Criminal Justice and Courts Bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Georgina Holmes-Skelton, Matthew Hamlyn, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
4A (2) All staff employed as teachers, counsellors or nurses at a secure unit must hold qualifications as one of the following—
(a) qualified teachers;
(b) accredited member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists;
(c) registered nurse (children).’.—(Sarah Champion.)
Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, and to follow the hon. Member for Rotherham, who finished her remarks in a timely manner just before the luncheon adjournment, for which we are all extremely grateful to her. I rise briefly to address in part some of the amendments tabled to schedule 4, and in doing so, to link the issue of the detail of the schedule and what the secure college providers are obliged to do about young people who present to the criminal estate with special educational needs. Some allusion was made to the matter earlier.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for having referred in responses to interventions to the statutory duties now imposed by the newly enacted Children and Families Act 2014. I pay tribute to him for the work he did with the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), the Minister with responsibility for children’s matters, to ensure that the Act, which started life without any provision whatever for children and young people on the secure estate, emerged in the form that it did. Sections 70 to 75 deal comprehensively with young people who present to the secure estate with education, care and health plans. There are duties on the young person’s home authority to assess, and duties on the secure provider to make provision for, those young people, which is welcome.
The purpose of my brief remarks is to remind my hon. Friend the Minister that other amendments have related to the widening of the Bill’s ambit to encompass not only young people and children who receive a statement or plan, as we now call it, but children and young people with disabilities generally. In that spirit, I draw his attention to the amendment that was tabled in my name, although not in time for it to be votable or specifically debated.
Mr Buckland: I do not do that, Sir Roger, but I would welcome, in my hon. Friend’s closing remarks to this part of the debate, some reference to how secure colleges, whether through qualified or unqualified teachers or other providers, will meet the needs of young people who do not have a statement or an education, health and care plan. I say that for two reasons, the first of which is a concern for the welfare of the young people themselves. The second one is that, remembering that they are in the secure estate—they are in custody and detention; they will be in a secure college—we must drive the Government’s agenda of reducing reoffending. I know that my hon. Friend is fully committed to that remorseless agenda, and we must emphasise it when dealing with the needs of young people.
Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): I am aware that the hon. Gentleman has done an awful lot of work to secure rights and resources for children with special educational needs, on which I congratulate him. He mentioned that, in a secure college, provision could be delivered by both qualified and unqualified teachers, but does he recognise that qualified teachers have specific training in dealing with a broad spectrum of special educational needs, whereas unqualified teachers might not?
Mr Buckland: I would go further and say that, with specialist support from speech and language therapists in the custodial estate, great strides can be made even in a short space of time with young people who present with disabilities that might never have been diagnosed before their admission to the criminal justice or the custodial system. The amendment allows discussion of teaching services, but also of the specialist support that can make the difference between reoffending by a young person, which creates more cost for society and the criminal justice system, and rehabilitation, which results in lower risk of reoffending.
Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Following the point made by the hon. Member for Rotherham, does my hon. Friend accept that there is a role for unqualified persons, who may be former offenders, to assist in providing the services he envisages, particularly if they have been trained by a body such as the Shannon Trust, which already does groundbreaking work in prisons?
Mr Buckland: I do. That specific training to recognise and understand conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and other invisible disabilities will be essential if we are to use time in secure colleges to identify the needs of the young people.
A brief recitation of the facts makes it clear that disability is a fact of life in the prison estate: 15% of young offenders have a statement of special educational needs, compared with 3% of the general population—that is just those with a statement, as opposed to the wider penumbra that we have been talking about. More than a quarter of children in the youth justice system have a learning disability, while more than three quarters have serious difficulties with literacy.
It is well known fact since the Bercow report of 2008, but it is still a stunning statistic, that about 60% of children and young people in custody have a communication disability, and of that group about half have poor or very poor communication skills. I have said many times, and make no apology for saying it again, that poor communication skills are what often lead—[ Interruption. ]
The Chair: Order. I am sorry. I hate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. If hon. Members want to have conversations there is plenty of space outside for them to do it, but I cannot have people standing up in the Committee Room.
Mr Buckland: Thank you, Sir Roger. It is often poor communication skills that lead young people into offending. That may include offences of violence. A common factor in many cases of violence involving young people that I dealt with was communication problems. They could not express themselves as we can here—or most of us, most of the time—and they expressed themselves in a different way. That is not to make excuses for young people’s criminality—far from it—but it is the beginning of an explanation of some of the underlying problems. If those remain unaddressed, they lead to great social cost and expenditure on incarceration.
Sarah Champion: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s giving way again. He mentioned communication issues. One of the witnesses told us that a quarter, I think, of children with learning difficulties had them because of physical abuse they had suffered—trauma to the head had brought them on. The things the hon. Gentleman was describing might not be learning difficulties from birth; they could have been forced on the young person.
Mr Buckland: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady. I know from conversations with my hon. Friend the Minister that he understands the statistics on head injury and trauma. He knows the figures for both adults and young people on the custodial estate, and is committed to addressing those needs. For the reasons that the hon. Lady outlined, our discussion is timely.
I look to my hon. Friend to deal with a few questions before I close. I should be grateful for an outline of what will be expected of secure colleges in meeting the needs of children and young people, not only when they have an education, health and care plan, but when they have disability or special educational needs in general. Secondly, what level of provision can that cohort expect to be provided with in secure colleges? Finally, will he outline how we will ensure that secure colleges will have adequate SEN provision for all children who need it—to return to my point about the wider penumbra of young people with disabilities, who may not have an EHC?
From his experience at the criminal Bar, my hon. Friend will often have seen that a young defendant with no diagnosis can come into the criminal justice system, and then suddenly, for the first time, that 16, 17 or 18-year-old gets a report, thanks to the probation service, a judicial order or expert help—a disability that has been undiagnosed for years is discovered. It is sad but none the less the truth that sometimes the criminal justice system is the only avenue of intervention for certain young people. I hope the Minister will appreciate the spirit of my remarks and look forward to hearing his response.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham for tabling the amendment and for the excellent points she made in her speech. Amendment 61 goes to the very heart of the debate about secure colleges. Before it is possible to decide what expertise a person needs or how qualified they must be, there must be absolute clarity about what job they are being hired to do. That includes not only their role and responsibilities, but what they will actually be required to deliver.
In essence, what will the stated mission of secure colleges—they are to improve education—look like in practice? How will that be coupled with appropriate levels of health and well-being provision? The short answer is that we do not yet know, and that is reflected in the Bill. I hope the debate on the amendment will provide the Minister with the opportunity to give us more detail. We had a constructive debate on the same theme this morning.
I want to focus my remarks primarily on the educational aspects of the amendment and the question of how teachers will work in a secure college. Before I go into that specifically, I want to make two related points. First, it is remarkable how little schedule 4 has to tell us about secure college staff. There is very limited detail on the types of staff who will be involved in running a secure college, what training they will have or what work they will be doing. There are specific mentions of custody officers, but schedule 4 goes only as far as saying that they will perform “custodial duties”. That sounds like more of a prison warden role to me, not a person who will be delivering any of the functions that will help to educate and rehabilitate young people.
The words teacher, psychiatrist, social worker, and counsellor do not appear in the schedule. Even the qualification level of the custody officer role is not clear. Paragraph 17 outlines the certification of staff who will perform custodial duties, but the wording is extremely vague. All it says is that the Secretary of State may certify someone if he is satisfied that they are:
My second point relates to what kind of an institution a secure college will be and how it will be different from other forms of youth custody. That is a fundamental issue, and it will help to dictate which staff will and will not be suitable to work in a secure college. To date, the Government have been clear in their view that educational provision across youth custody is failing. The Secretary of State for Justice himself said as much when the plans for secure colleges were unveiled. Speaking of existing youth detention facilities and the rehabilitation of young offenders, he said:
“The whole idea of a secure college is that it is much more akin to a school or college with a fence around it, rather than a prison with an education wing. It’s going to have a different atmosphere,
The proposals were launched with a tag line about transforming youth custody, not marginally improving it. If that vision can be achieved, the Opposition would be the first to welcome it. It is clear, however, that we are not just talking about one or two additional hours of learning each week—otherwise, it would not be necessary to construct an entirely new type of institution. That raises a simple question: what makes the Minister so confident that a secure college will deliver better educational results?
