Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Like many in the House I was also disappointed that Mugabe blocked the visit to Zimbabwe of the UN Secretary-General. It would have been an important initiative in the last period of Kofi Annan’s work as Secretary-General. I hope that the new

19 Oct 2006 : Column 920

Secretary-General will take up the portfolio, but he may well find that the door is as firmly slammed in his face as it was in Kofi Annan’s.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will allow me to ask a question. How do we explain the fact that the Commission for Africa, in 461 pages, says nothing about Zimbabwe? Has that situation changed?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, the United Nations, the Commission for Africa and everyone else has consistently worked to try to bring about a change in attitude within the African Union and elsewhere to Zimbabwe. Efforts have been made in all of those settings in order to get accurate reports of the disastrous policies and the particular assaults that have been launched against the people of Zimbabwe as part of the human rights perspective which has to be corrected. We will continue to do that.

Briefly, the UK has pressed for and achieved at the UN a firm reference to Zimbabwe in the EU’s general statement to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. As many noble Lords have noted, we are engaged in providing humanitarian help. We believe that the UN must become more engaged politically; the situation in Zimbabwe merits United Nations Security Council consideration and the collapse makes it more urgent. We also took the opportunity to raise Zimbabwean issues in the UNSC in September following the general humanitarian briefing by Jan Egeland, which was also mentioned in the debate. We will continue to look for opportunities to ensure that Zimbabwe remains on the Security Council agenda. However, sanctions must continue. This involves not just Portugal but quite a number of countries. All sorts of reasons are produced on the day, but we are determined to fight hard to keep the sanctions in place.

There are prospects and difficulties in this crisis and there is a range of views among our partners as to how best to address it. We need to ensure that those views include tough sanctions. I am clear that for democracy to be reinvented and reintroduced in the country, it is vital that the trade unions, the Churches and civil society organisations get the vigorous help that they need from us. I commend the TUC on its decision to hold a conference on 4 November; I believe that it will be of great help.

The victims of Mugabe’s self-inflicted crisis in Zimbabwe are Zimbabweans—the vulnerable, the homeless, the orphans, the hungry and those suffering from HIV/AIDS. I am proud that our Government has addressed those questions through DfID and have provided more than £38 million of humanitarian support in the last financial year alone to improve food security for 1.5 million of the poorest people in the world.

At UNGA this year, Mugabe warned the west that every Goliath has its David. He has continued to use his political weight in the country to oppress and bully his people into apparent submission, but he should heed his own words: let this David tell him that his policy is creating millions of Davids within Zimbabwe and millions more in the diaspora. He should reflect on that. The time for his regime has gone.

19 Oct 2006 : Column 921

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 2.43 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 2.41 to 2.43 pm.]

Education and Inspections Bill

Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Schedule 3 [Amendments relating to school organisation]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis) moved Amendments Nos. 34 to 37:

“(i) after “Part II” insert “in relation to Wales”, and (ii) ”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

Clause 33 [Requirements as to foundations]:

[Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 not moved.]

Clause 34 [Parent councils for certain foundation or foundation special schools]:

Lord Adonis moved Amendments Nos. 41 to 44:

(a) must require the majority of members of a parent council to be parent members, and (b) may enable a person who is not the parent of a registered pupil to be a member of a parent council if appointed in accordance with the regulations by the parent members.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Disposals and changes of use of land]:

19 Oct 2006 : Column 922

Lord Adonis moved Amendments Nos. 45 to 50:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough moved Amendments Nos. 51 to 53:

“(a)” (b) to a disposal to which paragraph 5 or 6 of Schedule 22 (disposals on discontinuance) applies.” “(c) for “falling within subsection (1)” substitute “which falls within subsection (1) or is excluded from that subsection by subsection (2B)(a) or (b)”.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 54:

(a) in subsection (4), after “(whether foundation or voluntary controlled)” insert “in a case where the head teacher is not to be a reserved teacher”, and (b) in subsection (6), after “voluntary aided school” insert “in Wales”.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 37 [General duties of governing body of maintained school]:

[Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 not moved.]

Baroness Massey of Darwen moved Amendment No. 57:

19 Oct 2006 : Column 923

(a) endeavour to identify any pupil who is a young carer of one or both parents or guardians or for a sibling; (b) promote the educational welfare of young carers; and (c) ensure that any pupil who is a young carer is supported by a designated teacher or member of staff who is responsible for promoting and co-ordinating such support.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment seeks a better deal for young carers. I have met many young carers recently and I am most impressed by their resilience, dedication and determination. They deserve our full support.

Young carers are young people and children who have a caring responsibility for someone in their family who has a physical or mental illness, a disability or a substance misuse problem. They take on caring responsibilities which are inappropriate to their age, such as personal care for a disabled adult or emotional care for a parent with a mental health problem. In addition, they are often responsible for siblings and all the household chores. Young carers are at risk of educational problems, physical and mental ill health and family breakdown. About 3 million children in the UK are affected by disability in their families. Often due to lack of support for the person being cared for, 175,000 of them become young carers; 13,000 of those care for more than 50 hours per week.

The current DfES guidance to schools, Advice and guidance to Schools and Local Authorities on Managing Behaviour and Attendance: groups of pupils at particular risk, recommends designating a lead member of school staff for young carers. However, very few schools have designated such a professional, and the quality of support for young carers in schools still largely depends on the presence of a voluntary sector young carers' service and the willingness of head teachers to engage with the issue. Some schools still believe that we have no young carers in our schools.

