Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2003
AINSWORTH MP AND
20. Presumably some of those who are already
specialist foster carers will be the ones you would want to recruit
to this new scheme.
(Ms Casey) Absolutely.
21. What is the training and cost implications?
(Ms Casey) It costs around £2,000 a week to foster
somebody in this situation. I do know that the Department of Health
are doing this very, very carefully, want to make sure that it
is done properly and will be very thorough about it.
22. Two thousand pounds a week?
(Ms Casey) Yes.
23. How is that spent?
(Ms Casey) It is a phenomenally intensive programme.
It is probably running the whole four pilots and that is the total
(Mr Ainsworth) It is for infrastructure and backup
as well as the individual foster.
24. Two thousand pounds per week per head with
(Ms Casey) I have to say that that is still cheaper
than local authority secure units and it is still cheaper than
probably other places that you could think of. If we get this
right, I know it seems like a lot of money but I could look the
taxpayer or a donor for a charity in the eye and say, "If
this works, it will be worth it." Think of the investment
you are making in the longer term if you keep them out of all
those institutions, you get them into jobs and you let them get
on with their lives. We have to cut the cycle between people growing
up in awful circumstances and going out and doing awful things
and we have to try some things.
(Mr Ainsworth) If the root of the behaviour is in
the home, then what alternatives do we have? We either leave those
people in that home environment, put them into some kind of secure
accommodation or we try alternatives like this. In those cases
where the root of the behaviour is clearly in the home, why not
seek these kind of fostering measures? We are talking about the
hardest end of the job here. We are not talking about the kind
of job that many foster parents are able to undertake on a regular
basis. People will have to be capable of taking on the duties
that they are taking on with these kind of individuals about whom
we are talking.
25. I think we can understand the value of it,
it just seems difficult to understand how the £2,000 is put
(Mr Ainsworth) Shall we provide you with some details
afterwards as to how we see the costs panning out on this?
Mrs Dean: Yes, that would be useful.
26. Are you able to tell us now what part of
that is the fee to the foster parents?
(Mr Ainsworth) No, I am sorry.
Chairman: We will come to that later.
Mrs Dean has the floor.
27. How will pupils who truant benefit from
their parents being fined or imprisoned?
(Mr Ainsworth) I do not think we can accept a situation
continuing where parents effectively condoneand some doongoing
truancy. There is a very high incidence of people who are found
in the community with their parents who are absent from school
without permission. That is something that has grown up and it
has to be turned back. Where does the responsibility lie? It does
not lie with the child, it lies with the parent, and the parent
has to accept the responsibility. There is a duty on the parent
to send the child to school when there is not good reason for
the child not being at school. There are facilities for schools
to allow people time off appropriately, but people just take time
off without any consultation and without any notice, sometimes
alarmingly often with their parents' consent and approval.
28. Is it not likely that it will further alienate
parents from schools?
(Ms Casey) Again, if you look at what we are trying
to do here, the first start is to try and find out why this is
happening. So, throughout the White Paper, what we are talking
about is parenting contracts, trying to talk to parents about
what is going on, trying to offer them support if they need it
and getting them to enlist into a contract. We are promoting those
very, very strongly at every single stage because the idea of
saying, "Yes, I will sign up to getting my kid into school
. . .". I have met a parent only recently who said that being
on a parenting contract made her be able to say to her son, "Listen,
I have signed up for this. You are going to get there tomorrow
morning. There are no excuses." That is the first start and,
at every single level, we are going to try and promote the idea
that actually it is better that they just get their kids to school
because school is important and, if they do not get to school,
they are not going to get on in life. It is very straightforward
stuff. They sign up to a contract and move towards parenting orders
if that does not happen. Again, it is the line and we think we
need to take a stand. Eighty per cent of truants discovered on
the street in truancy sweeps all over the country are discovered
with adults. So, we know that some of this is happening because
actually their mothers are lonely or their parents are lonely
or feckless, one or the other, and they end up wandering about
during the day and we cannot let that happen. I know it is unpalatable
to some people. There was publicity surrounding a particular case
of a woman and her kids going on national TVI could not
believe itand saying, "If I had not been imprisoned,
then I would never have got the message." Actually, in that
particular parenting class, they were all talking about that.
As somebody who works in the public sector, I do not like that
those things have to happen in that way, but if the message gets
out that we will take action against people who do not get their
kids to school, then I think that tightens things up because tightening
things up is what we have to do with this thrust on anti-social
behaviour in order that it is understood that there will be consequences
for people in society who break the rules and people need to know
what those consequences are. So, we will put the support in place
and we will put the contracts in place. We are encouraging those
all over the place. There are already almost 4,000 parenting orders
that other officials and other ministers and other lives are responsible
for that are working very, very well. The Youth Justice Board
thinks that parenting classes are the best thing that ever happened.
Most of the people who go on these parenting classes say, "I
wish you had asked us to do it before. If you had not forced us
to do this, we would never have done it." The success rate
is phenomenal. It is fine but we need to draw the line and if
there are a few FPNs or a few more serious things happen, then
we will have to live with that because we need to get the message
out that this is not going to happen anymore.
(Mr Ainsworth) And where are we now with truancy?
The only deterrent at the end of the day involves tying up the
courts' time. The availability of fixed penalties may well bring
about effective enforcement in this area and a lot more preparedness
to become involved in enforcement than there has been to date.
29. Are teachers going to be willing to take
on the responsibility?