If secure colleges are to live up to the rhetoric that we have heard so far, they will need to be substantially better than existing facilities on at least one of three scores. First, they will need a higher calibre of staff. Secondly, they will need more staff, so that greater attention can be paid to each child. Thirdly, they need to pioneer a new approach to teaching young offenders. That is the only logical conclusion, and I hope that by the end of this debate the Minister will be able to tell us whether the first, second, third or all the above apply. In the meantime, let me briefly touch on each theme in turn.
First, on the calibre of staff, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham clearly said, it is a fundamental principle that only qualified teachers should be in the classroom. That goes for any classroom, in or outside the secure estate. Teaching is tough, as at least one member of the Committee can tell me that from their own personal experience. It requires intellect, creativity, brilliant communication skills, people skills and the ability to engage the child at the front of the class as much as the one misbehaving at the back. If we can say that of teachers in any classroom, then we need a particularly special type of person to engage young offenders successfully.
If secure colleges are to rehabilitate young offenders in the way that the Government hope, that will require staff with an expertise, enthusiasm and experience of teaching in challenging environments. Let me remind the Committee of the evidence that we heard from Nina Champion, of the Prisoners’ Education Trust:
“obviously young people in secure colleges or young offenders institutions will be some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people, so staff need to have specialist skills in working with young people who have complex needs”.––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 11 March 2014; c. 50, Q97.]
I would therefore like to ask some questions about the role of principal, which is created in paragraph 4 of the schedule. Will the Minister please tell the Committee how the role of principal will be distinct from the role of a typical prison governor? What type of person does he feel would be appropriate for this role? What level of experience or qualification does he think it would be necessary for them to have? If this is, in the words of the Secretary of State,
Of course, many of those figures, no matter how well-qualified, would not necessarily have the experience of working in a youth detention environment. Therefore, they might not be suitable. However, the Secretary of State has been clear that he wants secure colleges to offer a different atmosphere from the existing institutions in the youth estate, but it is not yet completely clear how this will be achieved. Presumably, to achieve a different atmosphere, the Minister would seek a different type of person. So does he therefore think it right to recruit someone straight from a secure training centre or a young offenders institution, for example, or is the role of principal a head teacher role? A bit of guidance on this point would be very much appreciated.
That was my first theme, and having discussed the quality of the staff, I now turn to the quantity. I would be grateful to the Minister if he gave the Committee a rough idea of how many teaching staff a secure college will have. Can he give an indication of, for instance, what the typical child-to-adult ratio might be in a secure college classroom? This is highly relevant, on grounds of both educational outcomes and, of course, cost. Even the best teachers can find it difficult to control and engage a class of 20 to 30 students successfully. Many would find it impossible without the help of teaching assistants and other support staff, especially for engaging children with particular needs. That comes at a price, however, and the Minister is clear that secure colleges will deliver transformative education at below the average cost for youth custody.
Sarah Champion: My hon. Friend mentions teaching assistants. If we are looking at children with severe learning difficulties, we are probably looking at a 2:1 ratio for each child, rather than a bigger class environment.
Dan Jarvis: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. We have a useful opportunity to debate the issue. I am interested to hear what the Minister can say about the extent to which the Department and the Government have specifically considered the ratio of teaching staff to young people in custody.
The third and final theme that I would like to raise is how the learning environment will be designed and delivered within a secure college. That must be clear if the Committee is to be best placed to judge whether suitable standards for teaching staff will be in place. The Government have provided some detail on that, but perhaps not as much as we would like at this stage.
“We envisage Secure Colleges delivering a strong focus on the core literacy and numeracy skills…creative approaches to teaching which motivate and inspire…vocational training, interventions to tackle offending behaviour, and the development of interpersonal and practical life skills.”
That is what secure college staff will be expected to deliver. It all sounds very positive, but it is vague. It is not clear how much of that will actually be delivered in practice, nor how staff in secure colleges will overcome
The Justice Committee pointed out in its report on youth justice, as we discussed at some length this morning, that the average time spent in custody is only 79 days. How much does the Minister think a teacher can realistically teach a student in that time frame, no matter what their qualification might be? Can he also provide further detail on the individual learning plan mentioned in the Government’s response to the consultation? What type of staff will be required to support that process?
What staffing arrangements will be put in place to ensure that a secure college will genuinely be a place of learning? For instance, 30 hours of education a week is a fair ambition, but there is always a risk in youth custody that that might be disrupted. The issue is made plain in the Government’s impact assessment on young offenders institutions. Page 7 reminds us that young offenders institutions are contracted to deliver 15 hours of education a week, but page 9 reminds us that young people in YOIs receive an average of only 12 hours’ education a week. The Ministry is taking steps to address the situation in YOIs, as we have discussed today, but what is the Minister doing to ensure that secure colleges will be an environment where all staff can do their jobs and meet the expectations placed on them?
To conclude, I appreciate that mine has been a lengthy contribution, but the Committee will appreciate that this is a complex matter that relates to numerous other issues. I look forward to the Minister’s response, and I will be grateful as ever for any assurances with which he can provide us on the matters raised in this debate.
Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): I join my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central in paying tribute to the hon. Member for South Swindon for an impassioned speech. He worked hard with my predecessor, Paul Goggins, on child neglect. I follow in the footsteps of Alf Morris, who introduced a private Member’s Bill that became the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, which began to introduce the first disabled rights in any modern legislature in the world.
I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for South Swindon for his work in the all-party parliamentary group on autism, which leads me to the point about differentiation: this is why we need qualified teachers. That is the key for a teacher. Anybody can go into a classroom environment and impart their knowledge, skills, wisdom and inspiration, but a qualified teacher who knows about differentiation is crucial.
I would like to apply the duck test to secure colleges. The duck test is that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. Looking at the Bill, if it looks like a prison, feels like a prison—particularly in the light of the planning application —and is staffed like a prison, it is probably a prison.
Under the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham, staff employed in secure colleges would be required to hold appropriate qualifications. Teachers would have to hold teaching qualifications; counsellors be accredited; nurses accredited and, I hope, specialists in nursing children. It is surprising that it is up to the Opposition to assert those details. We
As we have heard, the new prisons will have classrooms and look like schools. We have had vague assurances about education and support, but we have heard nothing about the education to be provided or the qualifications of the staff. The absence of that information on staffing and qualifications is part of a wider issue: the almost total lack of detail in the plans across a range of issues. That has been a problem all the way through this policy process.
The plans for secure colleges were first aired in the “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation, which was published in February last year. Although it was called a consultation, the document was more an invitation to tender. It contained almost no ideas about what secure colleges would look like and which stakeholders could comment. Instead, it contained a lot of questions to potential providers on how they would like to run a secure college. That fails my vision test, which I mentioned earlier, in relation to leadership.
“What are the other key services you would deliver, or establish partners with, within a Secure College both to support the provision of high quality education to young people in custody and to prevent them from offending on release? How would your model of a Secure College support young people leaving custody to get placements in education, training or employment on release and support them to maintain this engagement? How would your model of a Secure College support greater co-operation between integration of custodial and community services? If the physical environment envisaged by your proposed model could not be delivered within the existing youth secure estate, what would be the estimated cost of securing new facilities and how might this be funded?”
The correct way to commission services—particularly for some of the most troubled and vulnerable young people in the country who are in the care of the state—is to assess the needs and requirements and then to seek a provider who can meet them. Instead, the Government have gone about things backwards. They have asked providers what they would like to provide and made that the basis of the commissioning. At the moment, the result seems to be a distinct lack of detail in the Bill.
The Government’s “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation closed last April. We waited nine months for the response, which was published earlier this year. The Government’s long-awaited response was an underwhelming 10 pages long. Again, it contained almost no detail about what secure colleges would look like. It contained vague assertions. To be fair, the original consultation asked a number of questions on educational provision, and a number of organisations gave lengthy responses to those questions. However, the Government chose not to provide any detail on these matters in their response or in the Bill.
This lack of detail affects much more than staff qualifications. There is no information on staff ratios, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central
As we discussed earlier this week, no decision has been made on the detention of girls among hundreds of boys—an idea that I, like many others, find pretty terrifying. The Government’s response—that girls are held together with boys in secure children’s homes and secure training centres—completely misses the point, because that does not take into account size or ratios. Whether or not girls are to be detained in secure colleges is not a minor detail; it is fundamental to what the secure estate will look like and whether we can approve the Government’s plans.
