Committee on Homeless Children, etc. (1946) Report of the Committee on Homeless Children, etc. (Chairman, James L. Clyde) Cmd 6911 Edinburgh: His Majesty’s Stationery Office
The Clyde Committee was appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland along with an inquiry into approved schools and remand homes in Scotland and had begun work before the report of Sir William Monckton (Home Office, 1945) was published and the Curtis Committee (Care of Children Committee, 1946) established in England.
So the remit of the Committee was much narrower than that of the Curtis Committee. However, their recommendations were broadly similar, though the Clyde Committee was a little firmer in the way they made them.
Homeless children may be boarded out or cared for in voluntary or local authority homes.
They may be in voluntary placements supervised by the Scottish Home Department, Poor Law placements, under a Fit Person Order supervised by the Education Department, supervised by the Health Department under child life protection provisions or in the care of the Ministry of Pensions.
The current system is a piecemeal one governed by different regulations and marked by inconsistency and overlap.
In principle, homeless children should be cared for in families; this means improving the availability and quality of foster care and improving the quality of residential care to make it more family-like.
There should be a single local authority Children’s Care Committee responsible for all aspects of the care of homeless children up to the age of 18.
There should be receiving homes for children coming into care.
Homes should be adequately staffed, adequately resourced and integrated into the local community.
No child should be placed in a poorhouse.
Local authorities should be encouraged to return children to their families but permitted to detain them if their parents were unsatisfactory.
Child life protection should be extended to the age of 18.
There should be a central government Training Committee and Advisory Committee.
They begin by saying that they had been invited by Secretary of State on 20 April 1945 to report on the situation of homeless children in Scotland and they had invited representations from a wide range of services.
They note that the existing solutions to child homelessness are boarding out and care in a voluntary or local authority home. Originally children had been fostered or placed in orphanages voluntarily and their treatment was dependent on the individuals caring for them. With the granting of orphan pensions there had been a rise in relative fostering but with the rise in standards of living fewer people were interested in offering foster placements.
On 15 March 1945 there were 14,329 children in care of whom:
4,788 were in voluntary homes inspected under section 98 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 1937 by the Scottish Home Department;
5,377 orphans or those deserted by/separated from their parents were boarded out, 959 were in voluntary homes and 749 in Poor Law institutions under section 10 of Poor Law (Scotland) Act 1934.
In Scotland the first preference is for boarding out, the next for placement in a voluntary home and the last for placement in a local authority home.
Foster parent selection is made by the boarding out authority but many children are placed in other authorities who should be notified of the placement. The committee note that there are considerable variations in foster parent remuneration, pocket money and after-care. While the Poor Law (Scotland) Act 1934 requires annual visits to the foster home, they are also subject to inspections by the Scottish Health, Home and Education Departments.
Children may also be in care within Part IV of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 under a Fit Person Order to an Education Authority, though management of the Order is sometimes delegated to the Public Assistance Authority; the Order lasts until the child is 18 unless it is discharged. Of the 1,561 children and young people on Fit Person Orders in March 1945, 1,077 were boarded out and 484 in residential homes.
Residential homes are used:
for children up to 2½, or
as an alternative to fostering in order to keep families together.
The Committee note that that are different regulations (the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Care and Training Regulations 1932 (S. R. & O., 1933, 1006/S.55)) covering the care, supervision and inspection of children on Fit Person Orders.
In May 1945 1,363 children under 9 were covered by the Child Life Protection provisions of Part I of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 covering boarding out for reward or third party adoption; 114 were covered by the Adoption of Children (Regulation) Act 1939. The Committee note that the standards for these placements are lower than for other foster placements. They note the rise in the number of children on Adopted Children’s Registers for 1939-1944 and also that there is no inspection of adoption under any statute.
Turning to the children who are the responsibility of the Ministry of Pensions, they note that there are 266 war orphans plus 23 being supervised under the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 along with orphans living with persons other than their relatives who obtain National Insurance payments for them. They found no problems with the work of the Ministry of Pensions – they had one difficult child in an institution – but note that there is no supervision of or even notification to the local authority of such placements.
They note that the care of children with learning or physical disabilities is not within their remit and pass on with minimal but mostly positive comments.
Overall, it is a piecemeal system, governed by different regulations and marked by inconsistency and overlap for which there is no reason. Why, they ask, are there different regulations for the Health and Education Departments and why are three departments (Health, Home and Education) involved in services for homeless children? They are, however, impressed by the work of the Ministry of Pensions.
