should be even more devoted and alert to their needs, rather than the field workers who do not have so much responsibility. Can the Minister say whether the status of the residential worker is being improved?

Our record of treatment and care of our children does not compare well with other countries such as France, which puts a high priority on the family. With a growing population of geriatric citizens, is it not time that we realised the importance of our declining child population and invested in them now to have a more stable and healthy community for the future? I hope this debate will help to change the attitudes towards children. Professional efficiency is not enough; children need warmth and love even more.

5.8 p.m.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for two reasons: first, she invited me to take part in this debate, and I have this year made a half resolution that I will make my contribution to the economy by attending this House only when I am wanted—or when I think I am wanted. Last year I was almost entirely absent. Therefore, I am grateful for that reason. Secondly, I congratulate her on the quality of her speech. She delivered a speech and handled her notes with a skill I can never manage. I fumble so much with my notes that I prefer to fumble without! With regard to the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, I never enjoy a speech more than I enjoy her's whenever she chooses to turn up, because she is a representative from the battleground of life and a breath of fresh air in your Lordships' House, where we have to digest the reports of others. For that reason, I am delighted to be following her.

Fifty years ago I was a magistrate in a very poverty stricken community. I say they were poverty stricken because they did not eat, they had no clothes, they did not have any houses, they could not read and they could not write. But one thing which was satisfactory about them was that nobody came before my court; a year passed and there was nobody to try. They were relatively crime free. Of course, sometimes there were criminals about, but long periods elapsed when there were none.

This year I was invited—I think by the accident of having won a ballot—to lead a debate on juvenile crime. Eighteen months ago I was invited to address the National Association of Assessment Centres at Llandudno, where I heard more about crime. Later still, last month, I was asked to visit a class in a university in Los Angeles. I did not know before I went that they had arranged that I would address them on juvenile crime. I had made no preparation. By dint of craft and guile I provoked a discussion and found out what the problem was in California. Their crime rate is very high. I must say that I associate delinquency with the affluent State rather than the poverty striken State. My nomads in Africa were crime free. Even the starving in Calcutta are more crime free than Los Angeles, more crime free than London. But there are patchworks about the place, and in the course of inquiries in the last two years I found that Vienna is largely free from crime. It may interest Ministers to visit other countries. An American friend of mine in the same line of study said, "You will find the same in Amsterdam and in Holland". I do not know whether that is so.

One of the points that I should like to be assured of is that the Minister regards this as a serious problem. We are told that the number of juveniles caught by the police in 1975 was 200,000; that is for indictable offences. I suggest that only one in ten are caught and that the number of offences committed is more in the region of 2 million, not 200,000. Another factor, which comes from the National Children's Bureau, from so many sources that I cannot enumerate them, declares that 20 per cent. of all juveniles commit offences and are caught, but if you consult them individually you will find that 70 to 80 per cent. will admit to having committed thefts of one sort or another.

Therefore I want to know whether the Minister agrees that this is a very serious blot on the societies of the West, including our own, and that it is not to be treated as some people treat it; some experts suggest that it should be treated as measles. If you look at the police records, the numbers drop from 21 onwards. I am not so certain that delinquency in childhood and young personhood does not develop later into a greater astuteness with regard to the observance of the eleventh Commandment. There are hordes of people who absent themselves from their work and draw their pay, at all levels of life—managerial, steelworkers, the lot—and they get away with it. That is an offence against society. In many cases it is robbing the taxpayer, because these are public enterprises from which they steal. In those ways, I am not sure that we can regard juvenile delinquency as a kind of measles. I think it produces a steady corruption of society and will tend to go from bad to worse for a time.

We have been dealing with the question of the gravity of crime. More and more younger people are committing more and more graver offences. I hope that is agreed. It happens everywhere. It is worse in California. I got the Dean of the Faculty I was arguing with to make her contribution. She said: "Let us help Lord Lytton. He has told us a lot about crime in England. Here in Pomona "—which I suppose you could describe as a suburb of Los Angeles" not one week passes when somebody is not murdered by a person aged between 13 and 18". It happens not out of desire for wealth; the body is very often not robbed. The person is not known. There is no revenge about it. They kill for "kicks". I suppose it has happened here from time to time. Scotland Yard tell me that what happens in California is very liable to spread to us in about 10 to 15 years.

What are they doing about it? A friend of mine tells me that the area around Los Angeles where I was staying proliferates in rehabilitation centres, country club campuses, costing per person, per inmate, more than the cost of a student at Harvard. He said that not one of them is achieving its aims. The inmates come, they stay, they acquire greater skills through interchange of information with others. They return to the environment from which they came and there they prey on society more grievously than before.

Therefore, I join with what I think is the consensus of this debate, that custodial treatment is a cul-de-sac, by and large, if it is regarded as remedial, a kind of therapy. It does not have that effect. It does not, by and large, cure the delinquent tendency. It costs the earth. It does not produce the results. If the richest State in the richest country that the world has ever seen cannot achieve by these methods what we should all like to achieve, we have no hope ourselves. Therefore, I endorse all that I have heard; that is, that except for the protection of the society from the evil effects of violent persons, this custodial treatment must be regarded as a cul-de-sac.

I like the way that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, always refers to some religious text. As I knelt at Prayers today, saying, "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done", in that expression I did not desire to be transported to the Kingdom. If I was offered the chance I would say, "Pray, not yet". I regard it as our duty to try to produce the Kingdom here while we are about it" Thy Will be done in earth ". Therefore, when the doors slam in our faces we do not despair; we say: "We seem to be going along the wrong road. What are we going to do?"

