HL Deb 27 January 1993 vol 541 cc1307-32

5.52 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch rose to call attention to government policies on the recruitment and training of those entrusted with the residential care of children; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is of course a great honour to open the debate today even if many of your Lordships will be aware that it is one that I do not exactly deserve. It is therefore a source of great comfort to me to see the list of speakers who are to follow and to know that the depth of experience and wisdom that they will bring to this very difficult subject will be of assistance to the Government in their future policies. It is, I am sure, a special pleasure for all of your Lordships to see that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will be speaking today. I say that not only because it is always a pleasure to hear him speak, but because the last time that your Lordships debated the quality of care provided in children's homes, which was nearly a year ago on 19th February last year, the Motion was in the name of the noble Earl, but he was unable to speak because of illness. I have read that debate. It is good that my noble friend Lady Faithfull, who spoke a year ago, is to speak again today.

I should perhaps quote again, for the record, the broad parameters of the problem that we are discussing. There are now about 1,300 residential care homes in England, staffed by some 15,000 care staff and heads of homes. There are about 11,250 children in them. This gives an average of about nine children and 12 staff per home. It also gives some idea of the size of the problem we are debating, especially when one considers that most of the children come from very difficult home backgrounds, and that their average age has been going up recently. The average age is now 14, with more 16 year-olds than any other age group.

There have been a large number of reports which cover the selection and training of those entrusted with the residential care of children; that is, children taken for whatever reason into the care of local authorities. Most of those reports seem to have been inspired by disturbing incidents which have come to public knowledge. I do not claim to have read all the reports covering the subject in question, which I understand may number more than 50 since 1945. However, there is not much doubt in my mind, having studied some of the more recent reports, that we are discussing the Cinderella of our state provision for the unfortunate among us. It is doubly depressing that one should have to say that about a service for children and young people.

Since your Lordships' debate last February, more reports have been published, and more scandals have emerged. The most recent scandal is perhaps the story which appeared in the Spectator magazine on 9th January this year of two children being wrongly taken into care against their parent's wishes. I shall put a copy of that article in your Lordships' Library, together with a copy of a letter carried in the Spectator of 23rd January, which challenges some of the assumptions in the article, but which does not attempt to deny the tragedy of the case.

This is probably as good a place as any for me to be as fair as I can to those who provide the service we are discussing. I am sure that we all appreciate the pressure under which social workers and others find themselves when a case of bad child abuse comes to light about which they have done nothing, or not enough. No doubt that pressure can make them overzealous at other times, and I am sure that that is part of the problem.

I am also sure that it would be right to pay tribute to those who give good and selfless service in residential homes for children. I am sure that that tribute is due, and I am sure that your Lordships would wish me to pay it.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, most of the recent reports, particularly those with reasonably independent membership among their authors, do suggest that the selection, training, management and performance of most of those entrusted with the residential care of children is far from adequate.

Since your Lordships' debate a year ago, perhaps the two most significant reports to emerge are the Howe Report and the Warner Report. Of those, I am slightly nervous of the Howe Report because it was compiled by providers of the service in question. I do not say that it may not contain some useful ideas, but in general I distrust self-regulation, and I found the report's recommendations somewhat too weighted towards trying to improve the image of the service, without paying enough attention to the possibility that its image might improve if its service improved. Perhaps I am being unfair to the Howe Report, and, if so, I leave it to other noble Lords to do it more justice.

The Warner Report seems to me to be an altogether more valuable document. It is a report which I would urge the Government to take to heart, and to treat very seriously indeed. Apart from the objectivity and common sense which it brings to this highly complex subject, it contains at least one statement which should be music to the Government's ears. This goes as follows: A common reaction to a report such as ours is to assume that nothing can be done without additional resources being made available. We are not convinced that this is so". The report goes on to favour a redistribution of existing expenditure on the personal social services and local government budgets.

On recruitment, the Warner Report has much good advice to offer, and I am sure that your Lordships will do that part of the report more justice than can I. But there is one warning of a situation which arises from our membership of the EEC, to which your Lordships may not refer, and which should be put on the record. The report sees problems arising from the free movement of labour, because it is difficult for employers or the police to make inquiries into the pasts of people from overseas, or to establish details of convictions acquired outside the UK. It is difficult under current arrangements in some Community countries to check the criminal records of those who wish to work in the UK. However, it will not be possible to impose restrictions on people from other Community countries which would put them at a disadvantage to UK nationals. The Warner Report urges the Department of Health and the Home Office to consider the implication of this for children's homes. I am sure that we would all agree with that advice.

It is when the Warner Report moves on to training that I find it most useful. There are many excellent passages which, if there were time, I would want to put on the record in your Lordships' House. But I shall confine myself to one quotation, because it leads me on to the main point that I wish to make to your Lordships this afternoon. It is to be found on page 171 of the report, and it goes like this: Even if one accepts that the Diploma in Social Work is the most appropriate qualification for residential child care—which we do not—then on present plans it would take over 30 years to train the eligible staff to obtain this qualification. The present training strategy seems more geared to helping able staff to obtain qualifications which enable them to leave, than to providing practical training for the majority of staff in homes looking after children". I share the Warner Report's doubts that the Diploma in Social Work is an appropriate qualification for residential child care. I say that because in my research for this debate, I have become more familiar with the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, or "Set-swer" as it appears to be known in the trade, which regulates the Diploma in Social Work. The rules and requirements for the Diploma in Social Work are set out in Set-swer's Paper No. 30 which is now in its second edition.

I have to say that this publication is deeply disturbing to anyone well-versed in the language of the gender, race and class fraternity. If our social work courses reflect the biased ethos of this document, which they must, I would be very doubtful if the resulting qualification can be of much help to those about to work in or around children's homes. Indeed, I would have thought that it would be positively harmful. All the old neo-Marxist jargon is here in abundance. Furthermore, any "practice learning" must take place in institutions which are similarly faithful to the bias which I have criticised.

Your Lordships may be aware that for 10 years I have been the representative of commerce on the Council for National Academic Awards which used to validate the degrees in the polytechnics, now miraculously transformed into universities. My experience at the CNAA leads me to be certain that the delivery of these courses at the chalk-face will be even more narrow-minded and virulent than Set-swer's rules and requirements indicate, so I am sure that the courses are even more damaging than Paper No. 30 indicates.

In short, I am fairly sure that we are looking at a secret garden, the secret garden of social work training. This would benefit from some light being let into it, in much the same way as light is at last being slowly let into the secret garden of teacher training. Of course, some noble Lords will think that I exaggerate or that I am letting aggressive right-wing emotions distort the evidence before me, in which case I should inform them that Set-swer has just had a little bit of bad luck. It has sent me the programme details of the eight Diploma in Social Work courses being offered under their residential child-care initiative at institutions which they describe as "centres of excellence".

