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If the Minister thinks it helpful, he might draw this debate and this question to the attention of his colleagues in the Department of Health, which might assist these young people. I look forward to his response.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I, too, was delighted to add my name to the amendment. It is very important to recognise the huge progress made with regard to young carers in recent years. It has been a long time since people said that there was no such thing as a young carer. But there are still too many gaps in the services, and there is far too great a gap in the recognition of young carers. School has always been the area which would be most amenable to change.

With regard to the noble Earl’s comments, we fought very hard to get young carers’ right to assessment included in the first two carers’ Acts. It is already on the statute book. Recognition of young carers, however far we go with it, is no substitute for proper services provided to the person with the disability.

I have another word of caution. When we talk about recognising young carers, nobody is suggesting that we want to deny those caring instincts in young people. We want them to be caring, loving and to have a duty and responsibility towards their parents; we just do not want them to be carrying inappropriate burdens, which so many of them are. In recognising the progress that we have made, can we also remember that even minor changes in practice in schools or elsewhere can result in huge changes in support and recognition for young carers?

I am delighted to support the amendments.

3 pm

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I signal my support, too. Following on from the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, I should like to put in a word for disabled carers. Some of them start out disabled but quite a few have back injuries from helping a disabled parent, for example. It is right that they should not have to do that. Also, I believe that the incidence of mental illness among young carers is 33 per cent greater than among other children.

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The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I am grateful for the clarification that the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, offered. Of course, she is the expert on the subject of carers.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I very much support the inclusion of this new clause. I was lucky enough to be on the list of people who had the Minister’s letter, which contained a full explanation of what had been done. I congratulate him and his department on that.

My first point, on young carers, has been mentioned already. A lot of them are fearful that they will be taken into care and that the family will be broken up. Any way in which it is possible to give them extra support so that they can combine their schooling needs and the other needs that children have, as well as seeing that their family remains together, is much to be welcomed.

On bullying, I would like to think that most schools and governing bodies could take into account in their general discussions about life today just how lucky most children are who do not have these extra responsibilities and problems to cope with. By setting such an example, they might help people to see that bullying is not only inappropriate but unbelievably unkind in every respect.

Finally, can we have an assurance that governing bodies will consider these issues at least once a year, as well as identifying the individuals? Will they discuss what the situation is like generally throughout the country and whether there can be any mutual help and co-operation even between schools on the issue?

I welcome what has already been done. Whether the new clause can be added to the Bill is another matter, perhaps, but it is certainly an important amendment.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I lend my support to the amendment. I agree that young carers are a special case of young people who need to be admired and supported. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, drew attention to the fact that there are many other groups of children who need support of one kind or another. But what worries me is that we are laying yet another burden on schools and teachers—or is that what we are doing? I cannot help wondering whether there might not be a formula whereby, through pairing or mentoring, young people themselves could volunteer to be helpful—or perhaps that role could be taken by the parents of other pupils or the friends of a pupil who is a carer, if they were prepared to be welcoming and helpful and contribute towards the caring role.

I believe that every child in every school should have a tutor—an adult to whom they can turn and whom they know, preferably in the longish term, who is responsible for and interested in their worries, concerns and behaviour as well as their work. That is one of the major factors that distinguishes the best independent schools from most state schools. A child needs someone to turn to.

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Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I want to build on the issue of services to the adult rather than the young carer. If those services were seriously in place, the young carer’s emotional stability would be much improved. Clearly, they, too, need support because of the anxiety that they have about the parent. But looking at the recent report from the Commission for Social Care Inspection on the availability of home care services, we can see that, although there are more hours, those hours are going to fewer and fewer people. From my contacts, I know that if you have back pain, which means that you are quite seriously inconvenienced if not totally disabled, the likelihood of your getting help is very narrow indeed, and your child is therefore going to spend a great deal of time caring in the home.

We should face the realities of those issues, especially now that adult and child services are separated. I hope that the Minister will encourage children’s trusts to be firmly in touch with the adult social care services in their area in co-ordinating the work for these young people and other vulnerable young people in schools, because I have some anxieties that these splits will make it even more difficult to get the right service to the right people at a time when, even if gross resources are not shrinking, net resources sometimes are.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I will be extremely brief. We very much welcome the good news that we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. It has been a good debate in which to raise some key issues about young carers.

