New Clause 11

Children and Young Persons Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee on 3rd July 2008.

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Scope of inspections by the chief inspector

‘In section 147 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (c. 40) (inspection of premises in connection with adoption and fostering functions) after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) The Chief Inspector must consider the promotion of the welfare and safety of a child when carrying out the inspections mentioned in this section.”’.—[Tim Loughton.]

Brought up, read the First time, and motion made [this day], That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children) 1:00 pm, 3rd July 2008

I cannot remember where I had got to before lunch, but perhaps I can finish off by saying that the aim of this probing amendment is to tease out a bit more information than was teased out by the amendment that my noble Friend Baroness Morris of Bolton tabled in the House of Lords. We want to ensure that inspections of residential children’s homes are meaningful and not just inspections of the accommodation’s physical suitability. We want to broaden the scope of what is taken into account, so that consideration can be given to the promotion of the child’s welfare and safety.

Much earlier in our proceedings, I gave the example of a children’s home in my constituency. It was a nice converted farmhouse in the middle of the rolling downs of Sussex, but the children were running amok, and their welfare was clearly not being catered for. However, that did not necessarily come out in the Ofsted inspection report, and the new clause is intended to probe such issues. There is no statutory duty to consider the real aim of children’s homes—to promote children’s well-being—and such a duty should be included in the Bill.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families; Minister for the North West), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children and Youth Justice) (and Minister for the North West)

I hope that all hon. Members agree that the Government have been very clear about the need to safeguard children and promote their welfare. Indeed, that is an important part of the remit of the new Ofsted, which took over the regulation of children’s social care in April 2007.

Section 119(3) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, when read with section 117(2), sets out the factors to which the chief inspector must have regard in performing her functions. The first item on the list is

“the need to safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of children”.

That is a core responsibility of Ofsted and the chief inspector; it applies to all their functions, rather than being selectively attached to individual functions.

This morning, the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham set out the intention behind the new clause, which is to secure a broad scope for inspections of children’s homes. Her Majesty’s chief inspector draws her power to inspect children’s homes not from section 147 of the 2006 Act, to which the new clause relates, but from section 148. Section 148 transfers functions under part 2 of the Care Standards Act 2000 from the former Commission for Social Care Inspection to the chief inspector.

There is no disagreement about what we understand the intentions behind the new clause to be. When inspecting children’s homes, however, Ofsted should and does consider a range of matters. Comprehensive law is already in place setting out the appropriate factors that inspectors must consider when inspecting children’s homes and, indeed, any other institutions and services. Sections 22 and 23 of the Care Standards Act, for example, give the Secretary of State the power to make regulations and publish statements of national minimum standards against which children’s homes are inspected. Those regulations and national minimum standards cover a broad range of issues relating to the welfare of children in homes, as well as matters such as the fitness of managers and staff; they are not solely about the premises and material conditions.

When the chief inspector inspects children’s homes, fostering agencies, voluntary support agencies, adoption support agencies and all the other services within her remit, she must, as I explained, have regard to the matters set out in section 117(2) of the 2006 Act. As I said, the first aspect of that remit is

“the need to safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of children”.

For those reasons, new clause 11 is unnecessary. It adds nothing in legislative terms to the existing safeguards for children.

The primary objective is to ensure that as those legislative requirements are implemented, the types of situation outlined by the hon. Gentleman, which may be familiar to other Members, are dealt with to the extent that Ofsted is much more rigorous in ensuring compliance with existing standards, which it is Ofsted’s purpose to oversee. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurances and feel able to withdraw the new clause.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children)

I am grateful for that answer. In the interest of brevity and elegance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.