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Service Men's Children (Residential Nurseries)

Volume 395: debated on Thursday 2 December 1943

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asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the difficulties at present experienced by the wives of men serving in His Majesty's Forces who, having to enter hospital for illness or confinement, are unable to make arrangements for their children, other than sending them to some public institution; and whether arrangements will be considered for the provision of residential hostels to which such children could be sent?

My right hon. Friend is aware of the difficulty referred to. Some provision for such cases is already made by welfare authorities and by means of the residential nurseries established under the Government evacuation scheme. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any particular cases in mind, I shall be glad to have inquiries made.

Does the hon. Lady not realise that the present arrangements do not really meet the case, and would she consult with the Ministers of the Service Departments to see whether some special arrangements cannot be made which would deal with the cases that arise among the wives of Service men?

I may inform my hon. and gallant Friend that my right hon. Friend has discussed this matter with the Service Departments. It simply comes down to the difficulty of staff. If the Minister of Labour gives us more staff it will be possible to make further arrangements.

Is it not true that there is a great shortage of places to which to send these children, and that some of these places, under the direction of the Ministry of Health, have charged as much as 36s. 6d. a week?

In these nurseries, which are run under the Government evacuation scheme, the accommodation is exactly the same for every child. The noble Lady is referring to a particular area, where the local authority had not room in their home for a child. In such cases the local authority would have to pay, in order to send the child to another home, the amount it would cost to keep the child in their own home.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Soldiers,' Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association are maintaining residential nurseries of this kind for the special benefit of the wives of serving men?

Yes. It is through the help of the Ministry of Health that they obtained the buildings, and I have been in close touch with them. They have the same difficulty as we all have because of the shortage of staffs.