Without meaning to stray from the amendment, I wish to add one thought. The other evening, the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, introduced an amendment during the faith debate, which most of us will remember well, in which she promoted assemblies in schools. I have been thinking about young carers in relation to assemblies. It is important that their peer group and fellow pupils should learn to understand what young carers are going through and what they are coping with, and the best conduit for that would be through regular assemblies. That would be a way in which to introduce some of these hugely important issues, which are now much more out in the open and which we should feel free to discuss. It would make a huge difference on bullying, too. I worry that the incidence of bullying and other problems relating to children in school has grown because of the lack of assemblies—children coming together regularly and feeling a sense of belonging, cohesion and inclusiveness within their school.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we are very grateful to my noble friend Lady Massey for focusing attention on this issue. I agree with virtually all the points that have been raised in the debate. A number of points related to action that the Government can and should take, but several of them related directly to the attitude that schools should be adopting on young carers. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, made a very important point about the operation of children’s trusts and their responsibility to join up services. This is a classic example of an issue on which, unless the

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services are joined up—the services and support that the school can provide for the young carer and the support that adult social services can and should provide for the individual being cared for—huge strains will be placed on families and some of the most vulnerable people in society. Both those being cared for and the carers themselves come into that category. I very much hope that my department and the Local Government Association will draw the noble Baroness’s remarks to the attention of its responsible officers.

I was glad to have the opportunity to meet my noble friend Lady Massey to discuss these issues more fully, and to meet the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, too. I wrote to them afterwards and placed a copy of my full response in the Library of the House so that other noble Lords can look at it. I accept that we need to do more in this area, and shall set out some of the work that is train.

The recurring theme in our discussions has been the need to improve awareness of young carers’ circumstances among those who work in schools, with a particular focus on the issues of bullying and attendance. Bullying at school can affect any child’s self-esteem, motivation and achievement, and it is particularly unacceptable that young carers should face this additional burden. We propose that the issue of young carers should be highlighted in the forthcoming revision of my department’s anti-bullying guidance, Don’t Suffer in Silence. We are currently in the early stages of drafting the guidance, and our advisory group will review the position at the end of this month. The group is planning to review a final draft in mid-December, and final publication is scheduled for February 2007.

The relevant key themes likely to be in the revised document that have particular relevance to young carers are as follows. First, induction and information procedures should ensure that schools can identify any young carers, to specify what their specialist anti-bullying needs might be and to put in place appropriate strategies. Secondly, there should be greater awareness that young carers may be in the at-risk group of pupils who are particularly vulnerable to being bullied. Thirdly, links to voluntary organisations supporting young carers should be highlighted, with encouragement to use those organisations in developing school policies. Fourthly, there should be a requirement to identify incidents involving young carers as such in schools’ records.

Poor attendance or lateness is of course a serious issue for many young carers. It is important that we avoid stigmatising such young carers as truants or as poorly motivated pupils, when often the reverse is in fact the case. It is already possible for schools themselves to authorise young carers’ absences where necessary. That is explicitly covered in my department’s guidance on attendance management, issued last year. Of course none of us would want to recommend any approach that would effectively reduce the young carer’s access to learning, but we entirely accept that teachers should have discretion in individual cases, and should know that they have that discretion. There should be a sensible degree of flexibility in ensuring that young carers can engage in their responsibilities while still making the very best of school.

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In all this, my department has been working with, and indeed helps to fund, the leading voluntary organisations with an interest in young carers’ issues, notably the Princess Royal Trust for Carers. We will be incorporating links to the trust’s material when it is finalised on my department’s behaviour and attendance website. We have also asked the trust for its suggestions to strengthen our guidance on young carers in our web-based document, Managing Behaviour and Attendance: groups of pupils at particular risk.

I believe that these measures, together with other relevant material such as links to the Disability Discrimination Act, will significantly strengthen our support for young carers. My department undertakes to ensure that it uses its well established communication channels with teachers, schools and local authorities—most notably our TeacherNet website—to draw attention to the importance of the measures and to the Government’s expectations for their application to improve the lives of all pupils who have caring responsibilities. I also stress that the existing provisions under the Education Act 2002 require maintained schools and those independent schools to which we provide funding to guard and promote the welfare of all their pupils, a key group of whom are young carers.

I hope that I have demonstrated that, while we have a great deal more to do, we are committed to making as much progress as we can.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I know that he is committed to, and concerned about, this issue. I thank him also for the many meetings that he has held on it, and for all his correspondence, which has been complete and very helpful.

This has been a good debate. There have been many interesting and passionate contributions from many people who have great expertise on this matter. On the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about the faith schools debate, I hope that she did not think that I was advocating the abolition of assemblies. I am not. I am saying that they should not be restricted to worship.

3.15 pm

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for allowing me to intervene. On the contrary, I was looking on assemblies as providing an important add-on to worship. The lack of school assemblies now throughout the country in our maintained system is a reason why we have an increase in bullying and a lack of recognition among children’s peer groups of what is happening to those young carers, for example.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that remark. I think that we agree that assemblies are useful to introduce all kinds of topics that should be considered as part of the spiritual dimension within a school.