One young person said, “I used to run away from school because I always wanted to be with my mum. I used to think that my mum was going to die. I was about eight ... they treated me as if I was playing truant”. No child should have to take on a caring role that prevents them attending school and enjoying the aspects of childhood that others take for granted. We also know that parents hate having to rely on their children for the kinds of intimate support that should be the role of an adult service. Sadly, thousands of them find little alternative. The Education and Inspections Bill is a good opportunity to put the practice recommended by the DfES into law so that young carers will be supported to attend school wherever they live.

At present, the 300-plus voluntary sector young carers services in the UK work hard, with little funding, to help schools identify and support young carers, but the majority of young carers remain unidentified and unsupported throughout their childhood, while those identified are often noticed only once they have reached

19 Oct 2006 : Column 924

crisis point and educational opportunities have already been lost. The amendment would ensure that all schools follow the example of the dozens of excellent schools which have realised the benefit of early identification and support for young carers, often co-ordinated by a named member of staff such as a school counsellor or an inclusion worker. The amendment would also result in more schools making links with the services which support people who currently rely on the caring role of a child. Once a family has been put in touch with a more appropriate sort of care, the cared-for person’s reliance on a young carer will often be greatly reduced, to the benefit of the cared-for person’s dignity and the young carer’s education.

Good things have happened since this issue came up in Committee. Representatives from the All-Party Group on Children, which I chair, and from the voluntary sector met Jim Knight during the Recess and discussed the following proposals. First, young carers should respond to the consultation on the new admissions code, particularly with reference to the difficulties faced by young carers responsible for getting younger siblings to a different school or whose parents cannot transport them to school. Secondly, changes are needed to current school transport guidance to ensure that provision of this service to disabled parents is brought in line with the Disability Discrimination Act. Thirdly, research is needed to establish the link between serial truancy and young caring. Fourthly, the Minister should visit a school which is supporting young carers effectively—and there are some. Fifthly, the DfES guidance should be amended and linked to the Prince’s Trust guidance for schools. Sixthly, the Minister should write to the Training and Development Agency for Schools to ask it to think about putting more emphasis on young carers in the initial teacher training and continual professional development for teachers. Next, TeacherNet should link to an electronic version of the Prince’s Trust packs of lessons and assemblies. Finally, a Minister should visit the Young Carers Festival, an annual event for 1,500 young carers. Will my noble friend update the House on what has happened to these proposals?

I thank my noble friend for his personal concern over these issues and look forward to hearing how the Bill can move things forward. I beg to move.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for bringing the issue before us. I also thank the Minister for copying to me his letter to the noble Baroness of 12 October, from which it is clear that the Government are moving in the right direction. I particularly welcome his point that the key measure for the Government to take is to improve the awareness of young carers’ circumstances amongst teachers and others working with youngsters in schools, with a particular focus on bullying and attendance.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, these young people take on an enormous burden; it affects their education, health, well-being, happiness and ability to grow and enjoy their childhood as other children can. As she also said, and as the Minister

19 Oct 2006 : Column 925

said in his letter, these youngsters strongly dislike the stigma of being bracketed with truants or being seen as poorly motivated. They are, in fact, often extremely well motivated.

I welcomed the Minister’s assurance that the department’s anti-bullying guidance Don’t Suffer in Silence is being revised and that it will pay attention to young carers. The key themes that he said were likely to be in the revised document include what the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, put in subsection (2)(a) of her amendment: to ensure that schools are better able to identify young carers. The document is likely to address a lot of other good things in relation to young carers. However, it does not include the request in subsection (2)(c) of the amendment to ensure that any pupil who is a young carer is supported by a designated teacher. The noble Baroness also asks that schools promote the educational welfare of young carers. I am sure that that part of the amendment would be covered by other parts of the Bill, but paragraphs (a) and (c) of proposed subsection (2) are very important. Subsection (3) is also important; when Ofsted inspects maintained schools, it should look at how well the school is supporting young carers and give its judgment on that in its report.

Young carers make up only one of many groups of children with some sort of special need, but it is an enormous group, and a hidden one. It is vital that schools have the knowledge and the focused support to help young carers, and are held to account for how well they do.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I support the amendment, to which I have added my name, and I support the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, in encouraging the Government to give this complex and delicate issue careful consideration. I thank the Minister for meeting us and for writing to us about the welcome steps being taken.

It has been pointed out that the profile of young people caring for vulnerable adults and their families does not necessarily fit closely with that of looked-after children. Nevertheless, there may be a subgroup of vulnerable children who might be taken into care if they do not receive the support they need from school. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, gave figures to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, showing that between 1995 and 2005 there was a 58 per cent increase in the number of children taken into care and the number of care orders granted. Given what the Green Paper, which is very welcome, says about early intervention to prevent families developing a situation in which their children are taken into care, this might help to reduce the number of young children being taken into care.

I was speaking recently to Kathy Dunnett, the director of a pilot children’s trust in Stevenage and the editor of a recent book on the health of looked-after children. She emphasised that when the school place of a child fails for whatever reason, the risk of eventually being taken into care is much greater. I welcome the Minister’s careful response to these concerns and look forward to his reply.

19 Oct 2006 : Column 926

I draw your Lordships’ attention to an opportunity with regard to young carers that may arise in the forthcoming mental health legislation. The mental health charity for young people, YoungMinds, would like to introduce a new duty on authorities. Where there is a family in which one member is subject to a compulsory order for treatment because of mental health problems, there should be a duty on social services to assess that family and look at the needs of all its members—including, of course, the children. The advantage would be that if the system works correctly, social services could inform the school so that the child could be identified early and get the support needed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page