Report of the expert committee on how to deal with children in trouble which influenced the establishment of the Children's Hearings system


Part Three
The Matching Field organisation

232. Throughout our discussion of the operation of the juvenile panels, we have touched at various points on the need for a matching field organisation. The latter is, in our view, an essential counterpart to our proposals for the institution of the panels, and is indeed inseparable from them. While referral to the panel will be at the hand of the reporter to the panel, the reports reaching him and leading to such action may emanate from a wide variety of public and voluntary agencies, including the police. Moreover, in any given case one or other of these agencies may have an important role to play not merely in the detection of the individual child in need, but equally in the separate and subsequent stages involving assessment of those needs and the measures to be applied as a result.


233. If it is to be effective, the system of juvenile panels presupposes in each area a central source of referrals through the panel's reporter, backed equally by simultaneous arrangements for informed and skilled advice channelled through a central agency, namely, the director of social education and his staff. The test in every case being the child's need for special educational measures, what is required is not some entirely new and different form of machinery for identification, diagnosis and assessment, and supervision; but a merging and reorganisation of those existing services whose primary concern is with the problems of the children in special need. The need for a greater measure of coordination of the local authority and voluntary services in this sphere has already been recognised in the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963, in that local authorities have been given new powers to try to prevent or as far as practicable remove, by informal action resting ultimately on the co-operation and consent of those concerned, the conditions which result in children coming into public care, whether by informal or compulsory procedures. Much has, of course, already been achieved in this sphere, and we have no doubt that it will be given added impetus as a result of the new statutory powers now conferred. It would, however, be entirely unrealistic to imagine that as a result situations calling for public intervention in the shape of compulsory measures will ever wholly disappear. Even with the improvements which may reasonably be expected as a result of the 1963 Act, some cases will continue undetected; in others which are detected, informal action will for various reasons prove ineffectual; and in some almost from the outset it will be clear to those concerned that it will be necessary to invoke the authority of the juvenile panels for the application of compulsory measures.

234. It will, we think, be evident from our earlier discussion of the juvenile panels that their work, while resting ultimately on their powers (as the duly constituted public authority in this field) to apply compulsory measures, is essentially an extension of that of the various existing local social services concerned with children's needs. In many cases, the child will be brought before the panel where efforts by one or other of these agencies on a voluntary and persuasive basis have failed; or in circumstances in which the family (or members of it) are in one way or another already known to such services, even though the child himself may not hitherto have shown signs of serious disturbance. Indeed, as we have already indicated, it may well sometimes prove possible by bringing a child and his parents before the panel to secure their subsequent co-operation without the necessity of applying formal compulsory measures. In that way the panels may, we consider, be able in the course of full and frank discussion to lend the weight of their underlying authority-without resort to compulsion-in support of the efforts of the social workers concerned, in what is in all cases essentially their task of social education, whether as applying more particularly to the child himself or to his parents.

235. Against that background, it seems to us that the juvenile panels must have available to them the services, first, of all the statutory and voluntary agencies whose work is such as to bring them into frequent contact with the family, and who may thus be looked upon as primary sources of identification. The police are obviously one such source; among others, perhaps the most obvious are the schools, general medical practitioners and the health visitor and district nursing services. The schools have, of course, close daily access to all children of school age. General medical practitioners, health visitors and district nurses (in some areas the two functions are combined) visit the great majority of homes where there are children under school age, and in many areas the health visitors may maintain a continuing link with the children in that they also form part of the school medical service. In what is in each case probably a numerically less extensive field, ministers and priests, children's officers, probation officers, local authority health and welfare officers, and school welfare and attendance officers in the course of their daily duties are also likely to identify children in need or difficulty. Under our proposals we contemplate that the social education department which we are recommending would be recognised as the focal point for co-ordination of information about all cases of children in need.

236. Co-ordination of information leads to assessment or diagnosis. To be effective, the application of a process of social education of the kind we have described requires co-ordination of the various methods of treatment to be applied. We do not suggest that these can be carried out entirely within the social education department. We have already considered the part which the police may play in the process. Other services may not infrequently be concerned with the child's family or have a valuable contribution to the solution of the difficulties. At case-conferences attended by the various services concerned (voluntary and statutory) all the information available about the family, reported through the various identification agencies, would be considered. In the light of full assessment, carried out on a team basis, the most appropriate methods would be applied and the case assigned to the particular social worker or workers (within the total range of services) whose skills appeared to be best fitted to handle it. It follows that the director of social education would either have under his direct control or have a recognised right of access to, and claim upon, the specialist services (medical, psychiatric and psychological) in all cases in which such assistance appears appropriate.

