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The Earl of Listowel: Perhaps I may say how welcome the Minister's words are: that there is an acknowledged need to provide for good understanding of child development. I hope soon to be approaching the Minister with a proposal to develop training at Tavistock for residential care workers specifically in child development, so his words are most welcome as he so clearly understands the issue.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Perhaps I may respond to the noble Earl. He is right to point to the financial arrangements. Clearly the last thing we want is a Bill and implementation process which is aspirational but does not deliver for the young people. There would be absolutely no point in going down that path.
I have an extensive speaking note on the issue of budgeting which I would be very pleased to read out. But the point is that work is currently under way to calculate the exact sums of money that will have to be transferred into a ring-fenced budget. That partly comes from the current expenditure by local authorities on relevant young people; it is partly
It is always open to local authorities to spend more than the amount of money in the budget, and one would have to say that many local authorities do have a very good record of spending more than the assessment. We shall keep a close eye on this; we want to make it work.
Earl Russell: I am grateful to the Minister for that. Perhaps he will consider amending just one word of his answer. He said that it is "always" open to local authorities to spend more. In the light of capping limits, would it perhaps be wiser to say it is "sometimes" open to local authorities to spend more?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I will always stand corrected by the noble Earl. The point I am trying to make is simply that they have flexibility at local level, in addition to the amount that is going to be ringfenced.
Lord Howe: I thank the Minister for that very reassuring reply. I had not, of course, intended that these amendments should feature on the face of the Bill. However, this has been a useful debate and the point I raised has won sympathy from all sides. I take the noble Lord's point entirely. There is good practice out there; some extremely good beacons of excellence, if I may use that term. There are also what might be described as the exact opposite of that--examples that will be addressed by the provisions of the Bill. The Minister was right to point out in particular the measures currently in train under the Care Standards Bill to establish the general social care council.
I welcome the noble Lord's extremely helpful comments about broader and more ambitious training programmes. No doubt this is an issue to which we can return regularly. The need for proper training is never going to go away and we must be vigilant about training standards. However, it is time to move on. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 5 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 10. I recognise that in framing legislation all governments prefer the word "may" to the word "shall". If the Minister had an extensive speaking note to an earlier amendment, he will probably have a well-honed speaking note to this amendment, because this is a matter about which
This is a special case, however, for reasons to which the Minister referred in a response to an earlier amendment. He said then that the purpose of the Bill is to improve the "life chances" of young people looked after. It is special because, unless the Bill actually secures that splendid objective, we will all have wasted our time. That objective will not be secured unless it is clear that, where there are important elements in the Bill that have to be achieved, they will be achieved by the use of the word "shall" rather than the use of the word "may", which allows far too much discretion. If the Bill is to secure its purpose, it must be supported by an effective and reliable framework of secondary legislation. It is for that reason that I would urge the Minister to look carefully on this special occasion to the benefits of using the word "shall".
Perhaps I may illustrate my point by encouraging Members of the Committee to look at Amendment No. 10, which seeks to amend subsection(6) of new Section 23B. The regulations here cover matters which are absolutely essential to achieving the objectives of the Bill. For example, who is to be consulted in relation to an assessment is very important because it could include foster parents, or personal advisers, or advocates and the like. The recording of results of the assessment--consideration to which the local authority ought to have regard in carrying out the assessment--is a matter of fundamental importance and not one which should be left to the discretion of the local authority. This is not a matter which a local authority might choose, if it so wishes, to consider in accordance with this Bill. It is a matter where the regulation "shall" be made to achieve these objectives.
I recognise that the Minister is likely to say that, of course, these will be achieved, and that they will be achieved under "may" rather than "shall", but I hope that he will agree that in order to achieve the objectives of this Bill, which is very important, for once it may be right to use the word "shall". I beg to move.
Lord Clement-Jones: I know that we often have the customary fencing on the words "may" and "shall" in Committee, and on both Bills in which I have been concerned, the Minister and I have had the same argument. However, I have never heard a case put as persuasively for a change in the wording. I suspect that that illustrates the very long experience that the noble Lord, Lord Laming, has had in fencing with Ministers. Therefore, in a sense, he has reversed a number of the arguments that Ministers might well use on these occasions. He has quite an unassailable case. The regulations, in both cases, form the absolute centrepiece of this Bill and without them the Bill would be of no effect. It is therefore important that we include the word "shall", since it is such an essential part of the Bill.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: The Minister said he wanted to get the bad local authorities to perform well, but the bad ones may wriggle out of their responsibilities if "may" remains in the Bill. There is a big difference between "may" and "shall".
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We return to a debate that we have had many times. At heart, it is not really a question of "may" and "shall": at heart, it goes down to the actual performance of local authorities. While noble Lords will not be surprised that I intend to resist the use of the word "shall", I want to reassure them that we are intent on ensuring that local authorities do indeed achieve a high standard in implementing the arrangements set out in the Bill.
First, let me talk briefly about the regulation-making powers which the Bill gives the Secretary of State. Those regulations are very necessary to flesh out and give details to the skeleton which is contained in the primary legislation, to make it real and to ensure that it actually happens when it is implemented by local authorities.
I recognise that there are concerns that local authorities may not be up to the task, but let me say in the first place that we intend that the Bill should come into operation next April. Local authorities are already implementing arrangements in order to be ready and prepared for its operation. There is no question that we will not produce regulations which will enable those things to happen.
I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that the new wording he suggests would also sit uncomfortably with the wording in the Children Act which it amends, and where the formula "may" appears throughout. It is important to recognise the much stronger performance management arrangements that are now in place in relation to local authority social services departments and the development of performance indicators. These will include indicators on the proportion of care leavers in employment, education and training.
From April this year, the beefed up the Social Services Inspectorate will carry out 30 inspections of childcare services every year, so an authority would expect to receive an inspection once every five years. Part of that inspection process will be looking at the service that those local authorities provide for care leavers. The Quality Protects action plans will include information on improvements in services for care leavers, and social services inspectors will monitor progress against national priorities. If local authorities are found not to be performing, powers of direction are available to the Secretary of State. The Local Government Act 1999 also allows for intervention powers.
Looking at the whole package of measures, including the fact that we are able to performance manage local authorities in a much more effective way now than in the past, the regulations and guidance in themselves will give a very clear steer to local government about how we expect the Act to operate.
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