HC Deb 01 March 1989 vol 148 cc242-3W
Mr. Allan Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the discharge by Fife regional council of its statutory responsibilities for child care.

Mr. Rifkind

Scottish Office officials have undertaken extensive discussions with officials of Fife regional council concerning the discharge by the authority of certain statutory functions relating to the use of voluntary and compulsory measures of care for children, together with relations between the social work department and the children's panel. In the course of these discussions, clear differences of view have emerged as to whether the practice followed by the social work department is consistent with the best interests of children at risk and with the provision of effective support to the children's hearings system in the region. I have concluded after careful consideration that, with a view to resolving these issues, it would now be right for me to constitute an inquiry under section 99 of the Children Act 1975. The terms of reference are as follows1. To inquire into the policies pursued by Fife regional council through its social work department in discharging its functions under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and related legislation in the use of voluntary and compulsory measures of care for children, and in particular, in the advice given to children's hearings before they decide on or review compulsory measures of care for children referred to them. 2. To assess the extent to which the regional council's current policies relating to these matters and the Department's interpretation and application of them meet the best interests of children at risk. 3. To make recommendations for any modification of the child care policies of Fife regional council and their interpretation and application in the best interests of children. 4. To report to the Secretary of State.

I have invited Sheriff Brian Kearney to undertake the inquiry. Sheriff Kearney will be assisted by Professor Elisabeth Mapstone, OBE, professor of social administration and social work, University of Dundee.

I hope that it will be possible for the inquiry to be completed within three months.