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New clause 15 extends this provision so that a notification duty is placed on youth offending teams specifically to notify the home and host local education authority when a young person is detained in, transferred within, or released from juvenile custody. The youth offending team must also notify any other LEA in whose area the
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team expects the detained person to live on their release. The new clause ensures that relevant home and host LEAs will know when a child or young person moves into and out of the juvenile custodial estate, and when they transfer.

These provisions will strengthen current good practice, and will ensure that the LEAs can fulfil their new duties under chapter 5A of part X of the Education Act 1996, as inserted by new clause 14. They will help to ensure that local authorities can arrange suitable education for children and young people, both while they are detained in juvenile custody and on their release.

These provisions are central to our plans to improve education and training for young people in youth custody. They bring young people in juvenile custody under primary educational legislative regimes for the first time, and they make local authorities, as the mainstream commissioners of services for young people, also responsible for young people’s education while they are in juvenile custody.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport) (Lab): I welcome this new clause, but does my hon. Friend the Minister not share my concern that some local authorities do not follow up on much of the information they receive, in this case from youth offending teams? There has been clear evidence of that. The man in charge of Wandsworth prison recently told an all-party group that Wandsworth council simply does not respond when adults leave prison; it does not support them. What can we do to ensure that local authorities respond appropriately?

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: That is a similar point to one raised earlier about what we would do if a local authority did not put the interests of a child first. If it did not do so, it would be in breach of a statutory duty, and the Secretary of State has direction powers to compel an authority in that respect, which would be enforceable by the courts.

Mr. Burrowes: On the requirement for notification when a young person has been subject to a detention order, will the Minister confirm that young people on remand and not subject to any sentence of detention or training are also covered?

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: It is my understanding that that applies whenever a young person is within the secure estate, but if that is not right I am sure that someone will correct me before we conclude our proceedings today.

I hope that Members will agree that the new clauses significantly strengthen requirements in respect of young people in juvenile custody—especially those with special educational needs—and that they provide a robust and practical framework to ensure that the needs of children and young people in juvenile custody can be appropriately supported.

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): There is an element of déj vu to this debate. The Minister is moving precisely the same new clauses that she moved in Committee on 17 March. Her arguments are the same, too; in fact, many of the words and phrases she has used are very similar, albeit today she has sought to explain matters more expansively. In a few moments, I will raise with her some of the questions that we raised in Committee on the new clauses, and I
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do not doubt that the Minister will respond with the same, or similar, answers to those that she gave on 17 March.

Why are we repeating a debate we had in Committee? Why is the Minister moving exactly the same new clauses that she argued for in Committee? She is doing so because the management of the Committee stage by the four Ministers charged with that responsibility was not handled with the deftness of touch that might have been expected; it was a case of too many Ministers spoiling the broth, and an example of the chaos that can occur on considering a joint Bill when there is no clear sense of who is responsible.

The following is what happened in Committee. New clauses 14 and 15 were meant to replace clauses 49 and 50, which meant that the Government Members of the Committee should have voted against their own clauses in Committee, but instead they inadvertently voted for them. However, a very kind Chairman of the Committee realised the Minister’s oversight and gave the Committee a second chance to vote; but, alas, those Members again voted the wrong way and voted for their own clauses. So, here we are repeating the Committee stage and voting on whether to undo the errors of wayward Ministers—and we will have to do that again later this evening as the Government try to reverse three defeats incurred in Committee on three technical Government amendments. Those defeats were caused by the fact that a number of Labour Members failed to turn up in time for a 9 am start.

On the substance of the new clauses, these are important provisions —[Interruption.] Well, we would not have to waste any of this time had this been handled properly in Committee.

Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): My hon. Friend is rightly teasing the Government for wasting the House’s time. Does he know where the Government deputy Chief Whip is—he was omnipresent in Committee, so is he ill?

Mr. Gibb: My hon. Friend makes a good point; the deputy Chief Whip was present throughout the later stages of our discussions. I have seen him today, looming around the Palace, so I am pleased to say that he is not ill; no doubt he will be joining us later.