As I shall go on to talk about later, no detail has been given on the education or support to be provided in secure colleges. I could go on, but I will focus on the issue at hand: the lack of detail on staff and their qualifications. As I said, the Government have failed to provide any detail. They may say that they want to put the detail on staffing in the contracts, but that is not good enough; there must be a statutory obligation on providers to employ specific and qualified staff.
What is more, if the Government want Parliament to approve their plans for secure colleges, Parliament must have a say on the staff who will be provided. Parliament does not approve the contracts the Ministry of Justice makes with providers. The Government did not have to introduce legislation on secure colleges; they chose to do so. They have every right to do that, but if they do so, they need to give Parliament sufficient information to make an informed decision about the plans. If the Government want to put the details not in the Bill but in regulations—the secure college rules—they need to publish the rules alongside the Bill. Otherwise, we cannot understand the reality of the plans that we are being asked to approve.
Because of the lack of detail, the secure colleges currently amount to nothing more than a huge child prison with a new name. The Government might say that that is not the case—I am sure they will say that—and that it is more like a boarding school, with excellent support that will turn young offenders’ lives around. However, without any detail or guarantees in statute, that means nothing in practice. Construction of the pathfinder will begin in 2015. As we are all aware, that is a general election year, and we need to find some agreement. The current Ministers may well not—no, I am not going to go there; I will stick to the substance rather than the politics. It could be my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central who has to do this; we do not know that.
If the Minister intends—[ Interruption. ] Did hon. Members not see my election result? If I were the Minister, and I intended for secure colleges to have the level of education and support he says he wants, I would want to guarantee that that would be the case by making it clear in statute. Otherwise, he risks a secure
Staff qualification is one of the most basic and important details to be provided. I have severe reservations about secure colleges for a number of reasons. As I have said, similar large institutions have poor records on child education and safety: children experience violence, and bullying is rife. Nothing the Government have said has assured me that secure colleges will be any different in practice. If the plans are to have any chance of succeeding, staff must be qualified. Skilled and qualified staff will be absolutely key if the project is to have any chance of success.
We are not talking about children who can just turn up in a secure college and sit down to classes. They are often troubled, and many have difficulty with education. Various surveys of young people in custody illustrate that point starkly: a 2012-13 survey of children in custody found that 65% of girls and 37% of boys were 14 or younger when they last attended school; some 86% of boys and all the girls had been excluded from school at some point. Other research studies have found that 60% of children in custody have communication difficulties, a quarter have learning difficulties, and three quarters have serious literacy difficulties. It is clear to me, as someone who has gone into Buckley Hall in Rochdale and provided music entertainment and workshops, that the vast majority of the prisoners there cannot read and write.
Real specialists are needed to provide education to this complex group. Without them, secure colleges have no chance of achieving their aims. Qualified teachers are the bare minimum that is needed. We also need specialists in special educational needs, speech and language therapists and the like to ensure that the educational needs of this complex population can be met—but that is not all. As we heard from the witnesses last week, children in custody are frequently troubled and have a wide variety of complex needs and those needs must be addressed before any progress can be made on education. We have already mentioned Penelope Gibbs from the Standing Committee for Youth Justice. She told this Committee last week that
“the problem is that these young people’s lives have meant that they are not really ready for education in the formal sense when they arrive at these institutions. After all, their liberty has been taken away, so the opportunity should be taken to look at the issues in their lives which are a barrier to them…learning and also behaving in a non-criminal way out in the community—family issues, health issues and speech and learning issues.
For a long time Lord Ramsbotham has been pointing out how many under-18-year-olds who are in custody or in the criminal justice system have very profound speech and learning issues. If those are not dealt with, there is no way…these children can be educated in any formal sense.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 11 March 2014; c. 30, Q66.]
Again, the surveys of children in custody by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons and the Youth Justice Board show the difficulties that many of these children have. A survey found that about 30% of boys and 60% of girls had spent time in local authority care; 12% of girls had an alcohol problem on arrival and 41% had a drugs problem; and 19% of boys had an emotional or mental health problem. It is naive at best to think that these children can be educated in a secure college without
The Government say that support will be available, but I have yet to see the details of that support, the qualifications that staff will need to deliver it, or any guarantee that it will actually be available. Those hugely important details need to be made public and to be put in statute. That is why amendment 61 includes a requirement that secure college counsellors hold appropriate accreditation. Including the qualifications that staff will require in statute can in no way be said to fetter flexibility. Including qualifications in statute does not demand that certain staff are employed. It merely demands that if they are to be employed, they must have appropriate qualifications.
The importance of having qualified staff cannot be overstated. Staff in YOIs are not qualified to work with children, let alone the troubled young people they oversee. It is telling that the Government’s “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation response says that, in the future, staff recruited to YOIs will be required to show an interest in working with young people. I am very pleased that that change is being made. However, it is telling that even that basic requirement—an interest in young people—has not been required of YOI staff before now.
I believe that the lack of qualified staff in YOIs contributes to the dangerous atmosphere and high levels of restraint that we see in them. Some children in custody are undoubtedly difficult. Trained staff who understand and know how to respond to difficult behaviour can de-escalate situations far more effectively and are less likely to have to resort to restraint. In contrast to the situation in YOIs, staff in secure children’s homes are qualified, and children report far more positive experiences of detention in secure children’s homes.
All in all, the details of the qualifications that staff must possess are necessary for Parliament to have any hope of understanding how a secure college would work in practice. More important, having qualified staff is vital to children’s safety and well-being and is a prerequisite if we really want the complex issues of children in custody to be addressed and for them to have a chance of a decent education. How can anyone argue that children detained in secure colleges should not be taught by qualified teachers, nursed by qualified nurses, or counselled by qualified counsellors? Anyone who genuinely cares about children in custody and anyone who wants to see secure colleges have a chance of success should want the details of the qualifications required of staff to be included in the Bill.
Guy Opperman: I realise that many hon. Members want to move on, but I have to respond to the points made. With great respect, I strongly disagree with the amendment. Its outward purpose is entirely laudable, but the large numbers of unqualified staff who do a fantastic job in prisons would be excluded from providing the assistance that they currently provide.
Sarah Champion: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but there is no precedent for this—no parallel. There is no large-scale children’s prison where the model that he purports to support is in operation, so how can he prove to us that the model of having one offender supporting another is the way forward, rather than having qualified teachers, which is a tried and tested approach?
Guy Opperman: The hon. Lady’s point would be stronger were it not for organisations such as the Shannon Trust, the St Giles Trust and A4E, for example, which provide, through the offender learning and skills service programme, some of the educational service in prisons. They do so for adults, but there is no reason they could not apply similar purposes in an alternative institution. Successive Governments have shied away from saying this, because they are scared of the Daily Mail, but it is perfectly acceptable to take ex-offenders, who are, I can assure the hon. Lady, probably the best trainers and teachers, into prisons and use them to change the way prisoners behave, because the person prisoners listen to by far the most is an ex-offender. I can assure the hon. Lady of that, having been to 50 prisons over the past 20 years.
Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): I absolutely see that there is a place for ex-offenders in changing behaviour, but this proposal is about education. I do not know how often the hon. Gentleman has attempted to teach children and young people, particularly difficult children and young people, but I can assure him of the vital importance of training and qualifications for the teachers who work with the hardest young people. Does he not see the contradiction in what he says? Of course, use ex-offenders to modify behaviour, but teaching academic skills—reading and writing—needs to be done by a qualified, trained person.
