New clause 10 - Amendment of section 17 of the

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 17 January 2002.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health 11:00, 17 January 2002

I was coming to the action that the Government will take.

New clause 11 provides that a local authority must provide such assistance as is reasonably required to meet the needs of a child who is assessed as needing accommodation to enable him to live with his family. I have some sympathy with that aim, but I shall resist it for the following reasons. First, it imposes a duty on local authorities to provide accommodation in individual cases in a way that is not mirrored in the other services that are provided to children in need and their families, such as home help or day care.

Secondly, the new clause does not deal with the provision of accommodation to children in need whom it is not appropriate to accommodate with their families or as looked-after children. Sometimes authorities need the power to accommodate children away from their families—for example, if they are estranged from their families or if they are

unaccompanied asylum seeker. Thirdly, amending schedule 2 as new clause 11 would do would be insufficient to cover accommodation. Our legal advice is that, because a judgment held that section 17 did not cover the matter, we may need to amend that section. I am not sure that new clause 11 would achieve what is necessary.

For those technical reasons I ask my hon. Friend not to press her new clauses. I give her a strong assurance that the Government recognise the important issues that the relevant judgments have raised, that we have engaged in consultation across Government and with directors of social services and Shelter, and that we intend to present our own amendments to restore the power under section 17 when we have been able to think about what is necessary to make it effective and considered the possible consequences.