In formulating their recommendations, they start from the value of the family and argue that the answer lies not in large institutions but in good foster parents; the question is how to obtain them. They suggest:
improving standards of selection,
better payment – not so that money is an incentive or people can make a profit – through a flat rate which will reduce the current wide variations with a minimum fixed payment of 15s (75p) a week,
requiring the boarding out authority to tell the Director of Education of boarded out children,
the local authority undertaking selection and supervision of foster homes; supervision would not be transferred to the local authority where the child was resident but they would need to be informed prior to the placement and have the right to withhold consent with disputes settled by the Secretary of State,
notifying central government of unsatisfactory foster parents,
having a preliminary stay in a local authority home for medical examination and assessment of suitability for boarding out,
arranging supervision which might include appointing a local contact, who might be a doctor, schoolmaster, clergyman or district nurse, to oversee the placement,
unannounced inspections within the first month and every six months thereafter,
six-monthly medical reports,
pocket money for all on a fixed scale,
after-care as a responsibility of the local authority.
They recommend that crofts should not to be used for city children and should only be used where the local authority was satisfied that the conditions were satisfactory.
The note the current arrangements for local authority committees and discuss the disadvantages of the current system, the different ways of charging, the different powers of the different committees and the pocket money anomalies.
The recommend a single local authority Children’s Care Committee responsible for all children up to 18 with a uniform jurisdiction supported by specialists in child care.
There will be a continued need for residential homes an as integral part of the system but they need to offer parental affection and the Children’s Care Committee should have the power to remove children from homes.
Homes should be for not more than 30 children and all dormitories should immediately be reduced to 12-15 children, in any case giving a minimum of 45 sq. ft per child. New homes should not have more than a maximum of three or four children per bedroom. Cottage homes should be for 12-15 children with housemothers specially trained.
The personality of the matron or superintendent is very important. In infant homes there should be a trained nurse caring for children up to two years old and all staff should be able to attend a special training course.
Children should attend nursery school and school outside the home, have adequate diet and nutrition, their own possessions and their own play space and opportunities for craft activities and to participate in youth clubs etc. as well as religious instruction and practice.
All new homes should be near a local school with access to shops, cinemas and entertainment and there should be adequate after-care.
There should be separate provision for children with learning difficulties or maladjustment.
Homes should not have the majority of their staff as trainees because homes were then run for the staff and not for the children.
Staff need to receive adequate salaries and remuneration and also superannuation.
No child should be placed in a poorhouse; there should be a separate children’s home, whether local authority or voluntary, for receiving children. Local authorities should be encouraged to return children to their families but also permitted to detain the children of unsatisfactory parents.
Child life protection should be improved and extend to children up to the age 18; the adoption regulations should be strengthened to include permitting a Place of Safety Order to be taken out following an adoption failure.
There should be a central government Training Committee and Advisory Committee.
The report ends with a summary of their recommendations and a list of their proposed amendments to legislation.
In starting from the idea of providing an alternative family for children in care, the authors are following the well-trodden path from Mary Carpenter (1853) but, in setting out a clear role for residential care within the new framework, they go a step further than the Curtis Report (Care of Children Committee, 1946) which appears to see residential care as a temporary necessity rather than a long-term integral component. Perhaps, as residential care had traditionally provided a much lower proportion of the provision in Scotland, it may have been easier to identify a clear role for it beyond mopping up the children who could not be boarded out.
They go unambiguously for a local authority Children’s Care Committee operating uniform legislation relating to all children up to 18, sidestepping the arguments over which central government department should have oversight (though some members did enter a reservation on this).
They also make a large number of specific recommendations about immediate changes to improve the quality of residential care, without apparently having done any research into the issues beyond receiving evidence. So, as a historical document about the state of child care in Scotland in 1946, this report offers very little compared with the Curtis Report.
On the other hand, it offers a very clear framework, based on the assumptions that everything starts from the family and that there is nothing in the system which cannot be fixed, and this may have helped to reduce the tensions between foster care and residential care which were to plague English child care. Like others at the time they did not recognise the centrality of the family to the child, only its relevance to child care concepts, but from that they worked out some practical principles for the care of children with which one cannot argue.
Care of Children Committee (1946) Report of the Care of Children Committee [Chairman: Myra Curtis] Cmd 6922 London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office See also Children Webmag February 2011.
Carpenter, M. (1853) Juvenile delinquents, their condition and treatment London: W & F G Cash See also Children Webmag November 2008.
Home Office (1945) Report by Sir William Monckton KCMG KCVO MC KC on the circumstances which led to the boarding out of Dennis and Terence O’Neill at Bank Farm, Minsterly and the steps taken to supervise their welfare, etc. Cmd 6636 London: Home Office See also Children Webmag February 2011.