Guy Opperman: I am afraid we will have to disagree on that point. There are plenty of examples up and down the country of custodial institutions where non-trained personnel provide fantastic services, and successive Governments have tried to introduce more such people. The problem in most prisons is not that there are not teachers there, but that the take-up by individual prisoners of the education classes is so low. There are all manner of reasons for that, but the most successful take-up in my experience has been when, for example, ex-offenders are involved, rather than a qualified teacher. That is because the clientele that the individual educator is dealing with is so massively different from that in the normal situation in a school. So we are going to disagree, I regret to say. I could make an equally eloquent—
Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): I will try to be brief. The Minister must have got the message by now that we are a little sceptical about the ability to achieve the educational part of the aim. That is not to say that it does not need to be addressed. The briefings we have had, as the Minister will know, show that in YOIs at the moment there is an average of 12 hours’ education a week. Some of the briefings were quite graphic. The Prisoners Education Trust quoted the governor of a YOI, who said:
The Government have our support in what they aim to do, but the secure college is being described already as Europe’s largest children’s prison and mention is being made of a contrast and conflict between what secure children’s home and small institutions achieve at the moment over what large institutions achieve in terms of education. It is for the Government to demonstrate that this model could succeed, although that is not to doubt the intent. The “Unlocking Potential” blog said,
Our other concern is reflected in sub-sub-paragraphs (b) and (c): education is only part of the equation. Education must complement and be integrated with psychological well-being—looking at the whole offender, as it were. Again, the Prisoners Education Trust says, not just in relation to children diagnosed with mental health problems:
“We…agree that Secure Colleges should have access to a range of specialist services including speech and language therapists; psychiatrists; psychologists; bereavement support; learning difficulties staff; art/music and drama therapists and substance misuse workers.”
To deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Hexham, in a way we are arguing over nothing here, because I suspect that he can see the advantage of having professional staff, just as we can see the advantage of having the practical skills of ex-offenders. This is not new. I visited my local probation service a couple of weeks ago and saw the integration there: they make positive and widespread use of ex-offenders, and I have no doubt that that will done inside institutions in the future. However, it has to be structured. Ex-offenders may have a number of ways of accessing and engaging with current offenders and they will have their own particular skills, but that cannot be done without some structure and some level of professional expertise.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham will press the amendment to a vote; in a sense, that is academic. This is an academic argument about the need to have a degree of professional expertise built in. However, on reading the schedule, the impression that one gets is that this is primarily a correctional facility, not in the sense of correcting and improving behaviour or education levels, but, again, primarily—this comes partly out of the philosophy of the current Lord Chancellor—about achievement and redemption through good works. There may be merit in that, but there also has to be a formula.
Julie Hilling: Does my hon. Friend agree that all the statistics tell us that the level of language skills, literacy and numeracy of children and young people who end up in the penal system—and, indeed, adult prisoners—is absolutely appalling and that changing that is not just about having somebody who can engage them in learning, but about having somebody who has the skills to teach
Mr Slaughter: I think that is right. None of the Opposition members of the Committee are bleeding hearts—remember that we are talking about people who, on the whole, have committed very serious offences—but the Government’s whole rationale is posited on the basis that this policy will lead to an improvement in outcomes for the individual, and therefore an improvement for society when they are released. However, unless there is investment not only of the right level but the right type, that will not be achieved.
I hope that the Minister will not only address the education issue, but look at it in the context of treating the whole person. Whether we are talking about care leavers—unfortunately, there is a big crossover between children who have been in care and those who are in the prison system—or people who come from troubled or damaged families, we are starting from a very low base in terms of trying to engage many of these young people in education or simply in building some sort of societal relationship, and it will take rather more than is indicated in the schedule. There is a lot more to come—I suspect that there are a lot of regulations to come as well, as there always are. Inevitably, in these debates we are running blind because we do not know the detail. The Minister was at least honest enough to admit that a lot more flesh needs to be put on the bone of secure colleges. But in so far as we are getting a picture of what the institution will be like, it is not persuasive at present.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Jeremy Wright): It has been, as ever, an interesting debate and I want to pick up on as much of it as I can. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Rotherham: I, too, want secure colleges to provide high standards of service and deliver better outcomes for young people, and I accept that high-quality staff will be crucial to that.
The Government’s response to the “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation indicated that high-quality teaching will be at the heart of the secure college. The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East made reference to that consultation. He has probably not had a chance to see too many of these consultations in his short time in the House, but I can tell him that there have been quite a few consultations in the past that have not really been worthy of the name: they have set out a predetermined path towards something very specific, asked people what they thought and then ignored them completely. We tried to take a different attitude with this consultation, and the reason it had open questions and some genuine interest in what people had to say to us was that we were interested in a new approach, and if you ask open questions, you hope that people will bring you new ideas. That was very much what we had in the course of that consultation.
The purpose of the education provided in secure colleges will be to improve the educational engagement and attainment of young offenders as well as provide them with the skills, motivation and self-confidence necessary to help them lead law-abiding lives in the
Let me start with health care provision. NHS England commissions health services for the whole of the youth estate in England; it does so in line with the intercollegiate health care standards for children and young people in secure settings, led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. That requires that health care professionals are registered with the relevant professional body. NHS England also has an expectation that all health care providers to the youth estate be registered with the Care Quality Commission, which will be responsible for the inspection of those services. I hope that is reassuring.
On counselling and psychotherapy provision, as the hon. Member for Rotherham knows, there are different ways in which such services are provided in the secure estate, such as through the support of social workers or psychologists. We would want to retain the flexibility to provide that support in a variety of ways, but I accept that, where appropriate, relevant qualifications would be needed.
Our approach to staffing in secure colleges will reflect the Government’s approach to education in England. I am conscious, Sir Roger, that you would not wish us to rehash the entire argument on free schools this afternoon, so I will not do so, but as with free schools it will be for education providers to determine how best the educational engagement and attainment of young people in a secure college can be raised. Since July 2012, mainstream and alternative provision academies can employ teaching staff without the automatic requirement for them to have qualified teacher status. We believe it is right to take the same approach with secure colleges by focusing on the educational outcomes that an establishment achieves, rather than the qualifications of the staff that it employs.
The hon. Member for Barnsley Central asked a number of questions. He referred to what is and is not covered by the schedule under the heading “custodial officers,” and he will appreciate that custodial staff are not necessarily the same as teaching staff, so one would not expect to find reference to teaching qualifications in that part of the schedule. He also referred to the principal’s role, and I agree that the leadership of these institutions will be crucial. He will understand that it is simply too early in the process for us to start giving detail on who exactly a principal might be, or on some of his other points. We are interested in people proposing innovative solutions for delivering services, which might be different from the services that we have now, and we will assess those proposals not just on how attractive they seem but on the quality they will provide. Because I am interested in hearing from people with new ideas, it is difficult for me to give the specificity for which the hon. Gentleman asks.
The hon. Member for Barnsley Central also asked how much can realistically be taught to people who spend a short time in custody. We spoke about that this morning, and I agree that it is a concern. It is something that all providers will have to address, and a large part of the answer to his question is the continuity of provision that follows what may be a relatively short period in custody, but I will not go through all that again.
The hon. Gentleman’s last point is good and interesting. He is right to ask about the potential disruption of whatever number of hours we specify should be provided within a secure college, which is something that already concerns me about the existing provision in YOIs. I spent some of my time engaging with the timetable at YOIs—I did not expect to reach that level of detail—to work out exactly what should happen on a given morning or afternoon precisely because, as he says, there is always a danger of there being too many reasons to take someone out of education within a custodial setting and too many excuses for someone not being there. That person therefore might not get in front of an education provider to enable that provider to do their best with them. We need to address that, and we are. The approach will be different in the new contracts for education in YOIs, which we are negotiating this year.
In practical terms, it is likely that an operator of a secure college will recruit a number of qualified teachers. I return the compliment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon, who has an enviable track record of campaigning on such matters and a great knowledge of the subject. Special educational needs co-ordinators in free schools, as he already knows, are required to hold QTS, which will also apply to secure colleges—he has that reassurance. He is right to speak about the prevalence of special educational needs, communication problems and acquired brain injuries, and we are conscious of all those things. We will look for secure college providers to persuade us that they will also take them into account and provide the necessary support.
Julie Hilling: Has the Minister also borne in mind any request about ratios? Having previously been a governor in an emotional and behavioural difficulties school, where the ratio was one teacher to five pupils in a class with lots of classroom support, I wonder whether he has considered issuing guidelines about staffing ratios.
Jeremy Wright: We would require all providers to explain to us how they would address the point that the hon. Lady makes, because I accept that the approach they will need to take to young people with special educational needs will be different in a number of ways, and it may be that staff ratios is one of them. I can assure her and my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon that we will expect providers to offer considerable reassurance that they are prepared to take the necessary measures in relation to this significant section of the relevant population.
