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Amendment No. 139C is from the NSPCC, which welcomes the new duty that schools must have regard to any relevant children and young people's plan, but would like to see an amendment to this clause which makes it clear that the school, parents of registered pupils and the registered pupils themselves must be involved in the development of the plan from the outset. That would ensure that the plan is both relevant and applicable to all schools, parents and children in the local authority. Of course, noble Lords will realise that the inclusion of pupils in the development of the children and young people's plan is in line with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The NSPCC also suggested AmendmentNo. 140A. It believes that the duty to improve the well-being of children should be included alongside the general duties of a governing body of a maintained school to direct the conduct of a school. That would complement the duties in the Children Act 2004 placed on local authorities and other institutions and bodies with responsibilities for children's welfare. In that way, it is very similar to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth.
Baroness Pitkeathley: I will speak to Amendment No. 142 to which I added my name. My main aim as far as this Bill is concerned is that there should be some mention of young carers in the Bill. Twenty years ago, when Carers UK started campaigning for the rights of young carers, nobody believed that there was such a thing as a young carer. It was simply not in our consciousness. We must acknowledge what huge progress we have made, perhaps particularly since this Government have been in power, in recognising the needs of young carers. A great deal of progress has been made in providing services appropriate to the needs of young carers.
However, time and again, when you meet young carersas I do and as the noble Baroness,Lady Massey, has mentionedthey say, If only we had more recognition in schools. If only our teachers understood what it was that were doing. That is not to say that they are requiring too much attention, legitimacy or freedom, but that they want, as young carers frequently say, an ordinary life. I hope that we can include a provision in the Bill that will move us further on in the education area towards helping young carers have just that.
The Earl of Listowel: I strongly support what the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathly, just said with all her experience in this area. Two of the amendments emphasise schools responsibilities in this area and draw on the consultation with young carers that I attended. It was organised by Dr Roger Morgan, the Children's Rights Director at the Commission for Social Care Inspection. It is his duty to ensure that the voices of children affected by public services are heard clearly.
We know that, because of the shortage of social workers in many areas, we have a long way to go in securing that steady support. It makes it all the more important that schools can supply that support where it is lacking elsewhere.
Staff also need to know how being a young carer can make a difference to how you get on with other children or young people. It can make it difficult to make friends, and you can come across as having emotional problems yourself. Friends you do make sometimes dont stick around when things get tough. Practical things like going out with friends and going on sleepovers can be very difficult for a young carer to do, and this does make a difference to how you get on with other people your own age.
The charity YoungMinds has often expressed the concern that mental health services, when they are dealing with parents, do not identify the children and the need for those children to get support. I welcome the strengthened duty on schools to identify these children and ensure that they get the support and services that they need. I look forward to the Ministers response.
Lord Lucas: I support my noble friends amendment. These young carers are enormously important to us. Those who are capable of taking on these responsibilities at that age often go on to great things afterwards. I can think of one who became a postman and may go even further yet.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: All the amendments seem to follow the same sort of line, certainly as far as young carers are concerned. Again, having seen and heard some of their views over time, I think that the whole purpose of having some form of teacher support is going to be important.
The other thing is that fine line between intrusion and helping, and there is room here surely not just for a designated teacher but for a lot more voluntary support, a mentor in the community. In earlier discussion, we were able to identify some degree of bullying that often arose in such situations.
So there is a lot of need for attention to this very special, very important group who often have a huge role in keeping the family together. On the other side, I would very much support the well-being amendments that have been suggested. It is important that they go in in their more general capacity for the educational side of the work.
Lord Adonis: We absolutely accept the important issues relating to young carers that the noble Baroness has raised, supported by my noble friends, by the noble Baronesses, Lady Howe and Lady Walmsley, and by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. Anyone who has looked at this and spoken to young carers and to schools as they seek to provide assistance to them realises the gravity of the issue.
The estimates of numbers vary widely. The 2001 census recorded a total of almost 150,000 young carers in England and Walesa substantial increase on the figures collected by ONS in 1996, which
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The issue is how we provide better assistance for young carers without labelling and possibly stigmatising them, which would of course be a concern that we would all share and which we particularly think might apply to a requirement on schools to identify young carers in some formal way. We are happy to look at this further before Report, in particular to see whether my department could provide non-statutory guidance to schools, consulting local authorities and relevant representative organisations to help them in their efforts to engage sensitively with young carers and to promote the fulfilment of their educational potential, with particular reference to proposed new subsection (2)(b) in the noble Baronesss amendment. We will seek to engage noble Lords in further discussions on this before Report.