I now turn to a positive aspect. If you cannot cure you must try harder to prevent, and that, I suppose, is what we are all groping at—trying to prevent. There is a general theme I have in this connection and a particular one, and I want to take the particular one first. It has been brought to my notice by a Miss Margaret Booth, Q.C. It is not a general thing, but it is so large a problem that I want to deal with it first. It is the problem of divorce. Divorce has increased from 34,000 cases in 1962 to 131,000 in 1974. Many people have said that divorce is associated with a traumatic event in the family. Generally speaking, from my observations it takes about three to four years of serious disruption—including the waiting, the hearings at court and the question over what happens to the children. There is legislation in abundance and that legislation puts the welfare of the children first and foremost.

What are the courts doing about that welfare? A divorce court practitioner—she told me that that is the old-fashioned term—said that in spite of the injunction, a careful examination should be conducted by the court into arrangements for every child in these cases of agreed divorce. But she said that in practice that cannot be the case. In practice courts hearing undefended divorce cases in which children are involved can devote at most about five minutes to an inquiry of the parties seeking the decree about the arrangements for children. In practice, a judge dealing with undefended divorces is expected to hear at least 20 cases in a morning and at least another 10 to 15 during an afternoon. That number is generally regarded as a minimum.

We shall never be able to carry out the terms of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 and shall never be able to afford the secure places. Nor shall we find the time to deal with all these divorces unless something fresh is done. I should like to make two suggestions. First, the legislation for this area concerning children is overwhelming. Would it be possible to appoint a children's advocate— an official in the Official Solicitor's office—whose task would be to study the problems of children?

My second suggestion relates to the age group that I have been trying to study in general for several years—the under-fives. When the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful], had a pre-debate conference on this subject, I volunteered to take on the problems of the under-fives. I said that I went by hunches based on individual experience and asked to be put in touch with others. She put me in touch with the head of the Robertson Centre. which has already been mentioned this afternoon, to discuss matters. The head of that centre is probably known to every Secretary of State for Social Services since 1948. Much of his enormous experience seemed to dot the i's and cross the t's of what I want to say.

The services available for the family are really quite good, but they are all physical. I accept that the age group from nought to three is distinct from the three to five-year-olds. I have in mind the former age group. Before I came here this morning, I said to my daily help that I thought her daughter, who is a dreadful nuisance, was improving and might presently go to a day nursery so that we would not be plagued by her. She is always trying to deceive and cheat her mother. That is the way of children, is it not? I asked the little girl how old she was and she said that she was three last February. Up to the age of three the mother and child should be inseparable. The mother should never be encouraged to go out to work and leave the child in a group, especially if the person in charge of that group constantly changes. It is all right if the same person is in charge the whole time—perhaps dear old granny or someone like her.

Several speakers have mentioned this broken-up society, which in the United States is worse. I understand that in parts of the United States a whole city may change its population once every five years. We find ourselves in a dreadful stage of movement which we must now tackle as a new situation. I am wondering whether this age group is not the age group on which we must concentrate.

I always refer back to what I learnt from pagan savages in Africa. There was one tribe next to my own where the moment a woman became pregnant and was known to be pregnant she was taken from her husband. He was not allowed intercourse until the child had been born, had reached the age of two years and had been weaned at a public ceremony. If he did have intercourse with her, he committed a capital offence and, before the colonial era, was sometimes executed. Such was the feeling of those people for the coming race and the preservation of the mother and child. We should learn from that. They were pagans and had nothing to do with Islam, Christianity, the Jewish faith or anything else. They had a deep regard for the coming race and the protection of the mother during that vital period of three years. I believe that if there is a gap to be filled today, it is there.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, it is my pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, with his worldly wisdom of dealing with disruptive and delinquent children. I am also deeply grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for having initiated this debate on this particularly important subject. Her thoughtful speech, born of wide experience, has been a lesson certainly to me and perhaps to many others.

We are at one in that our prime consideration is the well-being of disruptive children. I agree with practically everything that has been said in this House this afternoon. I certainly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, that much more co-operation is needed within the social services at this time. The responsibility for looking after disruptive children is a particularly difficult one. Whether the problem is faced by the parents foster parents, police, teachers, social services, magistrates or other agencies, the whole future of the child depends on the way in which it is treated at an early age and on the way in which its own particular problem is dealt with. We know that the parents give up and opt out when children become beyond their control—one can hardly blame them if one child in a large family is the cause of disruption and unhappiness within that family.

But luckily in this country there are many agencies to which parents can turn. The most prominent of these are various departments of the social services. Despite shortage of staff and often very inadequate facilities, they usually manage to deal with the many and varied problems which face them daily. We are aware that many of the staff are very immature and inexperienced; indeed, many have themselves been brought up in schools and homes without any discipline, and often without respect for and belief in law and order. In this context I wish that the local authorities would make sure, when children are put in their care as a result of being before the courts and of a supervision order, that the supervisors themselves believe in law and order.

My experience of disruptive children is different from that of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. For the past 22 years I have been sitting, normally, twice a week on a magistrates' bench. Each Wednesday I am chairman of a large juvenile court. I see my duties as two-fold: dealing with the disruptive and law breaking child, and protecting the public. I have noticed with some sadness this afternoon that only one noble Lord—the noble Earl, Lord Lytton—seems to have given a thought to the members of the public who have been at the receiving end of juvenile delinquency: the owner of a stolen car; the owner of a house which has been smashed up; or the elderly people who have been mugged.

I do not think that the average person is aware of the extent of juvenile crime today. One reason is that statistics are not easily understood if one has no yardstick; another is that the juvenile courts are not open to the public, and also that as children's names are not divulged in the Press very little is made locally or nationally of either the extent of the wrongdoing or of the problems of making the punishment fit the crime. To give some idea of the extent of the problem, I have brought last Wednesday's court list with me. I have broken it down into the various categories that I and my colleagues had to deal with. I was on the bench also this morning, but have not had time to break down today's list.

