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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, it is important to get the two matters into the list in the Bill of what a
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child would aim to have for itself. I emphasise emotional as well as social and economic well-being. It would give much greater weight to everything that needs to be rounded for children to come through into adulthood successfully.
The one real area that, sadly, illustrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve here is that which concerns the most deprived children and also looked-after childrenan area that I am sure we shall come to in a later amendment. Again and again, there is evidence of a disturbed background and a lack of emotional well-being. As a result of that, again and again other aspects of the "wished-for" inclusion that the Government and all of us in this House would like to see fail. Therefore, I support my noble friend's amendment.
Lord Chan: My Lords, I also support my noble friend's amendment. I remind noble Lords that the Government have invested a great deal of resources in, for example, Sure Start. That particularly important investment provides a secure and supportive home environment. Therefore, it seems a pity not to mention it clearly here. As we begin to see the benefits of the Sure Start programme, we see that it also strengthens the emotional well-being of children. Therefore, I should have thought that it would be an advantage if all that were spelt out on the face of the Bill.
Lord Elton: My Lords, having followed the debate on this matter only at a distance through circumstances beyond my control, I speak with great diffidence and briefly. However, the omission of the mention of "family" from a Bill of this kind and from a part of the Bill of such critical importance is little short of astonishing. Therefore, I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said about the desirability of its inclusion.
It is not possible to argue that what he is advocating is a process and that it should be excluded on that basis because education, which is included, is alsoI believe unarguablya process. Therefore, that argument fails.
The purpose of putting the "family", or the "supportive home environment", as it is now being expressed, on the face of the Bill is not merely to emphasise its overall importance; surely it is also to prevent the pursuit of other objectives at the expense of that objective. If that objective is excluded, other objectives will take precedence over it and it will be possible to pursue physical health or recreation in a way that militates against a supportive and secure home environment.
I would say much the same about "emotional well-being". If we are trying to describe what we wish to achieve for a child, and that is how the Minister recently described these paragraphs, the description must surely include the most secure home life possible and the most secure emotional well-being possible. Therefore, it is difficult to see on what grounds the noble Baroness will
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try to resist the amendments. I shall listen with great interest and, if she does so, I shall be disposed to follow the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, through the Lobby.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, from these Benches I give our support to the two amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. In earlier discussions on the same issue, the Minister made it clear that in the list in Clause 7(2) the Government were trying to distil the results of the consultations that took place with children about what they felt was good about their well-being. Certainly, one issue that came out of those consultations was a sense of security. It seems that an attempt has been made to capture that within the context of this subsection by the use of the words,
But neither really captures the sense of security within the family or the sense of a secure environment. I believe that that is the great advantage of including within the list the wording proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, it is unarguable that "home environment" and "emotional well-being" are vitally important for the well-being of children and, indeed, they come first in the list that a child will put if asked these questions in a straightforward way. Surely the difficulty arises from the question: are they things that the authorities should be promoting or things in which they should be involving themselves? I think that that was answered by the noble Lord, Lord Chan. What else is Sure Start?
I do not know how the noble Baroness spends her Wednesday evenings, but I would thoroughly recommend that she watches "Supernanny", which is a most extraordinary programme on Channel 4. It starts off with total chaos in a household, and with a little intervention, all is happiness and peace, which is just technique. It is astonishing to see the transformation. That is just the kind of parenting education which the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has been advocating for many years, and which should be provided by local authorities.
We live in such isolated little families now that we have no access to those sort of skills. We do not even know that they exist. We think that what we are doing is the best that can be done. The provision of that sort of resource by authorities should be central to what they do. That is, to my mind, what the noble Lord's amendments would achieve.
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Lord Dearing: My Lords, I had not intended to take part in the debates on the Bill and apologise for intervening at this late stage. However, the emotional wellbeing of a child is so central that I felt compelled to raise my voice in support of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. The ability of a child to love and to accept love, to have compassion and empathy and to cope with anger and fear is absolutely central to the development of that human being, especially for looked-after children who face so many handicaps. I think that it is right that we should press this issue. I have not referred to home life, but it is in the framework of the home that those emotions are nourished and developed.