The bad luck occurs in that I have a friend who is actually on one of the eight courses in question. She assures me that: The course is totally preoccupied with issues related to class, gender and race, to the detriment of other issues relevant to the education of effective social workers". So that is what is going on at the chalkface of at least one of our eight flagship courses.

I know that this is anecdotal. The fact that my informant is a friend of mine may convince some of your Lordships that she must share my right-wing paranoia about this subject, but it is not so. A difficulty arises because, as usual, she does not want to be identified for fear of victimisation at her approaching examinations and thereafter when she applies for a job. I say "as usual" because this fear of being revealed as a critic of the gender, race and class brigade was something I often met at the CNAA with students on our teacher education courses. It is a very real fear, and in my view it is wholly justified.

I end by making two suggestions which I hope my noble friend on the Front Bench will find helpful. First, in order to discover whether I am exaggerating about the poor quality of Set-swer's courses or not, I suggest that an appropriate sample should be validated by a small group of perhaps five to seven suitably qualified people. The majority of the members of this group should be health care professionals assisted by at least one proven manager. Social workers and social scientists generally should be in a minority. This validating panel should be free to talk to students who would have to he offered convincing protection against victimisation at their exams or their subsequent search for work. This would clearly not be an expensive exercise and I hope that the Government will consider it.

I am sure that the group's findings would justify my second suggestion which is that the Government should accept Recommendation No. 62 of the Warner Report and abandon the Diploma in Social Work in favour of a new diploma targeted at the residential care and after-care of children. I am fairly sure that the Diploma in Social Work is beyond redemption and that any attempt to reform it will be frustrated by the deeply-entrenched establishment which now controls it.

I hope that the Government will look favourably on those two related suggestions. I hope that your Lordships do not feel that I have exaggerated or spent too much time on this aspect. I believe that social work training is the soil in which many of the roots of the problem which we are discussing today may feed. I believe that the time has come to examine the quality of that soil and, if necessary, to change it.

6.5 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the noble Lord was so kind about me that if only for that reason, although not only for that reason, I must be nice about his speech. He realises that he has been controversial and he seems to feel that he may be accused of right-wing paranoia. In my experience, anyone who feels that he may be accused of paranoia suffers from a mild dose of that trouble. The noble Lord voiced views which will be greatly disliked throughout the world of those who dedicate their lives to looking after children. However, I was glad that a fresh mind was brought to bear on the subject even though it is not quite the same mind that I shall deploy. The noble Lord rightly told us that there have been 50 inquiries into these matters and it may be that we have got into a rut. I should be surprised if the noble Lord receives any support in the world of social work but perhaps he does not expect it. He is against the whole thing. Perhaps when the noble Lord has had many more years' contact with the issue, he may think differently.

As the noble Lord was kind enough to say, I was going to introduce a debate on this subject last year. I lost my spleen. I do not know whether any other noble Lord has lost his spleen but it does not seem to make much difference. People said that I had not got enough spleen anyway. If I had not lost my spleen, I might have spoken more sharply to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. However, the debate was taken over by my noble friend Lord Ennals and the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, spoke in the debate. She is a great expert in these matters and was a child officer for many years. The debate was handled extremely well, and like the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, I read it carefully.

Last year I was going to emphasise the need for better pay and conditions for staff at homes. I recognised then that the answer would be that the staff were not qualified. Therefore, the question of improving pay and conditions is very much linked, as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will agree, with improving qualifications. It is on that aspect of the matter that I wish to concentrate today. The Warner Report is a very comprehensive document, but I shall be concerned only with the question of training.

I have complimented the Minister so often in the past that I cannot utter any more compliments without seeming to become hysterical. However, I know that she is well qualified to handle the debate. It is obvious that if we are to improve the pay and conditions of those people—and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, said that he wants those people to he very different from what they are now, although I do not know what he wants them to be like—we can place on the Government requirements under three headings: willpower, resources and method.

I ask the Government to show us clearly whether they have the willpower to improve the conditions and status of the workers and staff in the homes and whether they are ready to provide the resources, if not tomorrow at any rate at some time in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, seemed to feel that that could be done without increasing resources. It would be nice if that were so. However, I do not believe that any great social improvements can be brought about without increasing resources. We do not expect the Minister this evening to promise large sums of money, but I should like to know whether the Government are making plans which are bound to involve increasing resources.

This report is a comprehensive report, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on the whole has been able to approve. I am afraid that I find difficulties over it. Of course we admire the dedication, learning and exertions of the people concerned, but I am afraid that I find certain difficulties. There are two outstanding features. With regard to the first, I quote two sentences from the report.

Any training strategy for children's homes which places undue emphasis on off-site training is probably doomed to failure. In our view the only practical way to train a lot more staff quickly and effectively within the resources likely to be available"— that is where the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, hopes to save and increase the resources— is to concentrate more on work-based training. I must press the Minister to tell us whether the Government accept that conclusion. I feel very dubious about it myself because of the small size of the homes, which was in fact brought home to us by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. He pointed out that the average capacity of a home is nine. In many cases they are much smaller, though some are larger. Experience and some common sense lead me to believe that you cannot improve enormously the training of these people within such very small units. However, obviously that is an issue on which more than one opinion can be held. I cannot think of any parallel in my experience where people in units of that size were professionally trained, or trained to similar standards. That would be the first difficulty.

We may be told, and it may be in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, that it is too expensive to train residential staff in any other way. I suppose that it would cost a bit more to do the job properly, but residential care is a closed world and those who give their lives to this—and in most of what I am saying I have not been instructed by anybody, but I am speaking after discussion with people who devote their lives to these matters and the bodies concerned —take the view that residential care is a closed world within these little units, and opportunity for extramural experience and learning is essential. However, it is one central feature of the report that training is to be done on the job in these little units.

The other point is the introduction of what is called a new strategy for a new professional qualification. Here again I shall quote recommendation No. 62, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson: The Government should reconsider its current policy on qualifications for heads of homes; and should consider arranging the design and introduction of a new Diploma, focused more on the group care of children and young people at an equivalent level to the Diploma in Social Work as the preferred professional qualification for staff working in children's residential care. No doubt that recommendation has been carefully thought out and I am not trying to belittle the hard work that has gone into producing it, but that recommendation has been widely criticised throughout the world of social work, and not least by the British Association of Social Workers. The association does not accept—and let us be clear that it is the professional body concerned with the people we are discussing today—the Warner proposal that the existing training framework cannot produce the numbers and quality of residential staff required.

