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I firmly believe that people have the basic human right to move about. People have the basic human right to try to get the best employment that they can, wherever they can, although I recognise that there must be some regulation. A lot of these youngsters have not been able to find employment because employers in my Newcastle constituency who are looking for new labour find it far easier to take on someone from an east European country or, in some parts of the economy, an
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irregular worker—one who is illegal and works in the black market. People want to get the best labour for their business.

Of course, employers should be prevented from using the irregular market, but in the regular market it is absolutely legal for an employer to take on a young Polish person. Such a person might be full of ambition and with a lot of previous training. That person might be taking a job that initially requires a skill level that is lower than the skills that they hold. They might also be disciplined, used to work, and with a work ethic. An employer in Newcastle will say that employing such a person will be an easier option. Although I am someone who believes firmly in people’s right to migrate and to move around—I will defend that to the end, and nothing boils my blood more than people who try to make racist advantage out of immigration—that creates a problem for a lot of youngsters in my constituency.

When the economy was buoyant in the 1970s, employers had no option but to try to get people to aid their production processes, so they had to take on those they could get locally. It was not easy to tap into other groups of people, so employers would put in place the training that they thought was necessary to get the show on the road. However, that is no longer the case because there are other options. Although the economy in Newcastle is buoyant and more jobs have been created, we still have a problem with getting the indigenous—I do not like that word, but I cannot think of a better one—labour supply into the labour market. If we do not achieve that, a lot of tension will be created in our communities because some ambitious young people will say, “Why are we not getting a job when they are?” The answer will be that those young people will not have the necessary skills.

A number of young people come from families in which no one has worked for generations and there is no work ethic. They are co-existing in society because, in a sense, their welfare benefits are being financed by the growth of the economy that is partly created by the migrant community, so the situation thus has a beneficial aspect for them. As we raise the participation level, we need to drag those youngsters into the labour market so that we give them an opportunity.

I am not quite sure about the legislative status of some of the proposals, but I am told that the Government have a scheme—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) referred to this—whereby youngsters from poor families can get a bit of extra tuition in basic arithmetic and English at school. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, who is sitting on the Front Bench, was a strong supporter of that scheme in a previous life, and I hope that the whole House recognises that that radical proposal is an excellent idea. We all know that if middle-class parents have a little bit of extra cash and think that it can help their kids, they will get a bit of extra private tuition. Poorer families do not have that option, which is why the proposal is radical.

When I visited my local Tyne and Wear fire brigade last Friday, I saw that it had a scheme whereby it offered a course for youngsters—young girls in this case—who found discipline and school difficult and had no ambition. This Pheonix project brings
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youngsters into the fire station, and they do all the things that firefighters do for a week or so. I was extremely impressed. I said to the girls, “The bosses are telling me that this is a great scheme run by Tyne and Wear. They say that you came here last Monday with no intention of co-operating, and now—by Friday—you want to be firefighters when you leave school. Is that true?” All of them said that they enjoyed the scheme and it improved their motivation, and about five of the seven said that they wanted to be firefighters. That is the sort of innovative scheme that should be taken up by the Department as it works on proposals to increase participation.

I should have liked to say more, but I shall stick to my seven minutes. I shall certainly vote against the Opposition amendment, which does not give the Government due credit for a radical scheme which I believe can benefit many people in my constituency who would otherwise lose out badly.

8.10 pm

Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate on health and education because I wish to raise specific issues relating to access to health services that are clearly pertinent to the proposed children and young persons Bill.

The first issue is the provision of therapeutic services for all abused children, including children in care. I have tabled amendments to a series of Bills to achieve that provision, starting with the Bill that became the Sexual Offences Act 2003—sadly, unsuccessfully in all cases. I believe that such provision must be made for looked-after children if we are to make a real difference. As an ambassador for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, I agree with the call for comprehensive post-abuse therapeutic provision for children in care, children in custody, children in refuges and children exhibiting sexually harmful behaviour.

Child abuse remains an unacceptably large problem in the UK. A study undertaken by the NSPCC in 2000 showed that 16 per cent. of children had experienced some form of sexual abuse, which may well have been by a parent or other relative. Other forms of abuse—physical and emotional, or neglect—can also have a traumatic impact on children. In 2006, the Department for Education and Skills said that of 60,000 children in care, 63 per cent. were in care because they had experienced some form of abuse or neglect. Of course, in reality the problems are likely to be much more widespread, because of unreported instances or reporting taking place many years after the abuse occurred.

The long-term consequences of child sexual abuse include anxiety and depression, anger and guilt, difficulties functioning at school, poor self-image, and difficulties with personal relationships and parenting. Adults being treated for mental health problems often identify childhood abuse as an influence. Research shows that 25 to 40 per cent. of all alleged sexual abuse involves young perpetrators. The majority of those children and young people have been or are being sexually, physically or emotionally abused themselves.
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Therapy at an early stage could therefore help to reduce the scale of the problems over time by breaking the cycle.