Many of us in this House today will keep a close eye on what happens to young carers on whatever

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agenda may come up in forthcoming policy and legislation. The Minister has indicated strong support for the spirit of this amendment. Much progress has been made, and guidance will reinforce the support for young carers and families that we all require and think is a good idea. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 39 [Code for school admissions]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 58:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 58, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 60 to 69 and 71. I shall speak briefly about the former amendments, as the main debate should be about the ideas put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on the various experimental admissions procedures that he proposes in his amendments, which I think are interesting and which all seek to make admissions systems fairer in different ways.

Amendment No. 58 seeks to make applications anonymous by removing the names of the applicants, so that the only factors that apply are the criteria laid down in the admissions policies set out both in the code of admissions and by the relevant school or local education authority, whichever is the admissions authority. Sometimes these factors are proximity, Church membership—in the case of faith schools—or banding, for a local education authority. The whole notion of anonymised admissions means that admission cannot be influenced by preferences such as ethnic origin, which can be told from names, or by staff acquaintance or any other such factor.

When we raised this matter in Committee, I mentioned that it had been favoured by the Commons Select Committee when it considered the White Paper proposals. We were somewhat disappointed that the Government had not taken up that suggestion. The Minister was surprisingly encouraging in his response. He said on 18 July at col. 1275 of Hansard that the Government might take up that suggestion in the future but that for the moment it was “a step too far”. He saw one obstacle as the current state of IT systems. But in all conscience, given the number of examination papers that over the years have been submitted and marked anonymously, I cannot see why that should pose a problem. We realise that large IT systems have caused the Government problems but that does not necessarily seem to inhibit them putting forward proposals for even bigger systems; for example, the development of a computer database itemising all children on the national children’s register and an even bigger database covering identity cards. But in this case any such system would have to be administered not by central government but by local authorities. A lot of local authorities have shown themselves adept at handling the size of database that would be required.

The Minister also mentioned the sibling issue. Since the Government have in their current

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admissions code come down against schools giving preference to siblings, that seems to me irrelevant. From a personal point of view I believe that there is a good case for giving preference to siblings. Even if such preference were to be given, it seems to me that it could be well handled within such a database.

We have retabled the amendment because we did not consider that either of the two objections—the fact that a database would be required to handle the anonymised applications and the sibling issue—held much water. We are anxious to press the Government to give the matter a little more consideration. As I say, in this context it might fit well alongside one of the pilots and the various schemes suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I have added my name to his Amendment No. 71, which suggests that oversubscribed state schools should allocate a proportion of places via a ballot. We were particularly attracted to his amendment in Committee that a school might allocate some 75 per cent of its places on the basis of proximity or faith based criteria and put the remaining 25 per cent up for ballot. His proposals are now slightly different but I shall let him argue his case for himself.

I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 60 to 69, including Amendments Nos. 60A and 60B, which were originally overlooked. This whole series of amendments, which we have tabled on behalf of the LGA, seek to amend Clause 40 to put a duty on local authorities to produce a report on admissions rather than just giving the power—it is a question of may rather than must—to admission forums to do so. It is worth remembering that admission forums act in effect as agencies for local government and are composed of representatives from local schools as well as LEA officials. Their job is to sort out admissions, given the criteria laid down by the code of admissions and by the appropriate admission authority at the local level. They work for and are answerable to local government and the schools that are the admission authorities at that level.

It is also worth remembering that Clause 1 places a new duty on local authorities to ensure fair access to educational opportunity. Admissions are a crucial part of fulfilling that duty. Being required to produce a regular report would strengthen the hand of local authorities in fulfilling their strategic role in overseeing the fair admissions process. Moreover, it is logical that as the body responsible for ensuring fair access, and given that the admission forum is answerable to the local authority, it should be the local authority rather than the admission forum that is ultimately responsible for producing the report. It should, of course, be written in consultation with the admission forum. That is why we have drafted Amendment No. 60 to read:

The report would encompass all state schools in that area including academies and city technology colleges. In the amendments, on the one hand there is the notion that in applying for schools the name of the child should be taken away when they are being considered by the local admission forums so that the application is in all respects anonymous. Secondly,

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there is the idea that the report on how admissions are working should be a responsibility of the local education authority. Both seem to us to be reasonable amendments. I hope that the Government will look favourably on them. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 71 to 73. At present, we have a state system that is almost entirely socially selective, or where it is not it is capable of being socially selective. Those with money and the ability to manipulate their own lives can choose where they live and overcome any geographical criterion, can tutor their child or send them to private schools as the ultimate form of tutoring to get into grammar schools, which is why they have captured that sector of the state market, or they can, and do in large quantities, suddenly become religious to qualify for Catholic or Church of England schools. I observe all of this in my daily life as editor of the Good Schools Guide.

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