My hon. Friend asked what we can expect of secure colleges in relation to special educational needs. We will expect them to make a proper assessment of the educational
Going back to the Children and Families Act 2014, as my hon. Friend knows, there is now clarity as to what someone arriving with an education, health and care plan should expect. We also make it clear that if someone needs an assessment while they are in custody, it can begin with the engagement of the home local authority during that period of custody; it is important not to waste that time.
On my hon. Friend’s final point about how to ensure that we have adequate provision, again, that is connected to inspection. We want Ofsted to engage in the process of inspecting secure colleges, and we would expect it to be interested in special educational needs specifically, as I am sure it will be. In addition, a secure college operator may well decide that a number of teachers with QTS are required if it is successfully to deliver on its contractual obligations. As I have made clear in the past, there will also be contractual obligations for an operator to provide the proper degree of service.
However, the important point is that I want secure college operators to have the freedom to deliver innovative education provision that is imaginative and stimulating for young people, and for them to decide whom they want to recruit to achieve that. In some cases, engaging and effective education may be delivered by individuals without a teaching qualification, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham said. The experience and aptitude of staff working with this challenging cohort of young people is perhaps more important than their qualifications.
Finally, I want again to make it clear that operators’ performance will be subject to a robust monitoring framework, which will assess both the quality and effectiveness of the teaching and support provided. As I have said before, the Bill places a duty on Ofsted to have a formal role in inspecting secure colleges, precisely so that the quality of teaching can be closely monitored.
Sarah Champion: I have really appreciated this debate and Members’ contributions to it. It has shown that there is cross-party concern that we should give the best education, training and support to these young people, so that they have the strongest chance of a productive future when they come out.
I listened closely to the Minister and he has given me a lot of reassurance, particularly about Ofsted and special educational needs. I would be completely reassured if I thought that this prison was to be run only by the state. My anxiety, and the reason why I may in future want to probe further on this issue, is that it might be put in the hands of a private provider. As a result, costs and profits would become an issue, which would make me terribly nervous.
Jeremy Wright: Let me offer the hon. Lady a little more reassurance. All that I have said about contractual obligations, inspection and our expectations about special educational needs would apply to a private sector provider, just as it would to a state sector provider.
Mr Slaughter: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is slightly more than the question of contract management? There is also the question of ethos. To judge by my experience in dealing with Wormwood Scrubs, it is quite an ask to get people to work in health, counselling or education in prisons. It is sometimes a thankless and unrewarding job. I found that people with many years’ service left when A4E took over from a further education college, or when private health care came in rather than the NHS, so I think that there is a danger per se in the changes that the Minister is seeking.
Sarah Champion: I agree and completely support that position. I have faith in the Minister, and I know that he is driven by the right reasons: he wants to give those young people support and a positive future. I will withdraw the amendment, but I reserve the right to return to the issue, because I still have concerns. I know that the Minister will not change his position on the giant prison, but I am reassured at the moment that he is seriously considering the best way to give those children the best education. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
(e) to assess and promote their best interests.’.
The amendment stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith. We tabled it in order to debate wider health and well-being provision for young people who will be accommodated with the secure college.
Amendment 34 would insert assessing and promoting the best interests of young people into the list of duties for a secure college custody officer, as listed in schedule 4(8). We do not intend to force it to a vote to be included within the Bill, but we feel that it is important to discuss this issue specifically. Education is, of course, vital and a central part of rehabilitation, but provision for children also needs to take into account mental health needs, learning disabilities, addictions and childhood abuse and neglect.
Properly to convey the point I am attempting to make, let me spend a brief moment reflecting on a report published by the Prison Reform Trust in 2010, “Punishing Disadvantage”. The report was based on a census of all children—approximately 6,000 in total—who received custodial sentences or remands in the second half of 2008. It also carried out more detailed examination of the backgrounds of 300 of those children. The findings reveal the multiple layers of complex disadvantage that characterise the backgrounds of the majority of young people in custody. They include mental health problems, learning disabilities, problems with drugs and alcohol and family breakdown.
At least three quarters of the sample had absent fathers, and a third had absent mothers. Half lived in a deprived household and/or unsuitable accommodation. Just under half had run away or absconded at some
That illustrates the full scale of the challenges that secure colleges will need to tackle in order to deliver for the young people whom they will accommodate. Further studies have also shown that more than 60% of children who offend have communication difficulties. One study showed that about a quarter of child offenders have an IQ of less than 70. In evidence provided to the Committee, the deputy Children’s Commissioner said that “about 60%” of children in custody
“have learning difficulties or disabilities, and there are high numbers with attachment disorders or attachment difficulties. Something in the region of about 45% have acquired brain injuries. Speech and language disorders are at around the 60% mark. We are talking about a range of different problems—some neurological, some acquired or developmental—but they all need to be addressed.”
The point that I am trying to make was perhaps best summed up by Professor Davies of Civitas and the university of West London law school, from whom we heard in evidence. He said that he understood the importance of education in the criminal justice system, but he cautioned against the idea that there is one solution to all the problems. I am sure that all members of the Committee would agree. As things stand, we still have scant detail about the health and well-being provision that will be available in the secure college; nor is it clear how or by whom the services will be provided.
I am sure that the Minister will understand our concern and our desire for progress. We need to know what provision will be available, but the Committee is also entitled to know by whom it will be provided, whether they will be trained specialists, and what level of qualification will be appropriate.
The Government’s response to the “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation claims that secure colleges will be able to provide the intensive services needed by children who are sent to custody. However, the Government have also said that places in secure college will be provided at below the current average cost for a place in youth custody. In a written parliamentary answer to me on 28 February, the Minister said:
“The current average cost of a place in youth custody is around £100,000 per annum. Secure colleges will achieve ongoing savings by operating at a significantly lower cost per place than the current average”—[Official Report, 28 February 2014; Vol. 576, c. 556W.]
You will forgive me, Sir Roger, if I conclude that that sounds a bit too good to be true. For instance, the additional costs of providing the high level of specialist care in secure children’s homes brings the annual cost to well over £200,000 a place. That makes it difficult for the Minister to claim realistically, without providing any real detail to the Committee, that the Government will match that level of provision at lower cost. It is difficult to see how the services will be delivered while costs are cut. I hope that the Minister will explain how it will be possible.
I want briefly to raise the issue of the secure settings standards that have been pioneered by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and other child health experts. Those standards are designed to ensure that not
I look forward to the Minister’s response. As I said, we do not plan to press the amendment to a vote, but the Committee will expect—and deserves—more detail on how secure colleges will tackle the problems I have raised.
Sarah Champion: We all know that children in custody are particularly vulnerable. A disproportionate number have complex needs arising from drug and alcohol problems, family breakdown, mental health problems, learning disabilities and a history of violence and abuse. The primary obligation of the state is to care for those children and help them to change their life. To support the rehabilitation and care of children in custody, it is necessary for each child’s needs to be assessed and met through services such as specialist drug and alcohol services, help from physical and mental health professionals, family breakdown support and speech and language therapy.
The Government have suggested that that will happen, but there is nothing in the Bill to provide for it, and given that the objective behind secure colleges is to save costs, it is unclear how it will be achieved. Under the provisions, custody officers are under a strong obligation to prevent offending and ensure good order, but under a weak obligation, which does not go far enough, to “attend to” a child’s “well-being”. The state is bound by the UN convention on the rights of the child. Article 3 says that in all decisions affecting him or her, the child’s best interests should be a primary consideration. Custody officers in secure colleges must be required to assess and promote each child’s best interests while they are in custody. This is both a legal obligation—the UNCRC is legally binding on the state—and necessary in order to ensure that children are safe, their needs are met and their rights are respected.
“ensure that the child's best interests are appropriately integrated and consistently applied in every action taken by a public institution, especially in all implementation measures, administrative and judicial proceedings which directly or indirectly impact on children”.
“ensure that the interests of the child have been assessed and taken as a primary consideration in decisions and actions taken by the private sector, including those providing services, or any other private entity or institution making decisions that concern or impact on a child”.
“ensure that the requirement to consider the child's best interests is reflected and implemented in all national laws and regulations, provincial or territorial legislation, rules governing the operation of private or public institutions providing services or impacting on children, and judicial and administrative proceedings at any level, both as a substantive right and as a rule of procedure”.