Also, the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work is confident that the Diploma in Social Work, which was established only two years ago and which brought together two separate qualifications, has the flexibility to accommodate the anxieties expressed by Warner. That is a flat rejection—they do not mince any words—by the professional bodies most concerned with which I have been in touch. They reject the crucial finding of the Warner Report that there should be a new diploma.

I shall quote one passage expressing disquiet. The body concerned shares the report's concern at the numbers of qualified staff leaving residential care, which has been going on for years. But the solution is not to create a new qualification which only has currency in residential child care. Let me repeat that. The idea of having a special qualification in this little world of child care, with only 11,000 young people in it at one time, and which will be relatively limited outside that, does not appeal. I personally share the anxiety that it does not appeal to the social workers most concerned. Therefore, we must ask the Government whether they do or do not agree. Perhaps they are thinking it over. Perhaps they are waiting for this and other debates. Do they agree with this new professional qualification or do they not? I do not, but it is up to the people who matter, the Government, to tell us where they stand.

I must not take much longer. I hope that the Government will indicate that they have a strong will to improve the conditions of these workers. I hope they will indicate, however they like to phrase it—when resources permit, or whatever jargon is thought most appropriate—that they intend, or aspire, to provide the resources necessary. As regards methods, there is a choice. I have indicated my views and the views of the various bodies. Let us hear from the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has done a lot of work in the education field, and I know that we can all agree that we are desperately and equally anxious to support probably the most vulnerable children in the country and the staff who devote their lives to serving them.

6.17 p.m.

Lord Rix

My Lords, I should like to record my thanks to Norman Warner and his colleagues for their report on staffing of residential care for children, and to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for this timely opportunity to debate the issues. I say timely, but I must remark that, pleased as I am to be here and to have the chance to participate, a little of my attention is wandering across Parliament Square to the MCC drama unfolding in the Methodist Central Hall, where many Members of your Lordships' House appear to be ensconced. Some small part of my attention is also on my birthday celebrations later this evening.

The celebrations of birthdays assumes a certain urgency when you reach the mature years of many of us in your Lordships' House—even though The Times today has granted me, in some Faustian way, a further 10 years of life. Reaching beyond three score years and ten towards the more accurate but less euphonious three score years and 16 still seems ambitious, despite the recent assurances that there are over 2,300 of our fellow citizens who have scored a century or more. I only hope that the records of these centenarians are more accurate than those which appear to adhere to Graham Gooch in his century of centuries.

I was fortunate that my early birthdays were landmarks in a happy and secure childhood in what was once Yorkshire, is now Humberside, and after the local government review who knows. Windily teetering near me on the North Cliff at Hornsea was a residential home for children with disabilities. The home looked institutional; may have been eminently caring; and labelled its young charges as "poor brave things"—known locally as "the braves". Brave and unfortunate we all thought they were as they clattered on calipers and rattled in wheelchairs to sit in their reserved pews on Sunday mornings. As our language indicated, we felt sorry for them, but were less inclined to see them as part of a shared community.

It is easy to improve on the language. It is even more important to ensure that the staff who determine whether a building is an institution or a home should be carefully chosen, properly trained, and adequately supported. That I take to be the essence of the Warner Report and they are objectives that Mencap stoutly supports. Sixty and more years on from the memories of my childhood, residential care for children is still being debated and I expect that debate to run on well beyond my allotted span. However, we have an historic opportunity to get it right in a way that we have failed to get it right in the past. Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Longford, I believe that training can take place on the job. We have found in Mencap that those highly trained in a hospital setting do not necessarily transfer easily to the cosier, small residential home.

As with others in your Lordships' House, departmental circulars are my favourite bedside reading and I notice that Local Authority Circular (92)21 refers to money for training staff in children's homes but also records that bids last autumn for this money exceeded the amount of money actually available. That means that local authorities are trying to respond to the Warner recommendations; that the Government have accepted those recommendations and are trying to help them to respond; but that there is a gap between what local authorities would like to do and what they can afford to do. I would venture to guess that the gap between what they would like to do and what they need to do is greater still.

In spite of the assurance of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, that costs need not escalate, Warner recommendation 69 states that extra training incurs extra costs. For many childcare staff the challenge is children and young people with very difficult behaviour. Within Mencap's remit the issue is children and young people with learning disability and very difficult behaviour, and/or with multiple disabilities. A little love goes a long way in looking after children but a little love becomes worn out and ineffective if it is not supported by more than a little training. These children are very vulnerable as well as sometimes very difficult but also on occasions they are very rewarding.

I would add that in modern service patterns the importance of training extends to staff supporting parents who are doing the caring, to substitute families, and to residential and family-based respite care. Let us not make the mistake of assuming that family-based services are always best and necessarily cheaper. Even more important, let us not make the all too tempting mistake of assuming that cheaper means better: generations of children have suffered from that "Oliver Twist" philosophy.

Mencap itself caters for young people with special needs in its three residential further education colleges, and we are very conscious of the responsibility of caring for other people's children. Caring means providing opportunity and support. It means enabling development. It means taking risks, but doing so within a framework of safety supplied by agreed policies and procedures, and by the skills of staff who have been well trained and who know the children they are looking after. I might add that for people with severe disabilities who grow up, but who remain vulnerable, the relevance of the Warner recommendations does not stop at age 18. For adults there is much less protection than there is for children. That worries me.

I have one final point to place on record, if I may. In commending better selection procedures, training, monitoring and support, and complaints procedures to help identify where things are going wrong, I want to join others who have paid tribute to the staff who are doing this vital work on our behalf. Warner is about supporting them more adequately; and I hope that as the Government's initially favourable response unfolds the resources will be invested to help people who, for the most part, are doing their best in a job that would stretch any of us to the limit and beyond. For the vast majority of them, my admiration and gratitude know no bounds.

6.24 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, we are indeed indebted to my noble friend Lord Pearson for initiating this important debate. Before the noble Earl, Lord Longford, leaves the Chamber, I hope I may say how much I have agreed with his comments in the past. However, I must add with regret that, except for one point he made, I could not quite agree with his comments today.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I would never dream of leaving this House when the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, was speaking. I was merely changing place to hear her better.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his remarks. I entirely agreed with everything my noble friend Lord Pearson said in his speech except for one point which I shall mention later. Inevitably it concerns resources. I remind your Lordships that in 1967 the Williams Report recommended that training for staff working in residential homes and schools was essential. The fact that the recommendations in that report were not implemented to the full is the responsibility of both central and local government and of all political parties. This is not a party political matter. As a country we have allowed children to suffer as evidenced by the distressing reports on malpractices in children's homes. I refer to the "Pindown" inquiry, the Leicestershire inquiry, the Welsh inquiry, the Northern Ireland inquiry, the Crookham court case and others. Furthermore, we have wasted resources in having to commission these inquiries, which have cost money. I suggest that if we had followed the recommendations of the Williams Report in 1967 we would not be in the position we are in today.

