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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the most recent statistics available, from 1998-99, show that there were 1,863 injuries sustained. One force was missing from that total, so I guess that the noble Lord's assumption is right. However, the detail of the statistics gives some interesting background. Some 73 per cent of the vehicles involved in those accidents were travelling below the local speed limit. Some 20 per cent of the incidents occurred during routine patrols, 23 per cent arose from responses to emergency calls and 45 per cent occurred during pursuit and follow situations. The picture is mixed, but the important point is that the incidents arose as a result of the police properly carrying out their important duties, some of which were emergencies.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, do not the police follow strict guidelines? If they go through a red light in an emergency, they do so with caution. Is there any breakdown of whether more accidents occur in rainy weather because of the reduced visibility for pedestrians and drivers?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there is no such breakdown, but 55 per cent of the accidents occurred during the hours of darkness, and that may be significant. The noble Baroness is right that the police are under strict instructions in such situations. They

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can travel at speed only when they are properly going about their police business and when it is important for them to get to an incident rapidly. We are looking for improvements as a result of the Lind report. It is too early to tell how profound those improvements will be, but we are working closely with ACPO and all the police forces in England and Wales.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the figures for the number of people injured are shocking and unacceptable? The police may have guidelines, but they are clearly not keeping to them. Although we admire the work of the police and support them in every possible way, their attitudes to driving must be changed. Those changes can be made with strong advice from the Government.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's confidence in the effects of strong advice from the Government. The Lind report contained 33 important recommendations. Many relate to improving the quality of training. That will provide us with a long-term answer to some of the problems. That is why we fully support all aspects of the report and want to work closely with ACPO to reduce the number of tragic incidents and accidents, which lead to far too many deaths as a consequence of police work.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, have there been any cuts in expenditure on training police officers for high-speed chases? How many successful prosecutions have been brought against police officers in connection with the 1,800 or so incidents that he mentioned?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the figures that he seeks this afternoon in relation to prosecutions. I believe that the details are sketchy. It is also a complex area. Many accidents will have occurred not as a direct result of the police giving pursuit or going to an emergency situation; they may have been a by-product of a police vehicle travelling in a particular direction. However, we are concerned about this matter, and one of our concerns related to the standard and quality of training and the lack of uniformity nationally. That issue is being pursued as a result of the Lind report.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that when a police officer is called to an emergency, it is only with hindsight that it is determined to be an emergency? Does he also agree that if in a pursuit and follow situation people are unfortunately killed, had they followed their legal obligation to stop when ordered so to do, those deaths would not have occurred?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is difficult to give a blanket summary of each and every situation which involves police officers who are in pursuit or attending to an emergency. Some involve life and death situations in themselves and that is why the police adopt such urgency. I can only say that greater

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care is now being given. We are on the case and are encouraging improvement through greater training and access to training. We are seeking to ensure that police drivers involved in this dangerous work are trained to the highest possible level. I believe that in the longer term that will reduce the number of incidents to which I have referred.

Residential Care Workers

2.51 p.m.

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the number and quality of applicants for training in social work and for work in residential care homes for children and, if not, what action they propose to take to improve terms of service and recruitment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Government are concerned about declining application rates for social work training and about staff shortages in residential child care. We have made #41 million available to fund future students and boost applications for training. We convened a workforce summit and are working closely with employers to tackle recruitment and retention problems.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I am most grateful for and encouraged by the noble Lord's reply. Does he agree that in many social services departments today social workers are grossly overloaded and demoralised? They have heavy caseloads; indeed, I have heard of one social worker who had as many as 80 cases, which is clearly totally unmanageable. Does the Minister agree that more than 80 per cent of the employees in residential children's homes have no relevant training whatever and that increasingly those who run old people's homes encounter problems in recruiting care workers? If we as a society really believe that the state should look after these disadvantaged people, do not the Government--particularly a Government who have so successfully generated a budget surplus--have a responsibility to do something about these recruitment problems?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord that we need to do everything that we can to increase the number of qualified staff working in the social care field. I believe that the national training strategy and the development of the general social care council over the next few years will enhance our ability to raise the number of qualified people who work in social care.

I also agree that many of the staff work under considerable pressure. Although many social workers have been lambasted in the media over the past few years, the fact is that the great majority do a good job of work and we need to support them.

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So far as concerns funding, in the next financial year we expect personal social service resources to increase by 6.2 per cent. In addition, all councils will receive a minimum increase of 3.2 per cent in central government grants. I hope that that will allow for the development of services.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the Minister referred to #41 million extra to be spent on training of social workers. How much of that will be available to those in the voluntary and independent sector who, after all, have an extremely valuable role to play in social work? Furthermore, does the department have plans for a national advertising campaign to attract more social workers?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, a national advertising campaign is one issue that we are considering in the light of the summit that I mentioned in my first Answer. We have also discussed with the Local Government Association the ways in which we can encourage recruitment and retention in the future.

So far as concerns access that voluntary and independent organisations have to training, local councils may use training support programme funding to support the training of staff in agencies which provide statutory services under contract to the local authority. At the moment, the take-up of that option is fairly patchy and we would certainly encourage a greater take-up. In addition, the national training strategy recommends that all employers should spend a target of approximately 3 per cent of their staffing budget on training. I believe that that should apply to independent employers as well as to social service authorities.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, can the noble Lord say what the shortfall is in this area?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not believe that it is possible to pinpoint a precise shortfall in the number of staff in the whole social care field. Quite simply, those statistics are not robust enough to display any confidence in them. Many of the decisions are not taken by the Government but rely on the work of individual employers in social services and also of those who are largely in the independent sector. It is clear that a number of employers are under considerable pressure. The difficulties of recruitment certainly came to the fore in discussions about winter pressures which we held with the NHS and with the directors of social services.

Lord Laming: My Lords, does the Minister agree that part of the problem arises from the low status accorded to residential social work staff? Does he agree that, as two-thirds of children looked after are now in foster homes, that means that children who are in the care of residential staff are those with the most acute problems and that therefore priority should be given to training residential staff?

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