“The best interests of a child in a specific situation of vulnerability will not be the same as those of all the children in the same vulnerable situation. Authorities and decision-makers need to take into account the different kinds and degrees of vulnerability of each child, as each child is unique and each situation must be assessed according to the child’s uniqueness. An individualised assessment of each child’s history from birth should be carried out, with regular reviews by a multidisciplinary team and recommended reasonable accommodation throughout the child’s development process”.
“In all decisions taken within the context of the administration of juvenile justice, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration. Children differ from adults in their physical and psychological development, and their emotional and educational needs. Such differences constitute the basis for the lesser culpability of children in conflict with the law. These and other differences are the reasons for a separate juvenile justice system and require a different treatment for children. The protection of the best interests of the child means, for instance, that the traditional objectives of criminal justice, such as repression/retribution, must give way to rehabilitation and restorative justice objectives in dealing with child offenders. This can be done in concert with attention to effective public safety”.
Jeremy Wright: I entirely understand why the Opposition Members who have spoken are interested in this matter. The issue for us in the context of this amendment is whether there is a material difference between what is in the Bill and what the amendment of the hon. Member for Barnsley Central would insert. As has been said, paragraph 8 of schedule 4 sets out the duties of a custody officer in a secure college, and one of them is to attend to the well-being of a detained person. The hon. Gentleman would add to that:
We are all clearly in agreement that custody officers must have a full and proper regard to the well-being of young people in custody. I interpret “well-being” as relating at least to the health—mental and physical—of young people, and custody officers have a responsibility to ensure that young people are cared for in accommodation facilities that are of an appropriate standard. I further suggest—this is on the point made by the hon. Member for Rotherham—that attending to well-being requires a proper assessment of the young person’s welfare needs to be conducted; that happens currently when a young person enters custody, and would happen in a secure college. It is also fair to suggest that attending to a young person’s well-being implies treating them decently and addressing any reasonable concerns that they might have.
To pick up the question the hon. Member for Barnsley Central asked, I referred earlier to the inter-collegiate health care standards for children and young people in
Jeremy Wright: I think we are into a close textual analysis. I am not sure the hon. Lady is right. I listened carefully to what she said, and to the hon. Member for Barnsley Central. I entirely understand the concerns they expressed, but having listened carefully, I am not persuaded that there is a sufficiently material difference between what is in the Bill and what they wish to add to it for it to be appropriate for me to concede to their amendment. I accept that the hon. Gentleman made it clear that the amendment is probing. I am grateful for the opportunity to provide a little more clarity.
Dan Jarvis: The amendment was tabled in good faith. I am satisfied that it has helped to facilitate a useful debate on the health and well-being of young people in custody. The scale of the challenge is clear, and I do not think anyone on the Committee is in doubt about that. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable children in our society. As I outlined earlier, they often have absent fathers and absent mothers; many come from deprived households or have lived in unsuitable accommodation; and many will have run away at some point. More than a quarter of those children will have witnessed domestic violence. Many will have been in care. A significant proportion will have attempted suicide, and 20% or more will have self-harmed. A significant proportion will have been affected by bereavement. Given that context, the Committee will understand why we sought to debate this important issue. However, as I indicated, I do not intend to press the amendment to a Division, but I hope that the Minister will reflect carefully on today’s debate, and the debate during the evidence sessions. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
‘a young person poses an imminent threat of injury to himself or others, and only when all other means of control have been exhausted.’.
The amendment is in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith. When secure colleges were announced by the Secretary of State, he said that they would have “a different atmosphere” from other youth detention facilities, and that they would be much more like
Let me start with the basics. In the conclusion of the Second Reading debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith raised the concern that the Bill could be interpreted as allowing the use of force for the exercise of good order and discipline. I remember the
Jeremy Wright: If I had made a sedentary intervention, and it is most unusual for me to do so, I am sure I would not have said that. I probably would have pointed out, and the hon. Gentleman might be about to come on to this, that the Bill does not in itself authorise the use of force for good order and discipline. The paragraph to which he refers sets out the duties of a secure college custody officer. Paragraph 10 says:
The point is that paragraph 8, listing the duties of a custodial officer, does not give authority to use force for good order and discipline. That can be done only if that authority is specifically given by secure college rules.
Dan Jarvis: I am grateful to the Minister. If he says that he did not say the things I attributed to him, I do not doubt that he is right. It seems clear, though, that there is some confusion on this point. By tabling the amendment, I hope to get clarity.
Mr Slaughter: The Minister has alarmed me rather more with his response, in which he said that this point is not to be clarified today or in the Bill, but will be dealt with under rules. In my speech, I said how regrettable that was in general, but here it is particularly regrettable. I hope that, when he responds, he can give some more clarity, and either say what the rules will state on this subject or change his mind about where this point will be defined.
Dan Jarvis: I think the best way to proceed is for me to continue and then for the Minister to respond. I hope that, if we continue in that way, some progress will be made and clarity established. That is, in essence, the point of this debate.
Before the intervention, I was drawing the Committee’s attention to paragraph 8, which lists the duties of a secure college custody officer. The Minister made remarks at that point that I am sure were designed to clarify the situation. Paragraph 10 clearly states that subject to
The Opposition fully accept that there will be the occasional need to use reasonable force in custody. The Minister and I have both visited youth custody environments and seen that there is likely to be the need for that requirement to maintain good order in certain circumstances. As has been mentioned, prison inspectors have described the population of youth custody institutions as a group of “very unhappy young people”. I do not dispute that there will be times when custody officers need to use reasonable force to resolve challenging situations, but we should be mindful of situations where a young person presents a threat of harming not only other people, but themselves.
I hope that the Minister will acknowledge the concerns raised that the Bill could be interpreted as allowing the use of reasonable force in maintaining good order and discipline. If it were interpreted in that way, that might be unlawful in light of a ruling by the Court of Appeal in 2008, which found that attempts to allow staff in secure training centres to use force to ensure good order and discipline violated the European convention on human rights. That uncertainly is exacerbated by the Government not having yet presented the draft secure college rules for parliamentary scrutiny.
Paragraph 10 allows the use of reasonable force only if there is authorisation under secure college rules, but we do not yet know what those rules will or will not authorise, or when they will be published. We put that to the Minister recently in a parliamentary question and, unfortunately, he could not provide me with a date on which the rules would be published. I am mindful of his earlier comments about the extent to which it could be reasonably expected to have that detail, but I would be grateful if he gave an indication of when the Committee might reasonably expect to have sight of those rules.
It would also help if the Minister assuaged the concerns raised by a great number of organisations in our evidence sessions. Let me briefly remind the Committee of some of the words used to describe this measure by the experts presented to us, in particular Justice, the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England. They said that the measure was
“against the intentions of the introduction of a facility where learning, vocational training and life skills will be the central pillar of a regime focused on educating and rehabilitating young offenders”,
As I have said, I appreciate that this is not a black and white issue. There are shades of grey here. Our amendment seeks to provide clarity by removing the wording in paragraph 10, which links the use of reasonable force to good order and discipline. It replaces it with wording taken from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on children’s rights and juvenile justice. The committee said:
“The use of restraint or force, including physical, mechanical and medical restraint should be under close and direct control of a medical and/or psychological professional. It must never be used as a means of punishment.”
This is what our amendment seeks to insert into the Bill. Whatever the Minister thinks of the wording, the measure is an improvement on what can best be described as the ambiguous wording in the Bill. It is understandable why many people could be confused by linking a reference to reasonable force with a mention of good order and discipline on the part of a custody officer. If the Minister will not accept our amendment, perhaps he will consider bringing forward his own amendment to clear up this matter.
The current independent review of deaths of young people in custody is a reminder to us all of the importance of this issue. We should be mindful of cases like Adam Rickwood’s, a 14-year-old young man who hung himself at Hassockfield secure training centre in 2004. He had been subjected to a nose distraction not long before he decided to take his life. His mother, Carol, spoke to the Select Committee on Justice in its youth justice inquiry not long ago. She told the Committee that the second inquest into his death, held in 2011, concluded that the incident would have had a big impact on Adam’s mental health. He would have felt frightened and vulnerable. It stated that the restraint on Adam played a big part in Adam taking his life.
That is not an isolated example. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner published evidence in 2011 that showed a tendency across youth custody to focus on physical controls rather than relationships to manage risk and deal with challenging behaviour.
