§ Mr. Abse
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether he is aware that foster children in respect of whose care and maintenance it is claimed no reward is received are outside the definition of a foster child within the Children Act, 1958; and whether, in order to prevent evasion of the law and to meet the possible need of protection of a child for whom payment is claimed not to be made, he will seek to amend the Act to define a foster child to be one whose care and maintenance are undertaken for a period exceeding three weeks by a person who is not his guardian or his relative;
(2) whether he will seek to amend the law relating to private fostering to ensure 252W that a person shall not maintain a foster child if any member of that person's household has been convicted of an offence which at present debars a person from maintaining a foster child;
(3) whether he will seek to amend the law relating to private fostering by providing that in addition to the present powers under Section 4(3) of the Children Act, 1958, the local authority may, if of the opinion that it would be detrimental to a foster child to be kept by any person or in any premises, prohibit the person from keeping a foster child or use of the premises for that purpose;
(4) whether he is aware that no frequency of visits to foster children by the local authority is laid down by any statutory regulation; whether he is aware of concern that the well-being of a foster child is inadequately protected and advice as to their care and maintenance inadequately pursued as a consequence of insufficient visiting by officers of local authorities; and whether he will seek to amend the law to ensure that visits to foster children take place as is laid out in the Boarding Out of Children Regulations, 1955. which are not now applicable to foster children;
(5) whether he is aware of the use of outbuildings of premises for sleeping quarters of foster children; whether he will seek to amend the law to ensure that authorised officers of a local authority may inspect outbuildings as well as those parts of a premises said to he used as living quarters for foster children; and whether he is satisfied that present powers of inspection include powers to inspect places where children's food is prepared or stored;
(6) whether he will seek to amend the law relating to private fostering to ensure that a parent or other person placing a child should be required to give notice to the local authority in the same way as a person now receiving a foster child is required to give notice.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I am already in consultation with the local authority associations about the possibility of strengthening the Children Act, 1958, and I will bear all these points in mind in the course of further discussions with the associations.
§ Mr. Abse
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has 253W now inquired into the difficulties encountered by foster parents who receive inadequate allowances; what was the average cost per child last year in local authority homes, and how this compared with the average amount paid for the maintenance of a child to a foster parent; what was the average payment made for clothes allowances in respect of older foster children; whether foster parents receive any allowance for a paid holiday, health and insurance stamps, for breakages and wear and tear in the house; and what action he is taking to encourage local authorities to make more generous payments in order that there may be an increase in the number of suitable parents prepared to undertake fostering.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
Responsibility for deciding scales of payment to foster parents rests with local authorities. It is my practice to draw an authority's attention to scales which appear to be inadequate to cover out-of-pocket expenses, but I rarely have occasion to do so. The average cost per child in local authority homes in 1965–66 was £12 3s. 3d. a week and that of children boarded out £2 16s. 9d; both figures exclude expenditure which cannot be apportioned between these and other local authority functions. The information requested in the third and fourth parts of the Question is not available. Informed opinion does not, I believe. support the view that payments containing an element of remuneration would attract suitable foster parents in significantly increased numbers.