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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Sarah McCarthy-Fry): Has the hon. Gentleman inadvertently strayed into the next set of amendments? Amendment 99 is in the next set.
Mr. Hayes: That was a mere aside. In terms of this peroration that was barely a word. I really only meant helpfully to set the matter in context for the benefit of the Minister before she gives what I think will be a scintillating response to these few brief words. [Interruption.] The Minister for Schools and Learners is intervening from a sedentary position but I will not be goaded by him, despite the fact that I described him as being sluggish earlier. He has clearly tried to disprove that by the energy of his sedentary intervention.
Amendment 212 aims to ensure that LEAs take account of learning and language difficulties. I mentioned the Bercow review earlier and the profound issues around the language skills of many of the young people we are speaking of in this part of the Bill. Those in detention who may not be able to speak English as a first language or who suffer speech impairment may be significantly disadvantaged by this clause. This amendment should be used to establish guidance on this matter. Barnardo’s is most concerned about this and seeks the reassurances that I articulate in these comments and through this amendment. It is particularly concerned that the duty on LEAs to ensure education for the group of children with language difficulties includes a clear requirement to meet the needs of children with statements and those whose first language is not English. It is also anxious that if children are detained outside their home local education authority that the home LEA must co-operate with the LEA where they are placed to ensure that suitable educational support is provided immediately on release.
Amendments 378 and 379 are probing amendments, once again stimulated by the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, to clarify how guidance under these clauses will be applicable to both the host and home local authorities, to children’s services and youth offending teams as well as to education services. We also seek assurances that the guidance will specifically address the issue of information sharing, sentence planning and curriculum content in the way that I mentioned earlier.
These amendments will allow the Minister to confirm that guidance will be applicable not only to LEAs, but to those other agencies in order to ensure effective joint working between the various arms of the local authority in this matter. This is necessary, given that new subsection 18A requires host local authorities to have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State and new section 562C, inserted by clause 49, does the same for the home authority. This guidance should address a number of issues. This is an important matter and a number of outside bodies, agencies, representative groups and charities are particularly concerned about this aspect of the Bill. These matters deserve airing.
To ensure that a child is able to fulfil their learning potential it is vital that information about the young person’s educational needs and experience is shared between host and home authorities quickly and readily as a child goes into custody and then again to prepare for their release. The speed and readiness of the process is what I am trying to highlight here because, as I said, these can be highly dynamic circumstances where, without that alacrity, there will be failures that impact on the young person concerned. It requires schools and local authorities to have joint working protocols with youth offending teams and the secure estate.
That is particularly important for children with special educational needs, for some of the reasons I gave earlier. That is certainly the view of the SEN consortium which suggests that the host authority should meet the child’s recognised special educational needs where applicable and be in accordance with part 3 of their statement of special educational needs. That will be workable only if the information regarding SEN and the statement itself is made available in a timely manner. Will the Minister therefore confirm that the issue of information sharing will be addressed in the guidance and if so, how?
In essence our concerns about these matters are founded on doubts about existing practice. You will know, Mr. Chope, with your comprehensive knowledge and profound interest in these things, that the National Audit Office report in 2004 found that only 6 per cent. of youth offending teams were able to confirm that young people could continue education started in custody after release, mainly because of logistical problems in finding suitable courses, reluctance by some young people to attend and difficulties in persuading schools to accept young people who might have previously been excluded. So how will the guidance associated with the Bill ensure that kind of continuity in what is offered to young people, both in terms of information sharing and in placing them in appropriate training or education once they have been released?
With those few remarks on these important matters, I invite the Minister to address some of the critical questions that we have raised. We have discussed these matters at length with some of the bodies that had the greatest expertise in dealing with young people and the bodies that also have considerable doubts about the effectiveness of some aspects of the Bill. We do not for a moment believe that the Government are not as concerned as we are about these things, but we have real doubts about whether all the measures have been thought through as fully as they might have been.
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Annette Brooke: I will be brief. This is an important clause as it deals with yet another area that has been long neglected. Although I might not agree with all the comments made by the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, I agreed with a great deal of what he said. This is an occasion where we must get it right.
I am entirely in sympathy with amendment 232. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, one of the big issues is that for various reasons young people may have missed out on basic educational skills. The one true way to rehabilitation and an end to reoffending is to break that cycle. Addressing special educational needs is really important. In instances of speech and language difficulties, addressing those needs could mean that there is the chance to overcome those disabilities. That is an unusual situation, but it could happen. Come what may, we know that educational retainment will be low and there is a huge challenge to be tackled at that level. It is important not to get into a downward spiral regarding children and young people who, for whatever reason, have not managed to get a basic level of education up to this point.
There are many opportunities. Many of us will have heard about the apprenticeships that Transco has provided in various youth institutions. Those have set up young people and enabled them to move into a job. If the approach in the Bill can provide opportunities for apprenticeships, it will make a big contribution to the future. I support the approach, although there are a lot of ends that need tying up and we need reassurances. We also need monitoring because the danger is that a young person could fall between different authorities.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: First, I shall speak to amendments 127 to 131. We have heard from the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings that their intention is to place a duty on the Young People’s Learning Agency to secure the provision of education and training in juvenile custody, rather than see the duty placed on local education authorities, as in the Bill.
I recognise the concerns that, as drafted, the duties will mean that LEAs that have juvenile custodial establishments in their area will need to secure provision for young people from different local authority areas who are detained in their establishments. I also sympathise with the concern that we need to ensure consistency in the approach to education and training provision across the juvenile secure estate. However, clause 47 is at the heart of our reforms to improve education and training for young people in juvenile custody and to ensure that education and training arrangements for that group are aligned as closely as possible with those in the mainstream sector.
