HC Deb 20 November 1975 vol 901 cc1-2W
Mrs. Ann Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when she is going to publish the report of the committee of inquiry into the provision and co-ordination of services to the family of John George Auckland; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Castle

The report is published today and copies are available in the Vote Office. A copy has also been placed in the Library of both Houses of Parliament and I am circulating the report to all local authorities and area review committees.

The background to this report is particularly tragic in that a man who was convicted of the manslaughter of one of his children subsequently after serving a prison sentence killed another. I am most grateful to the chairman, Mr. P. J. M. Kennedy, QC, and members of the committee of inquiry for their prompt and thorough report.

In its report the committee of inquiry found that for most of the time the various people and agencies who helped the family did all that could possibly be expected but that there were occasions when the service given to the family faltered. I am asking the authorities concerned to consider what steps should be taken to remedy the shortcomings which have become apparent and to inform me of the action they decide upon. Since the main period of time covered by the report, multi-disciplinary area review committees, to co-ordinate local policy on non-accidental injury, have been established jointly in all local government areas in England and Wales, and case conferences to decide the action to be taken to protect a child injured or at risk of injury are now standard practice. I am looking urgently at the recommendations of the report and I intend to prepare guidance on matters covered by them including the interpretation of the section of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 relating to care proceedings, the importance of proper record keeping, the exchange of information between agencies and the need for specialist knowledge among members of the professions dealing with children at risk and adequate arrangements for supervision by senior staff. I am asking the bodies responsible to ensure that these matters are fully covered in professional training.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department is considering how existing arrangements can be extended so that information can be passed to social service departments on the release of all prisoners with convictions for child abuse. As the House knows, a new section was added to the Children Act 1975 at Report stage to make it possible to take care proceedings on the ground that someone convicted of an offence against a child is, or may become, a member of the same household as a child and this fulfils a recommendation made by the committee of inquiry.