HC Deb 24 June 1993 vol 227 cc249-50W
Miss Lestor

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to initiate a public inquiry into the running of all residential care establishments in connection with allegations of maltreatment of children in such establishments; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Bowis

None. Since 1991, there have been a number of inquiries into specific aspects of residential child care. Where there are specific allegations of mistreatment, the Government are always concerned to ensure that they are thoroughly investigated by the managing authorities, as laid down in procedures for child protection and that appropriate action is taken in the event of the confirmation of such allegations. We have recently established a residential child care support force whose prime purpose will be to promote improvements in the quality and delivery of the service for these young people.

Mr. Ian Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will publish the terms of reference of the support force for children's residential care.

1. Mr. Bowis

We are currently consulting on draft terms of reference which are as follows:

  1. a. to offer advice to individual authorities on quality of care and management issues in children's residential care, with particular reference to the appointment and selection, personnel management, and development and internal training of children's residential care staff.
  2. b. to offer advice to individual authorities and, where appropriate, groups of authorities on suitable mechanisms for matching need and supply in their localities or regions, taking account of the potential contributions of voluntary, private and public sectors; and on related commissioning and contractual issues. A particular focus of the work will be to assist authorities and others to improve occupancy rates and hence reduce unit costs in children's residential homes where this is appropriate.
  3. c. to prepare material for a code of employment practice, for discussion with employer and other interests.

2. The Children's Residential Care Support Force will work under Department of Health auspices, and from time to time as requested, report on its programme and progress. It will work with social services and, as appropriate, other agencies by invitation in a consulting and facilitating role. The Social Services Inspectorate's advice will be available to it. It will work within the framework of the Children Act 1989 and regulations and guidance issued following that and other relevant legislation; the Warner report and Government decisions in it; and other material that may be relevant. Its remit is for a period of two years from the summer of 1993. Ministers will then review the progress made.

I expect to be able to announce next month the membership of the support force.