My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action has been taken to implement the recommendations in their Working Group Report on Young Homelessness since its publication in August.
My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services said in another place on 3rd August, in view of current economic circumstances and the Government's call for restraint in local authority spending there is little prospect of early implementation of those proposals which would require additional expenditure. Government Departments are, however, examining what can otherwise be done to help homeless young people and will be consulting with the local authority associations. Copies of the report are being sent today to all local authorities in England and Wales.
My Lords, I appreciate some part of the reply given by my noble friend, but does he realise the very grave anxiety about the matters contained in the report, some of which are of a very urgent nature, and will he see what can be done at minimum expense to meet the situation? The situation is extremely serious and a large number of organisations are very deeply concerned about it.
My Lords, I can say that there is no organisation, voluntary, or otherwise, which is more concerned about the matter than are the Government themselves. This report has thrown up 11 different sections that have to be examined by the Government Departments concerned. Those of your Lordships who have seen the report—and I arranged for those who have taken part in previous questions on this matter to receive a copy—will know that there are 28 recommendations, several of them with subsidiary recommendations. They are being considered by the five Government Departments concerned. An inter-departmental meeting has already taken place and there will now be discussions with local authority associations and other interested bodies to see just how many recommendations can be implemented.
My Lords, would my noble friend issue statements from time to time showing what Departments and what organisations are being consulted in the matter? After all, this commenced in 1975 and the members on the Working Group were people of very great standing in the Government Departments concerned as well as representatives of other official voluntary bodies. Would the Minister say categorically which items are to be dealt with in spite of the expense which may be incurred, and which not?
My Lords, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Education and Science, the Home Office, the Department of Employment and the Department of Health and Social Security are all involved. As I said, they will very soon be meeting local authority associations and other interested bodies, including the Metropolitan Police and those voluntary organisations that are working in this particular field, and they will consider all the recommendations. I cannot say when they will be in a position to report, nor can I say which recommendations can be implemented at this stage and which cannot.
With respect, my Lords, does my noble friend not realise that most of the Departments he has in mind were already represented on the Committee which made the recommendations and that they must have known what the recommendations were about, having been involved in the inquiry, particularly those representing Government Departments? Nevertheless, they have made the recommendations in spite of the financial position. Is it not important that something very vigorous should be done at the present time? It is an extremely important problem.
My Lords, the five Government Departments were represented by only five members of a committee. They did not know in advance what the Committee's discussions and recommendations would be. All the recommendations in question would put a considerable amount of work on local authorities and one must consider the implications of this. We are alive to the fact that this is an important matter, but can we go on putting more and more work upon local authorities in the position in which local authorities find themselves at present?
My Lords, may I ask whether, if it is not possible for local authorities to deal with this, a voluntary organisation could be approached?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. That is the whole point of the Government Departments having discussions not only with local authority associations but also with the interested bodies concerned which are in fact voluntary bodies. We hope that they will come up with certain suggestions.