Therapy can transform children’s lives, but provision is inadequate and patchy across the country. Resources to provide a comprehensive service will be a problem, but I want at least a commitment to a strategy to make such services fully available in time. Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company, has recently pointed out that the amount of money spent on locking up young people, and the generation of more crime with consequent high reoffending rates, could be reduced dramatically if comprehensive therapeutic services were more widely available. The average cost per child of therapeutic counselling is £5,000; the cost of holding a young offender in custody for a year is £30,000 to £40,000. Surely it makes sense to invest in preventive action such as therapy.

A related issue is funding for residential family therapy and family assessments. In an Adjournment debate earlier this year, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) raised the case of the Cassel residential treatment centre, which is the only NHS residential hospital for families in the UK. Its services comprise psychotherapy for the parent and child, as well as specialist nursing input. Families are referred when concerns are raised about a child’s welfare. Most referrals arise from a child being the subject of care proceedings, which are, in turn, legally enforced by section 38(6) of the Children Act 1989.

After a 2005 legal case involving Kent county council, which centred on a dispute over whether the council had a legal obligation to fund the treatment of a child at the centre, there are concerns that there is a legal requirement only to fund assessments rather than treatment. It now appears that instead of an attempt being made to treat the family and enable them to overcome problems and become successful, children are simply being removed from the home and put into foster care or adopted. Surely it would be cost-effective to provide preventive services to support families. We must do our best.

Mr. Burrowes: I commend the hon. Lady for highlighting the lack of residential therapeutic places. Is not the same true of drug and alcohol treatment services, where the provision of residential care is minimal, especially for adolescents? There is only one such statutory service in the whole country—Middlegate Lodge—and family services depend wholly on the voluntary sector, which does a fine job but gets limited support from the Government.

Annette Brooke: The hon. Gentleman makes some very relevant points, and if time permitted I would pursue that line of debate.

It is important we get clarification of the judgment in the case involving Kent county council from the Department of Health as soon as possible. It would be wrong to allow family assessments to end.

Children’s services have been further affected by a more recent change affecting access to legal aid. Part contributions from the legal aid budget can no longer be put toward residential assessments for families. It
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has been argued that the new arrangement will ensure that the limited legal aid budget is spent on the legal aid needs of priority clients, rather than diverted into therapeutic services that should be paid for by other public bodies. Where is the joined-up working and thinking? I can see the legal aid argument, but surely money must be provided for residential assessments for families. It has to be cost-effective in the long run to keep a family together, where that is possible and practical.

The forthcoming children and young persons Bill must require joined-up working of services and a culture of “Every Child Matters” and its five outcomes to be embedded within all professions and workers involved with vulnerable young people. Preventive action that should be taken automatically now will save money and heartbreak in the long run.

A constituency case is pertinent to this debate. Living in my constituency are the parents of a young man who has been in prison for 15 years; there is no indication of when he might be released. When he was 14, he committed a minor sexual offence and was, I think, just given a caution. His parents tried to access treatment for him, but he received none. He went on, at the age of 19, to commit an extremely serious offence, which is why he is now in prison with such a sentence hanging over him. I recently visited the local youth offending team and, without any prompting from me, the team identified one of its current problems, which is that when young people are given a caution for sexual offences, the team finds it extremely difficult to get those young people into programmes to tackle their sexual offending. Before my eyes, history was repeating itself.

We need joined-up thinking. The new Department for Children, Schools and Families covers not only schools and children, but young people’s health issues and youth justice. All those areas must be brought together when considering the need for therapeutic treatment.

8.19 pm

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): I shall speak against the amendment. Earlier, the shadow Secretary of State referred to statistics that have been artificially depressed. I cannot speak for the statistics, but I feel pretty depressed after listening to an hour and a half of Opposition Front Benchers’ interminable whingeing about the state of the national health service. Their criticisms bear no relation to my experience of the NHS over the past few years, or that of my family and the vast majority of my constituents. It was significant that the Opposition’s criticism was that the Government had not closed health inequalities and improved the quality of health care quickly enough, but there was not a single proposal from either of the main Opposition parties that would have increased the pace of change, and that is extremely significant.

I welcome the references in the Queen’s Speech to new legislation on health and education. On health, I want briefly to reinforce the point that I raised at Health questions this afternoon, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will take it on board. He will know the complications of the reorganisation of maternity services in Greater
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Manchester, and the crucial importance of careful implementation of the new arrangements. I hope that he, his junior Ministers and officials in his Department will work carefully and closely with NHS North West to ensure that the new arrangements are put in place at no jeopardy to the 2,500 women who give birth at my local hospital each year.

On education, it is indisputable that for the overwhelming majority of young people in our schools, colleges and universities, the range and quality of experience has increased year on year over the past 10 years, but I want to draw attention to one or two particular points. The most remarkable commitment in the Government’s education policy is the commitment essentially to rebuild the whole secondary school estate through the building schools for the future programme over 10 to 15 years. However, I am concerned about some of the underlying assumptions. I am particularly concerned about the assumptions made—or not made, as the case may be—about the number of children entering our secondary schools in the next few years.

Dr. Pugh: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Chaytor: I am afraid that I will not, because I do not think it is fair to my colleagues.