Last Wednesday there were 60 theft cases; entering and stealing, 8; robbery, 2; forgery, 2; dishonest handling, 8; actual bodily harm, 3; unlawful taking of motor vehicles, 10; criminal damage, 2; beyond control, 4; road traffic offences, which included no insurance, no L-plates, no licence, failure to comply with traffic sign, notifying the acquisition of a vehicle, driving while disqualified, et cetera, 19; school attendance, 9; and other assorted matters, 3. There was a total of 131 cases. I have gone carefully through this list, and I know that of all the defendants who appeared in that court that morning seven were hard-core cases.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness allow me to intervene to ask a question? Were these 131 cases dealt with in one day?


My Lords, not all of them. Some were remanded. I should make it clear that we have four courts sitting. Obviously 131 cases would have been impossible for one court.

Those of your Lordships who have read Sir Robert Mark's recent report will have noticed that he gives some figures of arrests for crime in the Metropolitan Police district during 1976. I think that nobody in your Lordships' House can fail to be worried about the enormity of crime within the London district. In the age group 10 to 13 there were 2,038 cases of burglary, and there were 3,895 cases of burglary in the 14 to 16 age group. For automobile crime, for the 10 to 13 year olds, there were 1,397 cases, and for the age group 14 to 16 there were 5,360. Other cases of theft, the 10 to 13 age group, 4,003 cases; 14 to 16, 6,706. The report of course goes on to the 17 to 20 age group and the 21 to 30 age group, but at this time I am dealing with only juvenile delinquents.

Some of our most persistent and violent criminals are now under the age of 17, and more than 50 per cent. of all burglaries are committed by children under 17. The 1969 Act was founded on good intentions and optimistic hopes. It set out to provide treatment rather than punishment for young offenders, and transferred the responsibility for applying the treatment from the courts to the social services. I submit that it has not worked. For the hard core of persistent offenders, approximately one in eight, the Act seems to have failed completely, and also positively encourages the hardened young criminals. They know only too well that the courts are almost powerless to cope with them. Under the Act the most that I can do with children under 13 is to make a care order, and for the ages of 14 to 17 a detention centre order, or commit to the Crown Court for borstal training. If a care order is made there is nothing more that a court can do. Under the Act it is up to the social services to decide whether the child is returned to the often unhappy home, or whether they find other accommodation. Not only truancy from school but running away from home is one of the causes of delinquency.

Because of the increase in serious crime, I am asking Her Majesty's Government to consider changes in the 1969 Act in two ways. First, to give the juvenile courts powers to make secure care orders—this point has been referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Longford—and to ensure residence in secure accommodation. Secondly, to give courts the power to make a residential care order specifying residence in a named community home for a maximum of two years. We see the first as a matter of the greatest and gravest urgency, and welcome the powers acquired by the Department of Health and Social Services to make grants for up to £2 million to provide secure accommodation.

We, the magistrates, feel that the time has come to return some powers to the bench. The picture of the disruptive child today is a sad and a sombre one. In an ideal world we would probably place many of them with foster parents, as has been so successfully done in Kent. Those of us who try to help in this field are having a frustrating and deeply worrying time. We can only do our best and ask the Government to help us.

5.39 p.m.

The Countess of LOUDOUN

My Lords, one of the greatest handicaps, one that we tend to overlook and one that could largely be prevented by education, is to be born unwanted; to be a child in a world without love. Many people other than parents care for children and can establish a loving personal relationship with the child, but it is a one-to-one relationship not easy to establish. Without this relationship the child is clenching his fist from inner rage and frustration. It is not just a matter of a cry for help, because something is wrong. In his case everything is wrong; life has no foundation. Without this loving relationship a child who is normal in every respect, healthy, strong, and intelligent, is disruptive, a trouble maker, a vandal, hating the society that nurtures him. Under the old system he was watched carefully by the school warders and beaten into submission. He did not come into a special category of child and was not recognised as maladjusted. But he is one of the greatest problems of today's more benevolent society; he wastes our resources, taking from those whose need is more apparent, the mentally and physically handicapped.

The earliest schools for handicapped children were established during the 18th and early 19th centuries when there was no universal education in existence, and even after the Education Act 1870 little attention was paid to the needs of the handicapped. Those schools were special schools, provided by charitable institutions or benevolent individuals with a view to shielding the handicapped from contact with a hard and generally unsympathetic world. They were isolated from the rest of the educational system and their objective was to protect pupils from society rather than to prepare them for life in it. Gradually, however, views were changing and even before the First World War special classes began to be provided in ordinary schools. However, with poor resources, teachers without specialist knowledge or training and an ill-adapted curriculum, many of those so-called special classes were special only in that problem children and dull children were put together and hidden.

Today the situation is quite different. The nature of society itself has changed and there is generally a large measure of concern for the less fortunate and a desire that they be accepted within the ordinary community. Special education is available in day and boarding schools, in hospitals, in special classes; in ordinary schools as individual help in regular classes or even in a child's own home. There is a wide variety of provision enabling a child to be placed in the setting that suits him best, but the progress of each child with a learning or behaviour disorder needs to be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that his placement is appropriate.

At present, far too many children who may be described as socially maladjusted but who are in other respects perfectly normal are being sent to special boarding schools simply because of behaviour problems. These children can arouse feelings of anxiety in others and show great hostility to others. They are usually intolerant of, and unacceptable to, those around them. They need far more personal understanding and support than the normal child in school and, to gain the most benefit, they need to be one of a small group rather than one of a large one. This of itself produces the need for more specialist teachers and the need to increase the supportive services to schools—medical, psychological, psychiatric and advisory.

However, we must consider also the progress of the normal children and take great care that their progress is not adversely affected by the inclusion of the maladjusted. Teachers, too, must be protected and care taken that those teachers serving in schools in difficult areas, with already many problems, do not have those problems made much greater by their inclusion.