The hon. Members for South Holland and The Deepings and for Mid-Dorset and North Poole expressed concerns about a local authority’s capacity to deliver. We will be working on a national delivery framework, which will be developed in partnership with central and local government, the Youth Justice Agency, the National Offender Management Service and the Prison Service. We will consult to ensure that there is a delivery framework and will issue statutory guidance. The YPLA will play a vital role in supporting LEAs, and the React programme, established in the LGA with the support of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, is working to prepare local authorities for their new responsibilities.
A concern was also expressed that some host local authorities may be disproportionately burdened because they have a young offenders institution in their area. However, they will receive specific funding and resources for this purpose via the YPLA. There were also concerns about information sharing but, if I may, I will defer my remarks on that until we get to the proposals on information provided by the home LEA, particularly, on SEN. They are in new clause 17, which we have not got to yet.
Mr. Hayes: Local authority funding seems to be critical. The Under-Secretary has reassured the Committee that the affected local authorities will receive extra funding. Will it be ring-fenced? How will it operate year by year? Clearly there are long-term planning issues associated with this work, so will the funding be annual or over an extended period? I also raised a point about dynamism. Circumstances will change radically according to the number of young people that the local authority is responsible for and their particular needs, such as learning difficulties.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: We intend the YPLA to play a pivotal role in ensuring equitable distribution of funding. The arrangements for exactly how that will be managed will be developed with the YPLA.
I expect that another argument for not using the YPLA is that, as hon. Members are aware, it will cover England only and its jurisdiction is not planned to be extended to Wales. We have worked closely with the Welsh Assembly Government to consider the best approach for people in juvenile custody, and we propose that a consistent approach across England and Wales, where LEAs take on the function, is the best way forward. However, in England, the YPLA will have an important role in ensuring consistency of approach for education and training provision across the country. The Welsh Ministers will fulfil that function in Wales and will work with relevant partners to agree and set parameters for education and training in juvenile custody.
For those reasons, I propose that clause 47, as drafted, provides the best way to ensure that we align education and training in juvenile custody with the mainstream sector and to ensure that the needs of those children and young people are met. I thank the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole for concurring with the view that this is the best approach.
Amendments 132, 133 and 134 relate to clause 49, which places a duty on the child or young person’s home LEA to promote the fulfilment of that person’s learning potential while they are in custody and on their release. We intend for that duty to play an important role in fostering a consistent education experience for children and young people in juvenile custody. For the first time, one authority will need to maintain involvement in the young person’s education, regardless of where that person is in the system. That will also help to ensure that young people’s education and training needs are picked up on their release from juvenile custody.
Annette Brooke: I am concerned that the home authority will need additional funding to cope with the responsibilities of tracking and making sure that the young person is receiving the education. Can the Minister say something about the resources for the home authority?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I am sure that that is something that will be developed in our framework, particularly with the YPLA having the overarching responsibility to ensure that there is equitable funding across the system from the home LEA and the host LEA.
Many young people are held in custodial establishments located in LEA areas that are different from where they live, so the individually owed duty is an important mechanism for ensuring that a young person receives a consistent experience.
I sympathise with hon. Members’ intention to place that duty on the YPLA. That would be particularly applicable if the YPLA were also to be responsible for securing education and training, as proposed in hon. Members’ previous amendments. However, the YPLA, as a national agency, would not be in a position to consider the individual needs of every young person in juvenile custody and would not be the appropriate authority to be able to, for example, transfer information about the young person’s prior learning needs, or to take such steps as securing appropriate educational training places for the young person on their release from juvenile custody.
We believe that placing that individually-owed duty on children and young people’s home LEAs will be a huge step forward in terms of fostering consistency of provision for that group and in encouraging information exchange about young people’s personal educational needs.
Mr. Hayes: I am anxious, as other Committee members might be, about who will be the owner of the information to which the hon. Lady refers. This is a complex matter. We are talking about gathering information from a variety of sources, ensuring that that information is accurate and then passing it on to a variety of others in order to ensure not only the coherence, but also the continuity, that we seek. Are LEAs equipped to do that? What database will they use? Can the Minister say something about the protocols involved? This is very challenging and I am not yet convinced that LEAs are equipped, or as I put it earlier, tooled-up, to do the job.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Maybe I have more faith in the ability of local government than the hon. Gentleman. There is a huge will among local authorities, particularly with their new responsibilities for the children’s trusts boards, to make sure that those things happen. As I said, we will be strengthening provisions as we get on to our two next sets of amendments, which will give local authorities the power to enable that information-sharing to happen.
I understand that the intention of amendment 212 is that the duty to secure suitable provision for persons in juvenile custody should specifically require LEAs to have regard to children, or young persons, with language difficulties when securing suitable provision. However, that amendment assumes that a person’s language needs are not already included in the definition of special educational needs or learning difficulties. As hon. Members might be aware, the definitions of special educational needs and learning difficulties are set out in section 312 of the Education Act 1996, and in section 15ZA of that Act, as inserted by the Bill. Clause 47 should be read alongside that.
Section 312 provides that the child has special educational needs if he has a learning difficulty that calls for special education provision to be made. It is therefore implicit in the 1996 Act that language needs are encompassed in the definition of special educational needs. We consider that clause 47 already provides that host LEAs will need to have regard to young people’s language needs.
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