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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, perhaps I may help the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, on this matter. I obviously wish to support the amendment. In Scotland we are blessed with our welfare-driven children's panel system. I can see that the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, may want to resist these amendments because the matter can be referred to a children's hearing at any time. That is technically correct, but I want to refer to the situation where a child has arrived at a refuge and he is completely unknown to the welfare authorities; that is, social work, education or health authorities.

There will be much information to gather and many factors to be assessed before any long-term plan can be formulated, let alone agreed upon, and seven or 14 days will be woefully inadequate as a timescale. An early children's hearing may not assist the process in the eyes and, more particularly, the emotions of the child in question. The experiences that led up to the decision to run away from home will constitute depths which will not easily be plumbed. Only good can come from building sufficient flexibility into the Bill.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, let me reiterate to noble Lords that we see refuges as a comparatively small but important service which will be relevant to a limited number of children who are in danger of harm. The refuge provision responds to a need. It is a short-term response to a short-term need. We must resist any temptation to turn the refuge into something different or to allow children to stay there for longer periods without proper decisions being made as to their future. Children ask for "time-out" or a "breathing space" to be available in certain circumstances. The refuge provides for that. It means that seven days are available for the child and workers in the refuge to get to grips with the underlying problems and to consider how best to plan for their resolution. It may mean the child going home or it could mean the local authority thinking seriously about what statutory steps it should take to protect the child; for example, a child protection order or an exclusion order.

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What it certainly does not mean is what the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, referred to—and what my noble friend Lord Balfour quite rightly doubted—and that is that a child would be thrown out of a refuge on to the streets, as it were. I have spoken about the two statutory steps which might be available and there are other options. Furthermore, if a local authority feels that the assessment has not been sufficient, it can always apply to the Secretary of State for an extension. However, the period of seven days for which the clause provides at present should in most circumstances be quite sufficient for the local authority and the child to reach decisions. The refuges are aimed at providing expert and swift assessment, and we do not want to prolong that. I cannot see that allowing a longer period in a refuge would encourage timely and purposeful assessment and action to assist vulnerable young people.

To accept the noble Lord's amendment would alter this provision to such an extent that consideration would have to be given to matters more appropriate to long-term care; for example, education, the transfer of parental rights and responsibilities and other matters well beyond the initial purpose of the refuge. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, was incorrect when he said rather glibly that it was no problem for local authorities to keep these children in their care for, let us say, 14 days. As I have said, providing education and the sort of services associated with longer term residence would be a burden on local authorities.

In Committee I drew an analogy with an emergency casualty ward at a hospital. If, instead of carrying out a swift assessment of a patient and then transferring that patient to the part of the hospital where he could best be treated, one allowed the patient to spend twice or thrice as long in the emergency casualty ward, one would tie up resources and be unable to accommodate the next batch of those in need of the emergency services. I hope that the noble Lord is assured that the refuge provision is designed to provide purposeful assistance so that responsible decisions about a child's future can be made without delay. With that explanation and with the assurances that I have given, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendments.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, I am grateful for that explanation by the Minister. However, I return to my basic point, that the situation described in Clause 37(1) is not sparked off by the local authority but rather by a child. I accept that there may be some clever children who will think that the refuge is a great place in which to spend seven days, after which they will return home and then return to the refuge for another seven days and make a nuisance of themselves. We must be realistic about this, and within the context of this Bill we have tried to be realistic.

I would say in answer to the query of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, that Clause 37(1) (a) (ii) states that a child can be kept in a refuge,

    "for a period which does not exceed the relevant period".

The relevant period is then defined in Clause 37(5). It is seven days or 14 days. Therefore, in answer to the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, as I read the Bill, although I

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may be completely wrong, the child is thrown out after the maximum of 14 days. Whatever other processes may take place in the intervening period is another matter.

I would be the last one to impose further financial burdens on local authorities, because they have plenty to deal with already. However, I wonder whether the timescale is too short to deal with the case of a child who has a real problem. I do not mean a child who was doing this for fun and has perhaps heard from his pals that he can go along to a refuge and will be kept there for a week and then be thrown out. This Bill is concerned with problem children, but in the way it is presently framed local authorities are not being given sufficient time.

The amendment does not mean that a child would have to stay in a refuge for 14 or 21 days. The child could be released after two days. The purpose of the amendment is to give the local authority, the child, social workers and everyone else involved an opportunity to get together to try to solve the problem which is bothering the child within a reasonable period.

I hope that the Government will take note of what I say and have another look at the timescale. I am not sure whether consultation has taken place between the Scottish Office and the Home Office in relation to the operation of the Children Act 1989 in England. It is my understanding, although I have not researched the matter, that the operation of the Children Act 1989 is running into problems. This may well be one of the problems. Certainly it is my information that in England that period is not considered realistic. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Clause 40 [Safeguarding child's interests in proceedings]:

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 29, line 27, leave out ("before") and insert ("at").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 12 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 22 to 24, 29, 30 and 55. All these amendments make minor textual changes to a number of provisions in the Bill but do not alter their effects. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 53 [Reference to the Principal Reporter by court]:

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 39, line 29, leave out ("and").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 13 I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 14, 45, 46 and 67.

Clause 53 deals with various situations in which a court may refer matters relating to a child to the principal reporter. The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 also provides for such referrals, although at present it is to a reporter in terms of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. Those requirements need to be suitably updated and brought together with the new arrangements under the Bill.

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The substantive change is in Clause 53, which is amended to ensure that proceedings under the Education (Scotland) Act will be able to trigger a referral to the principal reporter where the court thought it appropriate. The particular matters would be where action was being taken under Section 35 of the 1980 Act in relation to a failure by a parent to secure regular attendance by a child at a public school, Section 41 in respect of a failure to comply with an attendance order or Section 42(3) in respect of a failure to permit examination of a child.

I also draw your Lordships' attention to the consequential changes to the 1980 Act brought about through Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 in Schedule 4 and the repeals effected through Amendment No. 67 in Schedule 5.

This group of amendments represents a helpful tidying up of the links between the Education (Scotland) Act and the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 39, line 32, at end insert ("; and
(d) proceedings for an offence against section 35 (failure by parent to secure regular attendance by his child at a public school), 41 (failure to comply with attendance order) or 42(3) (failure to permit examination of child) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 56 [Child protection orders]:

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