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Lord Inglewood: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for agreeing that the clause should stand part of the Bill. I am also reassured that his mind is sufficiently alert that he has focused on a point that requires serious attention, as he always does in these matters. In the circumstances it would be appropriate to reflect further on the points that my noble friend made. I thank him for making them. Clause 11 agreed to. Clause 12 [Discrimination in relation to goods, facilities and services]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 57:

Page 9, line 2, at end insert:
("( ) specifically by failing to provide the service in the most integrated manner compatible with reasonable costs."). The noble Baroness said: I had expected Amendment No. 57 to be grouped with a subsequent amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, concerned with integration. Perhaps it was our mistake, but the amendments were not grouped. Given the number of significant debates, I shall not move the amendment and shall seek to make my points in the later debate. [Amendment No. 57 not moved.]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 9, line 10, at end insert:
("( ) the provision of services in further education includes provision of appropriate transport for students with disabilities;").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment fills a loophole left by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. By that legislation local education authorities are required to consider the transport needs of students with disabilities and learning difficulties to and from college. However, they are not required to provide that transport.

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There have been a good many problems. The National Bureau for Students with Disabilities receives many calls every year regarding transport problems. It is ridiculous that there are students who are kept out of education because they are unable to get to college because of lack of transport.

I can give one example. Liz is a wheelchair user. She cannot use public transport to get to college because it is not accessible. Neither the college nor the LEA will pay for appropriate transport for her. At the moment Liz is at home, trying to raise the money elsewhere to cover the costs of travelling to her course. That seems extremely unfortunate. I have details of other cases, but I shall not waste the time of the Committee by going into them. I can assure the Minister that a good many people have this problem, as the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities says.

I hope that the Government can be sympathetic to this problem. One would not expect unreasonable costs to have to be met, but I am sure that something could be done that would be within the spirit of the 1992 Act. I know that during the passage of that Bill we were anxious about this situation. Clearly, our worries were justified because of the cases that we have heard about since. Therefore, I hope that we shall have a sympathetic hearing. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth): Perhaps I may join the debate rather late and support the amendment, which I was supposed to move. I had a transport and access problem myself and I am afraid that I was not present to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady David, said. I am sure that she said everything that is necessary. I declare an interest in that I am president of Skill (the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities). That is probably the last time that I need to say that, not only today but for a week or a month because otherwise we shall all become sick of it. Skill receives many calls every year about transport problems. It is a real difficulty. I hope that the Minister will look sympathetically on the amendment, or will at least say some encouraging words about how he might issue guidance or follow up individual instances of poor practice. I support the amendment.

Lord Rix: As the noble Baroness, Lady David, explained, the problem is that the obligation to provide transport is unclear. There are obligations of a kind, or at least powers, under the Education Act 1944, extended by the 1992 Act, as the noble Baroness said. There are obligations or powers under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The first is concerned with the duties of local education authorities and the second with social services departments. The result is that each authority is free to argue that responsibility lies with the other authority, and both are free to argue that they do not have the necessary funds. Speaking from the point of view of MENCAP, having once agreed that people with severe learning disabilities should be able to go to college, and having heard the glowing testimonials of many young people in their late teens and early twenties who have been able to take

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advantage of such facilities, it seems to me right and proper that provision should be made for getting them there when they need either special transport or financial help. As with other amendments, the existing rules constitute a discriminatory hurdle. As I see it, this is not a hurdle which the otherwise very welcome government amendments remove.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We on these Benches support the amendment. In speaking in support of the amendment I press the Minister to answer certain questions that need to be answered if the Government do not accept the amendment. The questions surround the issue of students in further education who are of statutory school age and their entitlement to access to education appropriate to their age, abilities and so on. In many parts of the country, due to the development of tertiary college provision, it is further education institutions which offer the appropriate sixth-form level study. I ask the Minister to confirm that such provision would be required under existing legislation. Secondly, I press the Minister to support the amendment. There are many courses which are not available to students of statutory school age within the school sector, such as technical education courses and various vocational courses. I also press the Minister to include students above the age of statutory schooling. Tragically many, particularly but not solely, physically disabled students acquire their disabilities as a result of car or motorbike accidents which occur in their late teens. Therefore, that group of young people is debarred from continuing their education at the statutory school age. Finally, I press the Minister to consider that denying access because of the difficulty of transport to the further education college may be an unwise financial decision for the Government to take because, through attending such courses, young people who are older students can acquire skills that will allow them to be fully economically active within the community, not only to their own benefit but to the economic benefit of the country. We support the amendment.