There are many other disabilities I have not touched on, such as those of the blind, the deaf and the autistic. Many of these, by reason of their severe handicap, gain more benefit and are better cared for in special schools. The problem, as I see it, is how to increase the numbers in the special class of the ordinary school to obtain for them specialist teachers and an increase in facilities without weakening the structure of the special schools. These have a proven record of successful service and we must not allow them to be adversely affected by experiment and what may be misplaced good will.

There is, however, a movement today in favour of the sharing of all life's experiences. We do not want the less fortunate to be hidden from us and they should not need to be protected from us. We must put the child's, not the institution's, interest first, but until the results of this movement are clearer and we can be sure that the children are actually benefiting, their places in the institutions must be preserved.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for having been absent for I think four distinguished speeches. I assure noble Lords that my absence was due not to boredom or ennui but because I had to attend a Library Committee meeting. Noble Lords will know that it is not my custom to disappear from a debate when I am taking part in it. Let me begin by considering what this debate is really about. The Motion is designed— To call attention to the needs and treatment of disruptive children and young persons and for a co-ordinated policy on the part of all those responsible for their wellbeing. I got a scholarship to a grammar school and that made me think I was wonderful, but between the ages of five and 12 I should probably have been considered in the Welsh mountains as something of a delinquent. I am simply saying that we must be careful when we define "delinquent" because those of us who had to study social history or listen to professors lecturing on industrial history, when we look at the growth of education and the emancipation of the underprivileged in Britain, must realise that, despite all the grumbling we do about our youngsters today, they are healthier and stronger and there is not the juvenile delinquency there was in Victorian times. Neither are our gaols as full nor drunkenness as rife.

Several noble Lords: Oh?


My Lords, I hear noble Lords questioning that statement, and I see others apparently nodding in dissent, though I am not sure whether they are doing like the Chinese, indicating No when they mean Yes. We need only look at the LCC statistics as recently as 1938 to see on the graph that we are progressing.

We must remember, too, that we are living in an eclectic society. No longer is it mainly a Christian society, and by that I do not intend in any way to denigrate Christianity. We must fit in with the type of society in which we live, with other types of religion, and for the child of today this all creates great problems. When we, the adults, accuse the young of being disruptive, let us reflect that mankind has never been more disruptive than it is today, from Timbuctoo to Peru, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. This is the most disruptive world since the creation of mankind. Kipling said, "Transport is civilisation", but we are living like insects. Noble Lords who know about entymology or zoology know that if animals were piled together in the way kids are heaped together in high rise flats, like hens in batteries to produce eggs for the ever-increasing population of the world, disruption must result.

As a boy, I had space to live in. We were not rich but there were mountains, a little farm of 30 acres and beasts that could be understood— O'er the mountains and across the lea, That's the way for Billy and me". Indeed, that was where the pools were brightest and deepest and where there was space to move and, as noble Lords who are interested in fish farming will be aware— The old grey trout lies asleep, And often could I tickle him". The average child today living in a flat cannot tell a trout from a tinker; he does not know how to make a whistle from a hazel branch; he does not know the joy of living in God's beautiful scenery that fits in with nature according to the swing of the Creator's seasons.

Here we are grumbling, we oldies. It is we oldies who have created the society which creates the disruptive child. The exception is the poor kid who has been dropped on his head by his mother or fallen downstairs and damaged his skull. I was dropped myself but my skull must have been thick! In my young days, delinquency fitted in. The only trouble I got into was swimming in sheep dipping ponds in sheep valleys, which was the most heinous thing a child could do because of the disinfectants in the ponds. We often had warnings in the village school about children losing their legs because they could get blood poisoning from scratches. There was adventure! We did not have to have the Duke of Edinburgh founding adventure schools for us. Adventure was around us. We went up a mountain like the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and we pretended that no man's foot had ever trodden there before. Imagine the poor little brat in a high rise flat coming down the stairs covered with faeces and urine. That is the life he is living. It is the reality and we must face it. It is the reality in the great cities of London and the world, and it is horrible. That, in itself, is the basis of the present disruption, of our inability to be articulate and of the education of the underprivileged of today.

Having said that, I shall try to make a couple of constructive points. I was delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned this delightful report, Working Together for Children and Their Families. This is the report of the project undertaken by the South Glamorgan County Council. I have this because I had the benefit of the vast experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, who kindly handed it over to me and, in imperative mood, told me to read it. The report of the project showed that on one day—17th January 1974—out of a population of 223,000 pupils, 31,000 were absent. I do not know what is happening to my boys down in Wales now. We had a Welsh word for it—"mitching"—when I was a little boy. You stood away from school and expected the schoolman to find you where you were hiding up in an oak tree or somewhere on the mountains. The report showed that 31,000 children were absent from school on that day. That was 13.9 per cent. and, of those, 9,000 had no excuse.


My Lords, did the noble Lord say that they were "mitching"?


Yes, my Lords. That is a high level of truancy. Why is it so high? I, with my limited ability, have had the good fortune to be in every branch of teaching and in lecturing, from dealing with the little ones, and even, at one time, backward and almost mentally deficient children—and I could not get rid of them because they followed me around everywhere—up to adult education. I still maintain that if an ordinary, well-trained teacher who has given years of his or her life to teaching children can have classes of fewer than 30 children, we shall eliminate much of the present delinquency and very much of the present disruptiveness. That is the first basis.

Mothers used to come—mothers who could not manage one brat—and attack a poor girl teacher with 50 pupils in a class. I am talking about the bad old days. Your Lordships may not realise that I earned my grub stakes in my first job when I was bright, strong and hoping to play rugby for Wales—though I never managed that—teaching a class of 80 children. I got the colossal wage of £12 15s a month. If anybody here is in my age group he will know that I am telling the truth. Did I work! Did I sing! Did I tell jokes! I was exhausted! I look at noble Lords in this House who went to public schools and were in classes of six, 12 or 15. But they had a few delinquents among them too, though not for the same causes. The result of these large classes is that the initiative and the ability of the child is cramped from the start and so, for the disruptive child—if, as some speakers have said today, our greatest investment is our children—never mind what our ratepayers or people who have never tried teaching in their lives say. A country's greatness does depend on its children. So let us have classes that are smaller, so that the teachers can teach. Instead of that, what does this stupid nation do? It keeps 50,000 people who have been trained in teaching and who have degrees—training for which you and I have paid—looking for jobs. Then we talk about this being a delinquent country.

