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Bob Lewis and David Willetts
Former social services director Bob Lewis and David Willetts debate the proposals
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 10:53 GMT
Hague backs private children's homes

Children's homes William Hague argues the independent sector is better at tackling abuse in homes


Businesses, charities and churches should be encouraged to run children's home, Conservative leader William Hague has said.

In a speech to promote the social policy initiative, Mr Hague called for the running of children's homes to be taken away from local authorities.



Charities, churches and business have shown that they can run children's homes at least as effectively as local authorities
William Hague
He said a "fundamental rethink" of the care system was needed in the light of critical inquiries into council-run homes in Hackney, Staffordshire and North Wales.

Addressing a social workers' conference in London, Mr Hague said: "The body which decides who is put in care and when and how they can leave it should not be the same body which also runs the vast majority of care homes in this country.

"Councils have sometimes shown themselves tragically unable to deal with the conflicts of interest and the impulse to cover-up when things go wrong."


William Hague: The private sector does it better
He committed a future Conservative government to separating the ownership of care homes from the responsibility of placing children in them.

This he said would be "a first step" towards transferring the management and, if appropriate, the ownership of care homes to the independent sector.

Speeding up adoption

The Tory leader said that the number of inquiries into neglect in children's homes in recent years meant a fundamental rethink of the entire care system was needed.

Announcing another new policy, Mr Hague said: "We will introduce much tougher requirements on local authorities to put children up for adoption and to make sure that proceedings are handled quickly.

"We will also review the rules councils apply in adoption cases, so that relatives are considered first as adoptive parents rather than subjecting them to the same battery of tests that other potential adopters face."

Harnessing energy

Speaking earlier the shadow social security secretary David Willetts told the BBC the Mr Hague's plans did not amount to the privatisation of all children's homes.

Mr Willetts also said Mr Hague was eager to harness the energy that churches and charities could bring to caring for young people.

He added: "If you look at the evidence and the statistics of the terrible outcomes for children who have been in care homes no one trying to construct responsible social policy would say local authority children's care homes are working well at the moment."

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See also:
24 Nov 99 |  Health
Performances which caused 'great concern'
24 Nov 99 |  UK
Social services failings attacked
06 Oct 99 |  Wales
Child abuse inquiry report completed

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