I tabled a question at the end of the previous Session, asking the Department to list the estimated number of year 7 pupils in full-time education in the next 10 years, and I was astonished to discover that the answer was not available; there are figures only for the next three years. There is general agreement among local authorities that the reality of the demographics will hit secondary schools in the next decade. I find it astonishing that the Department for Children, Schools and Families does not have readily available figures, or is not prepared to release them. I urge the Secretary of State to look again at the issue, because it relates to my next point about the growth of the academies programme.

I support the principle of academies, although their earlier design left something to be desired. I am delighted that the new Secretary of State has made important changes, abolishing the requirement to provide £2 million of private sponsorship and encouraging universities to get more involved in academies. All things being equal, if a school in my constituency wished to be an academy, I would give it my support. However, there is one issue that the Government need to consider carefully: their encouragement, if not their requirement, for all new academies to have their own sixth form. I link that to my point about demographics and falling rolls, because if we go ahead with a massive expansion of the academies programme, and we do not have reasonably reliable information about the number of pupils entering secondary school in the next 10 years, we will build a whole set of new academies—I think that the figure is 400—each with its own sixth form, few of which will be able to attract the right number of pupils for a viable sixth form. By the middle of the next decade, we will find that we are starting a programme of closure and rationalisation of sixth forms, and possibly even of academies. I ask the Government to consider that point carefully.

On the question of 14-to-19 diplomas, I do not understand why the issue is polarised between those who want the diploma to be the prime vehicle, and
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those who want the A-level and the GCSE as the prime vehicles. Sir Mike Tomlinson’s original report was clear in its recommendation that A-levels and GCSEs be self-contained qualifications within the diploma. That is absolutely the right way forward, and as the Government have now announced new diplomas in arts, languages and sciences, I urge them to ensure that individual A-level and GCSE subjects can be fully integrated in those new diplomas. I am sure that that would meet some of the Opposition’s concerns.

Finally, I reinforce the point made by my Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) on academic selection. I agree with him entirely that although our Ministers have made important speeches this year, the most important speech of the year was made by the former shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts), to the CBI on 16 May. Let me put what he said on the record:

We know that all Members of this House are increasingly concerned about social mobility; I believe that social mobility is related to admissions policies in secondary schools. The hon. Member for Havant believes that, and I think that the Government do, too. The issue is a major priority for all three parties. We really cannot put the matter off any longer; we have to take decisions about the future of academic selection.

8.26 pm

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): I am pleased to take part in this debate. I say that with some caution, because I know that some of my hon. Friends on the Conservative Benches wonder why, now that education and health matters are devolved to Northern Ireland, I wish to take part in a debate on education and health in this Chamber. It is a great pity that some of my hon. Friends take the view that there should be two tiers of membership in this House, and that on some issues people who have been elected should be excluded from debates or from votes. As a Unionist, I believe that as a citizen of the United Kingdom who has been elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, I have the right to take part in these debates, and I am happy to take part today.

No one could quibble with the objectives set out by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families—increasing skills in the economy, increasing employability, and turning the least academically able section of our population away from a life on benefits. However, I have concerns about the method, and the vehicle, that is to be used.

My first concern is about raising the age for full-time education. I notice that we are moving from talking about the school leaving age, and instead talk about the age for full-time education. Nevertheless, as the Secretary of State made clear in an intervention, there will be an element of compulsory attendance at an educational establishment. Whether that is on a full-time basis, for 16 hours a week, or—for those who are in employment—one day a week over the year, there will be an element of compulsion. As someone
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who spent all his life teaching before coming to the House, and having taught in a grammar school for a long time, may I tell those Members who rubbished academic selection and grammar schools that social mobility in Northern Ireland is far ahead of social mobility in this part of the United Kingdom? More people from working-class backgrounds go into higher education than elsewhere. We have already passed the 50 per cent. figure, which is partly due to the fact that we retained the grammar school system.

I had the opportunity to teach in further education, and one of my early memories is of teaching people who were compelled to go to a further education college one day a week. I had the joy of teaching first-year plumbers on a Friday morning for a couple of hours. Many of them were happy to learn their trade and acquire plumbing skills, but it was a nightmare for them to return to the educational setting—it was a nightmare for those of us who had to teach them, too—which created all kinds of problems. The Secretary of State must not underestimate the fact that even if it is only on a part-time basis, compulsory educational attendance will cause problems for teachers, and will have a detrimental impact.

The Secretary of State described four main building blocks for trying to attract young people who are not in full-time education including, first, new qualifications. Looking at the range of qualifications, from NVQs and GNVQs to GCSEs, vocational GCSEs, A-levels, basic numeracy and literacy, one can see that there is no shortage either of qualifications or of variety, so that is not what is preventing young people from participating in education. I am not sure that new diplomas will make things any different for those hard-to-attract young people. Allowances are an extension of the Government’s proposals, but the education maintenance allowance is already available, probably to the very people whom the Government seek to attract to full-time training and education. I do not think that there is anything new that will change the situation.

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