237. On completion of assessment, the resultant action may take any one of a variety of forms. As part of the general preventive function of the new service, the resultant measures would over a wide field be taken by simple administrative action, and measures of help and guidance would be entrusted to whichever was considered to be the most appropriate statutory or voluntary agency in the particular circumstances of the case. In cases in which for whatever reason it was considered necessary that there should be a formal referral to the juvenile panel, the panel's likely action on being satisfied that there was a need for their assuming jurisdiction would be to order either measures of supervision within the community or residential measures. The child's supervision within the community would in fact involve the application of family case-work and would, we envisage, be most commonly entrusted to the qualified social workers who would form a substantial element of the social education department operating directly under the director of social education. Similarly, where a child was removed from home by order of the panel for residential training (whether in the form of placing in the care of the local authority or for special residential school training of whatever kind) he would automatically be placed under the oversight and control of the social education department, subject to the additional requirement as to residential training. By that means remedial measures would, we think, necessarily be set in hand in the home simultaneously with the period of residential training, and supervision would be continued by the social education department for such period as might be considered necessary on the child's return home.


238. In order to give effect to these principles, we consider that a measure of reorganisation of local social services is necessary. A major group of the services concerned, whether with identification, assessment or training, are at present within the education authority field, namely, the schools (including the school medical service and school welfare and attendance officers), the educational child guidance service, and residential schools (whether at present classed as schools for the maladjusted or the handicapped, as well as approved schools).

239. Other residential homes and hostels are the responsibility of local authority children's committees, who are also responsible for the provision of remand homes which at present are intended to serve the function of assessment centres for children requiring in their own interests to be kept in custody pending appearance before the juvenile courts. Under our proposals assessment centres will essentially be places of safety. They will accommodate children whose needs appear to be of a degree of complexity requiring sustained assessment involving a variety of specialist services, and of a kind necessitating their temporary removal from home for this purpose-whether or not referral to the juvenile panel is in issue. As such, it is appropriate that the centres should under our proposals be under the direct control of the director of social education.

240. So also, where on referral to the juvenile panel the child's supervision within the community is decided upon, it seems to us essential that there should be a single staff of field workers, working under the director of social education, to whom this task will normally be entrusted, and who will have the responsibility of assessing the effectiveness of the measures adopted in each case. At present, supervision in such circumstances is most likely to be entrusted to a probation officer in the case of juvenile offenders, and in the case of others either to a probation officer or a children's officer. In this context both officers are undertaking what is essentially the same task as part of the process of social education implied in all family case-work, and the present arbitrary distinction which the selection of an officer of one or other of the two services seems to imply appears to us to have no basis in reality. Probation as a distinctive method of treatment of offenders has, however, from the outset been inevitably linked with the criminal courts. As one of the methods to be applied by the criminal courts it will, of course, continue. On that basis, under our proposals, the probation service as such will in future be related solely to the courts, and will occupy no similar special relationship with the juvenile panels, which would naturally look to the new social education department as the vehicle for exercising continued oversight and supervision of children under their jurisdiction.


241. In the light of these considerations, we have reached the conclusion that the most effective practical organisation consistent with our general proposals lies in the reorganisation and merging of a number of local authority services to form a new "social education department", on the following lines:

(1) The present powers and duties of local authorities under the Children Acts, 1948 and 1958, and the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963, should be transferred to education authorities;

(2) Under the Director of Education, a new department should be set up, headed by a Depute Director (with the title of "Director of Social Education") who would head the new specialist department catering for the needs of all children requiring measures of special education and training. Within this larger organisation would be merged the existing child-care service as well as a substantial number of those at present serving in the probation service. With the removal of children from the jurisdiction of the criminal courts, the work of the latter service would be appreciably diminished, though in the longer-term the use of adult probation by the criminal courts may be expected to expand considerably beyond its present level;

(3) The education authority's existing responsibility for the educational child guidance service, the school medical services, for school welfare and attendance officers, as well as for the provision of special schools for the maladjusted and the handicapped, would be discharged through the new department;

(4) In consequence of the transfer of the child care functions of local authorities, responsibility for the provision of assessment centres and children's homes would be vested in education authorities, and would equally be operated under the direction of the new department, which by virtue of existing education authority functions would also be responsible for all existing and future special residential schools provided by the education authority;

(5) The approved school after-care service would be abolished and its functions merged within the social education department.

242. By that means the director of social education would have close to him or under his direct control

(a) a very large range of the services whose functions are such as to afford opportunities for the identification of children in need;
(b) full facilities for assessment;
(c) the necessary field organisation to undertake measures involving supervision (formal or otherwise) of children within the community; and,
(d) the range of children's homes and residential schools provided by public authorities, as well as having access to similar homes and schools run by voluntary effort.

