|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
(a) the host authority are of the opinion that the person has, or may have, a learning difficulty (within the meaning of section 41 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 (assessments relating to learning difficulties: Wales)) and
looked after child means a person who, for the purposes of the Children Act 1989 is a child looked after by a local authority; and references to the local authority looking after the person are to be read accordingly;
(3) Regulations made by the appropriate national authority may make further provision for determining where a person is ordinarily resident for the purpose of that subsection.. (Sarah McCarthy-Fry.)
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: New clause 14 inserts new chapter 5A into part X of the Education Act 1996. It further strengthens the provisions in the previous clause, particularly for young people with special educational needs, and with regard to information sharing. The new chapter 5A continues to place a duty on the childs or young persons home local authority to take steps to promote the fulfilment of the persons learning potential while they are in juvenile custody and on their release. The new clause is an important mechanism for ensuring that one local authoritythe home local authorityremains involved in the persons education and training, regardless of where they are in the system, and can promote continuity and consistency of learning for the child or young person.
For persons in juvenile custody with special educational needs, the new clause provides a framework of duties that significantly strengthens requirements and that will, we believe, provide the most practical of arrangements to ensure their needs are met in custody and on their release. If a person had a statement of special educational needs prior to their detention, new section 562C requires the host LEA to use its best endeavours to secure that appropriate special educational provision is made for the detained person.
Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Will the Minister explain why the Government have chosen to make the host authority use best endeavours rather than a rather stronger duty? While she is answering that, will she also deal with the position whereby the home authority is required to
take such steps as they consider appropriate?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I take the hon. Gentlemans point and I shall come on to the detail of his intervention later. The point I made earlier about making practicable arrangements to ensure that needs are met is relevant; young people normally spend only a short time in custody, so the practicality of extending arrangements is important.
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Taking the idea of best endeavours further, is it not the case that such endeavours will count only when the local authority has the budget to deliver ongoing support and education for a young offender in custody? Does the Minister welcome the Youth Justice Boards moves to provide full information on budgetary costs of the custody of young offenders in the home authority? Would not the next step be to look at devolving those custodial costs so that the home authority has a sufficient budget to be able to deliver when offenders are out of custody, in custody and after custody?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Under the Bill, the budget currently held by the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for education in custody at the moment, will be transferred to local authorities, and detailed guidance will be issued on how it will work in practice.
Section 562C also requires the authority that was maintaining the statement to keep a copy of it while the person is detained. Clause 51, which amends part 4 of the Education Act 1996, makes provision for the statement of special educational needs that was maintained before the persons detention to be revived and reviewed on release. The new clause also strengthens requirements in relation to the transfer of information about a persons education so that that relevant parties can exchange relevant educational information to help to ensure that education and training in juvenile custody can be tailored to meet the persons needs.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): The provisions may well be in the new clauses, but it has been a particular problem with young people in the secure estate that if they are moved, their educational records can take so long to catch up with them that they end up having to start all over again. If that happens twicegiven that most of them have short sentencesthey end up completing their sentence when they have had three first bites at the cherry but have never been able to complete a course, even though they would have had time to do so if the records had followed them promptly from one institution to another.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Information sharing is going to be particularly important. Because of a previous split in responsibility between the Ministry of Justice and local authorities, which applied before a young person went into custody and after, there was far more likelihood of what my hon. Friend referred to happening. We hope that under the new provisions, that process will be speeded up and will form part of the guidance that develops as we go forward. The guidance will include expectations of how LEAs should support the special educational needs of children and young people in juvenile custody, and we will use the guidance to be clear about the respective roles of the different local authorities involved in order to assure clarity of roles and expectations.
Concern has been expressed that all the needs of young people with special educational needs should be met while they are in custody, but it is necessary to be mindful of the significant constraints within the custodial environment and of the fact that, as I said earlier, young people generally spend only a short time in custody. It would be impractical to require local education authorities to commission specific provision to meet every need of every young person while they are in custody, because it
would take time to commission that, and would be difficult within the context of delivering complex custodial regimes for an ever changing population. However, we consider the provisions in the Bill a significant step forward.
Our requirements for and approach to education and training for children and young people in custody will result in real improvements and better outcomes. This is the first time that requirements for education in custody will be set out in primary legislation, which will allow us to be clear about roles and expectations in statutory guidance. It will mean clear duties on a young persons home local authority to maintain involvement in the persons education and training, which we believe will promote greater consistency in young persons learning and the support that they receive to help them to engage, progress and achieve.
With regard to young people with statements of special educational need, there are significant constraints to continuing SEN statements in custody, which outweigh the potential benefits. The SEN statement is a legally binding document that sets out the specific special educational provision that the young person must receive. The statement would be likely to include the name of the school the young person must attend and details of all the special educational provision the young person must receive. Therefore, if the statements were to be continued when a young person entered custody, the statement would have to be reviewed and reissued upon the childs entering the custodial establishment and again on the young persons release.