Various reports have been written, for example the Utting Report on children in public care, the Howe Report—that was referred to by my noble friend Lord Pearson—the Meyer/Goodenough Report, which was commissioned by the Association of County Councils, and finally the Warner Report. I believe we all agree that the Warner Report is a most outstanding report. All those reports stress the need for training staff who work in a group setting with children. As has been mentioned, the residential sector has been a Cinderella service. I agree with two noble Lords who have said there are staff who are dedicated to children and who are carrying out good work in difficult conditions. We must acknowledge those staff and pay tribute to them.

The Warner Committee was commissioned by the Department of Health. The committee states that its report covers private homes and homes run by local authorities and voluntary organisations. My noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch has given us figures on this matter and I shall not repeat them. Within the homes there are 9,000 sexually abused children and young persons. There are 15,000 staff. Some 40 per cent. of heads of homes and some 80 per cent. of assistant staff have no training or relevant experience. That is not something of which we should be proud. Training should include studies of human growth and development and therapeutic understanding, and it should be undertaken by people of insight and sensitivity who have sound qualities of character, and commitment.

In 1957 Leila Renold, the founder of the Caldecott Community, which is situated in Kent and caters for deeply disturbed children, asserted that training should be work based. In 1993 that is one of the recommendations of the Warner Report. The Local Government Training Board has already embarked on a national vocational qualification. I believe that that should be incorporated in the wider recommendations of the Warner Committee.

I do not believe the Diploma in Social Work issued by CCETSW is adequate. Like my noble friend Lord Pearson I am distressed that matters of class, gender and race should be brought into the report. In time gone by there was an excellent advanced course for residential workers run by Professor Beedell at the Bristol University. It was closed down for lack of resources.

As chairman of the governors, I speak from personal experience of the Caldecott Community. Five years ago we appointed a qualified training officer to the staff, who offered the staff training on site. That has proved of inestimable value to the work being done and of help to the staff. Only by work-based training would it be possible to train the large number of untrained workers in children's homes.

I say this to the noble Earl, Lord Longford. Even in small children's homes it is possible to have work-based training on site. Staff will probably attend their local college of further education for the academic side. On the practical side, it is hoped that on the staff of the social services departments there will be a manager who will co-operate with the college of further education in giving the staff their practical work in the children's homes.

At this juncture I wish to widen the debate. I have informed the Minister of that. The terms of the debate today are, To call attention to Government policies on the recruitment and training of those entrusted with the residential care of children". Apart from the report commissioned by the Association of County Councils, all the reports, including the Warner Report, were commissioned by the Department of Health to deal with children's homes which came under the umbrella of the Department of Health and the social services departments. However, there are residential schools which come under the umbrella of the Department of Education. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, knows about the schools for handicapped children. There are also EBD residential schools. EBD was initiated by the Department of Education, and refers to children experiencing emotional behavioural difficulties. I was unable to discover the number of schools and the number of children in those schools from the Department of Education. Those schools are often run by charities.

There are also the therapeutic residential centres which form the Charterhouse Group, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, is the president. We are sorry that she cannot be with us today due to illness in her family.

In addition there are boarding schools, some run by charities and others privately run. The majority of those establishments employ staff who care for the children out of school hours. They too do not have training or relevant experience.

Training of all care staff in residential establishments should come under one umbrella, not two departments. Indeed, I believe that the Department of Education does not have a training scheme for care staff in residential schools. Therefore the money put aside for resources covers only the children's homes run by the social services departments, the voluntary organisations and those under the umbrella of the Department of Health.

In the Warner Report it is recommended that there should be a joint implementation group. The Utting Report recommended a development action group. However, I maintain that there should be one residential care consortium group to cover all children in residential establishments under the umbrella of both the Department of Health and the Department of Education. There should be one scheme for training the care staff in both those sectors.

I have two final points. The first concerns EBD schools and therapeutic centres which fall under the umbrella of the Department of Education. I say this with deep regret. There is evidence that the Department of Education has little knowledge or understanding of the needs of disturbed and disruptive children. That is not surprising as the teacher training colleges no longer teach human growth and development. They have discarded the teaching of such experts as Winnicott and Bowlby. Furthermore, the department seems to give little help, support or encouragement to the schools for difficult children. It allows schools to close without having helped or advised them, and few inspections are carried out. At lunch today I spoke to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. He was most distressed that a very good school in his area was closing.

Many such schools are run by charities. They have to close if they do not have the full complement of children. Such schools are expensive because they have special services to offer difficult children. However, I regret to say that even though the action is recommended by a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a teacher, many city treasurers will not allow those children to be sent to such schools because of the expense. What happens? It means that those children become the responsibility of the social services departments, which are unable to deal with them. Furthermore, responsibility for those children will be expensive and authorities will not have either the facilities or the resources. The fragmentation of responsibility between two departments is a cause for real anxiety.

Inevitably I come to the question of resources. I slightly part company in that respect with my noble friend. So often the treasurers cut down on training and sending children to special schools. But I do not believe that training can be carried out without extra resources. The Warner Report makes recommendations about training. Figures are given for training. But remember that they relate only to the children in the children's homes under the umbrella of the Department of Health. What about the care staff in the children's homes under the umbrella of the Department of Education? Many more resources and the same training will be required for the care staff in those homes.

I believe that all local authorities should have to give an annual report on their training schemes: how many staff have been trained and how much money has been spent. I believe that the report should be submitted to the Department of Health and, in the case of the residential establishments under the umbrella of the Department of Education, to that department. I hesitate to step into realms which are rightly those of the right reverend Prelate. However, I would say that, where there is no vision, the people perish. Over the years many children may not have perished but they have been badly damaged. It is timely that we have had the debate. I urge the Government —I refer not only to the Department of Health but to the Department of Education—to look together at this great problem of the training of staff.

6.39 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, in the year 1991 there was a series of serious allegations about the conduct of a community home with education in Gwent in South Wales called Ty Mawr, just outside Abergavenny. The Secretary of State for Wales, to his eternal credit, directed the local authority to carry out an investigation. It instructed me to do so. It was a very humbling experience. In the encircling gloom there were only two shafts of light: first, the quality of the assessor who sat with me, John McReadie; and, secondly, and much more fundamentally, the quality of the children with whom we dealt.

The noble Baroness concluded with a word which I endorse. She said that many children had been seriously "damaged". They have been damaged, many of them irremediably. I was surprised and shocked to discover in my investigation that virtually none of the care staff had any qualifications at all. I endorse what was said by your Lordships earlier that most of them are good natured, well meaning and well motivated people.

Earlier this afternoon your Lordships held a debate about the internal combustion engine. There is not one among us who would entrust the servicing of a motor car or motor-cycle to an untrained person. I could reasonably sit down at that point, but life being what it is I shall not.

