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Lord Addington: My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, in this amendment. It is important that we establish that people should be able to obtain information in a format in which they can understand it. That is essential for pupils if they are to have meaningful education. There must also be a means of knowing where they can obtain some form of enforcement and guidance to ensure that they obtain the information. I very much hope that the Minister will have something positive to say about the matter.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, again, this amendment is about information being timely and being obtained in an appropriate form. I strongly support the noble Baroness.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have reflected on this issue since Committee stage. I sympathise with the outcome that noble Lords seek, but these particular amendments would create more bureaucracy without improving delivery in the classroom to the children who need support.

However, I believe that there is a way to make it possible for disabled pupils to gain access to information in a number of different formats without burdening our schools unnecessarily. Noble Lords want a more strategic and less ad hoc approach to the provision of materials in accessible formats. I agree. Therefore, I propose to bring forward at Third Reading an amendment to include within the planning duty a duty to plan to improve the extent to which information is made available to disabled pupils in accessible formats. That, I believe, will go a long way to meeting the objectives of these amendments.

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Non-educational services to parents are already covered by Part III of the DDA. This means that information about the services provided by the school or its performance may have to be provided to parents in alternative formats, where it is reasonable for the school to have to do so. It is not necessary to create a new and overlapping duty. In the light of my assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, first, I warmly thank noble Lords for their support and I am grateful to the Minister for her response, which I shall read carefully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 [Residual duty of education authorities]:

[Amendment No. 103 not moved.]

Clause 16 [Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal]:

[Amendment No. 104 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 17 [Jurisdiction and powers of the Tribunal]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 105:

    Page 17, line 18, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 106 and 111.

Amendment No. 105 is a brief amendment. I do not want to spend much time on it. Amendments Nos. 106 and 111 both deal again with the question of the representation of the child in relation to its parents. Amendment No. 106 preserves the primary role of the parent and would give the child the right to proceed only with the leave of the court. It gives the child standing in the SEN tribunal to take cases under the DDA. At present, the Bill gives that right only to the parent. Some cases could even involve a 19 year-old who, in the jurisdictions of other courts, has full adult status.

Another reason for tabling the amendment is that it is also important that an effective remedy be granted for discrimination in order to comply with the Human Rights Act and Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights that there should be an effective remedy for breaches of the convention rights: in this case the right to an education--Protocol 1, Article 2--and the right to be free of discrimination in exercising the right to education, Article 14. Article 14 might also be involved because a disabled claimant should not be put in a weaker position than a person discriminated against on grounds of race or gender.

Amendment No. 111 would empower the tribunal to decide in what circumstances the child should be entitled to proceed and in what manner. Under the Children Act leave may only be given when the court is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to take the case. But the tribunal may wish to impose extra restrictions through regulations; for instance,

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when the parent is unwilling to proceed. The tribunal would also need to decide whether to allow the child to proceed alone or through a litigation friend. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, Amendment No. 105 would compel parents to bring claims of disability discrimination to the tribunal. At present parents have the discretion whether or not to bring those cases. We would not want parents to be forced to bring appeals because an appeal might not always be in the child's best interests. It may be that the matter has been resolved, perhaps through conciliation. Parents and LEAs will have access to the DRC conciliation service in those cases. There is little point in having such a service if an appeal would have to be brought in any case. Even if we could agree to such a duty, and we cannot, how could it be enforced? There is no provision in the Bill for this and it is difficult to envisage what a reasonable sanction might be in those cases.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 106 and 111, which would allow children to bring their own cases to the tribunal in prescribed circumstances and were the subject of considerable debate during Committee. As I explained then, we believe that the parents' right to bring disability discrimination cases in relation to school education is the best way to secure effective determination of a child's rights. Parents will have a better chance than a child of identifying discrimination and challenging it, and if there is a difference of opinion between the child and parent, it would be unhelpful to exacerbate it. The parents' right to bring an appeal reflects the situation across school education generally where parents act on their children's behalf.

I recognise that Amendment No. 111 would give a regulation-making power to prescribe the circumstances in which a child might be able to bring an appeal. But even allowing that to happen in specified or limited circumstances risks adding significantly to the length, cost and complexity of hearings. That would undermine some of the positive features of the tribunal which we want to preserve.

However, we do not and will never underestimate the importance of seeking and listening to the views of children and young people. This commitment has led us to propose important changes in relation to the procedure of the tribunal and the SEN code of practice. Under existing arrangements children can and do attend hearings at the tribunal. However, revised special educational needs tribunal regulations, which will be laid before Parliament later this year, will strengthen the rights of the child in relation to hearings and formalise the tribunal's established procedure whereby it already accepts evidence from the child.

It is our intention that the equivalent regulations for disability cases at the reconstituted tribunal should reflect those for SEN cases so that they can benefit from the practical experiences of the operation of the SEN regulations and facilitate the hearing of joint SEN and disability cases where that is appropriate.

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I hope that those reassurances persuade the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response and am encouraged by what she said. I shall read it carefully in the record and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(Amendment No. 106 not moved.)

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 107:

    Page 17, line 31, leave out from ("relates;") to end of line 33 and insert--

("(b) includes the ability to order appropriate compensation in relation to the scale and type of discrimination proven."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment will correct an anomaly in the Bill. It was inspired by the fact that one is not allowed to receive financial compensation if one has been discriminated against in the field of education, whereas one can do so in other fields.

I have heard some odd arguments at various times, such as that it would take money away from other people in the sector. I cannot follow that argument. If something goes wrong, or there is malpractice in a public service--the National Health Service comes to mind immediately--one receives compensation.

My amendment differs from the one tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, which refers to "exceptional circumstances". If one has been discriminated against, one should receive financial compensation. Educational remedies may be just too late. If someone has received the wrong education throughout his entire career, and at the age of 25, he wins a case in court, which is not an unreasonable scenario, he should receive some compensation. I await the Minister's response with interest. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, my Amendments Nos. 116, 117 and 118 are grouped with Amendment No. 107. These amendments to the enforcement provisions in Scotland have the purpose of ensuring that the sheriff, when determining a case of discrimination, will have the full armoury of disposals to hand.

In Grand Committee, the Minister argued that the intention is to retain the friendly context of the existing SEN tribunal, to avoid financial penalties. Clearly, the Minister believes that an educational remedy will always be round the corner.

In the Scottish context, it is hoped that the dialogue in front of the sheriff in chambers will also have such a constructive and happy ending. However, there will be circumstances when this is not practical. The best scenario is one in which a child has been so nastily treated by the staff or fellow pupils that he has been withdrawn from the school and placed into another. Clearly, no redress will be available from the former school, without a financial penalty.

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That scenario is similar to one of constructive dismissal in employment legislation. It will not take too long for an education provider to realise that once discrimination issues begin to loom, the best approach is to push hard for a child's removal from the school, away from the tentacles of this legislation.

I hope that the Minister will explain that I am wrong in my analogy.

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