As I said, the average time spent in custody for young people is three to four months, which means that by the time the SEN statement had been reviewed and appropriate provision commissioned and provided, the majority of young people would be leaving the secure estate and the SEN statement would need to be reviewed yet again.
There are significant constraints on host LEAs being required to conduct SEN assessments for young people entering custody without a statement, if they consider an assessment might be needed. Again, that is because young people generally spend a short time in custody and may also move establishments mid-sentence, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris).
Mr. Burrowes: Does the Minister share the concern about constraints for home authorities in relation to the increasing distance between the home authority and the locations in which young people are housed in custodial establishments? Will she consider how the Bill squares with the decision of the Youth Justice Board to remove contracts in relation to secure childrens homes, which often house some of the most vulnerable young people? Indeed, in London there will be no secure childrens home; the nearest is in Southampton.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Again, information sharing between home and host local authorities will be really important. I still maintain that bringing the education system back under the local authority so that it, as a body, rather than the Ministry of Justice, bears the responsibility between a childs entering and leaving custody, means that that continuity is much more likely to be maintained.
Mr. Stuart: I am extremely grateful to the Minister, who is being most generous in giving way. Did she consider putting a time limit on the period during which either the host authority or the prison fails to provide for the educational needs of the child? Rather than just leaving it to best endeavours, did she consider putting on a limit of some sort, so that if the child does not move rapidly through the system but stays for some time, there will be some guarantee that they get the educational support that, probably, they badly need?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: That is a valid point and something we could consider when we are putting the statutory guidance together. It is obvious from all the interventions by hon. Members that we all have the best interests of those young people at heart.
We propose that the best practicable solution is for a persons SEN statement to be suspended while they are in custody and picked up and reviewed on their release, but I should point out that our current requirements for education and training for persons in juvenile custody already require that learning assessments of young peoples needs be conducted and used to inform individual learning plans and to meet personal needs. That will continue under the new arrangements.
Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I thank the Minister for the comment that was made on this very point in the letter sent on 29 April, but I should like to be reassured that that definitely happens in the case of every young offender. I should also like to know what monitoring is conducted to ensure that an assessment is made at what I consider to be the most important stage of the process.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I think we all want to ensure that this actually happens for young people. As in many cases, a statutory requirement is possible, but we need to establish how such a requirement is implemented in practice. I think that that, too, can be explored through guidance.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Of course we all have the best interests of young people at heart, and best endeavours matter immensely but, given the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes, will the Minister tell us specifically what mechanisms and procedures are in place to facilitate the communication that will be essential to the working of the new regime?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: We will consult on the guidance, and we will ensure that all partiesincluding the Ministry of Justice and anyone concerned with childrens educationare involved in drawing it up.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I am a little worried about subsection (4)(c) of new subsection 562C. I fear that host authorities may use it to further their own interests rather than those of a child with special educational needs, and avoid their responsibility to provide appropriate special care. What guarantees can the Minister give that that will not happen?
It is certainly not the intention of the legislation that that will happen. While we do not accept that it is practical for the entire statement to be implemented while the young person is in custody, we interpret the phrase best endeavours to mean that the
host authority will have to share information with the home authority, which will have to pick up the process when the child comes home.
In the case of someone who has been a looked-after child immediately before or at any time since the period of detention, the home authority will be the authority that has looked after the child most recently. Our policy is that the local education authority responsible for looking after a child should be responsible for the child, and we do not want the new duties in new clause 14 to interfere with that responsibility.
We believe that the information-sharing provisions will provide a consistent learning experience for young people, which will build on their earlier learning and educational experiences. Many youth offending teams and local partners already have information-sharing protocols which inform young peoples assessments, sentencing and sentence plans. However, the provisions in the new clause provide a clear legal framework to support those arrangements.
Rob Marris: Inasmuch as new section 562Eentitled Provision of information about detained personsrelates to people under the age of 18, it provides for information sharing, but I cannot find any provision that enables parents to receive information about, for example, what training or education a child was or was not given while in the secure estate. Is that an oversight, or is the matter covered elsewhere in the Bill? It seems to me that parents ought to be able to obtain such information.
New clause 15 inserts a new section 39A in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, requiring youth offending teams in England and Wales to notify a child or young persons home and host local education authority when it becomes aware that that person has been detained in, transferred from or released from relevant youth accommodation. There is no pre-existing legislative provision requiring a youth offending team to be notified when a young person is detained in custody pursuant to a court order. However, youth offending teams have a pivotal role in the youth justice system, and in particular in arranging the placement of a young person who is sentenced or remanded in custody. In practice, a custodial placement could not be arranged without the youth offending teams involvement.
A member of the youth offending team must be in attendance in court when a young person is sentenced to remand or custody, and if for any reason a member of the team is not present, the court is required to complete a report on the outcome of the hearing which must be sent to a range of partners including the youth offending team. Therefore, in practice a young person could not be placed in custody without the youth offending team being aware of it.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|