It is important that we get this right. The use of reasonable force on young offenders in custody is necessary sometimes, but it needs to be treated with the utmost care and attention. It would be a tragedy if vague wording was allowed to slip through in Committee, and led to consequences later. I would therefore be grateful for any clarity that the Minister could provide. I hope that he will see that we have tabled this amendment in good faith to resolve the confusion about the wording of this part of the Bill.
Sarah Champion: The Bill allows force to be used in secure colleges for the preservation of good order and discipline. There is no question in my mind that that should be removed. The amendment removes the use of restraint to preserve good order and discipline in secure colleges and sets out very precisely the limited circumstances in which restraint could be used. To allow restraint to preserve good order and discipline—I love the acronym GOAD—is to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past and is likely to be illegal. The use of force on children is inherently dangerous. It can lead to hospitalisation, broken bones, and tragically has been linked to the deaths of children in custody.
I will talk briefly about two such cases, because I think it is important that the Committee thinks about the reality of what restraint means in practice and what the consequences can be. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central spoke a little about Adam Rickwood. I would like to go into slightly more detail about the nature of his death. Adam died in Hassockfield secure training centre in August 2004. Several hours before his death he was restrained by the nose distraction technique. This involves hitting a child in the nose deliberately to cause them pain and give them a nose bleed. Adam had argued with a female member of staff in the association area and was lifted by four officers, one taking each limb, and placed face down in his room. The inquest was told that, on the way, an officer had used the nose distraction technique to stop the boy biting him. His nose bled afterwards and he was left alone in his room to calm down. Adam killed himself later that evening. The jury at his inquest also found that Adam was unlawfully restrained and hurt in a way that contributed to his taking his own life.
Another tragic example is that of Gareth Myatt, who died in Rainsbrook secure training college in April 2004. He was 14, only 4 feet 10 inches tall, and weighed 6½
Restraint is inherently violent. Many children in custody will have histories of violence and abuse and are likely to find the use of force particularly distressing. As the use of force is inherently dangerous and inherently violent, it should be used only when absolutely necessary. If the amendment is agreed to, staff would still be able to use force when there is any danger to either the child or staff. We are comfortable with that. If there was a fight or a child threatened a member of staff, force could still be used. What would be prohibited is using force to ensure good behaviour, such as making a child tidy up, as in Gareth’s case. The Government may say that allowing restraint to be used to maintain good order and discipline will not lead to children being restrained for trivial matters or for failing do as they are told, but that has been the case in the past. Good order and discipline is so wide that it allows for restraint to be used in almost any circumstance.
“Permitting restraint for the purposes of ‘ensuring good order and discipline’ is imprecise and may lead to individual custody officers restraining children or young people for failing to comply with an order such as to tidy up, attend class or go to bed, construing their action as a threat to ‘good order and discipline’.”
That is hugely important in the current debate. In its legal judgment, the court quashed the secure training centre rules that allowed the use of force to maintain
As force is both dangerous and unnecessary to maintain GOAD, the courts found that using force to maintain good order and discipline amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment and breached children’s human rights. On that basis, the secure training centre rules were quashed. The judge explained:
“I have no hesitation in saying that any system that involves physical intervention against another’s will, and carries the threat of the sort of outcome identified by the prison service manual, is in any normal understanding of language degrading and an infringement of human dignity”,
“To say that the system ‘engages’ article 3 is not the end of the matter. The conduct may be such as in principle to engage article 3, but not involve an actual breach of article 3 because PCC is necessary, for instance...to prevent injury to the trainee or others. The issue therefore is whether the Secretary of State can establish that PCC is necessary in the case of GOAD. For the reasons set out...he cannot do so. The Amendment Rules are accordingly in breach of article 3, and must be quashed on that ground.”
Restraining children to maintain GOAD would be just as dangerous in 2014 as it was in 2008. There is nothing to make it more necessary now than it was then. It would therefore surely be illegal on the same grounds that restraint for GOAD in secure training centres was found to be illegal in 2008. If the Minister has some good reason as to why the use of force is necessary now when it was not in 2008, I look forward to his explanation.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee against Torture have told the Government to ensure that children are restrained only when someone is in danger. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Obviously, that does not include maintaining good order and discipline. The Government have been keen to stress that secure colleges are going to be as much like a school as possible, but schools would never be allowed to use force in such trivial circumstances. As I have said, GOAD can and has included trivial circumstances.
We should also consider the impact of allowing force for GOAD on the general culture in secure colleges. The Government’s ambition to emulate the culture of a school will be severely undermined if restraint becomes part of the culture. That is a significant danger of allowing it to be used widely. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights said in its inquiry on restraint:
The Government may argue that the secure college rules will prohibit the use of restraint for GOAD, yet if there is no intention that the dangerous and unlawful practice should be allowed, it should be prohibited under the Bill. The secure college rules are yet to be
Even if we could guarantee that the secure college rules would prevent restraint for GOAD, the solution is still unsatisfactory and dangerous. If the primary legislation suggests that the use of force is permitted for good order and discipline while the secure college rules say that it is prohibited, there will be confusion. That has happened in the past and has led to the illegal use of restraint. In a 2012 judgment, a court found that there had been confusion among staff when primary legislation appeared to allow the use of restraint for GOAD while secondary legislation prohibited it. The judge found that there was “confused thinking” about what was permitted and that, as a result:
“It is also a legitimate comment that until the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, and the investigations and inquiries that resulted from those deaths, none of the agencies in place to monitor what took place within an STC had identified and/or acted to stop the unlawful nature of what was happening”.
We cannot risk the same thing happening in secure colleges. Statute must be absolutely clear on the circumstances in which restraint is permitted. I am interested in why the Government have decided to leave open the issue of restraint to maintain GOAD in such a way. I hope that that is not because private providers have said that if they are to run the Government’s secure colleges on low budgets and therefore a low staff-to-child ratio, they will need to use force to maintain GOAD for the institutions to be viable. If that were the case, it would be shameful. The Government would be basing their decision on cost and the convenience of private providers, rather than on what would ensure that the children were safe and kept alive.
I am also very concerned about the use of force to inflict pain on a child deliberately. So-called distraction techniques, such as breaking their nose, are brutal and violent. They are also deeply damaging. As I said, Adam Rickwood killed himself following the use of a painful nose distraction technique that has now been banned. What are we saying to these often troubled children when we bring them into custody and therefore into the care of the state and then deliberately inflict pain on them to secure compliance? We are teaching them that violence is a route to getting your own way.
“The idea that you should be allowed to use substantial force and pain as an instrument is quite wrong. Would you use pain to train a dog or horse? Why should you use pain to train a child?”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 July 2007; Vol. 694, c. 301.]
I agree. Deliberately inflicting pain on a child is quite wrong, and I hope that it will not be permitted in the secure colleges. I hope that the Minister will tell us his thoughts on that and that he will confirm that the dangerous and illegal provisions to allow the use of force for good order and discipline will be removed from the Bill.
Mr Slaughter: I have only three brief points. First, I want to pick up the point about the vagueness of the requirement. The Minister may be able to assist us with that today. It has caused great concern, as we heard during the evidence sessions. To quote not from them but from elsewhere, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform has said:
“This scandalous proposal to allow prison officers to restrain children violently, simply if they don’t follow orders, turns back the clock to a deadly time for children in prison. Court rulings have made clear that restraining a child for ‘good order and discipline’ is illegal and inquests into the deaths of children have shown that such violent practices contributed to their deaths. We trust that such a dangerous proposal will be challenged in Parliament and, if needs be, in the courts.”
It is important to look at the history of rules on restraint. Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, when the rules regarding secure training centres were introduced, we had a similar problem to the one that we have now. We see what appears to be an intention in statute, but we will not know what is going to be the case until we have the rules. What happened previously was that the secure training centre rules were introduced by secondary legislation, as will be the case here. The rules did the opposite of the primary legislation and prohibited the use of force for disciplinary reasons. When the Government tried to change the rules to allow restraint for good order and discipline, the Court of Appeal struck them down as unlawful in the light of article 3 of the ECHR. We could be in that exact situation again if that is what the Government intend for these rules. We could well have a situation in which the courts judge whether the rules are lawful.
Jeremy Wright: I will try to provide the clarity that the hon. Gentleman and others have asked for when I reply to the debate, but to reassure the hon. Gentleman on the specific point whether the situation as he is describing might arise in this case, I put it to him that it cannot. It cannot because for the secure college custody officer to be able to use force in the execution of custodial duties set out in paragraph 8 of the schedule, that force must be specifically authorised by secure college rules. There cannot be in this instance the conflict between primary and secondary legislation that the hon. Gentleman describes.
