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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 [Local authority plans for services for children]:

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 23:


Page 15, line 26, after ("services") insert ("and associated health and education services").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment is concerned with broadening the scale of children's service plans to include the education service and to bring in the health boards' provisions. That corporate planning should not be too difficult to co-ordinate as the two local authority departments and the health board each know what services they provide. I do not believe that it would be too difficult to produce an integrated plan to co-ordinate their existing services.

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I have taken the point made in Committee that provisions by voluntary organisations will be too difficult to organise within the child service plan. However, I believe that the statutory agencies ought to be required to do so. I beg to move.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: My Lords, at an earlier stage we discussed the extent and scope of the plans for child care services. On that occasion, the noble Earl moved an amendment to delete the word "relevant" and thus extend the planning requirement to include all services for children. I understand the wish to see services for children properly co-ordinated and well planned. But, nonetheless, the Government remain very firmly of the view that attempting to stretch the plans to include health and education is unrealistic and would be unhelpful.

We have now had some considerable experience in the preparation of strategic plans for community care services. Those services, like services for children, require careful planning and co-operation among a number of agencies. I think it is fair to say—although not a happy thing to say—that initial attempts which endeavoured to cover every single aspect resulted in the production of plans that were so lengthy and complex that they were almost incomprehensible. I very much fear that the amendment would have precisely the same result on the plans for child care services provided under the Bill.

The clause introduces a new requirement on local authorities. I hope that the plans which will be produced will be crisp, clear and well focused. The aim is that they should be key management tools capable of providing a broad, strategic overview of the development of child care services. They are strategic plans, not plans focused on the needs of any particular child and they should be seen in that context. I strongly believe that the amendment would not only be unhelpful but, on this occasion, would actually cause significant harm to the procedures which I understand the noble Earl is most concerned to see work well. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I am undoubtedly a little disappointed in the answer of the noble and learned Lord. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 [Publication of information about services for children]:

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 24:


Page 16, line 29, at end insert:("; and
( ) shall take such steps as are reasonable to ensure that all published information is made available to children and their families who may benefit; and
( ) ensure that all published information is in a form which is accessible to likely users.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in Committee mention was made of the fact that the child service plans may well contain much turgid detail. I believe that that is likely. Therefore, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that an easily read guide to the local

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authority's child service plans is made available in most of the languages used in its area, including Braille. That wee booklet would be made available on demand and be displayed at community access points which local authorities will be setting up. They should also be given to all families receiving a service from the social work department.

There is still a general lack of knowledge about the scale of operations carried out by the social work department, the education department and the health board which I should have liked to include. The proposed booklet could reduce that knowledge gap. I beg to move.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, we introduced Clause 19 to the Bill as a government amendment in the Committee stage in this Chamber following debate on the matter in another place. It lays a clear duty on local authorities to publish information about services for children. Clause 19 has been welcomed as a useful addition.

However, I am not sure whether the noble Earl's proposed addition would add anything of further value, although he made some good points when introducing the amendment. He seeks to make local authorities responsible for bringing the information to children and families who may benefit, but has to acknowledge, of course, that local authorities will not necessarily know who all potential beneficiaries might be. It is therefore not possible to make the requirement an absolute duty, and the amendment rightly qualifies it by simply requiring the authority to take such steps as are reasonable. In effect therefore the first part of the amendment could equally well be covered in guidance, if necessary.

The second part of the amendment requires information to be published in a form which is accessible to likely users. The noble Earl, quite rightly, has a dislike of turgid information. Again, I am sure that it would be in a local authority's best interests to publish in an attractive and usable manner information about services for which they are accountable. It is through the publication of such information that residents in local authority areas see how their authorities respond to local needs. I should add that there are a number of local authorities which already produce their guides in different languages; indeed, there are some which also produce such information in Braille.

The Bill is considerably longer than it was when it was originally introduced. I am clear that we have been able to make a number of improvements to it. On the basis of what I have been able to tell the noble Earl, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for what he said, especially as he said that much of what I am looking for will in fact be included in guidance. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 21 [Promotion of welfare of children in need]:

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 25:


Page 17, line 10, at end insert:
("( ) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, the services to be provided by the local authority under that subsection shall include services which—
(a) reduce the likelihood of a child requiring to be looked after by the local authority; and
(b) increase the likelihood of a child no longer requiring to be looked after by the local authority.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving the above amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 26. The two amendments are designed to ensure that the local authority makes plans for preventive services and the back-up of community services. However, I am not clear why it is the Government's intention to leave that aspect of social work with children in the voluntary area. Will there at least be guidance that will cover and promote a full range of preventive and community services?

Amendment No. 26 deals with that vital resource of respite services. The Government have opposed the inclusion of respite services on the face of the Bill because,


    "it would not be helpful to highlight one particular service in primary legislation"—[Official Report, 6/6/95; col. 54.]

Yet the Government have recently introduced their own clause for a particular service—Clause 26—which deals with the provision of day care services.

Respite services are a key preventive service. It can be the vital service to keep families together and to further the development of their children. At present, huge gaps in respite services exist across Scotland with many families unable to access services. Practice demonstrates that government support for respite services is not enough. The need to provide such services must be recognised in children's legislation. Can the Minister please confirm that respite services will be part of children's service plans? I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: My Lords, I can well understand the noble Earl's desire with Amendment No. 25 to require a local authority to include among the services which it provides those which will,


    "reduce the likelihood of a child requiring to be looked after by the local authority; and increase the likelihood of a child no longer requiring to be looked after by the local authority".

Nonetheless, we are of the view that services for those purposes can indeed be provided under Clause 21 as it stands. In safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in need, the local authority is also required to promote the upbringing of such children by their families by providing a range and level of services appropriate to the children's needs. That is a more positive way of achieving what Amendment No. 25 seeks to do. This matter will be covered in a range of guidance.

Amendment No. 26 calls for respite services to be specifically included within Clause 21. It has already been acknowledged that these services can play an important part in keeping families together. We would

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expect them to figure in children's services plans drawn up by local authorities. Nonetheless the Government still hold to the view that it is not only respite services which can be of great assistance in keeping families together, but there will be other services too. We have concerns about the possibility—we have said this on previous occasions—that specifying particular services within this clause could mean that other services not so specified would be held not to be included in the range of services a local authority will be required to provide. When one includes one provision, legal arguments can arise about others. Respite services are of course important but they will only be part of the range of services. For the reasons I have given it would not be appropriate to specify them. In those circumstances, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendments.


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