(Mr Ainsworth) We have consulted with people regarding
these powers. There is a desire to have easily accessible ability
to enforce measures like school attendance and we are not going
to get to that situation if people are talking about having to
take a case to court. There is not going to be as early intervention
as there is going to be if we make fixed penalty notices available
and such measures as that. So, I would have thought it would be
an aid to people doing their job rather than a deterrent for them
30. You mentioned earlier about youth services
and the need to provide extra facilities for young people. How
much new money is going to be made available for a programme of
summer activities and also for the evenings during term time?
(Mr Ainsworth) There are a number of programmes available
and I think Louise gave the Committee a figure on the amounts
of new money that have gone into programmes over the last couple
of years. What we need to ensure is that those programmes are
engaging people effectively and engaging the people who are potentially
a problem in our community as well. They are sometimes not as
well targeted as they ought to be.
31. Do you have any details of the breakdown
of those figures?
(Ms Casey) From April this year, over £25 million
is going into what is now being called positive activities for
young people, which is actually trying to bring togetherit
is one of the joined-up bitsthe Department of Education
and Skills money, the Home Office money and the Youth Justice
Board money. All the different pots that were available to people
to undertake youth and summer activities are being brought together
into one single pot to make it easier for local authorities and
community groups to apply for that money. This is called positive
activities for young people and, after April, it will be over
£25 million. In 2003-04, £513 million has gone into
youth services and into local authorities. So, they are quite
significant funds in my view.
32. In terms of looking at sanctions for the
most serious cases of youth offenders, in the relatively rare
cases where parents refuse to take any responsibility for the
behaviour of their children under the age of 16, is it not likely
that the family environment is severely dysfunctional?
(Mr Ainsworth) Yes, of course it is. What do you want
me to say other than to agree with you?
33. You have answered the question. If so, is
punitive action not likely to make the relationship even worse?
(Mr Ainsworth) If the punitive action is put in place
alongside support, then I do not accept that that is so. The alternative
is to just allow those situations to continue. What we have to
make sure of is that we are not only seeking to punish people
but that there are effective measures to help them get over the
problems that have developed over a period of time. If they flatly
refuse to engage with any of those, then, yes, there has to be
a punitive side. I would suggest that there have often been the
support mechanisms there and available but the kind of families
at the most severe end about whom we are talking are just not
prepared to engage and they are not prepared to pick up the services
that are there and available for them. So, we need both. We need
the support mechanisms to be available, but then we need powers
to oblige people to become involved with them. If, at the end
of the day, they are not prepared to do so under any circumstances,
then action needs to be taken rather than just to allow a situation
34. Minister, I understand that the existing
powers for dealing with excessive noise give local authorities
the power to issue a fixed penalty notice of £100. I wonder
whether, although that obviously will be warmly welcomed, local
authorities will be given the resources and financial support
to undertake that additional work because one assumes that there
will have to be officers available in the evenings and in the
early hours of the day?
(Mr Ainsworth) We have been talking to local authorities
about these powers and they are powers that local authorities
want in themselves. Obviously they would like moneys to go with
them and we are still considering with DEFRA what moneys are attached
to these powers, but the powers in themselves will make a local
authority's job more effective and make local authorities able
to respond to the needs of their community.
35. Who will get the fine money?
(Mr Ainsworth) The fine money is for . . .?
36. The fixed penalty of £100 for late
night noise? Who will actually get the money when the fines are
(Mr Ainsworth) This is a matter that is still under
discussion at the moment.
37. Would you not agree with me that unless
local authorities are given the financial resources to implement
this, this will be nothing more than just a headline-grabbing
statement and that there will not be anything there of substance?
(Mr Ainsworth) I do not accept that. There are local
authorities who want effective powers to be able to apply their
priorities in dealing with their communities. Local authorities
are local government; they are not local administration. They
can apply their resources where they see fit within certain statutory
requirements that there are upon them to meet local needs. So,
they want the powers themselves but, yes, we would like to see
incentivisation of the use of these powers by local authorities
and others and that is an issue that we are discussing with the
38. I sincerely hope that there will be additional
financial resources because otherwise I do not think that many
local authorities would be able to go down that path other than
by cutting something else.
(Ms Casey) At the moment, 80% of local authorities
already provide out-of-hours noise nuisance services of one kind
or another. Obviously we would like to close that gap but 80%
is not bad. The streamlining of what we are doing in the White
Paper will make it quite clear that there is a 10 minute warning
and, if you do not do it, then a fixed penalty notice will be
issued. Discussion is taking place as to who will keep the money
from those fixed penalty notices. Obviously DEFRA and ourselves
are keen that local authorities retain that money or at least
some of it, but the main thing is to have a clear process that
is simple, effective and straightforward and certainly some of
the environmental officers who do this think this is probably
no bad idea.
(Mr Ainsworth) Local authorities can only use the
powers that we have given at the moment where they are providing
a round-the-clock service. That was put in place in order to try
and encourage them to do that, but it is not appropriate for every
local authority the length and breadth of the country to provide
such a service. In the White Paper, what we are doing is giving
them the powers even where they do not believe that it is appropriate
to provide such a service. So, potentially we are saving money
for local authorities in that area. There is no requirement on
them to provide that round-the-clock service and yet have access
to the kind of powers to shut down places that are emitting noise.
39. I appreciate the answers and certainly the
measures will be welcomed but it is the implementation that we
will have to watch and see how it happens. If I may now move on
to fireworks. What is the problem with the current regulatory
regime dealing with fireworks?
(Mr Ainsworth) I do not know what your postbag has
been like over the last few months from 5 November going right
through to Christmas, but there is a deep dissatisfaction with
the level of regulation that is in place with regard to fireworks.
We have given a commitment to support the measures that are in
the Private Member's Bill at the moment and I hope that they will
bring about tighter regulation. We believe that they are justified
and we believe that they will be widely welcomed.