I want to see the co-ordination of services. Whatever Government get into office next time, it is time that Britain had a Minister for Children for the co-ordination of all child services. I would bring in the whole gamut of people dealing with the child from the higher echelons of teaching down to the infant teacher. After all, the infant teacher is the most important of all. It is nothing for a professor of geology to teach a chap like myself who, when I was 18 or 19, was stimulated to learn the story of the rocks. I would sit enthralled.

I see a couple of eminent ex-professors here; one noble Lord sitting here is well known all over the world. When he taught students—young men—they would listen to his lectures on economics and they would be enthralled. But they were a different age. The infant teacher who teaches my child or yours starts teaching it the ABC and brings it to the magic of the use of words—and let us not forget the good old Book. "First there was the Word", Genesis—and there is the beginning of greatness and beginning of thought. Once you have a man or a child thinking, you never know where he will end. If you want a nation of thinkers and a nation with limited delinquency, that is where the attack on delinquency should be made. Mental deficiency is another matter entirely but there, too, we should protect these comfortless poor little creatures and be prepared to pay for it.

If the noble Lords can stand listening to me a few minutes more, I should like to say something more about the report Working Together for Children and Their Families produced by the South Glamorgan County Council. I quote from page 11, which says that they worked on, A project to look at areas of mutual concern to social services, education services and other agencies which require a joint approach in order to provide better services to meet children's needs. The project will be concerned with the problems of children at home, in school and in the community and will include such matters as absenteeism, violence and delinquency. All of these have been mentioned today by people who have vast experience of these problems.

Finally, I give some quotations contained in the report: Central Government has increased expectations of social services. Implementation of the Local Authority Social Services Act on a generic basis and the chaos— and I emphasise that— which has followed the reorganisation of local government"— bureaucracy is the only growth industry in local government— has meant that many social workers have been promoted to management and administration. Many unqualified social workers need help from experienced workers …". A quotation which appears in the report says: There has been a breakdown of communication between education and social services over a long period of time …". It then says: We are passing the buck to each other all the time!". We want to see that ended. I was hoping that the 1969 Act would be an outstanding charter for the reorganisation and the centralisation of all children's services.

I should like to go back to an old report entitled Half Our Future. I have been around Parliament now for about 37 years. I am growing old and decrepit, weak in limb and breath—

Several noble Lords: Oh!


And what do I find? This Report was produced in 1963. I dug it off my study shelf. I have one shelf devoted to education, and it spreads almost to the extent of the Gallery here, only my house is only quarter of that size. This report was by the central Advisory Council for Education. What does it say? It says this: We find many different kinds of social problems in close association: a high proportion of mental illness, high crime and delinquency rates; and above average figures for infant mortality, tuberculosis, child neglect and cruelty. Here, too the so-called problem families tend to congregate. Life in these localities appears to be confused and disorganised. In and about the squalid streets and narrow courts, along the landings and staircases of massive blocks of tenement flats which are slowly replacing the decayed terraces, outside garish pubs and trim betting shops, in the lights of coffee bars, cafés and chip saloons, the young people gather at night to follow with almost bored casualness the easy goals of group hedonism"— which, in that kind of society, leads to disruptiveness and to delinquency.

I have now spoken for 17 minutes, and I say to my noble friend on the Front Bench, who is becoming restive, that I will speak for only about another minute. I want to point out that in the Young-husband Report of 1959 there was an appeal for the training of welfare officers and for the reorganisation and co-ordination of services for young children, and for the underlying need for unity. I hope that after the next General Election, whenever it may come, and whichever Party gets into power, it will realise that the greatest treasure and the greatest need in this great old country of ours, whatever nationality we in it may be, is to invest in our children. We should not be capricious or mean about this, but we should by hook or by crook—and by crook, if you like—make our children healthy in body and mind, and give them a little more touch of decent religion. Unless we do this the nation will go downward. But I have faith in it, and I have faith in debates like this. People might ask: What can we do? We can draw the public's attention to the necessity of putting praise where it is due—and it is due to those who will take care of, and educate, the men of the future, who are the children of today.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, if I am pleased with the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for initiating this debate it is because she has made me do a great deal of work before coming here this afternoon. I say this because I think that the noble Baroness and I are the only two academically qualified professional social workers in your Lordships' House. I left professional social work a good many years ago, while she left it more recently, if she will allow me to say so; but during her period of service she covered a much wider field than I did at any time in the years that I spent in professional social work. This has made me make myself become not only more familiar but more up to date with what is happening at the present moment, and for that I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I have been enabled to discuss at a high level the wording of the Motion set down by the noble Baroness with three Government Departments—my own Department, the Department of Education and Science and the Home Office. This has enabled me— at least I hope it has—to set out clearly the Government's thinking and feeling at present.

The noble Baroness has posed the problem without any exaggeration, and I believe that in such debates we see the House on one of its best occasions when we can discuss fully and frankly the problems which vitally concern everyone in the Chamber today, without there being any kind of political overtones, or for that matter political undertones. This, I believe, must be desirable when we are discussing a matter of this kind. The noble Baroness put many of us—my advisers and myself in particular—in some difficulty by the use of the word "disruptive". I think it can be said that this is a use of the word which, in its present connection, has been conceived by the noble Baroness, and I shall always associate this word with her in future.

