§ Mr. Gerrard
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what consideration he has given to the judgment in the case of R v. London borough of Lambeth ex parte A EWCA Civ 1624; and what assessment he has made of the effects of the judgment on(a) families with children who are being supported by social services departments and (b) children being cared for by social services departments. 
§ Jacqui Smith
Since the issue was first brought to the attention of the Department a considerable amount of work has been undertaken to assess the nature of the impact of the judgment in A v. London borough of Lambeth and the best way to respond to it. Consideration of these issues has taken place across Government and in consultation with key stakeholders.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in the recent case of A v. London borough of Lambeth, which considered the provision of accommodation under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, casts doubt upon the ability of councils with social services responsibilities to provide accommodation to children in need and their families. This judgment does not affect local authorities' powers to provide other services under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 that they deem appropriate in order to meet a child's needs, for example day care, nor does it have any impact on children being looked after by local authorities. It is, and has long been, our policy that councils with social services responsibilities should have the power to provide accommodation under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 where they feel that this is the appropriate way to meet the child's needs and where no other support is available. We therefore wish to restore the position so that this important safety net is available for all families. I announced on 17 January 2002 during the special standing committee on the Adoption and Children Bill that we intend to introduce amendments to the Children Act 1989 by way of the Adoption and Children Bill to make clear that accommodation may be provided by councils with social services responsibilities under section 17. In the meantime, another recent case (J v. London borough of Enfield) has made clear that local authorities are able to provide assistance, including assistance towards the securing of accommodation, to children and their families utilising the powers contained within setion 2 of the Local Government Act 2000.