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I have argued on many occasions that there ought to be more residential provision for those with certain sorts of special educational needs, and particularly for those with serious behavioural needs that are difficult to accommodate in school. The young people concerned have difficulty coping with school. I am not suggesting that every time anybody misbehaves, they should be sent off to a boarding school, but some people’s behavioural difficulties are so serious that they really need a calmer experience in a residential setting, with specialist provision. I know that schools and colleges of that kind do exist. Some of them are private, and some are very expensive. If local authorities, in regional consortiums, made that
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sort of provision for those with special educational needs at an early stage—if intervention were quick and early—it would make an enormous difference to whether those people finished up in a custodial environment, and then went on to a criminal life, which would be wholly regrettable. Early intervention is absolutely crucial in such cases, as it is in the case of so many special educational needs. If we invested more in such special educational provision when people were very young, we would finish up with fewer people in custodial situations, and fewer people leading a life of crime.

Mr. Graham Stuart: It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins). Uniquely, I found myself agreeing with almost everything that he said, particularly on early intervention. If one wants to look at the matter in purely financial terms, from the state’s point of view, early intervention and investment in young people who are clearly coming off the rails, as they are when in custody, will pay back. It will pay back handsomely if we can provide the educational opportunity to allow at least a decent percentage of those young people to get on to the straight and narrow, increase their confidence and so on.

I also agree with what the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) said about the need for visibility on performance. We need transparency. Young people who go into custody often move between institutions. Sometimes they are moved far away from their home authority, and they are out of sight, out of mind. That is why the fact that the Government are today making an effort to improve the education of those young people is to be welcomed, but it is also why so many Members from all parts of the House have concerns about whether the measures that the Government are taking are strong enough.

I have already raised issues about the wording. The home authority must

and the host authority “must use best endeavours”. To say that an authority has failed in such a statutory duty is pretty hard to do. I therefore urge Ministers to consider tightening up that wording, even if, for now, it appears only in guidance. If we are to ensure that those young people receive education where it is practical to deliver it, perhaps we need a stronger commitment. That also picks up on another important point, in addition to transparency, about money; this is often a question of resources. Given plentiful quantities of money, host, home and custody authorities would be only too happy to provide more educational support for young people and, if they had the resources, perhaps they would be able to ensure a more settled time in custody, the better to provide them with education. I am concerned about the way in which the host authorities will access the money. I understand from the Minister that money will be transferred to local authorities, but will transparency apply to requests from host authorities to home authorities and to the responses that they receive? I should be grateful if the Minister explained to the House and to me exactly how the host authority may claim funding to ensure that the person it has assessed receives the education that that authority thinks is right.

On the subject of visibility, are the Government, like many on both sides of the House, keen on league tables? If necessary, could league tables on performance in looking after the education and the progress of young
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people in custody be published to shame authorities into improving their performance? At the very least, if they discovered that other authorities were doing a much better job, they could make contact with those authorities and try to find out what was required to help them improve.

Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): It is important that we look at added value. People often start at a low base when they enter into the care of those education authorities, so we need to look at that component. Those people have already been failed by the system, so we must ensure that it then brings them up, at least to some extent. That may not be as measurable as some people would like, but it is important that an assessment is made.

Mr. Stuart: I completely agree with my hon. Friend, and it brings me to my final point, about subsection (4)(c) of proposed new section 562C, which states that where

by the former home authority

it can be set aside, as hon. Members have said. However, if it is set aside, some form of formal assessment should be carried out by the host authority. That authority should not be able simply to declare that it deems that that provision is no longer appropriate. A formal process should be conducted to ensure that that decision is reached after a rigorous assessment, and is not made purely to suit the authority’s financial situation.

Mr. Burrowes: My hon. Friend has made a very good point. Given the indication that the statement of special educational needs would effectively be suspended, does he share my concern that not only does that change the duty of the home authority and put the onus on the host authority but it takes away parents’ rights regarding statements? No longer will they be party to any reviews or appeals: they will be cut out of the process of SEN provision for their child while he or she is in custody. Does he share my concern that the Minister has not adequately thought through that loss of contact and representation for parents?

Mr. Stuart: My hon. Friend is quite right, and he has picked up a point made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris). It is ironic that we should consider these new clauses, which make no mention whatsoever of parents, on the very day on which the Prime Minister has declared that parent power should be the driving force to raise educational standards. That irony will not be lost on the Secretary of State who, in this particular regard, has failed his master. Perhaps he is about to catch up, and fall into step with him, and we will hear about that from the Minister at the Dispatch Box.

Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): As hon. Members will know, I spoke on Second Reading and served on the infamous Public Bill Committee. A lot of fun was had, and I enjoyed spending a great deal of time with Members from all parts of the House—probably more time than I would have liked at times. It was an occasion that I will not forget in a hurry, and it will give me many happy memories in the years to come.

I wish to speak in support of new clause 14, and seek clarification from the Minister on a couple of aspects of the Bill’s implementation. As we know, a large proportion
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of young people who are detained have special educational needs and many of those are identified, but as the Minister is well aware, many are not. I am pleased that the new clause pays significant attention to children with special educational needs.

4.30 pm

My contributions in Committee were intended to elicit reassurances from the Minister that the particular needs of children with disabilities and additional special educational needs will be met, but it should not go without mention that the Minister told me that expenditure on those with SEN has risen by the best part of £500 million since 2000. The specific referrals that will come about as a result of the new clause will further back up that commitment.

However, I am concerned that we still cannot identify the number of children or young people detained in juvenile custody who have an SEN, what that SEN is—I have campaigned long and hard on this, as Ministers know—or the number of those who are later given a statement. Although I accept that there is a duty on local authorities to monitor and provide for children for whom they are responsible, it is a cause for concern that yet again there is a deficit of information in an area in which a problem clearly exists. I wholeheartedly support the amendment, which places a duty on a host local authority.

Mr. Hayes: I know that the hon. Lady feels passionately about these subjects, as do I. Would she acknowledge that one of the key aspects of that information is the specificity and quantification of the provision that is put in place to meet the statemented need? There seems to be some variability about that between authorities, and some problem with passing on that information in detail from one authority to another as a child, and later a young person, goes through the system?

Mrs. Hodgson: I agree. As hon. Members know, I introduced a private Member’s Bill on special educational needs and the collection of information. The problem exists not only for children in custody, but for children as they move around the country, even when their parents are totally responsible for them. Often the information is not passed on from one local authority to another with regard to the specific needs of that child. I have had personal experience of starting again, in effect, when one moves to a new local authority. The amendment is welcome because, when a child or young person moves into a local authority area it will help inform the authority that they may need an SEN assessment or a statement.

Rob Marris: I refer to new clause 14 and to what, if it is passed, will become section 562B of the Education Act 1996. Subsection (2)(a) reads:

I wish to probe the Minister a little on resources for the fulfilment of that statutory commitment.

I confess that the last time I looked at per capita annual spending on the education of young people in the secure estate, compared to per capita annual spending on a pupil at a state secondary school, was probably five years ago, in the previous Parliament. Let us add to the equation the amount spent by many local authorities on
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a tiny minority of children with very severe emotional and behavioural difficulties who are put in secure accommodation not necessarily because of criminal acts of any sort, but because they are so disturbed that they need a very high level of support, to the extent that it is residential and often geographically outside the home local authority area. For example, Wolverhampton used to send children to somewhere in Devon. It is debatable whether that is good for the child. For most of them, it is better that they remain nearer where they live, although not in every case if they have a very disruptive family.

I would not want anyone to think that these are exact figures, but for purposes of comparison let me give the figures, very roughly, from a few years ago. For a child from Wolverhampton who was placed in such secure residential accommodation because of their emotional and behavioural difficulties, the average cost was £150,000 a year. For some, however, the cost was £250,000 a year, meaning that, if a child went into such an institution for four years, they could cost £1 million. It drained a huge proportion of the health budget and the local authority budget, albeit for children with very severe difficulties. Those were extreme figures.

The approximate spending per capita per year—I am talking about five years ago—on an average child in a secondary school was £4,000 a year. That was for a child who went to school for roughly six hours a day, five days a week, 39 weeks a year. By contrast, the figure for a young person in the secure estate was lower; it was in the low £3,000s.

It was difficult to form an idea of the figures, because, frankly, the Government did not keep them and one had to try to work them out as best one could. It was a bit of a back-of-an-envelope calculation, because the figures that the Government started with involved taking the number of places in an institution, such as Pucklehurst where Stephen Fry was as a teenager, and dividing that by the budget. Then one had the per capita figure, but of course that included accommodation—food, heating, lighting, security and so on.

The comparative figure was just over £3,000 a year, as far as I could tell, for a young person in a secure estate, as opposed to someone in a regular secondary school, who cost about £4,000 a year. That struck me as absolutely potty, given that, as I understand it, a large plurality, if not a majority, of young people in the secure estate have severe difficulties with basic learning—with the three R’s. It is one of the factors that can become an indicator of someone’s being in the secure estate. I must stress that I do not suggest that a young person aged 13 or 14 who is not functionally literate will necessarily end up in the secure estate, but a disproportionate number of young people who are not functionally literate do.

