HC Deb 03 February 1999 vol 324 cc649-50W
Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with senior officers of the Armed Services on their responsibilities in ensuring the welfare and protection of young children living with families on military bases; and if he will make a statement. [68047]

Mr. Spellar

No specific discussion have been held between Ministers and Senior Officers on their responsibilities in ensuring the welfare and protection of young children living on military bases. The Ministry of Defence does, however, takes very seriously its responsibilities of duty of care towards its personnel and their dependants. Commanding Officers are made well aware of their duty towards the welfare of all personnel and their dependants, through instructions issued through the chain of Command.

In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defence does not have statutory responsibility in matters of child welfare and protection. This responsibility falls to the relevant local authority. Under the Children Act 1989, it is the statutory duty of the local authority, to investigate cases where it believes a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, harm. Service authorities are, however, required to notify the local Director of Social Services off any cases of abuse of which they become aware and any further action is to be taken in collaboration with the other agencies involved.

Overseas, the Ministry of Defence acts as a de facto local authority and replicates those statutory responsibilities falling to local authorities in the United Kingdom. All statutory health care and social services are provided for, and on behalf of, the Department under contract by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association—Forces Help, which employs appropriately qualified social work staff. The SSAFA-FH social work service works in close co-operation with military authorities, Service police, medical and health professionals in accordance with Defence Council Instructions and The Armed Forces (Protection of Children of Service Families) Regulations 1996.

Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many children living in military-based accommodation have been the subject of reports by senior officers as to their welfare and protection in each of the last three years. [67987]

Mr. Spellar

Information of the nature requested is not held centrally by my Department. Within the United Kingdom, statutory responsibility in matters of welfare and protection of children of Service families rests with local authorities.

Overseas, where the Ministry of Defence assumes the responsibilities of a local authority, the following numbers of children were placed on Child Protection Registers for the years 1996, 1997 and 1998:

Year Number
1996 51
1997 46
1998 58

Numbers of children overseas, subject to child protection inquiries, or the subject of concern, but whose names were not placed on the Child Protection Register, for the years 1996, 1997 and 1998 are as follows:

Year Number
1996 41
1997 76
1998 82