With respect to Amendment No. 139A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, we recognise that academies should have regard to the children and young peoples plan in each locality. We intend this to be taken forward through amendments to the model funding agreement for new academies, and my officials will also enter into negotiations with existing academies following the passage of the Bill to see that this is reflected in their funding agreements too. I hope that we can bring about that result.
I am told that the objective that the noble Baroness is seeking to achieve through Amendment No. 139C has been met. We entirely share the view that there should be full consultation with children and people in families during the development of children and young peoples plans. That need is met by the Children and Young Peoples Plan (England) Regulations 2005, which make provision to ensure that the views of children, young people, families and their representatives are heard during the development of the CYPP. It may help if I send those regulations to the noble Baroness to see whether that satisfies her in this regard. Obviously, it would be pointless to have a children and young peoples plan without consulting children and young people in its preparation and ensuring that they played a full part in that process.
On the issues covered by Amendments Nos. 138, 139, 139C, 140, 140A, 140B, 142 and 184B, we of course share the objectives entirely. Our concern is not to put in statutory duties where we believe that the purposes can be achieved in less regulatory ways. They can be, because of the centrality of Every Child Matters to what schools now seek to achieve. Should encouragement be necessary to ensure schools participation, sufficient levers already exist. Ofsted already inspects schools using a framework that requires consideration of the delivery of the five outcomes in Every Child Matters. The framework for schools self-evaluation fully reflects Every Child Matters, and we recently issued guidance on that,
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Looking at how schools already engage with Every Child Matters, we believe that progress on extended schools is one proxy for overall progress and note that 2,500 schools will make the core offer of extended services by September 2006. Over 8,000 schools are now engaged with their local authority and the Training and Development Agency in developing plans to become extended schools. The indications that we have of engagement by schools in this agenda are highly positive, and we do not seek to legislate further at this stage.
Baroness Walmsley: I thank the Minister for his reassurances and look forward to receiving the regulations that he mentioned. I am pleased that the aim of Amendment No. 139A will be achieved by amendments to the model funding agreement.
Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his reply and for his encouraging words about Amendment No. 138 and Amendment No. 142, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. As the noble Baroness said, we are not far apart at all. We want to make sure that what we propose can be as discreet and flexible as possible, being careful to ensure that the individual young carer is not in any way stigmatised and is at the same time recognised. It is difficult. The Minister appreciates what we are trying to achieve, but at the same time I appreciate that we have to be careful about how we identify these young people. As the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, saidI wrote it down just as she was saying itthey do not have ordinary life experiences in some ways, and it is difficult for their peer group to appreciate what they are going through, so they must often feel in many ways isolated and traumatised through their experiences. In other ways, of course, they have grown far beyond their years. My noble friend, in supporting my amendment, suggested that in many ways they could do great things in later life through their difficult and challenging experiences in early life.
I am grateful to the Minister. I am glad that he has agreed to think more about this, and non-statutory guidance is a great start. We all clearly feel that the area is hugely important. We have come a long way. I am pleased with the Ministers response and, for now, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 143 would place a duty on those investigating allegations against teachers to safeguard the identities of those involved. I am grateful that the Minister has organised a meeting with a Member in another place, Mr Jim Knight, to discuss these matters further. The amendment would ensure the confidentiality of information that could identify the alleged offender until the allegation had been proven. It would also place a duty on the governing body of a maintained school to ensure that it had a policy that would impose disciplinary action on any member of staff who disclosed that confidential information.
As my honourable friend in another place, David Willetts, noted, the amendment is drafted so that it comes within the remit of the Bill. It might have been simpler to provide full anonymity backed up by criminal penalty but, as that is a criminal justice measure, we understood that it would be outside the remit of the Bill.
We are not wedded to the wording of the amendment. We would be all too willing to alter its wording in order to get this extremely important provision on the face of the Bill. This is an issue that we must get right, and this is our opportunity to do so. We have generated an ever-watchful society, rightly so in many cases, but it is hugely important to ensure that the web of legislation and guidance that affects schools but does not directly deal with them does not place school staff in a vulnerable position. I am reminded of the provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill that impose a duty on schools to keep a watchful eye out for potentially dangerous characters.
