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"seen to be stigmatising, associated with poor or inadequate parents, and with a lack of participation by parents in their child's care".
That report went on to argue for a service which provided a greater partnership with parents wherever possible and a more generously voluntary form of care. That review, indeed, led to the Children Act 1989.

More recently, our White Paper Scotland's Children highlighted the need for local authorities to discuss with parents at the outset the nature and the duration of the support needed for a child and for a clearer understanding of the extent to which local authorities may make decisions concerning the care of the child on the parents' behalf.

Against this background the "in care" terminology sits uneasily. As we see it, it has contributed to uncertainties about where responsibilities and rights lie in relation to children. Rightly or wrongly, the words are seen as stigmatising the parents' ability or willingness to care for their child and as such can only inhibit parents from seeking support. The words "in care" have also been perceived as giving a particular package of powers to the local authority. This runs counter to our aim of providing a more flexible provision, determined by the individual child's needs and the responsibilities and rights of their parents.

Nevertheless, I recognise the concerns behind the amendments; they are understandable. It has been

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suggested that this change in terminology implies that local authorities may somehow take less care of young people, and I hope that I can reassure the noble Lady on that point. The necessary responsibilities which a local authority has to a child who is accommodated or looked after by it are no less than it has under existing legislation; indeed, they are, if anything, greater.

The new terminology is backed by two themes of major importance enunciated in Clause 17: that the welfare of the child is paramount, and that the views of the child should, so far as is practicable, be taken in matters affecting him or her. The translation of these two themes into practice is bound to depend on a caring approach to the needs of a child in social work practice.

This is an approach which has already been emphasised—for example in the Skinner report. Another Kind of Home,—and which we will emphasise in the guidance which follows upon the Bill. Our aim will be to build upon best practice and, indeed, to develop it further. The essential difference which we wish to convey in the Bill is that the local authorities' responsibilities are to be determined by the ability and the willingness of each child's parents to meet their own responsibilities. This seems entirely appropriate.

I hope that the effect of this terminology will be to promote a greater public and professional awareness of the important role which parents should continue to play in caring for their child, even where that child is living away from home.

I have taken a moment or two longer in responding to these amendments than I have in replying to other groups of amendments in order to set out our thinking. I am aware that in Scotland there has been an extended debate among professional people who have been worried about the matter and the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, has similarly indicated that he has reflected long and hard on whether the term "looked after" was indeed appropriate. I am particularly concerned about the stigmatisation argument, and it is for that reason that, like him, having thought long and hard as to whether a more appropriate synonym might be used, I have come to the conclusion that this change is indeed a desirable one. But it is in no way to be taken as an indication that the responsibility for the attitudes that local authorities have to children should be in any way diminished.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull: I thank the Minister for that reply. But let us suppose that a woman arranges for a babysitter, agreed 12 or 14, to look after a child and she then goes out. The child either has a bad cough or is ill; the child does not really know what to do. The case then comes before the court. Would not the court say that she did arrange for the child to be looked after, but the child was not cared for?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: The term "looked after" is here used, as I have been seeking to explain, in particular context of what are the responsibilities of local authorities in Scotland. It is set out in Clause 17(1):


"Where a child is looked after by a local authority".

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What I have been seeking to set out is the range of rights and responsibilities that a local authority may have in a variety of circumstances. The type of case to which the noble Baroness has referred would not, I think arise in any sense under this provision. I am not sure what the comparable provision is in England, but in Scotland it would come under the 1937 Act—neglecting a child—and I do not think it would matter at all whether she said that the child was being "looked after" or not. Objectively, the court would look to see whether the child had been neglected, and conviction or acquittal would follow on a proper consideration of all the circumstances relating to the looking after of the child.

Lord Northbourne: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may illustrate another possible difficulty. If, as I understand it, this category of children would include children who are in what I would call the care of the local authority—that is to say living in a children's home or in a foster home under the responsibility of the local authority—but are in fact living at home with one or more parents, are they then not being looked after by those parents?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: They are being cared for by their parents, as I indicated, in terms of Part I. We want to focus very clearly on what are the rights and responsibilities of parents. What I hope we would achieve by this is that those parents should not think, if we were to continue with the existing terminology, that they could shrug their shoulders and ignore their responsibilities towards their children. What I sought to demonstrate by my quotation was that we want to encourage as best we can a greater sense of partnership between the parents of the child and those who have responsibilities within the local authorities, and not bring about a situation where the parents effectively abdicate their responsibilities.

I consider it desirable, particularly in that context, that we should use the words "looked after", because if a stigma is attached to "in care" at the moment it would be even worse if it were in a sense to be extended to cover those children who were not even in residential homes, but were still living with their parents.

Lord Northbourne: Would there not then be a confusion of responsibility if the child is being looked after by its parents and by the local authority? Who actually is in charge?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: With respect, I do not think there is. If the noble Lord would like to look to Part I of the Bill he will see that it is there very clearly spelled out what are the rights and responsibilities of parents. Now that we have reached Part II it does seem desirable that we should adjust the terminology to make it clear that the responsibilities of local authorities are rather different.

Baroness Faithfull: I am sorry to pursue this. I think that perhaps things must be different in Scotland from in England. Perhaps that is where the problem lies and perhaps I ought not to be speaking. To me, "looked after" means that you have seen that the child is looked after, but you need not really care for it. Perhaps in Scotland "looked after" means "cared for". Speaking from experience as a director of social services in England, if a parent or a person running a children's

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home gave me the excuse "Well, I looked after them", I would not necessarily understand that to mean, "I cared for them".

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I do not want to continue this indefinitely, but I must explain that the "looked after" expression covers, in statutory form, a wide range of responsibilities vested in a local authority. Knowing the noble Baroness's concern about this, I do not think she could object to the definition to be found in Clause 17, which states:


"Where a child is looked after by a local authority they shall . . . safeguard and promote his welfare", and that that duty to that child shall be "their paramount concern", so there really is no diminution at all in the extent of the "care", if that is the word that the noble Baroness would prefer. Indeed, if anything—looking at some of the aftercare provisions—the Bill provides a useful extension to the powers and responsibilities of local authorities.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: Who cares for a child who is lost and abandoned, as in Clause 22(1)(b)? Such children are looked after only then.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: The noble Lady anticipates my argument in terms of the later government amendment because she will see that we are proposing to adjust that which would allow for a far clearer arrangement for the child. Perhaps I may return to this at a later stage because there is a government amendment that covers the matter of a child being lost and abandoned.


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