The fact that people are well meaning—as most of them are —is a gross dereliction of duty towards the children in their charge. We need to bear in mind when we speak of children in residential care that we are attending to or should attend to a wide spectrum. Most of the children will be profoundly fragile through no fault of their own. Many are there for a brief period, for example, taken in the middle of the night from police stations because of the protection offered them by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Many are there for brief respite care; some are in residential accommodation for assessment. We should bear in mind that some are there because they have nowhere else to go, in other words the children's home is the home of the child.

The training required is such that none of us present would be able to undertake the work without proper qualifications, experience and training. It is not simply the management of a child in what is the child's home. As the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, pointed out, many of the children are well into adolescence. They can be large and may be physically intimidating. Many are sophisticated in crime even at the age of 14. We should not blind ourselves to that. Therefore, the staff need at the very least simple training in the physical control of sometimes large and intimidating youngsters. Often they do not have it.

There is unfortunately no mileage in an establishment for children. No one is interested in it until, as the noble Baroness pointed out, a scandal emerges and public funds are spent—some would say wasted—on needless inquiries.

Many children who go into residential care do so because magistrates are now rightly ashamed of committing them to remand sections of adult prisons where frequently they harm themselves or even kill themselves, or try to. The alternative is twofold: first, send them into the care of the local authority, which, I regret to say, magistrates do without appreciating that there is no security in most children's homes; or, secondly, commit them to secure accommodation. There is no secure accommodation in the whole of Wales. If secure accommodation, properly certified, means that we can keep a child in security so that he or she cannot abscond, run away or commit further crime within a 24-hour period, it is horrendously expensive. The figures vary, but it is of the order of £80,000 per head per year. Do we want that? If so, then the money must be made available.

Many of the care staff at Ty Mawr are well meaning. They were chosen as a consequence of the rundown of heavy industry in South Wales. People aged about 40 were available for work and they were chosen for this work which none of us today could carry out with any prospect or hope of success. They were chosen on the basis of going down to the jobcentre and being asked whether they would like a job caring for children. That is the literal truth, and I do not believe that home to have been unique.

What happens after training? The work in these homes is very demanding. It leaves the staff feeling like sponges which have been put through a mangle. It is desperately hard, committed, devoted work. If training is offered, the temptation is then to look for work in a similar field but not as hard or harsh, not necessarily requiring residence on the premises. Part of the history of training, alas, has been, with a degree of irony, that those who are trained leave the residential homes because life is easier and better paid outside.

When there is the opportunity of talking to residents of children's homes, or in my case listening to a tape left by a boy who by the time we had reported had killed himself, we do not readily forget the faces, weakness or vulnerability we have seen.

I echo what the noble Baroness said. It is important that children in these circumstances should not only be cared for by trained staff but should not be divorced from the mainstream of life, society and in particular education and skills. That is another significant danger that, when one has isolated communities, education is provided out of the mainstream.

I wish to say a word or two on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. He accused himself—I believe that in Army circles it is called a pre-emptive strike—of Right-wing paranoia. I do not ascribe that to him. I do not agree with all that he said, but one remark I wish to endorse. He said that often not only are children damaged by untrained or unreflective people who care for them but so are parents, deeply.

The noble Baroness mentioned the Orkney inquiry. I shall touch on it because after those many millions of pounds no parent there now knows, first, why their children were taken from them at dawn; and, secondly, whether they will have any vindication in this world. Not long ago when Cleveland erupted, the editor of the Mail on Sunday at the time, Stuart Steven, wrote an article which is well worth remembering. Its headline was, "In the Secret State". We need to be exceptionally careful not only that we attend to the rights of children in care by making sure that they have qualified staff to look after them but that their parents' rights are properly attended to and not shuffled away. I shall finish the story. Stuart Steven's reward for that courageous piece of exemplary journalism was to be taken before the High Court and charged with contempt. There is a shaft of light—he was acquitted.

Those are the few words I wish to contribute. The children of whom we speak, by and large in the state institutions, have no voice. There are no votes there. There is nothing pleasant about their lives and circumstances. If we do not make trained provision for them we are worse than pre-Dickensian.

6.48 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for introducing this important topic. I feel a certain diffidence in speaking on it in view of the great experience and expertise that I know is enjoyed by many of those who have already spoken.

The Warner Report is the latest in an escalating number of reports which reach similar conclusions. One might think that it is perhaps time to stop, take stock and prepare a summary and perhaps call a halt until progress has been made on the recommendations on which there seems to be a good deal of consensus.

The recommendations on the personnel procedures have, I believe, been accepted by the Government who have asked directors of social services to report by April on how they are implementing them. I know that while directors will endeavour to meet that timetable, in itself it is causing a problem. The other recommendations are being consulted on.

I entirely take the point that the issues in this report and debate are not party political. But the title of the debate refers to "Government policies" which led me to look at the Conservative manifesto. The sections on care services and children are directed to diversity and choice. I do not claim that there is no place for the voluntary and private sector provision. But, as I believe this debate has shown, the issue is about standards and quality. We have listened in other contexts to how one deals with quality when one contracts out services. That, I believe, is an issue for this area as well.

I was interested, when I looked at the terms of reference of the Warner Committee, to see that the question of resources was not included. I wonder whether the Minister can explain the thinking behind that. She may say that the right way to go about such things is to identify best practice and then work out how the resources can be applied and what the resource implications are. That may be the case in an ideal world, but I know that all those involved will be anxious to know not just that the Government accept some of the recommendations, but also how they are to be achieved. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, and the noble Baroness Lady Faithfull mentioned that point. The costs are far more than just those of the training, a point which has already been referred to fully in this debate.

It is interesting too that we are discussing this issue at the time when care in the community is being introduced, with all the costs that are attached. I realise that community care budgets are ring-fenced, but in a period of fast-increasing demands on social services budgets—including requirements of the Children Act 1989—those budgets are under enormous strain. Community care, being ring-fenced, must rely on other parts of the social services. It is interesting that the question of residential care is so important, as noble Lords have illustrated, at a time when we are perhaps concentrating on other parts of the social services.

Warner does not ignore the resource issues. I support the comment at paragraph 10.34 of the report that it is: important to relate the resource implications of [the] recommendations to the wider context of total expenditure on the Personal Social Services and local government activities as a whole". But I share other reservations expressed by your Lordships about funding by redeploying existing social services and local government resources. I believe there is a dilemma facing us when we assess our priorities in the light of the introduction of care in the community.

I support one particular very narrow comment in the report about the refurbishment of children's homes. It is important because the physical surroundings give people a message as to the value that is placed on what happens in those homes. The report recommends that refurbishment might be achieved by allowing the expenditure by local authorities of accumulated capital receipts, not just the receipts earned in the current year.