243. These proposals, we recognise, involve a substantial measure of reorganisation, and go beyond the measures for co-ordination of services concerned with preventive measures recently enacted in the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963. Our recommendations basically imply an acceptance of the same underlying principles governing the machinery for identification, assessment and treatment as, we believe, led to these changes.

244. We recognise that it might be thought that if there is in fact a need for further reorganisation it could appropriately be based, as are the 1963 Act changes, upon the children's committee of the local authority rather than by the creation of the new "social education" department under the education authority. Our proposals, however, imply a major extension of those working principles over a very much wider field, to include all children whose educational requirements are not met by the normal educational processes of the home and school (whether or not these needs are such as to postulate the assumption of jurisdiction by the juvenile panels). We have great difficulty in seeing how the very much larger organisation involved under our proposals could be founded upon the local authority children's committee, however that committee might be reorganised or its staff expanded. Such a proposal would in any event seem to imply the transfer to local authorities of a number of existing education authority functions (both relating to the child guidance service and residential schools), a course which would, we think, be unlikely to meet with any general measure of acceptance, and which for the reasons discussed in paragraphs 167-178, we ourselves would be quite unable to accept.

245. A converse argument which might be advanced is that by placing responsibility for the new service in the hands of the education authority, there is a risk that the objects hoped for might not be achieved, in that the additional burden would add appreciably to those already existing in the general field of formal education and would thus end up by receiving inadequate attention. We do not consider that this view is well-founded. It may, we think, stem from an unduly narrow conception of what has always been and is increasingly being recognised as the true function of the public educational system. It may be that in the past the emphasis within the Scottish educational curriculum, with its fairly strongly academic bias, lent encouragement to the view that education could be treated as a formal process of learning, in that sense divorced from the wider aim of training for social living. In so far as such attitudes exist, they are, we consider, rapidly disappearing. In the immediate post-war years the attention of education authorities has necessarily been directed to the provision of improved facilities for general education as well as the additional provision required as a result of the raising of the school leaving age in 1947, the movement of population to new housing areas, and the continuing high birth rate. On this account, it may be that their existing responsibilities for the ascertainment of the minority of children in special need (whether through maladjustment or handicap) were not pressed forward with the same vigour as might have been expected in other and more favourable circumstances. Equally, we think, the sub-division of responsibility implied by the creation of children's committees of local authorities may have acted as a disincentive to them to do so. In any event, the existence of the two Working Parties (to which we have already referred) on ascertainment of maladjustment and mental handicap is, we think, evidence of increased awareness and concern in educational circles for the special needs of these groups of children. Increasing emphasis on social education generally in more recent years is evident in education authorities' efforts to expand informal education, and in the rapid developments which have been taking place in junior secondary schools. Moreover, we do not think that the importance of organisational matters should be under-emphasised. Under our proposals, the "social education department" will in itself be a fairly large specialist department, headed under the Director of Education by a specialist Depute (holding what would be a mandatory statutory appointment in each area and carrying the salary and status appropriate to the rank of depute director of education). This appointment would in each case, we contemplate, be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. A high career post of this kind would attract, both to the post and to service in the department, officers of high calibre, qualifications and experience.


246. In discussions before us, reference was made by some of the witnesses to the possibility in the long term of an even wider measure of reorganisation of services so as to provide a comprehensive "family service", catering for the needs of adults of all ages, as well as those of children in the family. Such a concept may have validity if it implies the need for better co-ordination of existing services, and we would expect that our own proposals, if adopted, would go a considerable way to improve the channels of communication necessary for concerted action relating to those, young or old, within a particular family unit, and irrespective of the initial source of referral. There is no doubt a need for further development of the existing services offering advice and guidance to adults in personal and other difficulties. Our own proposals, however, are necessarily directed primarily to the special needs of a minority of the child population who require special measures of education and training. These measures will almost always involve working closely with the parents; helping them to resolve their problems and sometimes those of other adult members of the family unit; and assisting them and strengthening their natural instinct to further the well-being of their children. We believe that society now and in the future will in fact be prepared to go to considerable lengths and considerable cost to further such a process of education for social living, holding as it does the possibility of sustained measures of care and discipline backed in many cases by the explicit authority of the juvenile panels. Such an approach is, we believe, a proper and appropriate one as catering for the needs of children, and in so far as the idea of a "family service" is a practical and achievable aim we consider that its centre and core will continue to be found in a "social education" service of the kind which we have recommended.