Kelvin Hopkins: I am sure that my hon. Friend saw a recent documentary about young people being taught to read, and the transformation in the behaviour of one young person who had caused massive problems in school. They were successfully taught to read, and they were transformed as a person. They became happy and well integrated, and they led a productive life at school and beyond.

Rob Marris: I agree because, at base, this is partly about self-esteem. It is also about whether such people
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are likely to offend upon their release because of their emotional state, their chances of getting a job and their level of basic skills.

Proposed new section 562B(2)(a) has resource implications and I hope that the Minister will assure me that those approximate figures from five years ago have been superseded. The Government have taken the issue in hand over the past five years, because of pressure from all parts of the House, and they have done much better on education for young people in the secure estate. However, I want reassurance from the Minister—perhaps not today, because it can be difficult to unravel such figures—that, per capita per annum, spending on the education of young people in the secure estate is more than what is spent on children in a regular state secondary school.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: That was an interesting debate. There were some very good contributions by Members on both sides of the House. It shows the great interest that Members have in the issue. On the specific points, I turn first to the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb). He asked when it would not be appropriate for the local authority to make arrangements for persons released from detention. That would be when the young person or their parents had already made arrangements for their continuing education and training. In that case, the local authority would not have to step in.

There was another question about compulsory school age education and training. Obviously, there is compulsory schooling up to 16. Post-16, there is education or training, so, as the issue moves with the recommended participation age, the relevant provisions will apply.

Many of the other points come back to the answers that I gave before, in response to interventions. The issue is about getting the balance right between what can practically be achieved within the secure estate and our wanting the best for young people. As I said, in many cases, practical difficulties mean that it would not be possible to replicate the exact provision that young people enjoyed outside the secure estate. A special educational needs statement often includes a particular school that a young person should attend; obviously, that would not be possible in respect of a young person in the secure estate.

Another point, which came up time and again, was about monitoring and inspection. Ofsted will be responsible for the inspection of educational standards and the education that young people receive in the secure estate. On young people coming out of the secure estate, I should say that there will be a national indicator for local authorities to ensure that young people supervised by youth offending teams are in education or employment at the end of their sentences. A lot of that will be put together in the guidance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) was an assiduous Committee member who made some very good contributions. I thank him for his support for the new clause. I agree with what the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) said: it will be for us to define tightly in the guidance what we mean by “taking steps” and what is appropriate. The issue of monitoring was also raised. In the youth crime action plan, we committed to review the performance management arrangements for young
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offenders’ education in custody as part of these education reforms. We are working with our partners so that that is taken on board.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) said that prevention was better than cure, and I agree absolutely. Again, the issue is about getting the balance right between what can practically be achieved within the secure estate and our wanting the best for the young people. On my hon. Friend’s comments about special educational needs as a whole, I should say that there has been considerable investment in education for youngsters with special educational needs. Furthermore, Ofsted is about to undertake a review, which will guide us on how we can go further on that.

Kelvin Hopkins: I thank my hon. Friend for her reassurance on these matters. Has her Department made any attempt to look at the extent to which local authorities have prejudices or views about special educational needs which are now being shown to be inappropriate? I am thinking, for example, of those who believe in blanket inclusion rather than special provision when medical or mental health problems are clearly involved. Is the Department looking at local authorities and local authority officers who have particular prejudices on such matters?

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I take my hon. Friend’s point. He will be aware that we have employed Sir Brian Lamb to review parental experience in the special educational needs system. Last week, we specifically asked Sir Brian to look at the exact issue that my hon. Friend has raised: whether local authorities are discharging their responsibilities and duties in a more consistent manner. Some local authorities work well in that regard, but others do not.

The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) made points about parents. Parents are fully engaged in the sentence planning process. As for educational requirements, we will make sure that we put into the local authority guidance the fact that the current process by which parents are involved in the sentence planning also implies their involvement in the education.

Anne Main: Does the word “parents” include grandparents, or people who are in a parenting role? Sometimes people who are not the immediate parents take on a parenting role, and they are often excluded when decisions are made about the young people involved.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: In general, the parent or guardian will be the statutory person, but there is no reason why we cannot look at that when we consider the more detailed part of the guidance.

4.45 pm

Mr. Graham Stuart: Can the Minister explain at exactly what point in the process parents will be involved?

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: As we work with partners on the guidance, we can consider at what level parents will be engaged in the education process—whether it will be a replica of what happens in the sentence planning process or whether we want to do something particularly for young people with special educational needs. Parents are closely involved with those provisions.

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