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12 Oct 2004 : Column 190W—continued


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his oral statement of 10 May 2004, Official Report, columns 21–39, on Iraq, whether the routine hooding of prisoners in UK facilities in Iraq was contrary to instructions; on what basis the routine hooding was authorised, and by whom; whether hooding continues of Iraqis by UK forces outside UK facilities; whether hooding by UK forces outside facilities is contrary to instructions; and if he will make a statement. [173024]

Mr. Hoon: Prisoners held in UK detention facilities in Iraq have not, at any time, been routinely hooded.

Hooding was discontinued in Iraq when there was no longer a military justification for continuing the practice. Hooding during arrest and transit is acceptable when there is a strong military reason to do it, for example to offer security to our own forces and locations or to protect the detainee (by preventing identification by other detainees).

Welsh Regiments

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many regiments will be based in Wales following the review of the infantry. [189710]

Mr. Ingram: Details of the new infantry structure and the associated implications for the Army's basing strategy are currently being worked through by the Army and the hon. Member will understand that I cannot pre-empt this work. Further announcements will be made before the end of this year.


English Heritage

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will evaluate the quality of the advice given to his Department by English Heritage. [190165]

Keith Hill: English Heritage provides the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister with advice on a range of matters. These include the review of the planning system, and characterisation of growth areas. The Government are satisfied with the advice provided, and does not see the need for a more formal evaluation.
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Disabled People (Departmental Initiatives)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the major initiatives his Department has undertaken since 1997 in relation to disabled people. [188152]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 16 September 2004, Official Report, column 1738W. In addition to the Government initiatives that he has already outlined, I would like to set out in more detail some of the work my Department is delivering in this important area.

The Green Paper "Every Child Matters" set out a vision for children's services, which included proposals to provide education, health, and social care around the needs of the child rather than the needs of professionals. It proposed that new Children's Director posts be established in each local authority with responsibility for education and social care and the development of Children's Trusts to commission multi-agency services including health, education and social care. A number of Children Trust Pilots were set up to test how this could work. This has included eight Children's Trusts who are focusing on services for disabled children.

Proposals in the Green Paper for a common assessment framework, improving information sharing and providing lead professionals for children with complex needs, will particularly benefit disabled children and their families. The Green Paper has also set out some specific commitments on disabled children around improving early intervention, family support, education and transition services.

The National Service Framework for children was published last month. This is a joint DH/DfES publication. The national standards in the NSF provide a coherent and integrated approach to services for disabled children. They will help ensure better access and smoother progression in the provision of services for children, from initial contact with the NHS, via a GP surgery or NHS hospital, through to social services support and education.

We have provided ring-fenced Sure Start funding to local authorities for disabled children in early years settings, and ensured such settings pay due regard to the SEN code of practice. This includes the introduction of Special Needs Coordinators, (SENCOs), for early years provision. The Disability Discrimination Act was also amended to include Government funded nursery education and child-care provision within its duties, along with general education.

As a result of the Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001, schools are under a duty not to discriminate against disabled pupils for a reason relating to their disability. They must:

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Schools and local education authorities (LEAs) are also under a duty to plan strategically to increase access to schools for disabled pupils and must publish accessibility plans (schools) and accessibility strategies (LEAs). The duty covers improvements to physical access, access to the curriculum, and access to information in alternative formats.

"Removing Barriers to Achievement", published this year, set out a long term vision for SEN and a programme of action to improve outcomes for children with SEN and disabilities. It included the development of a strategy to improve childcare for families with disabled children and practical tools to support schools in carrying out their statutory duties towards disabled pupils.

New duties were also placed on those bodies responsible for Further and Higher Education Institutions, Adult and Community Learning and Statutory Youth Services by SENDA. These duties include:

In addition, Section 13 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 requires the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to pay particular regard to the needs of young people and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) when exercising its functions. Section 14 requires the LSC to have due regard to the promotion of equality of opportunity between people with a disability and people without.

From 1 October 2004 the Disability Discrimination Act has been extended to provide protection to people undertaking vocational qualifications. Organisations which award qualifications will be prohibited from discriminating against disabled people, must make reasonable adjustments in the assessment of candidates and must be able to demonstrate that competency standards represent a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim and do not unnecessarily discriminate. This provides a link between the employment provisions in Part II and those covering vocational training provided by Part IV and SENDA so that the legislation extends across all aspects of work and vocational training.

Since 1997, the number of Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) awards—grants to help pay for the extra course-related costs which students in higher education may incur because of a disability or specific learning difficulty—has increased from 8,123 (expenditure £10.4 million) in 1996–97 to 47,523 (expenditure £54.9 million) in 2002–03. DSAs are not income-assessed and are paid in addition to the package of support for living costs available to other students. From 2005–06 DSAs are to be extended for the first time to full-time undergraduate students undertaking distance-learning courses.

Further details of all of these initiatives can be found in the DfES Departmental Reports on the DfES website
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Education Maintenance Allowance

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the age bar for children who are not 16 in the requisite time period for the eligibility for education maintenance allowance; what leniency in determining awards is allowed; and what plans he has to change existing arrangements. [190211]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We took the decision to phase in EMA from September 2004 to successive 16-year-old age groups rather than immediately offer the award to all young people in Further Education. There were good reasons for doing so. The main purpose of EMA is to encourage students to stay on in learning when otherwise they would have dropped out, and the older students already in education have already made that choice. The main exception is that young people who received EMA under the pilot arrangements are eligible to apply for EMA under the national scheme. We are keeping the EMA scheme arrangements under review but do not envisage any significant changes to the eligibility criteria for 2005–06.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills why educational maintenance allowance eligibility is based on the previous tax year; and if he will make a statement. [190212]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Assessing EMA entitlement on the household income for the previous financial year provides the most complete and secure assessment of household income. If the household income decreases significantly within the year then the young person can apply for assistance under the Learner Support Fund.

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) which variant of the education maintenance allowances pilot schemes was selected for implementation in England; [190371]

(2) what financial assistance is available to students in sixth form education whose birth date falls before 1 September 1987. [190419]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We tested eight different variants of EMA in 56 LEA pilot areas. The national EMA scheme draws on the evidence from the pilots but is not based on any single variant. Students who are resident within one of the 56 pilot areas and whose date of birth falls before 1 September 1987 may be entitled to EMA. Those young people whose date of birth falls before 1 September 1987 and who are not resident within a pilot area are entitled to apply for Learner Support funds.

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