I accept that the physical surroundings are an indicator of the regard in which homes are held by the public and by those working in the service. At the root of the problem perhaps is the low regard and low status of homes and some of the staff in them. We have, perhaps, slipped into this situation. Warner identifies the problem when he says: Society as a whole has shown considerable indifference to the position of children in residential care. There is a tendency to disbelieve that abuse can occur in residential institutions that are assumed to provide higher standards of care than those families from which children have been removed". The report goes on to say: National and Local Government has shown a lack of interest in defining the role and purpose of children's homes or in obtaining information about how the sector was changing … Too often the profession has seen children's homes as a 'necessary evil'". I think that in identifying homes as somewhat of a backwater, Warner has put his finger on a large part of the problem.

The emphasis recently in social work has been on fostering. There must be something of a sense of failure if a child is placed in a residential home. The tendency has already been mentioned for staff who work in residential homes, after they have managed to find training, to go and do field work, which is certainly better paid and in many ways more rewarding.

There is a raft of cross-departmental issues which has been quite rightly identified by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. I have thought about it more at local level than at ministerial level, and of the needs and provision of education as well as social services. But: Under local management and grant maintained changes, there is no incentive for heads [of schools] to take these children and many of the education facilities in residential homes are poor". I myself might have made some comment of that kind, though not perhaps quite so extreme. But that was Norman Warner himself in an interview in the Local Government Chronicle. He said—and this too is worth putting on the record: At the end of the day, the local authority took the legal step in virtually all these cases to remove the child from their natural parents in order to protect that child. Having taken that step, it seems to me that they are under an overwhelming obligation, which is different in kind from the obligations to the physically disabled and elderly, to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child. It is very hard to see in a lot of cases in residential care, how the local authority is promoting the welfare of the child in its care. How can you be doing that by not ensuring that they are receiving the education or psychological help that they need beggars belief as far as I am concerned". Warner also refers to the problems experienced by children who are increasingly among those who are excluded from schools and who lose out in every sector.

Many of your Lordships made reference to the question of training. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, wondered whether he was paranoid. One of the answers is that if one is paranoid, one is not necessarily wrong.

Reference was also made to Recommendation 62, about the suggestion of a separate professional qualification for those working in children's homes. I am a little surprised at that. I wonder whether it does not suggest that there is something different qualitatively and something perhaps not as good, about working in that kind of sector. I know that the Association of County Councils is concerned about setting professional qualifications apart. It is also surprised that a new diploma is suggested hardly before the Diploma in Social Work has been adopted.

I have concentrated on certain concerns. But I must welcome the report. It is too easy on such occasions to forget that basic rule. It is characterised by underlying real concerns and determination, and it aims very high. Mr. Warner regards as most important the recommendations on supervision and appraisal. When I say that he aims high, he says that structured supervision must be weekly or fortnightly, and that monthly is not good enough. That is a tremendous target to be reached.

I must also pay tribute to the majority of staff working in residential homes. The scandals that have hit the press must be a source of greater distress and frustration to them than to the general public.

Suffusing the whole of the report is the notion that young people living in children's homes need champions. I am sure that noble Lords agree that they have certainly found a champion in Norman Warner and his colleagues.

7 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, let me first join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for introducing this subject for discussion. The Warner Report is a good report, as many noble Lords have said. We must thank Mr. Warner and the committee who laboured long and hard to bring it about.

I am conscious that many people who have already spoken are much greater experts in the matter than I. We have heard some excellent speeches, especially from the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and my noble friend Lord Williams. I am conscious also that the hour is late. Not only does the noble Lord, Lord Rix, celebrate his birthday today but I note also that the noble Baroness the Minister also shares his birthday. Therefore I must not be prolix.

I shall first quote from the report, which contains three essential messages. First, the report says, Society as a whole has shown considerable indifference to the position of children in residential care". The second point we must remember is that, society needs a range of well-managed children's homes as an important and permanent part of its system of public care of children". I emphasise the words "permanent part of its system". Lastly, the report states that the approach in children's homes, must be seen as developmental and therapeutic, and not as custodial". Those are the three principles that we must bear in mind. We have neglected the problem; it will not go away; and the way to approach it is in a therapeutic and developmental rather than a custodial frame of mind.

The first thing that strikes one about the sector is that it is a shrinking sector. The number of children's homes has been decreasing and there are now a small number of children in the homes—11,000. They are tough cases. Each child has his or her own problems and I do not want to minimise them. The sector is shrinking for two reasons. Most local authorities are reluctant to place children in the homes. They would prefer them to be fostered or adopted. Children are placed in a home either when there is no alternative or when doing so is the proper thing to do because they cannot and should not be placed with a foster family.

Given all that, 11,000 children is a manageable number and small enough not to produce problems if the sector is managed correctly. Because the sector is shrinking, there is a problem in retaining good staff. My noble friend Lord Williams pointed out that as soon as an individual is fully trained he or she leaves the sector. Before we think of training, recruitment, supervision and all those issues, we must produce a strategy whereby good trained staff can be retained. That means that there is not only a need for training, which many people have mentioned, but that we must look also at the reward structure in the sector in such a way as to provide no easy incentive for quitting the sector. That having been said, we must not make the sector such a closed garden that people within it never get out. There must be reasonable entry and exit so that people from other sectors of caring can bring their knowledge to bear.

One point which strikes a relative stranger to the matter is whether the size of the homes should be seen as a problem. They seem to me to be rather small and that must create a problem as regards the variety of help that staff can offer, especially in terms of psychology and education. By definition that must be limited. I wonder whether there is any thinking going on either in the Department of Health or elsewhere regarding the possible scope for moving towards larger homes which could provide a variety of facilities on the spot and could look after the children's developmental and therapeutic needs. I am concerned especially with the educational needs of the children. It is not always possible, or desirable, that they attend the nearest local school. It may be better to provide educational help on the premises. Therefore one problem to consider is whether or not the current homes are of the correct size.

Many noble Lords mentioned the problems of training and recruitment. The problem of whether the current Diploma in Social Work is suitable or whether something else should be introduced is a practical problem on which one should not take an extreme stance. Coming from a university I am less impressed by the idea that practical training is all and academic training is nothing. I take a somewhat opposite view. I believe that, as well as on-the-spot training, some firm grounding in many of the disciplines which contribute towards the care of children in need is essential.

It must be remembered that we want people to receive practical training only in the homes providing the best practice. It is not sufficient to have on-the-spot training in just any home. We must find the homes with best practice and use them for practical training. I would imagine that a combination of a Diploma in Social Work with one extra year added as a special module on children's problems, combined with practical training, would be the answer. As it is, the Diploma in Social Work, which is a two-year degree, is too short for all purposes. It would be better for it to be lengthened to three years.

