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Lord Northbrook: My Lords, I should like to put two questions to the Minister. First, I understand that the Government have projected economic growth at 3 per cent this year and 2.5 per cent next year. Is that not high by historic standards, particularly in view of the slow-down in the US economy? Secondly, unemployment, social security and debt interest account for only 17 per cent of additional spending. The assumption is that spending in these fields will increase by only 1.5 per cent each year compared with 2.5 per cent in previous plans. The Government's assumption is that they can keep social security spending from rising faster than the rate of inflation. Is that not risky in the longer term?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not believe that any of these assumptions is risky, except in

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the sense that none of us can be certain about anything in the future. The noble Lord's comments are rather surprising in the light of the fact that a few minutes ago his own Front Bench appeared to doubt our growth projections from the opposite direction. These are very prudent figures which take into account the possibilities of lower growth than our realistic median trend projection and lower receipts from taxation. If the noble Lord's greatest concern is social security expenditure, the fact that we have created 1 million jobs since we came into office will not be reversed in the timescale with which this review is concerned.

Care Standards Bill [H.L.]

9.11 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS
[The page and line refer to Bill 105 as first printed for the Commons.]
COMMONS AMENDMENTS

1Clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out ("This section has") and insert ("Subsections (2) to (6) have")
2Page 1, line 13, at end insert ("or by a foster parent")
3Page 2, line 4, leave out from beginning to ("or") in line 6

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 1 to 3. I shall speak also to the other amendments grouped with these three amendments. The first group of amendments are minor amendments that clarify the definition of children's homes and tidy up definitions used in the part of the Bill which covers the welfare inspections of boarding schools.

I should like to deal first with Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 7, 192, 194, 240, 241, 244, 245, 258, 259 and 284. At present, the Children Act 1989 exempts from regulation children's homes which accommodate three or less children. This is a loophole that we are closing through this Bill. However, as a result it became necessary to ensure that foster carers were not inappropriately caught by the widened definition and required to be registered by the national care standards commission as children's homes. That is certainly not our intention.

Amendment No. 2 clarifies this position in relation to foster carers generally and Amendment No. 7 defines a foster carer. Amendment No. 245 slightly amends the definition of "private foster" care in the Children Act. This is needed to prevent loopholes which could allow unscrupulous people to avoid registering as a children's home by pretending to be private foster carers.

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Amendments Nos. 192 and 194 insert the definitions of "private fostering" and "local authority foster parents" which are in the Children Act into the Bill. Amendments Nos. 241 and 258 ensure that the provisions in the Children Act which set out the circumstances in which a person may foster more than three children without being treated as a children's home also apply to this Bill. Amendments Nos. 1, 240, 259 and 284 are consequential to the changes we are making here.

I turn to Amendment No. 6. We believe it is important that any child who is accommodated in a boarding school for more than 295 days in a year should have the extra protection provided by that school also having to register as a children's home. However, during the Committee stage in this place, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, raised the concern that any boarding school which provided holiday camps during the school holidays would be required to be registered as a children's homes as it would be accommodating children for more than the 295 days specified. The noble Lord was quite right to point that out and I can assure noble Lords that that was certainly not our intention. Amendment No. 6 clarifies this position and puts beyond doubt that an individual child has to be accommodated for more than 295 days before the boarding school is required to be registered as a children's home.

In the other place there was concern about why only children in an independent boarding school should benefit from the extra protection provided by having the boarding school registered as a children's home if children were accommodated for more than 295 days. This is anomalous and there is no good reason why children in voluntary or state sector homes should not benefit from this protection. Amendment No. 5 therefore extends this requirement to all boarding schools.

I turn to Section 82(5). In the other place a number of honourable Members were concerned that homes established under this section of the Children Act would be exempt from regulation as children's homes. Section 82(5) allows the Secretary of State to establish homes to meet the needs of children for particular services or facilities which are not provided in community homes. These homes are currently inspected by the social services inspectorate. We originally decided to exempt them from regulation because it had been decided that the department should no longer continue to run such childcare facilities, as we believe that these services are best provided by local authorities, the health service and specialist facilities in the private sector. It is worth reminding your Lordships that the only remaining home of this kind, Glenthorne, closed last week.

However, while there is no current intention to use Section 82(5) to establish any more of these homes, its use cannot be ruled out for some point in the future. In those circumstances, we decided that these homes should be regulated as children's homes by the national care standards commission and Amendment No. 3 amends Clause 1 accordingly. Amendments

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Nos. 212, 231, 232 and 235 to 238, and amendments 262 and 263 are consequential to bringing these homes within the regulatory framework.

I turn to community homes. The Bill extends regulation to services not previously regulated, and none is more important than ensuring that looked-after children are properly protected. Therefore, community homes will be regulated for the first time. Amendment No. 199 brings the rather complicated management arrangements which apply to community homes provided by voluntary organisations within the new registration provisions.

When these homes are required to register, the question arises as to who should be treated as "carrying on" the home, and "managing" the home, to use the terminology of Part II of the Bill. Amendment No. 199 enables arrangements to be made, if necessary on a home-by-home basis, for designating who should be treated as requiring to register. This provision enables the registration system to work effectively without unduly disturbing the management and governance systems that apply to community homes.

Amendment No. 15 removes from Clause 4 the definition of what is meant by the term "carrying on" a fostering or voluntary adoption agency. It also removes the provision that carrying on an establishment or agency includes carrying it on otherwise than for profit. Subsection (3)(a) and (3)(b) in Amendment No. 199 would see these provisions reappear word for word in the general interpretation clause, while Amendment No. 190 simply introduces into the Bill the definition of community home used in the Children Act.

Finally, I want to speak to Amendments Nos. 174 to 178, 180, 181, 243 and 254. These are all tidying-up measures. At present, if a boarding school is a children's home or care home, then there is no need for the provisions in Section 87 of the Children Act in relation to welfare in boarding schools to apply. This is because the welfare requirements in relation to registration as a children's home or care home are more stringent than those for boarding schools, so meeting them would mean that it would be unnecessary also to satisfy the Section 87 requirements.

With this Bill, we are extending the Section 87 welfare requirements to further education colleges as well as to all boarding schools. We need, therefore, to exempt colleges as well as boarding schools from Section 87 requirements if they are registered as children's homes or care homes, and this is the intention behind Amendment No. 174. Section 62 of the Children Act imposes functions on local authorities with regard to children accommodated by voluntary organisations. Clause 85(5) amends Section 62 by disapplying it to schools which are voluntary organisations. Amendment No. 178 does the same for colleges.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 175, 243 and 254. We are introducing a new definition of "appropriate authority" for Section 87 of the Children Act as a result of the national care standards commission

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carrying out welfare inspections of boarding schools and colleges. Amendment No. 175 defines the "appropriate authority" as meaning the commission in England and the National Assembly for Wales in Wales.

Initially, we intended the definition of "appropriate authority" to be used throughout the Children Act, but we now realise that we need to keep the current definition in Section 68 of the Act in relation to persons who are disqualified from acting as private foster carers. Therefore, Amendments Nos. 243 and 254 make clear that the new definition applies, in addition to Section 87, to Sections 65 and 65A, but not elsewhere in the Act.

Finally, Amendments Nos. 176, 177, 180 and 181 are purely technical amendments which amend and correct the definition of "further education corporations".

I well understand that this is a large group of amendments. However, in the main they are responses to concerns raised in this House and in the other place and are tidying up measures. I hope that noble Lords will agree to support them.


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