Lord Swinfen: I must apologise to the Committee for not being in my place when the amendment was moved, in particular since my name is on the list of those proposing it. In order not to repeat what has already been said by other Members of the Committee, I simply state that I am strongly in favour of the amendment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: I add my support for the amendment, particularly for students living in rural areas. Very often there is no suitable accommodation for them so they have to live at home and travel long distances. In rural areas, too—my own area of North Yorkshire being one—there are no such schemes as taxi cards or Dial-a-ride. That can involve a tremendous extra expense for students who have to attend sixth-form colleges or colleges of further education.

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Lord Zouche of Haryngworth: I support the amendment. The inclusion of transport for students with learning difficulties and disabilities within the scope of Part III of the Bill will eliminate the present anomaly where opportunity is an accident of where an individual lives. The division of responsibility between local authorities and colleges can be clarified by regulation. However, the Bill provides an ideal opportunity to resolve a present difficulty: that is, to deprive a number of disabled young people of access to education and subsequent improved employment prospects. Access to education is a fundamental opportunity for those young people to gain an active role in society. I support the amendment.

Lord Addington: Members of the Committee from all sides of the Chamber have put forward a useful amendment. The provision will be of benefit to a group which will gain skills and will therefore not require so much assistance in the future because those people will become employable. They will thus have cash and will be able to purchase services.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Perhaps I may start by saying that I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) managed to get here on time. I am not sure whether she was making a point by coming into the Chamber and pointing out to me so forcefully the problem of transport and access. If she were not, it was a reasonably well-accomplished accident, if I may say so. I recognise the apparent attractions—spelt out by a number of Members of the Committee—of linking access to further education courses with arrangements for transport to those courses, as proposed in the amendment. However, that policy would involve separating the statutory arrangements for people with disabilities from those of their peers. I believe that that flies a little in the face of the principles of the Bill. It also threatens to dissipate what are limited resources. Responsibilities for all home-to-college transport are already clear. Under Section 55(1) of the Education Act 1944 local education authorities have a duty to make arrangements for the provision of free transport where they judge that it is necessary in order to enable people to attend colleges of further education. The duty extends to students attending independent schools and colleges, including those for whom the FEFC has purchased provision. In reaching a judgment, local education authorities must look at the circumstances affecting the individual, such as his or her age and the route to the institution. In addition, Section 55(2) enables local education authorities to pay the whole or a part of the reasonable travelling expenses of further education students for whom free transport is not thought necessary. I hope that that at least helps the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, regarding one of her questions. Free transport can range from the provision of specialised coaches, with escorts, to the purchase of bus and train passes. Often the provision made under Section 55(1) is made alongside and indistinguishable from that made under Section 55(2). Additionally, local authorities are able to develop coherent and cost-effective arrangements not only encompassing

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public transport, but also provision made by social services departments. For example, they may have a vehicle which they use to transport disabled people to day centres but which can also be used in the event of someone who is disabled needing such transport to attend an FE college. On the point about keeping a coherent policy, when a person moves from school to college, there will be a continuity of responsibility for his or her transport. That was one of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton. The situation does not only involve moving from school to college. There are also circumstances nowadays in which people who are still at school attend colleges for part of the week for some of their courses. Therefore, I believe that there is a merit in trying to keep all the responsibilities where they are at present: namely, with local authorities. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, can be assured regarding pupils of school age. Regarding her first question, I believe that they are covered. I believe that I have answered the second question about pupils who are partly in college, partly in school, or moving between the two. The arrangements that we have at present, and the associated economies of scale, would be lost were the funding to be transferred to individual colleges from local authorities. There would necessarily be an increased administrative burden which would further reduce the amount of funds available for the transport. I understand what noble Lords are saying. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady David, I certainly look sympathetically at the need for further guidance. I can assure her that I shall also ask the Department for Education to look into any individual cases to which she would like to draw my attention. She mentioned one in perhaps a little more detail. We could certainly look at it. I do not believe that there is anything between us on what we wish to achieve. I think that it is unnecessary to go down the road proposed in the amendment. I believe that it would be a mistake to dismantle an integrated system and separate disabled students from their peers. With that explanation, and the promise to consider any specific examples sent to me (which I shall pass on to the Department for Education) and with the fact that the department will look sympathetically at the need for further guidance, especially in the light of any examples, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

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