There is no doubt that education is key to the rehabilitation of young offenders and, indeed, of all prisoners in our jails. Statistics for 2007 reveal that nearly half of prisoners had a reading age of 11 or younger, 65 per cent. had maths skills below those of an 11-year-old and 82 per cent. had handwriting skills at or below those of an average 11-year-old. Action for Children, which is a voluntary sector provider of children’s services, shares our concern about the quality of education for young people in custody, and it has stated:

I wish to raise with the Minister the concerns about the wording of these new clauses that some of my hon. Friends have touched on and that were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) in Committee. The first relates to proposed new section 562B(3) of the Education
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Act 1996, which new clause 14 would insert. Proposed new section 562B would introduce a duty on the home local authority of the young person in custody to ensure that both during the period of detention and on release it took steps to promote that young person’s educational potential. Subsection (3) would provide that the home authority must make arrangements for the provision of education or training for the young person when they are released, but includes the words

I want the Minister to answer the following question. Given the importance of education to young offenders in ensuring that they do not continue on the road to a life of crime, when might it not be “appropriate” for that young person’s home authority to make arrangements for the provision of education or training on that person’s release from detention? Is not the danger that the phrasing will provide a get-out clause that will allow indolent local authorities not to bother?

Rob Marris: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern, but may I suggest that one point where it might not be appropriate for the home authority to act is mentioned in the new clause: in respect of people who are “over compulsory school age.”?

Mr. Gibb: I do not accept that. Given the statistics that I have just read out, we need to put more effort into ensuring that prisoners who leave custody have those basic skills to enable them to get a job and to have a decent life. Local authorities should not be given an easy get-out from providing that education to those people.

Mr. Graham Stuart: I, too, am interested by the use of the term “over compulsory school age”. I thought that “compulsory school age” was a historical concept and that what we now have is compulsory education to the age of 18. Thus, this usage would appear to be inappropriate or at least ambiguous. Where does it leave 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds?

Mr. Gibb: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It is an anachronistic phrase—if one is to believe the rhetoric of Labour Ministers.

Our second concern relates to proposed new section 562C(3) of the 1996 Act, which new clause 14 would insert and which deals with young offenders who had a statement of special educational needs prior to going into custody. The provision says that the local authority where the young person is detained must use its “best endeavours” to secure special educational provision for that person while they are in custody. Again, it is the phrase “must use its best endeavours” that concerns us. Is not that another get-out clause for a local authority that does not want to incur the expense of ensuring that the youth custody facilities in its area provide that type of quality education?

Our third and final concern also relates to the proposed new section 562C and concerns the definition of what is to be regarded as appropriate special educational provision. In new subsection 4(c) it says that if it appears to the host authority that the special educational provision specified in the statement is no longer appropriate for the young person in custody, the host authority can simply provide that element of special education that it deems appropriate. Given that the new section does not
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provide for a new statement or assessments to be made, that also appears to be a widely drafted get-out clause for local authorities that do not wish to provide high- quality special education for young people in custody.

Policy in relation to children with special educational needs has not been well handled over the last 10 or 20 years, and much needs to be done to right those wrongs. Indeed, one might be forgiven for making a connection between poor policy making, the Warnock conclusions about inclusion and the fact that we are now discussing educational provision for young people in custody with special educational needs. Given the strong correlation between poor educational achievement and prison, it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that poor special education provision is having a similar consequence for some young people who have special educational needs.

These are important issues and I hope that the Minister will address them appropriately. I wish her all the best with voting these new clauses and amendments on to the statute book without any hitches.

Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South) (Lab): I apologise for not joining the debate earlier, but I have been in a Select Committee meeting.

I have taken some interest in new clause 14 as part of my overall interest in special educational needs. I congratulate Ministers on these amendments. This issue is very important. Last year, on the Second Reading of the Education and Skills Act 2008, I pointed out the importance of trying to ensure that children with special educational needs were not excluded unnecessarily. This Bill follows through that aim very positively. One of the problems that sometimes occurs when we legislate is that the different Departments do not always get their act together. Given that this issue relates to the Ministry of Justice as well as to the Departments for Children, Schools and Families and for Innovation, Universities and Skills, one might expect that problem to occur, but it has not.

Mr. Hayes: I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman as I know that he takes a great interest in these matters and speaks with authority, but I thought that the House might wish to note that the deputy Chief Whip has now joined us—I presume in order to ensure that proceedings go more smoothly than they did the first time.

Mr. Marsden: I have nothing to add to that intervention and I shall continue my train of thought.