I do not think that there is an accepted definition of a disruptive child, and so this has enabled the noble Baroness to make this debate wider ranging. But however defined, today's debate was not only important but, I go so far as to say, timely. I suspect that all children, especially during adolescence, as part of their natural development at home or in school or in their leisure time, behave in such a way as to cause anxiety to adults, who may, quite inaccurately, describe them as disturbed or disruptive, or even dishonest. As your Lordships know, such deviant behaviour takes many forms: drug-taking, truancy and crime. But I like to think that most children respond quickly to parental or other adult warnings. A few, however, do not respond, and individually or collectively behave in a particularly aggressive or anti-social way, and I think that we are seeing this in the football season Saturday after Saturday. It is this minority which causes all of us such concern, and with which I feel we are particularly concerned today. Any discussion of the behaviour of this particular growing minority of children needs to be viewed against the backcloth of the changing pattern of family and social life. I have long since come to the conclusion to which the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, came when she said in her speech that the more she studies this problem, the less she can be dogmatic —and that applies at least to two of us.

In the introduction to its report the Court Committee summarised these changes clearly and succinctly, and I need only mention one or two examples. The number of children involved in families in which the parents are divorced total about 135,000 each year, and more than 1 million children are being looked after by a single parent. I think it was in one of the first articles that I ever wrote—it was 38 years ago, in 1939—that I drew attention to the breakdown of family life in this country. I mentioned that in 1938 we had reached an all-time record of 7,000 divorces. I also wrote an article on the cause of juvenile delinquency, but I discovered some years later that neither I nor anybody else knew anything about it.

The increase in adult criminality, particularly violent crime, is almost as well documented as that of juvenile delinquency. It is also worth bearing in mind, I think, that this is not a particularly British problem. I think we quite rightly tend to despair and to get worried and overanxious because of what is happening, but it is a phenomenon which is common to every advanced industrial society in the world today. This is not just in the United Kingdom; this is not just a breakdown here; this is a breakdown in every advanced industrialised society, and it rather indicates that we know less and less about causation rather than more and more. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, made that point, that the cause of delinquency is really speculative—I think that he used the word "speculation"—and it is perfectly true that it is. There are almost as many views on the cause of juvenile delinquency as in fact there are (I was going to say) offences; but we can take one comfort from it. We do at least know that there is a dramatic decline in delinquency once a person reaches the age of 21, and (I am speaking entirely from memory, and I may be wrong about this), I think it is even more dramatic when they reach the age of 30.

It looks as if youngsters grow out of it. I said in your Lordships' Chamber not so very long ago that it may be part of the process of growing up. It may be that a certain number have to go through this particular period; but I realise that the causes of disruptive behaviour in children are complex and difficult to understand, and we cannot relate this behaviour to just one or two social problems. Besides the quality of family life, and including parental control, which many regard as preeminent, the financial and other support that parents receive from the community, such as housing and the environment, educational provision, job opportunities and leisure facilities, will all subtly interact with the child's developing personality in determining his own pattern of behaviour. I accept what is said: that if these particular services to the community —and it really does not matter who is responsible—are in any way deficient, they will take their toll in some way.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, raised the question of high-rise flats. I know that my honourable friend the Minister for Housing is very much opposed to them. He has made clear his dislike of families with younger children living in high-rise dwellings—and we define high-rise dwellings as anything over nine storeys—and many local authorities have followed the lead which he has given by tending to put families with young children in blocks of two or three storeys. We are against high-rise flats, and I am sure that we all realise now that they were something to meet a particularly difficult situation. They are with us, and one can only hope that local authorities will in fact use their discretion and house families in only the first, second or third storeys.

My Lords, while the immediate causes of disruptive behaviour are difficult for us to understand, it is also difficult, if one wants to be perfectly honest, to really gauge the size of the problem. It is more easily measured if we refer to the area of juvenile delinquency; and, despite the best efforts of legislators, social workers, the police and many others, the figures for juvenile crime have shown a steady and, occasionally, dramatic rise for some 20 years. In 1975, there were 179,433 young people who were cautioned for or found guilty of indictable offences. Although this is a large and, let me admit, a very depressing figure, I think we can take some comfort in the fact that the figure which I have quoted for 1975 showed, for the first time in nine years, a decrease of some 3 per cent. over the previous year. Why, I just do not know, and, frankly, I doubt whether anybody else knows. While the cost of damage done or property stolen by any one child is frequently very small, we have to recognise that the total cost to the community of their activities is very alarming. Moreover, there has been a more than proportionate increase in the number of those under 17 found guilty or cautioned for certain types of serious offences, particularly burglary and robbery with violence, compared with adult convictions for the same crimes.

My Lords, the matter of truancy was raised. It is difficult to get real statistics on this matter, perhaps because of the size of the problem and because it would have to be done, of course, for every day of the school year. But a one-day national survey in secondary schools was done on a date in January 1974—I have nothing more recent than that—and it was discovered that about 2 per cent. of the pupils (that is, 90.000) in our secondary schools on that particular day were absent from school without a good cause.

My Lords, the Government's aim in these circumstances must be to seek, first, to halt and then to reverse the present trends. We hope that this can be achieved in three ways. First, by encouraging parental responsibility—parents have a responsibility, and it has got to be brought home to them—and the development of effective methods at local levels of dealing with disruptive children and, where possible, those at risk. The second way is by ensuring that an appropriate legal framework is available to deal with offenders and other disturbed children. I think that was a point which the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, made. Thirdly, by sponsoring research in this area.

My Lords, I have so much to say—some of your Lordships may think I always have—but I want to say just a brief word about the 1969 Act. Legislation, or indeed any direct action by Government, has an important but necessarily secondary role to play in overcoming problems, because the causes generally lie deeply within family relationships and the physical, social and economic environment of the young person. I am sure that, because of the nature of the problems, they can be tackled only locally. Nevertheless, it is essential that the law provides a basic framework wherein these problems can be tackled.

