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Educational Welfare (Ralphs Report)

Volume 889: debated on Tuesday 8 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what study he has made of the Ralphs Report; what plans he has for expanding educational welfare and for generally strengthening the relationship between the school and the home; and if he will make a statement.

The recommendations of the report have been broadly endorsed by the Local Government Training Board. Local authorities are well aware of the importance of educational welfare and of home-school links, and I have no doubt that they will do what they can to implement the recommendations, as far as present financial constraints will permit.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that this is an area, like so many others, which cannot be left to local authorities? Does he realise that the educational welfare service has the feeling that it is the Cinderella service? Does he not accept that there is a need for a wider dimension in terms of the responsibility of the service's officers?

I want to make it absolutely clear that in my view the service is certainly not the Cinderella service, and that the 2,400 educational welfare officers do a first-class job of fundamental importance. As for the question whether there should be some degree of national guidance on some aspects, my right hon. Friends and I are considering this issue and hope to produce general guidance before too long.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is some evidence in London that the educational welfare service is so impoverished that the Metropolitan Police is having to be brought more and more into service in an area which it was never intended to serve? Does he realise that since the building up of social service departments in local authorities the educational welfare service, for all that he says, does feel a Cinderella compared with other social services? Will he consult with his right lion. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to make sure that differentials in salaries and conditions between these two sets of social workers can be ironed out?

Since the Seebohm Report of 1968 there has been a great deal of discussion about the relationship between the two services and whether they should be combined. This is a matter which in the Government's view is best left to local authorities, most of which prefer that the educational welfare service should be part of the education service in the locality.