Teachers now teach in a culture where discipline is by necessity on the statute book. The teachers now need legal assent to discipline children. The same goes for all other staff in schools, especially support staff and those assisting in the care of children. The inclusion of that in the Bill is an implicit acknowledgement that teachers come under ever more unreasonable accusation and that they need protection from that. But the legalisation of discipline measures will not protect teachers from the socially and professionally debilitating effects of wrongful accusation.
What is more, the culture of accusation and blame is a major deterrent to our teaching system. We face an exodus of male teachers from the system, while the statistics of male teachers accused of abuse70 per cent of all allegations are made against male teachersmake a worrying correspondence. The number of allegations made against teachers has doubled in the past five years. Whereas, in 2001, 220 teachers had previous allegations in conjunction with new allegations, that figure has risen to 440 today. Of those with allegations made against them in 2005, under 4 per cent resulted in conviction. I will not deny that it is notoriously hard to obtain a conviction for abuse, but the figures for allegations investigated are illuminating. Seventy per cent of allegations were not taken forward to criminal investigation. All figures used here come from the DfES audit of allegations against teachers and other staff in the education service.
I know that other noble Lords will have known or heard of individuals whose careers have been ruined humiliatingly in public as a result of unfounded or mistaken accusation. Since addressing this issue at Second Reading, I have discovered that the NASUWT logs show that, between 1995 and 2002, there were only 86 convictions from the 2,016 cases investigated.
We accept that the measures to allow teachers to work while allegations of abuse are investigated, introduced in 2005 by the then Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, were a step in the right direction, as was the pledge in the DfES five-year plan of 2004 to defend teachers from false allegations and to ensure that teachers are not subjected to damaging delays to clear their name. But almost two years on from that original pledge, nothing has happened that seeks to redress the situation. We supported the Governments guidance on safeguarding children in education and dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff, so I look forward to meeting the Minister in this place and in another place next Tuesday to discuss what may be achieved on the matter if we have an unsatisfactory outcome tonight. For now, we hope that the Government can put their money where their mouth is and commit to providing modern safeguards for teachers working in a very modern culture. I beg to move.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for moving this amendment on an extremely difficult and not very popular subject. I declare an interest as one of those involved in setting up the body known as FACTFalsely Accused Carers and Teacherswith the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in this place and Claire Curtis-Thomas in another place.
There is no doubt that it has become something of an industry for some people to make allegations of a kind that have no substance against parents and teachers. We came across a number of examples over the past couple of years of people who had reasons, not any justified claim, that led them to make allegations against teachers that were simply falsein some cases because they believed that they had been wrongly graded, in other cases because they believed that their references had gone against them, and matters of that kind.
All this was made worse in the instances that I know most about, which related to the investigations conducted by the North Wales Police and the Merseyside Police into cases involving child carers and teachers, by a method known as trawling, whereby all those involved in a particular school or childcare home were approached and asked whether they wished to make any allegations. That, to say the least, was unfortunate, because in some cases it encouraged those who had no particular allegations to make to give evidence against teachers and carers, possibly with a cohort of their fellows from the same class.
This is an extraordinarily difficult issue. Justified claims of harassment, misbehaviour and so on against teachers are among the most sensitive and difficult cases that Ministers in the Department for Education and Skills or, for that matter, the Home Office ever have to deal with. It is an extraordinarily difficult balance to strike. Wherever one strikes it, one is likely to create a huge industry and a huge loss of reputation. Nevertheless, the crucial thingand I believe that the noble Baroness has got it rightis to protect the teacher against whom allegations are made until there has been a proper opportunity to investigate. That protection has been breached in the past where such allegations and rumours have been spread about, which has led, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, to people losing their entire careers as schoolmasters or schoolmistresses, and in some cases to their families being wrecked by the community picking up false allegations against the person concerned.
So, speaking simply from the background of what knowledge I have of this, which is obviously limited but which shows the acute agony of these kinds of cases, I would certainly commend the effort by the noble Baroness to try to limit the damage caused. I commend the amendment, which may contain purely technical difficulties, but which seems to me to try to address a very difficult and not particularly popular issue.
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