The Government believe—and I want to emphasise the word "Government"— that in the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 we have a fundamentally sound framework. I know that probably not everybody in your Lordships' House, and certainly not everybody in the field of professional social work, shares that opinion. Your Lordships may be aware that, following recommendations made by the Expenditure Committee in their report, the Government propose to amend the Act by means of the Criminal Law Bill now under consideration in another place. To make its provisions relating to supervision orders and intermediate treatment more effective, it is proposed to permit the courts to insert special conditions in supervision orders; and, if they are not observed, for the offender to be returned to the court for sanctions to be imposed. It is hoped that this measure, which has been welcomed by magistrates, will increase the competence of the courts in supervision orders.

It is proposed to simplify the complex provisions relating to the maximum period of intermediate treatment, to give supervisors much more flexibility in directing young people into appropriate schemes. The Bill also provides increases in the maximum fines and compensation which can be imposed on juveniles, and for measures to enforce the payment of fines and compensation imposed on juveniles. I think the idea is that if they do not comply they can be committed to an attendance centre. Amendments to other legislation will help increase parental responsibility by enabling the courts to transfer a fine to the parents where a juvenile has unreasonably neglected to pay. The maximum fine on a parent of a truant child will be increased under the Bill from £10 to £50 for a first offence.

I want to say a brief word about the secure care order. We should certainly reject entirely any suggestion that the only solution—and I stress the words "only solution"—is to confine more and more children to institutions or increase the powers of the courts to impose custodial sentences. Proposals for the secure care order put forward in the Expenditure Committee's report would strike at the heart of the 1969 Act by discriminating once more between delinquents and other children in trouble. Some persons have advocated giving stronger powers to the courts. This tends to overlook the fact that the number of young people subject to detention centres and borstal training orders has more than doubled in the years since the Act was passed. I think I have to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the success rate of these institutions, measured in terms of re-offending rates, is very low. Some 70 per cent. of those discharged from detention centres and borstal institutions re-offend within two years.

The noble Lord, Lord Banks, I think, referred to the Massachusetts experiment where they took 1,000 juveniles from what they call training schools and began a dispersal programme, putting them into foster homes, small-group homes and non-residential projects; but I am bound to say that while this decarceration sounds well in theory, when they came to do some research, a preliminary analysis comparing "before" and "after" showed that there was no discernible increase or decrease in recidivism. It looks as though it does not matter what you do with them, it does not change the situation. Perhaps that is my deduction rather than the proper one.

On the secure accommodation, the 1975 Children's Act recognised that in a small number of cases there may be conflict between the needs of the public for protection and the welfare of the child. Local authorities accept that their duty is to have regard to the wider public interest in these cases, and it is largely for this reason that local authorities provide secure places where these difficult children can be treated. Because of their high capital cost—it amounts to something like £20,000 per place—and high staffing ratios, and because any single local authority is likely to require only a small number of places, insufficient accommodation of this type has been provided in the past. We recognise that.

To remedy this, the Government have taken powers in the 1975 Children Act to make 100 per cent. grants towards the capital cost of providing such places. This means that the Government have allocated something like £3½ million over the next three years for this, if it can be spent. But they may be prepared—and I cannot go beyond this—to spend up to £6 million if there is a need and if the secure accommodation can be provided. This has already had a significant impact, and at present an additional 113 secure treatment places are under construction. To cope with the few children who are so severely disturbed and disruptive that they cannot even respond to treatment in the community home system, the Department of Health and Social Security is providing youth treatment centres as a national facility. This provides a treatment centre for exceptionally difficult children in the same way as within the schools we have had for many years special places for illiterates. As I say, my Department is providing the means of having youth treatment centres as a national facility. One centre, providing 33 places, is already in operation and a second will open in December of this year providing an additional 54 places. This is the thin end of the wedge; but at least the wedge is there. We are hoping that we can develop it on a much wider basis.

My Lords, I do not want to say anything about resources because when dealing with matters relating to health and social security I have often had to remind your Lordships about the absence of resources. I would have to do so again today. The Government share the view of the Expenditure Committee that there should be a shift of resources to non-residential forms of care, a policy requiring high-quality professional staff in post on the ground. This has been referred to by a number of noble Lords. The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, referred to the few number of people being trained. We dealt with this at some length only a few weeks ago and I do not propose to go over that matter again.

We attach considerable importance to research and there is research going on the whole time, quietly and behind the scenes, involving statisticians and research people. The Home Office, the Department of Education and Science and my own Department are also sponsoring research in this field through various academic institutions and organisations, to see whether we can discover what fresh things we can do. I think we know where we are failing and I think that, to some measure, we know where we are succeeding. What we should like to do is to get a better grasp of what is causing so much anti-social behaviour. Bit by bit, we hope to fill in the gaps to increase our knowledge and then apply what we get from the research to policies with a view to making them effective.

My Lords, if I may, I will now say a few words about truancy. Considerable concern has been expressed during this debate, and the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, I know, feels strongly that there is not enough consultation—and this has been raised by a number of noble Lords today—between the Government Departments; and, also, that there is not enough—and this is a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, feels strongly about—consultation at what I call the grass roots level. To some extent this is so. The Secretary of State for Education held a conference of local education authorities, teachers, Churches and other interested bodies in June of last year and made this very point. As a result of that conference, Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools have been carrying out surveys of the special units which the majority of local educational authorities have now set up to cater for difficult pupils or truants and of other successful practices adopted by selected schools.

