After-Care

Orders of the Day — Children (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 1st May 1995.

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Amendment proposed: No. 157, in page 18, line 17, at end insert— '(2A) Assistance given under subsection (1) or (2) above may include assistance in kind or in cash.'.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 158.

Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill

We had a substantial debate on this part of the Bill in Committee. We argued that resources should be provided to expand provision until the age of 21 years. That was rejected on the ground that the cost would be far too high. When hon. Members and I asked the Minister what the cost would be his answer was somewhat vague, although an alarmingly large figure was mentioned. Since then I understand that Shelter has given the Scottish Office a range of costs. The Association of Directors of Social Work has also advised the Scottish Office on costs. What has happened to the information given to the Scottish Office since the Committee reported? The child care law review estimated that the cost would be £965,000 per annum. That, the Minister will recall, is far less than the sum that was guesstimated in Committee. The figures provided by the child care law review do not account for the cost of not providing care until the age of 21. If we do not cater for that, further crime will be committed, and the health statistics will worsen.

There are numerous ways in which failing to care for the needs of young people who need care until the age of 21 bumps up the crime statistics. That failure costs the nation and creates health problems, for which there are costs to the health service, and so on. Although it is difficult to estimate such costs, they are real. Opposition Members in Committee felt that the whole proposal was rejected far too readily, without getting the reasonable statistics that could have helped debate. Will the Minister consider it further, given that he has received good advice from helpful and respected organisations in the meantime?

Photo of Sam Galbraith Sam Galbraith , Strathkelvin and Bearsden 9:45 pm, 1st May 1995

This was the only subject on which the debate got heated in Committee, partly because Opposition Members consider the extension of provisions to cover an older age to be important. The Minister replied, in what for him was a fairly perfunctory manner, simply by reading his brief without giving consideration to the points that we had made, the main one being that it is all right for those of us with families, to whom we can return, even though we may have left home, but those who have been put out on the street and those in care have no person to whom they can turn.

I understand that there has been some slight movement on the amendment. One of the things for which we asked was that assistance be given in cash. I understand that the amendment now mentions cash. The Minister really must consider once again all the arguments that we made in Committee. My understanding, despite the rather shallow brief that the Minister had, was that he was against it on cost. The costs are now available to him and they are not great. Surely the Government can find their way to providing that small amount of money for those who have been in care and are then thrown out on the streets.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Resources were the major stumbling block to the proposals that were made in Committee. The two amendments result from our lengthy discussions. They improve the provisions in relation to after-care. Amendment No. 157 makes it clear that the assistance that can be given may include assistance in kind or in cash. Amendment No. 158 ensures that, where a relevant young person moves to the area of a new authority, the original authority should notify it of the proposed move only if the young person consents. I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is made aware of the points made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) in relation to costings. Those representations will be looked at with great care.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 158, in page 18, line 23, at end insert 'provided that he consents to their doing so'.—p[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]