|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Tomorrow, we are inviting local authorities and voluntary sector organisations to bid for a further round of innovative projects to improve parental confidence. These will include more transparency in LA decision-making and greater independence of assessment, using different service models for providing educational psychology advice.
The inquiry makes a number of recommendations about strengthening the operation of the first-tier tribunal (SEN and Disability). We agree that guidelines should be issued on the provision of professional and expert evidence by March 2010. It is important that we improve access to justice and so we will work with the Ministry of Justice and key stakeholders to review the exceptional funding scheme for providing legal aid for tribunal hearings and will also aim to re-launch this scheme by March.
We know that bullying is a particular issue for children with SEND and we have published guidance on how to prevent and tackle it. We will be investing further in a project starting early in 2010, led by the Anti-Bullying Alliance and working with key organisations, to identify best practice in tackling SEND-related bullying and how schools can be supported to address it.
In total the inquiry has made 51 recommendations; the implementation plan which we will publish in the new year will set out a full response to each of these recommendations and provide details on how the Government will take them forward. The implementation plan will say how we will be:
The inquiry is clear that parental confidence is strongest where aspirations for children are high and there is a real focus on progress and outcomes. Our implementation plan will show how we will help schools develop skills and capacity within their workforce and parents will be able to access specialist expertise. The Government's pupil and parent guarantees will also make a commitment to all pupils and their parents, including those with SEND, that their schools will have effective policies in place to prevent and tackle all forms of bullying.
The importance of good communication is well evidenced by the inquiry: communication between parents and schools and better partnerships between parents and professionals. The implementation plan will explain how the principles of the Aiming High for Disabled Children Core Offer will be further embedded for children with SEN and how we will see improvements in the information that parents can expect to receive from all levels of the system.
The Inquiry has shown that local authorities can and do make a difference to outcomes for children with SEND. The system works best where schools, local authorities and parents operate in a true partnership. We will build on this good practice. Our implementation plan will detail how we will build the system's capacity to provide this level of partnership with all parents. This will include further training for children's services leaders and support for better models of commissioning services. We will also offer guidance and training to those drawing up statements to help build partnership and trust with parents.
The final report is clear about the importance of accountability in ensuring parental confidence in the system. Our implementation plan will explain how guidance and training for school governors, school improvement partners and appeal panel members will be taken forward. I am committed to ensuring that we bring about an end to systematic failures to fulfil statutory duties and will work with bodies who have information on non-compliance to take firmer action to address failure.
The implementation plan will also detail how the tribunal will review and develop the information that it gathers and publishes and arrangements for the guidance and training for tribunal chairs on telephone and face-to-face hearings.
The inquiry has recommended remedying the exclusion of schools from the duty in the Disability Discrimination Act to provide auxiliary aids and services. We accept this in principle and will look for a suitable legislative opportunity.
I am immensely grateful for all that Brian Lamb and his expert advisers have achieved through the inquiry. I would also wish to thank them for the thorough way in which the inquiry has consulted a wide range of experts and practitioners and for the way in which the voice of parents and children and young people has been brought to the fore. I also note the knowledge that has been developed through the innovative projects and thank the local parents, teachers and officers who have been testing out new ways of ensuring greater parental confidence.
The Government share the inquiry's call for much greater ambition for the nation's most vulnerable children and the best possible engagement with their parents. Through our response to the inquiry, and the implementation plan early in 2010, I am committed to ensuring all parents have a shared experience of a system that operates in partnership for the benefit of their children.
(1)Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century schools system (CM 7588), DCSF, June 2009
The Minister for Housing (John Healey): Tackling the huge challenge of climate change is one of this Government's highest priorities. The Government have committed to ambitious emissions reduction plans and have set in legislation a target to reduce UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent. against 1990 levels by 2050. In the UK, nearly half of our carbon emissions come from buildings-27 per cent. of these are from our homes and a further 17 per cent. from other non-domestic buildings. Reducing emissions from our homes is therefore an important part of the UK's transition to a low carbon economy.
