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Baroness Masham of Ilton: If there were a conflict between the local authority and the young person and his adviser, there might need to be an advocate between the two.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There are two points there. If there were a serious problem between the young person and the young person's adviser, I agree that there could be a role for an advocate in enabling that matter to be sorted out. Equally, it would be appropriate for the young person to be provided with another young person's adviser. Clearly, a part of all this is the relationship between the young person and the young person's adviser. Of course, if that, too, breaks down and there are real problems and we come to the complaints procedure which is the subject of Amendments Nos. 26, 30 and 31.

I hope that complaints will be kept to a minimum and that the relationship between the young person and the adviser, and the support given to the young person will prove to be as effective as we all hope it will be. Inevitably, there will be some complaints. We will set out the complaints procedure in the regulations and we will plan to build in sensitivities such as access for the child to advocacy to pursue his case. Indeed, authorities are already entertaining complaints brought by advocates on behalf of children. If there is

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any evidence of reluctance on the part of local authorities we shall be happy to revisit the relevant guidance.

Amendment No. 25 would remove the power to make regulations for a complaints procedure for the provisions of this Bill. Instead, the existing 1991 regulations on complaints would apply.

In answer to the noble Lord who raised that point, I am all in favour of avoiding duplication in regulations for the sake of it. We do not intend to set up a parallel system. Noble Lords may well be aware that the existing complaints procedure had been found to be imperfect and is presently under review. This review has involved consultation with an external advisory group, drawn nationally from interested parties, and informal discussion with other groups of relevant stakeholders, including the Children's Society, and the Voice for the Child in Care.

We plan to publish a consultation paper, summarising the issues which have been raised, and proposals for addressing them later on in the year. At this stage, I would not wish to commit myself to any particular set of regulations, especially a set which are under review. I also have to say that, if at any time the 1991 regulations were revoked, we would be left with no regulations at all under this clause in relation to that amendment.

I hope I have indicated that I take the points that noble Lords have raised about advocacy. We seek to address this in a number of ways, as I have described. On that basis, I hope noble Lords will feel that we have covered this sufficiently.

Lord Laming: I am grateful to the Minister--and I hope I speak for my colleagues--for his very thoughtful and persuasive response. For my part, I would certainly like to reflect on what the Minister said. If matters of this kind are to be addressed in regulation, rather than on the face of the Bill, then for my part I understand that.

I thank the Minister for that very helpful reply and I will reflect upon the issues. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 11A and 12 not moved.]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 13:

    Page 3, line 45, at end insert--

("( ) Support under subsection (8) may be in cash.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is for clarity and clarification. By inserting this form of words into Clause 2 we are making it quite clear that, in the case of relevant children, local authorities will be able to provide support in the form of cash as well as in kind. Indeed, this clarifies the point raised on Second Reading.

Relevant children are those aged 16 and 17, who have spent long enough in the care of a local authority to qualify for this new package of support but who have now left care. New Section 23B(8) to which this new form of words would apply concerns the new duty

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on a local authority to "safeguard and promote" the welfare of a relevant child by providing the support he needs, such as accommodation and maintenance.

Each young person's pathway will, of course, map out his or her route into independence and each will wish to develop at his or her own pace. Some, as we have already discussed, will be ready to leave care as early as 16 or 17, while others will simply refuse to stay in care a second longer than they absolutely must. Some will be competent to manage a budget and others will still need help to use money sensibly.

That is why it is so important to set out clearly what support they can expect to receive from the relevant authority. Equally, however, we want to build in as much flexibility as possible and to allow the authority to meet the needs of each individual in the way best suited to his or her capacity and wishes. The pathway planning process will provide the mechanism for all of this to be agreed and reviewed, and revised as necessary.

The amendment avoids any further suggestion that 16 and 17 year-olds who move out of local authority care, but who are eligible for the new aftercare provisions, will be able to receive that support only in kind. I hope that noble Lords agree.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.45 p.m.

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 14:

    Page 3, line 46, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Earl said: Of all the miserable and depressing experiences recounted by young people who have been in care, the one that recurs time and again is the misery caused by bad and seedy accommodation, or worse still by homelessness. Care leavers are over-represented in the population of young homeless people. Research has shown that one third of all young homeless people have been in care at some point, and very often these young people have moved between a whole succession of unsuitable hostels, bedsits and so on before resorting to the streets. At the moment, there is no rule or regulation about the quality of accommodation that young people may move to on leaving care at 16 or 17. They move from foster care or residential care, which is highly regulated, into a world of no regulation at all. Unsurprisingly that leads to inconsistencies in both the availability and quality of safe and supported follow-on accommodation.

In some local authorities a range of temporary and permanent accommodation has been developed which allows young people to have some kind of a choice and to have their needs met in terms of the support that they require. In others, the only available provision is insecure and unsafe bedsits, or else hostel accommodation where youngsters find themselves side by side with older homeless people and offenders on probation.

The other not uncommon feature of the move out of care is that the lack of suitable accommodation forces young people to move away from the area in which

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they have been living. That can often be very damaging. Someone may well have support networks in that area and perhaps a training scheme to go to, but he has to abandon all that because of the absence of anywhere suitable to live. The authority looking after him not unnaturally insists that he go somewhere where safe accommodation is available.

The revised Quality Protects objectives for children's services contain a very welcome section on what constitutes suitable accommodation for care leavers, but this is only guidance. I firmly believe that we owe it to young people to define suitable accommodation in regulation, and indeed to ensure that the protection afforded to them by virtue of that regulation covers them until they are 21. I do hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the Committee that this is what the Government intend to do. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I have sympathy with the points made by the noble Earl. It is absolutely right that young people in these circumstances are enabled to be in suitable accommodation in the circumstances he described. We want to avoid them ending up in very unsuitable accommodation indeed.

Our experience of the current situation is that while some of the accommodation is suitable, too much is not. It is not acceptable that care leavers might end up in poor quality accommodation in red light districts or areas where drug use is prevalent.

We are determined that local authorities will make available a wide range of suitable accommodation for young people in and leaving care and that decisions on placement and accommodation are not driven by financial considerations. There should be a wide variety of places where these young people can live, including accommodation with associated support and training opportunities, supported lodgings, house shares with other care leavers and no-care leavers, as well as independent or semi-independent flats.

I should like to reassure the Committee that we are determined that this will happen and we will, through the performance management assessment and review process, rigorously check the provision of suitable accommodation along with other aspects of the new arrangements. There is no question of the Secretary of State not making regulations relating to accommodation and making them in time for implementation. Therefore, the new wording proposed in the amendment would not make any difference. On that basis, I hope that noble Lords will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

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