That sounds positive. That was exactly the intention our intention in drafting the amendment. I hear what the Minister says about the Government’s intention. I look forward to his response and hope that he will be a little bit clearer about how we are not going to get ourselves into the double bind, as we did previously. However, the impetus at the moment seems to be in favour of restraint.
We have had interesting debates in the main Chamber about stop and search and, although we appeared to be heading in the right direction, that seems to have been stopped at the level of the Prime Minister, no less. I saw a letter in The Guardian yesterday about the Metropolitan police strip searching young people—4,500 in the past five years—which the Met describes as proportionate and appropriate. There seems to be a continued, if not growing, willingness for physical restraint and intervention to be used with young people. Certainly, some of the language and rhetoric coming out of the Government suggests that that is so.
If the Minister is not of that view and believes that the rules, when they are drawn up here, will constrain correctional officers in the way that the Court of Appeal has previously judged should be so, I cannot understand why he would not adopt the amendment.
Jeremy Wright: I am grateful for the way in which the hon. Member for Barnsley Central presented the amendment and for how other Committee members have spoken about it. Of course, I recognise that this issue attracted significant attention on Second Reading and in the evidence sessions. First, let me mention the effect of the amendment. I shall then explain a little more about our intentions in respect of the use of force and, I hope, give the clarity that the Opposition Members have rightly asked for.
The amendment would restrict the circumstances in which custody officers use force solely to those situations where a young person poses an imminent threat to himself or others. Imminent threat of harm would certainly be a justifiable reason for using force where necessary, but we do not consider it to be the only reason. Other reasons, as set out in the Bill, would be, for example, to prevent an escape from custody or prevent unlawful acts. The amendment would exclude the possibility of force being used for those reasons and thus be too limiting in situations where force may be necessary. I agree that force falls to be used once other options have been exhausted, but that principle is covered by the current wording of the clause that force may only be use “where necessary”.
The issue of good order and discipline is at the root of the amendment and hon. Members’ concerns. A custody officer’s duties include maintaining good order and discipline, as set out in the Bill, but the provisions will not by themselves allow custody officers to use force for that purpose. That would not be possible unless specific provision were made in secure college rules. Rules are the correct place to set out the precise boundaries on the use of force. However, we recognise the importance of the issue, so I want to be clearer about our intentions ahead of developing the rules.
I recognise that “good order and discipline” is too broad in this context. I do not propose to change “good order and discipline” in the Bill—it is a phrase that is found in several pieces of legislation and is familiar to settings outside custody, including schools; and, more importantly, it should clearly be one of the duties of a custody officer—but let me be clearer about the circumstances in which we think force may be appropriate.
First, using force is not about discipline as a form of punishment or getting a young person merely to follow an instruction. We have always been clear that force must not be used merely to secure compliance with an order. Our position is that, in limited circumstances in which all attempts at resolving a situation without resorting to force have failed and where a young person’s behaviour is affecting their own safety and welfare or that of others, as a last resort some force, subject to strict conditions and safeguards, may be necessary. Force may only be used in situations where there are clear risks to maintaining a safe and stable environment for young people and where the use of force is a necessary and proportionate response to protect the welfare of the individual or the welfare of others.
On the force that would be used, we already have an independently assessed system of restraint, “Minimising and managing physical restraint,” and supporting policy documents that give the parameters on how force can be used: that force must be a last resort, that no more force than is necessary can be used, and that force must be proportionate to the circumstances. MMPR states that pain-inducing techniques, to which the hon. Member for Rotherham referred, may be used only where there is immediate risk of serious physical harm to the young person or others. So the use of pain-inducing techniques will not be permitted in the circumstances that were described earlier. I reassure her and others that the techniques she described being used on Adam Rickwood and Gareth Myatt are not permitted under MMPR.
We want to develop and consult on an approach for using force in such circumstances, which will be set out in secure college rules. In developing that approach we will, of course, take into account the legal cases on this issue. I recognise the concerns that Opposition Members have expressed on the circumstances in which force can be used, but I hope I have provided some reassurance on our intentions. I invite the hon. Member for Barnsley Central to withdraw his amendment.
Dan Jarvis: I listened carefully to the Minister, and I understand his points. I do not doubt his personal commitment to clarifying the matter, and he has gone some way towards reassuring Members on their concerns, but I hope he agrees that it is important that the public have confidence in legislation passed by the House and that the Committee should do all it can to ensure that that is the case.
We still think that more work needs to be done to clarify when custody officers will be permitted to use reasonable force in a secure college. I am sure all members of the Committee have been approached by organisations that are extremely alarmed by the wording of the schedule. Members will also have in mind the evidence we heard from concerned witnesses last week. The law can be many different things and achieve many different aims, but it should always be clear. With that in mind, we will press the amendment to a vote. If the Committee does
The offence of wrongful disclosure of information under paragraph 25 of Schedule 4 is triable either on indictment or summarily. When section 154 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes into force, the maximum term of imprisonment on summary conviction should change from 6 months to 12 months (not 51 weeks, which is appropriate for summary-only offences).
The amendment has been tabled to correct a drafting error and to ensure that the penalty for the offence of wrongful disclosure of information reflects the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The offence of wrongful disclose of information under paragraph 25 of schedule 4 is triable either on indictment or summarily. As and when section 154 of the 2003 Act comes into force, the maximum term of imprisonment on summary conviction would change from six months to 12 months. The maximum term is not 51 weeks, which is appropriate for summary-only offences. That is the correction that the amendment will make, and I commend it to the Committee.
Dan Jarvis: I thank the Minister for setting out the reasons for the amendment, which, as he made clear, is relatively minor and technical. We do not have an issue with amending the maximum term of imprisonment from 51 weeks to 12 months, I would like to ask the Minister about the offence being created that may lead to such a sentence.
Protecting the confidentiality of offenders in custody is of the utmost importance. Our debates on earlier amendments have highlighted how troubled and vulnerable many young offenders are. The staff who work with them come to know a lot about them, and measures must be put in place to ensure that such information is not disclosed beyond those who need to know it. We therefore agree with the Government on the need for the offence created in schedule 4.
I would like clarification on two key questions. First, what is the definition of information for the purposes of the schedule? Secondly, when could disclosure be deemed to be necessary and not wrongful? I ask because our
I have been told that a number of pieces of legislation on the statute book place a duty on local authorities and other agencies to co-operate with one another for the benefit of a child’s welfare. Such legislation includes the Children Act 1989, the Children Act 2004 and the Education Act 2002. Co-operating with one another can obviously include professionals sharing information about a young person for whom they are both providing support. Much of the time there is no problem with that, and it is neatly covered in paragraph 25(2), which states:
I remind the Committee of the tragic Victoria Climbié case some years ago. In his subsequent report, Lord Laming highlighted the fact that practitioners were unclear as to when to share information about a child, in part because they feared the consequences of violating data protection laws. Clearly, that should not have happened, and it is a tragedy that it did, but it raises an important question. Will the Minister tell us what training on information sharing will be provided to staff at secure colleges, and will it be mandatory? What safeguards will he put in place to ensure that private information remains protected within the complex web of organisations that are going to have stakes in secure colleges.
(a) in the course of the person’s duty, or
(b) when authorised to do so by the Secretary of State.”
The hon. Gentleman’s third point was about the training that staff will receive on information sharing. We would expect any provider of services in a secure college to give their staff the appropriate training in how to comply with the law. The schedule will be part of the law by that point, and we therefore expect them to give the necessary training. Beyond that, I hope he will understand that I cannot give further detail.
(a) in paragraph (c), after “principal of a” insert “directly managed”, and
(b) in paragraph (d),’.
This amendment provides that, where the principal of a secure college is a Board partner of the authority that established a Local Safeguarding Children Board, the Secretary of State is only a person who may make payments towards expenditure incurred by the Board if the college is directly managed, rather than contracted-out.
32A In section 33(3) (funding of Local Safeguarding Children Boards in Wales)—
(a) in paragraph (c), after “principal of a” insert “directly managed”, and
(b) in paragraph (d), after “or prison” insert “or the principal of a contracted-out secure college”.’.