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Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I am grateful for that very expansive explanation of the Government's reasoning, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 101:


Page 25, line 16, after ("may") insert ("at the child's request").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to this amendment when

7 Jun 1995 : Column CWH84

I moved Amendment No. 96. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 102 not moved.]

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 103:


Page 25, line 21, at end insert—
("(c) to any person to be at risk of harm, that person may, with the child's consent, keep him there subject to immediate notification to the Principal Reporter and the Principal Reporter, on receipt of the notification, may—
(i) if he considers that the child does not require refuge, direct that the protection afforded by subsection (3) of this section cease forthwith;
(ii) direct that the protection afforded by subsection (3) of this section be extended to a total maximum period of eight working days, to cease upon the commencement of a children's hearing in terms of section 60(2) of this Act; or
(iii) assist the child in taking advantage of the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection by the provision of advice and practical assistance, and prescribe the time at which the protection afforded by subsection (3) of this section shall cease to have effect in response of the person making the notification;
and where the Principal Reporter decides in accordance with sub-paragraph (ii), he may refer the case to the children's hearing in terms of section 60(1) of this Act, and section 60(2) shall apply as if a child protection order has been implemented on the day on which the child took refuge; provided that the Principal Reporter may at any time before the commencement of a children's hearing arranged under section 60(2) of this Act substitute a direction under sub-paragraph (i) for his direction under sub-paragraph (ii).").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 105. There is a slight defect in its framing. On page 25, line 33, the words "the procedure whereby any person may be prohibited from giving refuge" should be there, otherwise it does not fit. However, that is a minor matter which can no doubt be corrected.

The main amendment is Amendment No. 103, which brings into the picture of the child's welfare the role of the principal reporter, so that the child in a short-term refuge has someone to go to. Informing the principal reporter means that he can take an active part in investigating why the child is in a refuge and what steps should be taken, and indeed gives him power to direct that the child should be released.

It is a very comprehensive amendment, but it is important in that it gives a safeguard to the child who is in the short-term refuge—whatever "short-term" means—that there is someone who will take an active role in looking after the child's welfare and make recommendations which he would be entitled to do in terms of this amendment.

I hope that the amendment commends itself to the Government; perhaps not in the precise wording in which it is framed, but I hope that the principle is acceptable and that they can consider it again at Report stage.

The Earl of Lindsay: We have considered very carefully these comprehensive amendments to the clause. It is worthwhile reflecting on the background to Clause 34. Its genesis is in part the Children Act 1989, which included refuge provisions because of concern

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expressed by voluntary agencies working in the centre of London with homeless young people, many of whom had run away from residential care or supervision. Indeed, many of these young people had come from Scotland.

The organisations which offered accommodation to any of these young people who were under supervision requirements were at risk of falling foul of the law. Harbouring such children is illegal. I think that it is fair to say that the original intention was as much to safeguard organisations as to allow specifically for the creation of refuges.

As time moved on, the concept of a refuge to which children could turn when they faced particular difficulties had a considerable attraction in its own right. Such a place, however, could not be seen as other than a temporary step-over, aimed at allowing the children involved to get help with the problems they faced.

We therefore see refuges as being rather special in the field of childcare. Ideally, their staff should include workers who are able to get quickly to the root cause of the children's problems, to help any given child face up to his difficulties and to work with colleagues to ensure that the child is brought back into mainstream services as quickly as possible. Those are heavy demands and suggest a high level of skill. Indeed, my noble friend, Lady Faithfull has already referred to that.

The noble Lord's amendment appears to shift the balance away from a limited number of approved refuges or foster parents to allow any person irrespective of qualification to provide refuge for a child. The noble Lord's paragraph (c) includes safeguards to the extent that the child should be allowed to stay only if he consents, and the principal reporter has to be informed, so I must question whether we really want to introduce such a general power. We have considered the amendments carefully, but, on the basis of the explanation that I have given, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Before the Minister sits down, I must admit that I had the idea that a refuge was somewhere that the child would determine; for example, the child may find home impossible and go to his grandmother's house. Does notification by the grandmother of the fact that she is looking after the child mean that the grandmother's home would constitute a refuge?

The Earl of Lindsay: In the instances described by the noble Earl, the answer is yes, if the child is already subject to compulsory supervision.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: What if the child is not yet subject to temporary supervision? If the child has simply run away from home, what is the system?

The Earl of Lindsay: I was perhaps unclear. It is an offence, if the child is already subject to compulsory supervision, and not otherwise.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I listened with some interest to what the noble Earl said in response to Amendments Nos. 103 and 105. I wonder whether the

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Government have had any consultations with the Association of Children's Reporters in Scotland to see whether this amendment might commend itself to them? Will the Government perhaps take the opportunity of entering into consultation with the Association of Children's Reporters to see whether it thinks this would be an additional safeguard to the welfare of the children? If the reporters come back with a negative answer then that may be the end of the matter, but it would be interesting if the Minister could take it up with the reporters and perhaps write to me on the subject before the Report stage of the Bill. In the meantime, having raised the issue, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 104:


Page 25, line 22, at end insert—
("( ) designation, for the purposes of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) above, of establishments and households;").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to Amendment No. 104 when I moved Amendment No. 97. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 107:


Page 25, line 43, leave out ("sections 75 and") and insert ("section").

The noble Earl said: The amendment relates to the deletion of a reference to Clause 75. This sets out the offence provisions in respect of a person who intentionally obstructs a person or a constable acting under various provisions of the Bill. We have to acknowledge that some children seeking refuge may well be running away from a supervision requirement or from some other form of appropriate intervention in their lives. In such circumstances the workers involved will not necessarily know the full background, and consequently their ability to help the children face up to the situation will be limited.

Initial security for the child will have a key part to play, but ultimately if people are acting under the provisions listed in Clause 75, there should be no question of the person running the refuge concealing the child or obstructing constables or persons exercising their duties. The amendment simply ensures that refuges, despite the difficulties, work within the general framework of the law. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.45 p.m.

[Amendment No. 108 not moved.]

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 35 and 36 agreed to.

Clause 37 [Safeguarding child's interests in proceedings]:

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy moved Amendment No. 109:


Page 27, line 8, leave out ("Subject to subsection (2) below").

The noble Lady said: Amendment No. 109 is consequential on Amendment No. 112. The deletion of Clause 37(2) would allow for a safeguarder to be

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appointed at the time when a child protection order is being considered. When an emergency child protection order occurs, children often feel afraid, vulnerable and guilty, all at the same time. To deprive them of the opportunity to have someone who is specifically allocated to them in order to protect their interests and to listen to their views is not kind. Children need support at this very difficult time. The amendment would require the sheriff to consider providing that support at the same time or immediately after he considers the emergency protection order.

If safeguarders had been appointed to the children in the Orkney abuse cases at the time of issuing the emergency protection orders the damage to the children might have been greatly reduced.

Amendment No. 111 is an extension of the proposed government Amendment No. 113 requiring the sheriff to specify in writing the reasons not only why he has appointed a safeguarder, if he has, but also the reasons why he has not appointed a safeguarder if he has not. The government amendment requires him to give the reasons why he has appointed a safeguarder if he has.

In another place, much was made of the idea that requiring the sheriff to appoint a safeguarder would somehow delay the making of the emergency protection order. I simply cannot understand this because it seems to me that you make the emergency protection order first and as soon as possible afterwards you appoint the safeguarder. I beg to move.


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