§ Mr. O'Halloran
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will institute an inquiry into the care of mentally handicapped children at "The Beeches", Ixworth.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have carefully considered points made by the hon. Member and by parents and other relatives of children accommodated at this home before it was closed last year, together with the proceedings of the inquest which was held into the death of one of the children.
I have concluded that a formal inquiry into standards of care in the home would not be appropriate. But I have also concluded that there are important lessons to be learnt about the special problems which can arise when a child is placed in residential care outside his own home area, and that there should be a proper study of the procedures for communication and investigation of complaints in such circumstances to ensure that the histories and problems of children placed in private and voluntary homes are known to those who may be involved in their care and that the problems of such children are handled no less effectively than if they had been placed in a home run by the local authority in their own home area.
I am accordingly appointing a study group of experienced people from outside my Department to look into these matters and report, and I hope that the parents, the former owners of "The Beeches", the various authorities and all others concerned will give the study group the co-operation it will need to complete its work effectively and expeditiously. It is my intention to publish the study group's report. Its membership and terms of reference are as follows:
- Chairman: Miss D. E. Harvie, OBE.
- Members: Dr. K. W. Browne and Mr. V. L. Cornish.
TERMS OF REFERENCE
"In the light of complaints made by parents of children formerly resident at 57W 'The Beeches', Ixworth, which indicate that special problems arise when a mentally handicapped child is placed in residential care outside his home area, to consider the requirements and procedures for communication between the various authorities, and other persons concerned with the child's care and environment, and to make recommendations."