Earl Howe: My Lords, the arguments in favour of the amendments have been extremely well put and I shall be brief, but I want to support them very warmly. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in his Amendment No. 19, has encapsulated a very important concept that is not encapsulated elsewhere in the subsection.
Emotional well-being is surely quite distinct from mental health and social well-being. It is different from protection from harm and neglect, which is a negative, not a positive, concept. If there has to be a choice between the noble Lord's two amendments, Amendments Nos. 18 and 19, I prefer Amendment No. 19, first, because it is neater and, secondly, because it is an outcome which does not in any way presuppose any kind of official intrusion into the home. That is not, I am sure, what the noble Lord wants to see but it could be thought to be a consequence of making the provision of a secure and supportive home environment a specific target for local authorities and their partners. With that mild caveat, I hope that the Minister will be receptive to these amendments.
Lord Laming: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, deserves the congratulations of the House on the way in which he has concentrated our minds on the importance of family in the well-being of children. The difficulty that I suspect many of us havethis certainly applies to meis that when I read a draft Bill I read into it things which I assume everyone else reads into it, and obviously that may not be right. So, when I think of something which improves the well-being of children, I automatically think of the family, because the family is the basis from which the well-being of children springs. Therefore, I assume things that perhaps, given the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I would have been better not to have assumed.
It seems to me that the House is in support of the thrust of the amendments. I am sure that we all agree, first, on the importance of the family and, secondly, on the importance of wellbeing of children.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for introducing these important debates. I shall begin by
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saying a few words about Amendment No. 18. Noble Lords will not be surprised that I start from a slightly different viewpoint. In seeking to do everything we have done around the Bill we have tried to involve children in the most appropriate way. Clearly, for some noble Lords that has not been enough. However, we really do feel that we have tried to base a lot of our work on what we believe is the right approach, having talked to children and those involved with children, in different ways.
I understand that the noble Lord wants to see a new outcome; that is, the provision of a secure and supportive home environment. I reiterate what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, really on my behalf, that there is no political motivation in this, not even with a small "p". It matters hugely that children have the kind of secure environment, preferably with their family but if not, provided by those who can, that enables them to be nurtured and to grow. Everyone involved in the Government, and even in your Lordships' House, would support that. The question is, where do you put the provision? As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he re-examines this clause he will see that we have inserted the issue of family life and parents and carers precisely because the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and others appropriately took me to task at an earlier stage for its omission. The provision has now been included. We have, I hope, as the noble Lord indicated, moved some way in that direction.
I cannot accept Amendment No. 18 because of the way in which it raises various issues. There are real difficulties when one tries to focus services on the territory of family life, in a clause that is actually about the activities that we expect statutory agencies to undertake. We want the children's services authority and its partners to ensure they are addressing all aspects of children's well-being. That is partly why the five outcomes are there to help them do it; not on their own, but as a really big chunk of what we expect them to do.
Our previous amendment ensures that the bodies must take proper account of the importance of parents and carers. I am not sure that the noble Lord would want us to go further and suggest that the co-operation arrangements and activities of services should encroach on anddare I say itpossibly interfere with what happens in a child's life. The way the amendment is phrased runs the risk of being misinterpreted in the sense of how we expect our services to offer such provision. For that reasonand that reason alone; it is not a political reason regarding family lifeI am resisting the amendment.
When thinking about a secure family environment, it is important to ensure that provision is made in the right place. This amendment would not put it in the right place. That does not mean that we do not recognise that a stable family life is one of the underpinning features of how children develop and grow and are nurtured. That is why, when we think about looked-after children, the word "stability" has become such an important part of the PSA target. My
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right honourable friend the Secretary of State feels very passionately about stability, which for some children is so badly lacking.
We have no will to move away from that. However, I fear that, by making this amendment in the proposed place, we would run the risk of asking our services to look at family life more carefully, but in a way that the noble Lord does not want. I have, however, listened very carefully. I shall therefore ignore my speaking note and accept Amendment No. 19.
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