I shall not enter into the controversy with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, over class, gender and race. He will not be surprised to know that my views are exactly opposite to his. I am part of his paranoia. However, while class, gender and race are not everything, they are not nothing. I would place a small bet with him that, if he were to take a sample of children in the homes, I could predict what class they would come from. It would not be socio-economic groups A and B. I imagine that many of the problems from which such children have suffered arise from broken homes which have gender problems. Of course, we do not even know, as the Warner Report says, what is the ethnic mix of children in the homes. Therefore, while I take a different view, these are important issues which must not be ignored. Also, I believe that we need to devise a course which will be a combination of some sort of social work course with an added component to train people especially for children's homes.

Lastly, I turn to the resource implications. As I said, there are two kinds of resource implication. One is that although many of the people who work in the sector are sincere and hardworking, they are not as my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn pointed out, properly trained. Training is important. Whether we intend to train people who are already in the jobs or to recruit trained people, it will cost resources. It will not be a vast amount but it will cost resources. More than that, I should like to emphasise the career and reward structure which would be necessary to retain people who enter that difficult sector and encourage them to stay to ensure that children receive continuing good care.

Once again I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for initiating the debate and I look forward to the Minister's reply.

7.9 p.m.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, as one who knows the quality of the NHS better than most, I have every confidence that the noble Lord, Lord Rix, will compete very favourably with the longevity of other noble Peers. As a mere 69 not out, I believe, he has far to go to compete with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who is nearing his century. I have even a little further to go.

I thank my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch for initiating and so ably introducing this timely and crucial debate on the subject of children's residential care, a subject which I know your Lordships follow with keen interest, having last debated it just 12 months ago. On this occasion I am also delighted that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is with us and, as always, he has made a cogent and learned contribution to the debate.

I would like to start with some personal comments. Looking back over my career I realise that, as with many others, I have contributed, with the best of intentions, to creating the circumstances now facing children's homes and which prompted this evening's debate. Fifteen years ago, when I was chairman of East Sussex social services, I took the responsibility, in the face of some criticism, to close 10 family and group homes. I did so in the belief that for most children it was better that they should enjoy the sort of love and care that is best provided within a family. For those of us who have had a happy home life it is hard to imagine how children can be brought up in any other setting. That is perhaps why we admire the work of both foster parents and staff who work in children's homes.

It seems to me that many of the children who need to be looked after in residential care are there because through abuse or neglect they have lost faith in the power of love. I remain persuaded that the longer-term solution to providing better and happier lives for children lies in breaking the cycle of deprivation that passes from one generation to another; and of course some preventive programmes have proved to be outstandingly successful in breaking the cycle and in avoiding the need for children to be taken into care. Over the past 10 years we have seen a reduction of 29 per cent. of children in local authority care and over the same period the number of children in residential care has declined by a staggering 60 per cent.

This is a success story, and perhaps paradoxically residential care has played a very significant part in this achievement. Children's homes have had to adapt to support preventive policies. They have provided much more short-term care and helped families to endure temporary crises. Staff in residential homes have worked hard with children and young people, preparing them for living in substitute families, helping them to understand the realities of their lives and thereby reducing their fears of an unknown future in a new family. Children's homes have always been there to provide for children when their foster care has broken down and have patiently met their needs during these painful upheavals and transitions. These homes have faced increasing difficulties, not least in the children themselves, many of whom have suffered a succession of placements. Due to misery and abuse in their earlier years they become under-achievers at school, play truant, are violent, may become involved in or are on the brink of crime, and thus present serious behavioural problems.

The truth is that, through policies which have favoured family support or fostering and adoption, social services departments have relied on the support of children's homes —perhaps even taken it for granted. Sadly, the evidence of the scandals that have hit us in recent years—one so lucidly described by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn —and the subsequent reports on them which have been mentioned by several of your Lordships, suggest that many social services departments have failed to maintain the conditions in which good practice and good management of residential child care have been sustained. This is perhaps the real scandal.

Despite this, having visited a number of local authority homes I have to say how impressed I have been by the fortitude, enthusiasm and caring attitudes of the staff I have met and talked with. I would like to endorse the view of my noble friend Lord Pearson and others. On the whole, staff in residential child care are hardworking and show a great deal of commitment to the children in their care. The majority do a difficult job well, sometimes in circumstances which are frankly adverse. I so agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that it is a very difficult job. The degree of difficulty in dealing with these children cannot be underestimated. Local authorities need to recognise the stress that staff work under, providing them with first-class training, career breaks and staff development schemes. I commend the London Borough of Croydon's approach which makes it possible for staff to leave and recuperate for up to five years with a guaranteed job to return to.

Research carried out by the Dartington Research Unit has shown that positive outcomes for children in residential care are associated with five features. I paraphrase these: young people should feel enriched because they perceive the staff in the home as caring for them; they should feel as though they are acquiring some skills which will be useful in later life; homes should work with the child to tackle some of the problems that have led to the child needing to come into care; there should be a consensus between staff, children and parents about what the home is setting out to achieve, and this consensus should be realised through clear and consistent leadership; homes should avoid large sub-cultures of children, probably by looking after them in small groups. I know that this is not a view shared by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and although he has some cogent arguments, they are ones not necessarily shared by the professions working in this field.

If children's homes are to succeed in creating these features outlined by the Dartington unit then they need proper conditions. Exactly what these conditions are and how they are best created has been the subject of three recent reports: the Utting Review describing the current condition of residential child care; the Howe Report concerning, primarily, conditions of service for staff; and the Warner Report looking mainly at recruitment, selection and human resource management.

Recruitment, selection and training are essential for setting the right conditions. Norman Warner and his team, to whom I pay tribute, have provided a great deal of material which employers can actively begin to work on to improve their methods. His report was welcomed by the Government as a thorough and constructive analysis of the issues. On the day of its publication the Department of Health wrote to local authorities enclosing copies of the report and requiring them to take early and positive action to implement the 24 vitally important recommendations dealing with personnel procedures and practices and those on the supervision and appraisal of staff. We have asked for progress reports by 8th April. At the same time, recommendations directed at government, including those concerned with training, which I shall come to in a minute, are subject to consultation with all relevant interests. Comments have been asked for by the end of February.

There is ample evidence from recently publicised cases—Crookham Court School, Castle Hill School, the Frank Beck case and the Malcolm Thompson case—to show that some child abusers seek to work in children's homes in order to have contact with vulnerable children. How insulting it must be for the vast majority of committed and conscientious staff to read about the insidious activities of predatory paedophiles exploiting vulnerable children to indulge their own perversions. The fact that some of these people had high-flown therapeutic pretensions is a betrayal of those engaged in genuine therapeutic care. These people must be excluded.