As a further step, in the near future the Secretary of State for Education and Science will be meeting representatives of the Magistrates' Association to hear their views on aspects of the truancy problems. Let me be quite frank about this: there is a limit to what a Government Department or Secretary of State can do. We all issue at fairly regular intervals circulars drawing attention to the need for this and that, and they go to the appropriate local authorities, education authorities, and so on, drawing attention to the need for consultation. I have seen them and I have read them; but it is very difficult to give an instruction to say, "You will do this". Every noble Lord knows how difficult that is. It is not lack of attention on behalf of the Government or the Departments. These matters are recognised, but, as I say, it is difficult to go beyond that.

There are many things that I wanted to say but I ought not to take up too much time. I am conscious of the inadequacy of this reply. The local action such as quoted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, demonstrated the potential for action in local communities, such as local initiatives, and we of course would emphasise what he has said. We hope that it will be possible for other local authorities to do something similar.

I am glad to note the welcome given by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, to the announcement by the Secretary of State for Social Services at a conference which he attended recently. It was also attended by Ministers from other Government Departments, local councillors, officers of local authorities, and members of voluntary organisations. The Secretary of State said he hoped to set up a trust to help the development of intermediate treatment, with small capital grants to individuals and groups starting up intermediate treatment schemes. This is the type of conference which Secretaries of State have gone out of their way to organise in the hope that this will be copied by local authorities generally.

Consultative machinery, even when established, does not solve all our problems. From time to time there is a breakdown, as we have discovered, on the medical side on the matter of communication. We have to face the fact that talking about problems does not necessarily solve them, especially if there are real and deeply felt differences over objectives and the appropriate methods of attaining them. Often there is a wide variety of thinking. It can however at worst remove misunderstandings and at best ensure that energy and resources are devoted to a common task. For that reason, we advocate this and press it as far as we can.

If I am going to sum up, having listened to all that has been said today, bearing in mind my own knowledge of the disruption that there is in the community, the very heavy price that we are paying for antisocial conduct, the breakdown of family life and how that impinges on the behaviour, not just of the family but the community as a whole, one has to say that there is no panacea for one or all of our problems. We can point to some achievements and promising developments. We can say that we are having some success with our difficult children, and we will continue to rely, as perhaps we have always done, on the collective efforts of parents, teachers, social workers and the other voluntary workers in the community.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, raised the question of the co-ordinating of services for the under fives. In March 1976 a circular was issued jointly by the Department of Education and Science and my own Department. This stresses the importance of co-ordinating the work of all Departments, of local authorities, health authorities and agencies providing services for children under five. The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, mentioned the question of the Samaritans. She referred to telephone kiosks, telephone boxes, and so on. I think I am right in saying that this is a matter over which the Government have no control. That would be a matter for direct approach to the Post office. I know from certain matters in which I have been interested in the past that they have not been unsympathetic. It would be highly desirable that some approach is made to them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, said that some of the teachers who are unable to find a teaching post could be retrained for social work. In theory—I am not being unkind—one would see this as a valuable idea. But, of course, there is the question of the money. Local authorities are not permitted to increase their staff at the present moment, so it is a vicious circle that they cannot be retrained and redirected into some other work because of the stop on local government expenditure.

I should like to thank everyone who has taken part in this debate. Nothing but good can come out of a debate of this kind. It clears the air and enables us to see the picture more clearly. I can give the assurance that, so far as the Government are concerned, they are not unmindful of the needs. They are very conscious of the limitations of some of the services, and are very much alive to the need to improve what is in operation.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I put forward this suggestion? The noble Lord referred to researchers, statisticians and people providing reports. Very little knowledge of what is happening on the ground, certainly in the juvenile courts, comes through in these reports. One can see the figures, but nobody sees the children who come into court except us and, occasionally, social workers and the police. Despite the fact that juvenile courts are held behind closed doors—certainly the public are not admitted—if any member of any of the Departments who are concerned as deeply as we are with this problem, would like to come and attend my juvenile court—not more than two at a time—I would welcome it.


My Lords, I know that the Home Office research section and other bodies have done a good deal of work inquiring into juvenile delinquency. I should like to read what the noble Baroness has said and pursue it.

I should like to answer two matters which the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked. He asked me whether I was convinced of the seriousness of the problem. I hope that I have said enough to convince him that I am. He also raised the matter of the serious breakdown in the husband and wife relationship resulting in so many divorces. It is part of the statutory duty of the probation department in each local authority where there is a divorce court to appoint a court welfare officer in the divorce court who examines the possibility of reconciliation. At the same time he prepares a report on the children for the judge which the judge considers before an order for custody is made; so there is some serious attempt to do what is right in those rather difficult circumstances.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister very much for his most helpful reply to the debate this afternoon. I make no apology for using the word "disruptive". It was done quite purposely and it obviously had its effect in that the noble Lord the Minister did consult with other Departments, that is, the Department of Education and science and the Home Office, but not, I understand, the Department of the Environment. Perhaps that was under-standable. Therefore I must thank him for that. I realise the amount of work it must have given to him and to his civil servants, because that always happens when you have to consult with a number of different people.

I should like to make just one or two points, and I apologise for keeping your Lordships' House over this. The first point is that I think I can safely say, on behalf of social workers, that we believe in the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. It was said in another place at another time, in fact by a Prime Minister— Give us the tools and we will finish the job". My Lords, in respect of this Act we have not been given the tools to do the job.

The other point that I should like to make is that in the field of residential work, wonderful work is done; so, too, in the social field and in the committal of children to care in that connection, but it has not been successful. Therefore there is the move for community work and community projects on the part of the educational and social services which at the same time involves the parents and parental responsibility. It is on this that the parents and the teachers of this country ask for their money to be put and for support to be given.

Lastly, my Lords, I think I must ask the Minister whether I am really incorrect, but I have searched thoroughly and I can find no joint circular between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of Education and Science on guidelines as to how social work in schools, or emanating from schools, should be done. With those few remarks, I should very much like to thank all those who have taken part in this debate today. I am deeply grateful, as will be the world of social work, the world of education and the world of health. In particular, I should like to thank the Minister for his reply. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.