The Code for sustainable homes aims to improve the overall sustainability of new homes by setting a single national standard for England, Wales and Northern Ireland within which the home building industry can design and construct homes to higher environmental standards, and giving new home buyers better information about the environmental impact of their new home and its potential running costs. It helps people to cut their carbon emissions and to lead a more sustainable lifestyle in general and provides practical experience to support future regulatory steps to help achieve the challenging commitment of requiring all new homes built from 2016 to be zero-carbon.
Since its introduction in 2007, over 300,000 homes have been registered to be built to Code standards, and nearly 2,000 certificates have been issued for completed homes. We now have our first set of Code level six homes.
But while practical experience of working with the Code is informing the development of other aspects of sustainability policy (for example the development of surface water management proposals in the current Floods and Water Management Bill), it has also established some questions over existing standards and the processes for assessment. We also now need to revise the Code to incorporate the new regulatory standards we have and are putting in place, and plan for more stretching energy efficiency standards, including our 2016 zero-carbon standard. To ensure the Code can continue to play a central role in supporting more cost effective sustainable housing development in future, we propose to revise the Code.
Aligning the Code with the latest developments in the zero-carbon homes policy-to enable it to continue to reflect the future regulatory trajectory and provide practical experience for developers and inform the development of detailed regulatory proposals for 2013 and beyond. This includes consulting on the new energy efficiency standard to be required of zero-carbon homes;
streamlining the standard and processes-learning from experience to date, to ensure that the Code is focused on the issues of greatest significance and that we eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy; and
resolving problems that have arisen in use- seeking to find practical solutions to barriers that have arisen in the use of the Code so far, balancing sustainability policy aims with the practicalities of house building in the current economic climate.
In my written ministerial statement of 16 July 2009, I confirmed our commitment and approach to zero-carbon homes. A zero-carbon home is one with a high standard of energy efficiency, a minimum level of on-site carbon reduction and whose remaining emissions are addressed via a range of further carbon reduction measures known as 'allowable solutions'.
On 24 November 2009, I set out a further written ministerial statement announcing the minimum fabric energy efficiency standard that we would require in zero-carbon homes and that we would consult on this as part of the revision of the Code for sustainable homes. The Code consultation published today therefore seeks views on the fabric energy efficiency standards that should apply to all new homes from 2013 and 2016.
Work continues to put in place the practical arrangements that would be required to permit allowable solutions to be put in place to ensure that standards are achieved in practice and on setting a guideline maximum price we expect industry to bear in implementing allowable solutions. We will seek, in line with the Chancellor's pre-Budget report, practical ways of reducing the costs.
"Sustainable New Homes: The Road to Zero Carbon (Consultation on the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Energy Efficiency standard for Zero Carbon Homes)". This is available on our website: www.communities.gov.uk/thecode.
"The Draft Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide". This is also available on our website later this week.
"The Code for Sustainable Homes Impact Assessment and the Zero Carbon Homes Impact Assessment (Updated 2009)". These will be available on our website later this week.
The Minister for Housing (John Healey): On my written ministerial statement, 30 June 2009, Official Report, column 7WS, I announced proposals to reform the current system of council house finance and replace it with a devolved system of responsibility and funding.
In my statement, I confirmed that transferring council-owned stock to a registered social landlord remained an option for local authorities. However, I was clear that there should be equity in the terms of public funding whether council homes are transferred or retained in the future under self-financing.
I also said that those local authorities who had existing places on the Housing Stock Transfer programme at 30 June should continue with their transfer proposals. Those local authorities were Plymouth, Rutland, Lambeth (Ashmole), Lewisham (Excalibur) Lambeth (Latmos), Manchester (West Gorton), Merton, Harrow (Mill Farm Estate) Lewisham (Forest Hill), Lewisham (Catford) and Lewisham (Rushey Green). They should ensure that their housing transfer is completed within the requisite two-year period. In my statement, I also undertook to continue to work with councils whose tenants had voted for transfer at that date. Plymouth and Rutland have now transferred their housing stock to a registered social landlord.
