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Lord Warner: It is a pleasure to respond to this amendment. It takes me back a long way to when one tried to drive up standards in residential childcare. I accept much of what the noble Earl said about continuing to have to work away in this area in order to secure improvements.

We fully accept the need to ensure that care staff working in residential homes are supported. Children's Homes: National minimum standards, published in March 2002, set out in some detail the support which must be provided to staff working in residential homes. Standards 17, 28 and 31 have particular regard to the support of residential care staff and respond to the relevant recommendations in the report, Choosing with Care, which I was privileged to chair.

However, the national minimum standards are just one set of standards that the Government have produced for the regulation of care services. Standard 28 is, indeed, important. It states:

In addition, Standard 31 states:

    "Staff receive training and development opportunities that equip them with the skills required to meet the needs of the children and the purpose of the home".

These are the standards against which the homes are inspected.

The role of CSCI, as is the current role of the National Care Standards Commission, is to inspect children's homes against those national minimum

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standards. It is in that context, and particularly in respect of inspecting against Standards 28 and 31, that CSCI has a role in regard to support for residential care staff. Given the inspection role, I do not believe that it would be appropriate to add a further general duty under Clause 102.

Under Clause 102 CSCI has the general duty of encouraging improvement in the quality of registered social care services provided in England. In doing so CSCI will clearly need to look at the education and training of those working in residential children's homes to ensure that they are fit to do the job. I know that that is a concern of the noble Earl. It will look beyond the minimum of education and training as required in the national minimum standards to ensure that improvement takes place. I noticed that at the social services conference last week Denise Platt, the shadow chair of CSCI, affirmed that. She spoke about the commission's focus on promoting positive improvements in service. I hope that the noble Earl will be reassured by that and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Listowel: I thank the Minister for his helpful reply. I shall carefully read what he has said. It is good to have it on the record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 102 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 377 not moved.]

Clauses 103 to 107 agreed to.

Clause 108 [Boarding schools and colleges]:

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 378:

    Page 46, line 6, at end insert—

"( ) In exercise of its functions by virtue of this section, the CSCI shall—
(a) prepare a report on the discharge by the school or college of relevant functions;
(b) without delay send a copy of the report to the school or college; and
(c) make copies of the report available for inspection at its offices by any person at any reasonable time;
and may take any other steps for publicising a report which it considered appropriate.
( ) Any person who asks the CSCI for a copy of the report shall be entitled to have one on payment of a reasonable fee determined by the CSCI; but nothing in this subsection prevents the CSCI from providing a copy free of charge when it considers it appropriate to do so."

The noble Lord said: One of the great pleasures of legislation is how one can find a clause in the least expected place. The latest version of Section 87 of the Children Act is to be found, not in the Act, but in Section 105 of the Care Standards Act 2000. When Clauses 108 and 109 of this Bill refer to it they refer to that section, as amended.

Taking the matter a stage further, when one looks at new subsection (9A), as introduced by Clause 109 of this Bill, one sees that it refers to Section 105(5). For the aficionados subsection (5), as introduced by Section 105 of the Care Standards Act 2000, specifies:

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    "Where accommodation is, or is to be, provided for a child by any school or college, a person authorised by the appropriate authority may, for the purpose of enabling that authority to discharge its duty under this section, enter at any time premises which are, or are to be, premises of the school or college".

So the plot thickens. When one looks at Clause 109, subsection (9A) appears to be a good subsection. It states:

    "Where the Commission or the National Assembly for Wales exercises the power conferred by subsection (5), it must publish a report".

If one did not know what subsection (5) contained, that would be quite an interesting and rather useful subsection. However, subsection (5), which I have just read to the Committee, is so narrow. Providing a report simply about accommodation and entering premises to ascertain whether the authority is discharging its duty as regards that accommodation is a very narrow provision. Something along the lines of Amendment No. 378 would be far better. That would encompass the whole of Section 87, and under subsection (4) there are duties. The subsection reads:

    "Where the Commission are of the opinion that there has been a failure to comply with subsection (1) in relation to a child provided with accommodation by a school or college",

the commission is obliged to notify the local education authority, the Secretary of State and so on. A report in those circumstances would be of far greater use.

Having engaged in something of a truffle hunt to find the real purpose of this section, one discovers at the end of the day the very limited nature of Clause 109 in this Bill. I hope that the Minister has understood me and has an answer to why that clause introduces such a limited reporting duty. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Andrews: I must confess that the amendment has taken a slightly different direction from the one I anticipated. I did not expect the noble Lord to be so assiduous in searching out truffles in that particular direction, so I shall have to write to the noble Lord about his point.

I did have some good news for the noble Lord but I am not sure how good the news is now. I presumed that he was seeking to ensure that the reports generated went to each school as a matter of course. They go as a matter of practice but not as a matter of law. In fact Clause 109 does all that Amendment No. 378 seeks to do, except in that specific, but actually very special, regard.

I was going to tell the noble Lord—and still will—that we are minded to look sympathetically at the amendment and to consider the specific point about requiring that the report goes back to the schools and residential homes in question. We will look favourably on that. It is standard practice, but it might be useful to have it in the Bill.

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On the noble Lord's second point about why the issue suddenly becomes so narrow when the current breadth of the clause leads one to think otherwise, I shall have to write to the noble Lord.

Lord Clement-Jones: I think that that is as good an answer as I can expect at this time of day. So I thank the Minister and look forward to further progress. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 108 agreed to.

Clauses 109 and 110 agreed to.

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 379:

    Before Clause 111, insert the following new clause—

(1) Complaints under this Act may be made by an individual or a body of persons, whether incorporated or not.
(2) A complaint may be submitted in respect of—
(a) the exercise by an NHS body of any of its functions;
(b) the provision by any person of health care for which the body is responsible;
(c) the provision of an NHS service by a health professional supplied under private contract; and
(d) the provision of services by the body or any other person in pursuance of arrangements made by the body under section 31 of the Health Act 1999 (c. 8) (arrangements between NHS bodies and local authorities) in relation to the exercise of the health-related functions of a local authority.
(3) A complaint may be initiated by—
(a) the person aggrieved;
(b) his personal representative;
(c) a member of his family;
(d) an independent advocate, or
(e) some body or individual suitable to represent him."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 379, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 380 and 386. Amendment No. 379 adds more detail to Clause 111 on the complaints process in order to put the answers to key questions on the face of the Bill. Who is the complainant? What are the issues that can be complained of? What are the rights of advocacy? It does not attempt to outline a detailed procedure, which will remain a matter for regulation, but it puts in place the framework of a process that is independent from the Secretary of State. Currently, the process established in the Bill for handling complaints is entirely contingent on regulations.

On Amendment No. 380, the statutory difference between "may"—a discretionary duty—and "shall"—a mandatory duty—applies. I do not need to trouble noble Lords once again with distinctions between "may" and "shall". However, it seems unlikely that Ministers will not want to make regulations to introduce a comprehensive complaints procedure, but there is nothing technically in the Bill which actually introduces the duty to do so.

I turn to Amendment No. 386. While it is recognised as desirable that complaints are made within a prescribed period, this is not always possible and a degree of flexibility should be allowed in this regard.

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The amendment would enable consideration of the many complaints that are currently in the system which have been pursued by complainants for years without satisfaction. It is important that these do not suddenly become null and void. New procedures should ensure speedy resolution and, in particular, an automatic transfer to independent review after a maximum of six months. They should not further penalise people who have already suffered a great deal. This should also apply to those who pursue a complaint through an inappropriate route and consequently come to use the NHS complaints procedure only after this has proved unsuccessful. I beg to move.

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