247. We recognise that our recommendations raise difficult questions as to the future of the probation service in particular, in that their immediate result will be likely to reduce its numbers, in so far as it will in future be a court-centred service concerned almost exclusively with adult offenders. We have reached our conclusions only after the most careful consideration, and we view with considerable regret the division which will necessarily result in an increasingly highly-trained organisation which has been painstakingly built up over the years. Under our proposals, we are, of course, looking to many serving officers of the probation service to fulfil an essential part by transfer to the new social education department. Transfer to the new service would, we contemplate, not be obligatory, and there would clearly require to be provision for compensation to particular officers in particular areas who did not elect to transfer, and who were as a result displaced from their present employment by reason of the new arrangements. (Arrangements to the same effect would be necessary in relation to serving officers of the approved schools after-care service.) We see no reason to consider that in the long term our proposals will be detrimental to the idea of probation as a method of treatment available for adult offenders, the use of which has been growing and may be expected to expand still further. The final resolution of questions about the future of the adult probation service goes well beyond our remit.


248. If these arrangements are to have maximum effect, we consider it essential that action should be taken at the earliest possible stage to establish recognised training standards within the various branches of the new department (both for field staff at a variety of levels and staff of residential homes and schools). Throughout the social services generally, there has in recent years been increasing recognition of the need to raise standards of training and to take full advantage of the body of theory and practical knowledge which has now become available in the field of social and personal relationships. The extent to which the social workers in the various existing services have undergone courses of training of this kind varies widely, as does the quality of the individual workers within each. In all fields the need for more systematic training has, however, been accepted; while the precise form of training machinery varies, a broad pattern has already emerged which can, we consider, appropriately be applied to service in the social education department which we have recommended.

249. In our view this should take the form of a statutory central training council or board, on which the education authorities, the central departments and the universities, as well as the social education department itself, would be represented. The council should by statute be entrusted with the task of laying down standards of recruitment and training for the various types of post within the department; of organising training courses; and of granting certificates of approval. One of its immediate tasks would be the provision of probationary courses for new recruits-satisfactory completion of which would be a prerequisite to the granting of the council's certificate of recognition. In our view it is essential that from the outset-at least in that substantial element of the department which will be employed in case-work-all new recruitment should proceed through such channels, and accordingly we recommend that statutory provision should be made whereby, from a date to be specified by the Secretary of State, no person should be appointed to the social education department unless in possession of an appropriate training council certificate for the post to which he is to be appointed. We appreciate that, given the wide range of posts involved, it would probably be necessary to make provision enabling different dates to be specified for different sectors within the social education department. A further immediate as well as continuing task of the training council would be to provide refresher courses for serving officers. The general aim of all these arrangements is, of course, to raise training standards throughout the social education department to a recognised and accepted level within the shortest possible period; and, through the certificate- granting powers of the central training council, increasingly to accord to the new service the sense of professional status to which its skilled functions and exacting responsibilities entitle it.


250. We conclude our report by reverting to the issue posed at the end of Chapter III. Society is, we believe, seriously concerned to secure a more effective and discriminating machinery for intervention for the avoidance and reduction of juvenile delinquency. If so, it must in our view be prepared not only to recognise that the practical issue, as those to whom the task of adjudication is at present entrusted can readily confirm from daily experience, is indeed in every case the application of special measures of education and training appropriate to the needs of the individual child; but equally to recognise the consequences of that fact. These, as we have indicated, lie not only in the provision of effective machinery for early detection of situations which unchecked may lead to delinquency, and the application of remedial and educative processes at that stage. They also imply-where actual delinquency has occurred-an extension of that same machinery providing a similar flexibility and, at all stages, a continuity of oversight. Further, since the incidence of delinquency, the forms and patterns it takes, and in many cases the combination of factors apparently underlying it, vary widely from one area to another, these problems must in our view be tackled at local level and be clearly seen to be a local community responsibility. These aims cannot in our view effectively be met other than through, in each area, a locally-based agency publicly charged with specific responsibility for the prevention and reduction of juvenile delinquency. The social education department throughout the range of its activities, including the exercise of its continuing responsibility for children under the juvenile panels' jurisdiction, would in fact be such an agency.

251. From the earliest age of understanding, every child finds himself part of a given family and a given environment-factors which are beyond his or society's power to control. During childhood the child is subject to the influences of home and school. Where these have for whatever reason fallen short or failed, the precise means by which the special needs of this minority of children are brought to light are equally largely fortuitous. The individual need may at that stage differ in degree, but scarcely in essential character, and such children may be said at present to be, more than most, in a real and special sense "hostages to fortune". The time has come ' we believe, when society may reasonably be expected so to organise its affairs as to reduce the arbitrary effects of what is still too often a haphazard detection process; and consequently to extend to this minority of children, within a sustained and continuing discipline of social education, the measures which their needs dictate, and of which they have hitherto been too often deprived.

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