At the date of my statement at 30 June, the following local authorities, Warrington, Oldham, Bolton, Stockton, Dacorum and Hull (North Bransholme), had significant contact and developed discussions with the Department or the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) or both. These authorities had also undertaken preliminary consultation with their tenants.
These councils have continued to develop their options including for council stock transfer and by today, December 16, all had submitted a full transfer application. I can confirm that I am instructing the HCA to offer the option of a place on the Housing Stock Transfer programme to these authorities. From this date the transfer process, if it is pursued, should be completed within the required two-year period.
On 21 July, I published a consultation document on the reform of Council Housing Finance which proposed the dismantling of the Housing Revenue Account subsidy system and replacing it with a devolved system of responsibility and funding.
Consultation closed on these proposals on the 27 October. We are carefully considering all the detailed responses received, but there was overwhelming support for the principle of self-financing. Local authorities will retain all their rental income, all their capital receipts, and have a sustainable level of debt based on a significant increase in the scope to spend on housing services and standards. Self-financing will increase local responsibility for long-term planning, asset management, and for meeting the needs of local people. It will enable local authorities to improve the management of their homes and services to tenants, to continue to deliver Decent Homes, and to secure greater efficiencies through being able to plan ahead with greater confidence.
Our work on establishing the structure and detail of a self-financing offer to local authorities with social housing and a housing revenue account is progressing well. In February I expect to be able to confirm the progress we have made and set out in detail the parameters of the changes we plan. This should enable local authorities to make a more informed assessment about what self-financing might mean for future financing, sustainability and housing standards with the continued ownership of their housing stock.
Self-financing will offer an affordable retention option for all local authorities. If it is generally accepted by local government then I would expect that self-financing could be in place for authorities for 2011-12. This would offer a clear alternative to stock transfer within a clear time scale that is comparable to the two-year period allowed for concluding stock transfer.
The six local authorities offered the option of a place on the Housing Stock Transfer programme should fully consider the self-financing proposals and assess all of the options carefully. They should spell out the options available, in clear terms, as part of any consultation with their tenants.
The HCA in approving the offer document for the six authorities for the stage 1 consultation exercise will ensure that the terms of both the full consultation and any subsequent ballot are balanced, neutral and factual, and that the options available to local authorities, and more importantly their tenants, which have been considered, include the potential for self-financing.
The underlying principle is that tenants and others in the local authority area concerned must have accurate and full information on the clear options available in order to be fully consulted and be in a position to make their views known.
In the light of my statement of 30 June, I am now minded to announce a change in policy for all other local authorities who may currently be developing transfer proposals, but do not have a place on the Housing Stock Transfer programme.
I am proposing that those local authorities who had not met the above criteria by today will not be considered for a place on the Housing Stock Transfer programme until we publish the self-financing offer and as a consequence, they should reconsider their transfer proposals in the light of the outline for this new self-financing system.
This will be a very significant opportunity for local authorities to consider. Most importantly, it will be an opportunity for tenants to consider and they should have all the options in front of them when they are asked for their views.
I invite the views of local authorities on the proposed changes to the Housing Stock Transfer programme. I expect to receive representations by 15 January 2010 which I will consider fully. And, I will report to the House further on these matters.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Ian Austin): Further to the statement by the Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright) on 30 May 2009, in which he announced the Government's intention to transfer most of the functions of county courts to residential property tribunals under the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended), I am today announcing that, subject to parliamentary consent, the residential property tribunal's new jurisdiction will come into force on 6 April 2010.
The aim of the transfer of the jurisdiction is to provide residents of mobile homes (including caravans) and the owners of sites on which they are located, with a level playing field in the resolution of disputes, by providing access to a dedicated, low-cost specialist (housing) tribunal, which can deal with cases quickly and without the parties needing to be legally represented.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|