But there is a more positive reason why selection and training are so important. In a cogent and illuminating speech based on his knowledge and expertise in this field, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, was right to say that being well intentioned is not good enough. We must appoint staff who have real potential for skilled and creative work and who can, with training and experience, begin to build up a sound professional base for the specialised and difficult task of caring for children in children's homes.

I turn now to training. The Government are committed to training in the personal social services and have a good record on funding improvements to it. The Department of Health's training support programme has made a significant contribution to the improvement of training of local authority staff working in the personal social services. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, questioned the Government's willpower, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, concerning resources. The Government have a powerful track record in terms of their investment in training. They have increased the level of funding from £7 million in 1988–89 to £31.8 million for 1993–94. The grant is an element of the department's personal social services training strategy, published in 1991, which produced a framework for additional investment in social services training of £10 million in 1991–92, rising to £19.6 million in 1993–94.

The Government have also increased the funding of the Central Council for Education in Social Work which has a budget in this financial year of £33 million. Much of this money goes on student grants, practice placement fees and developmental work. However, CCETSW core functions, given to it by statute in 1983, are to promote and regulate, training in relevant social work". CCETSW approves courses as suitable on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health, and no other body can do so. Its membership is drawn from a wide range of interests, by no means only social work. The performance of CCETSW as a wholly governmental sponsored body is kept under detailed review by the Department of Health and other relevant government departments.

The five-yearly policy review of CCETSW currently being conducted by the Government is particularly addressing issues, some of which were raised by my noble friends Lord Pearson and Lady Faithfull, concerning the content of courses and issues such as quality assurance, management and control in social work training.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Mr Tim Yeo, shares some of the views which have been expressed tonight. We need a new profile for social work training in the 1990s and beyond. Concerning the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Pearson on validation, I shall undertake to explore that issue with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

The department has also funded the central council to implement the new diploma in social work as the professional qualification for social work in all settings. With particular reference to residential child care, CCETSW convened an expert group in February 1992 to clarify the required content of residential child care within training programmes leading to the new qualification. The work of that group formed the basis for guidance on Residential Child Care in the Diploma in Social Work which was published by CCETSW and issued to all social work training courses in November 1992 with a view to ensuring, high standards of social work education, training and assessment in residential child care". The Utting Report drew particular attention to the training needs of staff working in residential children's homes. As a result the Government introduced a special initiative (the residential child care initiative) to begin a programme to ensure that all heads of children's homes are professionally qualified. The initiative, which this year is funding an additional 144 staff from residential children's homes, including, I am very pleased to say, 12 from the voluntary sector, has been welcomed by local authorities. It has also encouraged many of them to use other training budgets to boost qualifying training for this sector to the extent that 560 local authority staff are undergoing training to diploma standard this year.

The success of the residential child care initiative will be kept under review, as will the Central Council for Education and Training's work, to ensure that sufficient diploma in social work programmes are available to offer appropriate teaching and practice experience in residential child care.

Warner has also focused on the adequacy of training the staff in children's homes. The central thrust of that report's conclusions is entirely consistent with the framework of objectives set out in the Department of Health Personal Social Services training strategy, a key one being, to improve the training of the existing PSS workforce at professional and vocational levels". We shall continue to urge that residential child care staff are given high priority for training through the training support programme.

The Government also fully support the view of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, that training staff at vocational levels should be work-based as far as possible. I believe that we have much to learn from the voluntary sector, not least from MENCAP and the Caldecott Therapeutic Community which was mentioned tonight by my noble friend Lady Faithfull.

The Care Sector Consortium is currently working on new standards to provide the basis for national vocational standards and qualifications for staff in children's services. My noble friend Lord Pearson shared the view of Warner in that the diploma of social work is not necessarily the most appropriate qualification for those working in residential care. Warner is sceptical that effective training for residential child care can be provided through diploma in social work programmes. Hence his recommendation for a new diploma.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, is correct that opinions are divided on that issue. The Government have not yet arrived at a view about the recommendation, but we shall be interested in the comments of employers and others as to whether such a radical breakaway from a unified approach to social work training should be contemplated.

I say to my noble friend Lady Faithfull that I am very much aware of the important work that the therapeutic communities do, including Caldecott. I am also conscious of the financial problems that they are experiencing due to the high cost of the very specialised treatment they provide. I hope that the therapeutic communities will take action to assess what services local authorities require of them and to provide those services at a price the authorities are prepared to pay. Local authorities have been advised to take account of the services available from independent organisations in planning their children's services.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised the matter of whether all services should be provided in local authorities. As she is aware, this Government have the approach of a mixed economy of social support and services. But the view that she takes about assessment and ensuring and monitoring that standards are high is one that the Government take very much to heart.

Concerning the role of residential care with education, my noble friend Lady Faithfull raised some pertinent points. The Government recognise that the provision of education for children in residential care is not as good as it should be and that at best it is patchy. It must be improved and the department is currently in discussion with the Department for Education with a view to guidance being issued.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, wished to widen the debate to resources generally. The Government have a proud record. In the past three years alone the increase has been 33 per cent in real terms. With regard to community care, the additional burdens which the noble Baroness outlined will be taken care of in terms not only of increased resources but of ring-fenced money. But as a former councillor she will know that it is up to local authorities to make local decisions within the social services budget.

In conclusion, we have all been chagrined by some of the reports which have been presented over the past few years. They highlight bad management and bad practice. These children are too damaged to suffer from further and often preventable distress. The Government are not offering prevarication but action which I trust that this House will endorse.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I believe that it is now my pleasant duty to thank all of your Lordships who have contributed so wisely to this debate. I would like to clear up one slight misunderstanding perhaps with the noble Earl, Lord Longford. If the noble Earl understood me to say that I was, generally speaking, against social workers, I point out that I am not. I know what a very good job many of them do, often in spite of their training, which is what I was criticising. Further than that, I would say that there does seem to be a tremendous amount of public resource going into this area generally. Having listened to the debate, I still believe that it must be possible to redirect some of that to the benefit of new and more relevant courses for training the people that we have been talking about. For instance, I understand that there are about 10,000 students at the moment on social work courses at a cost of about £53 million per annum. My noble friend the Minister has mentioned other sums which are fairly astronomic. I would have thought that if there was a will there would be a way in this direction.

I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for saying that she will discuss my suggestion that there should be an independent panel to validate the social work courses which I have criticised. I very much look forward to hearing the outcome of that discussion. Beyond that I think that it is time to close the debate and to thank all of your Lordships for your contributions. As I do so, I think that it would be appropriate to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and my noble friend the Minister on their birthdays. We wish them the very best this evening. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.