These amendments have rightly been informed by the concerns that have been expressed on other occasions. I refer especially to the Westminster Hall debate on adults with learning difficulties that took place earlier this year and to the comments on that occasion made by my hon. Friends the Members for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) and for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) about the number of adults in the system who did not get the right sort of advice or assistance. I raised that issue with Ministers subsequently in Justice questions.

These amendments are a strong attempt to join the circle through further provision and to link the concerns that have been expressed by the DCSF about the need to ensure that children with special educational needs are not unnecessarily excluded—as that might set them on a path that leads to delinquency and further criminal
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behaviour—with the situation in prisons. This is a very important step, which is widely welcomed. I expect—and very much hope—that it will make a significant contribution to what the Government have already been trying to do about prison education.

4.15 pm

Annette Brooke: I, too, hope that our considerations today proceed smoothly and without a hitch. On the subject of these new clauses, it is really important to identify the roles of the home and host authorities. I believe that the Government basically have it right in their definitions of what the home authority should be doing and what the host authority should be doing. The difficulty, as all hon. Members acknowledge, is promoting liaison between those two authorities.

It is important that the Government recognise clearly that a high proportion of young offenders have special educational needs and, perhaps unrelated to that but possibly related to it, that many young offenders have been excluded from school. Obviously, education is key in rehabilitation and in tackling reoffending. Equally, we are aware of the particularly high rate of reoffending among young people, which can be as high as 80 per cent. I cannot emphasise enough how important I think that the proposals are, but I am concerned about their implementation, as I have already said.

I, too, share the concerns of the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) that the proposed new section 562C offers some convenient opt-outs for local authorities that mean that they might not endeavour to take the required steps to promote a person’s fulfilment and learning potential. Given the existence of those opt-outs, it is crucial that their use be tightly defined in guidance.

I would also repeat the point I made earlier: it is important that an assessment be made for all young people if they come into the youth justice system. That must be put on the record. I do not think that it is happening now, so it does not reassure me to have in writing, “Well, that’s all right because it is in such and such a plan.” The Government must come up with some firm schemes for monitoring the whole system implied in the new clauses; otherwise, they will be totally worthless and we will not make progress on this important matter, on which I think that the Government would be proud to have success.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): I was not privileged to be a member of the Public Bill Committee, so I hope that what I say has not already been well debated before.

The concern is about young people in custody with special educational needs. Is it not the case that had we intervened sooner, they might not be in custody? I have argued many times, in this House and elsewhere, that we ought to provide better for younger people who clearly have special educational needs, and to do so at an earlier stage. I have some knowledge of this subject from relatives who have been teachers. Local authorities have been reluctant to statement young people, because it then costs money to do something about it. Even when those young people have been statemented, there is often a long delay before any action, during which time youngsters can fall more and more into trouble and difficulty. They might, perhaps, be excluded from school and then get into trouble. The end result is that
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they finish up in custody, with a criminal record or a custodial record and with a very poor educational experience.

Bob Spink: The hon. Gentleman has just shared with the House his scepticism about local authorities’ willingness to go the extra mile for people with special educational needs. Does he share my concern that proposed new section 562C(4)(c) states that special educational needs provisions do not have to be applied by the host authority if that host authority feels that they are

My concern is that the host authority might consider the situation from the point of view of its own convenience, rather than from that of the interests of the individual. The authority might withhold the special educational needs provision because it is inconvenient for the host authority rather than because it is not in the individual’s interests. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should make sure that they monitor the situation carefully, and should ensure that they give extremely strong guidance on the matter?

Kelvin Hopkins: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I shall come on to make the point that there is always a resource implication of such actions. The resource constraint sometimes deters local authorities from doing things that they ought to do. I have had cases in my constituency of people who really should have been in residential educational care, or whatever one likes to call it, at an earlier stage in life. The local authority resists, usually arguing that it is better to have the principle of inclusion to the fore, when the real concern is about the cost. If central Government were prepared to fund local authorities to provide that very expensive special provision for certain young people, local authorities would be much more enthusiastic about pursuing that option. That is, of course, true of the new clauses that we are discussing, too.

I support the clauses in principle, but if local authorities find ways of not doing what those clauses imply because it is “not appropriate”, it may be a resource constraint that is the problem. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, the Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Sarah McCarthy-Fry), and the Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon)—to look seriously at making sure that local authorities have the resources to do what the clauses imply should be done.


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