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One-Parent Families

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 5 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the out come of his consideration of recommendation 3 of the Finer Report on One-Parent Families.

There are no plans to implement this recommendation, which is that the criminal offence of persistent refusal or neglect to maintain a person for whom there is a liability under the Supplementary Benefits Act should be abolished.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendations 55 and 58 of the Finer Report.

Recommendation 55 was accepted, but there are difficulties in making estimates of numbers of one-parent families in years in which there is no Census, as there is no other satisfactory source. The available information suggests some increase in numbers between 1971 and 1976 but it is not practicable to make accurate estimates. Recommendation 58 was accepted and Social Trends now contains a special section on Households and Families.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if it is the Government's intention to raise the earnings disregard for one-parent families on supplementary benefit in line with increases in the cost of living as recommended by the Finer Committee on One-Parent Families, recommendation 121.

This disregard was raised from £4 to £6 a week in November 1976, which gave it a higher real value than ever before. The Government have no plans, at present, for any further change.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether an easement of the full-time work qualification for one-parent families in the family income supplement scheme has been considered by his Department in the light of recommendation 125 of the Finer Report.

I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) on 8th March.—[Vol. 927, c. 469.]

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendation 127 of the Finer Report.

Recommendation 127 of the Finer Report—national insurance maternity grant to be payable for all confinements irrespective of contribution records—has not been implemented. The case for a non-contributory maternity grant could be considered only as financial resources became available, and even then only in the light of developing social policies and competing priorities.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendation 226 of the Finer Report.

Recommendation 226 is that there should be close co-operation between hospitals and social services departments to ensure that the arrangements made for long-term hospital patients are those best for the family as a whole. The NHS Reorganisation Act 1973 provided for the transfer of hospital social workers to local social services authorities—which the Finer Committee welcomed—and for statutory collaboration arrangements between health and local authorities. The purpose of these changes was to improve the links between health and social care. It is not considered that any further structural or statutory change is at the moment necessary to meet the objectives of the recommendation.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what guidance he has issued to local authorities on the provision of leaflets for lone parents in the light of recommendation 189 of the Finer Report;(2) what action has been taken on recommendation 190 of the Finer Report;(3) what action has been taken on each of recommendations 221, 222 and 223 of the Finer Report;(4) what action has been taken on recommendation 191 of the Finer Report;(5) what action has been taken on recommendation 192 to 194 of the Finer Report.

These recommendations are mainly for action by local authorities and voluntary organisations and have been discussed by my Department and the local authority associations concerned. Much has already been done to implement these recommendations, but further progress must depend upon the availability of resources, both of manpower and finance, which are at present severely limited. The need for any further guidance to local authorities will be considered when the economic situation allows.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendation 227 of the Finer Report.

Recommendation 227 was that joint discussion between social services and education services on the special problems of one-parent immigrant families should be held at local and national level. In July 1974 the then Home Secretary asked the Community Relations Commission to consider the extent to which the needs of ethnic minority communities differ from those of the rest of the population in areas of urban deprivation and to report and advise on the implications for community relations policy. Its report, "Urban Deprivation, Racial Inequality and Social Policy", has recently been published by HMSO and is being considered.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on each of the recommendations 228, 229 and 230 of the Finer Report.

The need to provide adequate family planning advice and supplies to all, including groups with special needs such as the young and those most likely to produce illegitamate children or experience marital breakdown, led to the introduction of a free comprehensive family planning service within the National Health Service. My Department continues to support research into the effectiveness of the service.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendation 197 of the Finer Report.

Despite financial constraints there has been a substantial expansion of day provision for under-fives. For example, by March 1976 over 2,000 additional local authority day nursery places, for which the children of lone working parents have some priority, had been provided in England since the Finer Committee presented its report.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendation 198 of the Finer Report.

Parents themselves must decide whether or not to go out to work, but the Government welcome the efforts that local authorities are making within the constraints imposed by the current economic situation to provide facilities best suited to the particulars needs of children and their families, and their support for the playgroup movement.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendation 200 of the Finer Report.

This is our current policy. It was embodied in Chapter IX of the Department's Consultative Document "Priorities for Health and Personal Social Services in England" published in March 1976, a copy of which is in the Library.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken on recommendations 203 and 204 of the Finer Report.

With regard to recommendation 203, despite financial restraints a number of local authorities are operating day fostering or sponsored child-minding schemes. A grant for one scheme was given under a recent phase of the Urban Programme.With regard to recommendation 204, a number of local authorities and voluntary agencies are promoting in a variety of ways improved standards of care among childminders and support for them. Grants have been given under the Urban Programme to local authorities for schemes to support and advise minders and we were pleased to be able to support the current BBC TV series "Other People's Children" designed to help improve standards.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what specific action has been taken on each of recommendations 206, 207 and 208 of the Finer Report.

The scope for developments under recommendation 206 has been limited by the economic constraints which have affected both the public and private sectors.As regards recommendation 207, the Government support the playgroup movement and provided grants of almost £200,000 last year to a number of voluntary agencies for the specific purposes of promoting more playgroups in areas of greatest need, of improving standards and generally of involving parents in the play activities of their children.As regards recommendation 208, the assessment of charges for day care is the responsibility of individual local authorities in the light of local circumstances and parents' means. The Layfield Committee on Local Government Finance recommended, inter alia, that there should be a joint review of the policies of both central and local government towards charging for local services. The committee's recommendations are at present under consideration by the Government.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what specific action has been taken on each of recommendations 209 to 213 of the Finer Report.

As regards recommendations 209 and 210, local authority social services departments may, under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963, make provision where necessary for the welfare of children of school age who are not receiving proper care before and after school hours or in the holidays and many authorities already provide schemes. Additional provision is necessarily limited by available resources of finance and manpower, as well as of premises. Help has been given through the Urban Programme—a recent phase specifically invited applications for holiday play schemes.Recommendation 211 comes within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I understand that it is common practice among local education authorities to whom this recommendation is directed to take home circumstances into account when considering pupils for boarding education.As regards recommendations 212 and 213, my right hon. Friend has recommended to local authorities in the joint circular on rate support grant for 1977–78 that they should endeavour to protect field and domiciliary services. Development of these services must depend on the availability of resources, which are at present severely limited.