§ 38. Mr. Dodds
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has studied the report sent to him by the magistrates of a London court, regarding the circumstances under which a 10-year-old girl, instead of being sent to a special school for maladjusted children, was for seven months kept in a mental hospital where she was the only child among 1,200 mentally ill adults; and what reply he has sent.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke)
My right hon. Friend 1561 understands that it was not the intention of the magistrates to send him a report, but he has made inquiries. He is informed by the local authority, in whose care this highly disturbed child was, that repeated efforts were made to place her in a hospital catering for children or in a suitable special school. She was accepted for a special school in September but it was about six weeks before a vacancy occurred.
§ Mr. Dodds
Is not the hon. and learned Member aware that this child was there for seven months? Is it not a disgraceful state of affairs that a child who should go to a school for maladjusted children should be sent to a hospital and be the only child among 1,200 adults? Does not he and his right hon. Friend appreciate the distress of parents when conditions like this exist, particularly when the mother went and found that the child's hair was matted with mashed potato? Surely if the courts take action such as this, is there not some responsibility on the Home Secretary to ensure that proper places are available to which these children may be sent?
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
In fact, the responsibility for the provision of this sort of accommodation is primarily that of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who is well aware of the difficulties. Efforts were twice made to transfer the girl to a hospital which catered for mentally subnormal children. The girl's parents were opposed to this, however, and the medical authorities felt that it would be unwise to admit her without their consent. She was not considered suitable for the usual type of special school. Three Rudolf Steiner schools which were approached were unable to offer a vacancy, but a fourth did and she is now settling down well there.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman, in conjunction with the Minister of Health, take steps to ensure that there is no possibility of a recurrence of this kind of incident in 1562 which a young child is sent to a hospital in which all the other inmates are mentally ill adults?
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
The case has, of course, been carefully noted by the Minister of Health, and no doubt what the hon. Gentleman says will be further noted.