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Division No. 5


CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Avebury, L.
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.
Bradshaw, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Byford, B.
Chidgey, L.
Craigavon, V.
Dahrendorf, L.
Denham, L.
Dykes, L.
Falkland, V.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Fookes, B.
Garden, L.
Geddes, L.
Goodhart, L.
Greaves, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hooson, L.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hylton, L.
Inglewood, L.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar, C. [Teller]
Mar and Kellie, E. [Teller]
Masham of Ilton, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Monson, L.
Montrose, D.
Moynihan, L.
Palmer, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Ramsbotham, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Roper, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sandwich, E.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sharples, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Stern, B.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tyler, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Adams of Craigielea, B.
Adonis, L.
Amos, B. [Lord President.]
Anderson of Swansea, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bilston, L.
Borrie, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Carter of Coles, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B. [Teller]
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Drayson, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Foulkes of Cumnock, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Brookwood, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Hayman, B.
Henig, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Judd, L.
Kilclooney, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McDonagh, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
Moonie, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Nicol, B.
O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Powell of Bayswater, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Snape, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Bolton, B.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Wilkins, B.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Norwood Green, L.


Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.


 
8 Mar 2006 : Column 813
 

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.32 pm.

Perhaps I may also point out that the limit for Back-Bench contributions on the Unstarred Question is seven minutes, not the eight minutes that was previously stated.

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

Secure Training Centres

7.31 pm

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is the role and purpose of secure training centres in the appropriate management and rehabilitation of young people in trouble.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is exactly seven years ago, almost to the day, that we debated in this Chamber the role of STCs and heard deep concerns expressed across the House about what we were doing with our most vulnerable, disturbed and difficult young people who are in need of some kind of custody because of their persistent offending. These concerns have not diminished, despite all the expanded emphasis on children's services and the overall assertion that "Every Child Matters". It is our bounden duty to care for, protect and meet the needs of all children. The younger they are and the greater the need, the greater the responsibility. But the evidence is that provision for those most needy of children remains seriously inappropriate.

Two weeks ago, the Carlile inquiry into,

secure settings, commissioned by the Howard League, was published. That such treatment should be investigated at all illustrates just how wrong things are. I have no doubt that a small number of children need to be in secure settings for limited periods for their own safety and for that of others, and those who, very rarely, commit very serious crimes. But there is also no doubt that these are the most needy and challenging children in our community. More than half have been in care, 85 per cent have a personality disorder and most have been excluded from school.
 
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Today, there are around 2,735 children under 18 years old in custody in England and Wales. We are incarcerating twice as many children as even we did 10 years ago. When they break the law and troubled children become children in trouble, it seems then that every child does not matter. Four secure training centres now take children as young as 12—which is unique in western Europe—and account for 247 beds at a cost of £164,750 a year.

I recently revisited Medway and went to Rainsbrook secure training centre where I was given a friendly and open welcome. Both are private companies owned by Rebound, a subsidiary of Securicor. I was more thoroughly searched, in a cubicle by a member of staff, than I have ever been in a lifetime of going into prisons, including the Maze. This emphasis on security, even for an expected visitor, and the fact that the children are referred to as "trainees", sets the tone and defines the ethos. The statement of purpose refers to the "safe and secure conditions" and affirms the commitment to,

This is the language of prison, yet these are very young children. Even teddy bears can no longer be "earned" as a privilege, as they were when I last visited five years ago. The ethos and regime is a long way from the kind of therapeutic, specialised, caring environment such children absolutely need. This is what secure children's homes have to offer.

It is axiomatic that anyone working with needy children recognises that contact with home, relatives or carers is integral to any work being done by professionals. It is central to successful reintegration into life outside for the child. However, almost a third of all children in STCs are over 50 miles away from home, and visiting hours are not open. In both Medway and Rainsbrook, many parents do not even make it to a review or planning meeting. I was amazed and saddened to find that although a wonderful theatrical production had just taken place, to the pride and pleasure of the staff and all concerned because of the children's achievements, no parents had been invited. In another, a boy about to be released from Rainsbrook, near Rugby, was hoping to go back to stay with his foster mother, who he had rarely seen during his sentence. She lives in Bristol.

Contact with local agencies is vital in helping a child to cope on the outside on release, but becomes almost impossible if children are held far from home. The evidence is that these inter-agency linkages with STCs are often inadequate or non-existent because they are just too far away for any meaningful joint working to take place. Secure children's homes, in contrast, are by definition local, so family contact and local agency links are easier.

Equally fundamental and critical is the size of the establishment. For young, difficult children, a small environment is essential if the necessary relationships are to be established. It will affect significantly the nature of the relationships within it and enables meaningful work on underlying problems and behaviour to be addressed. A large centre, even if
 
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broken up into small units, is not the answer. The smallest STC now has 76 beds, and the next one being planned in Wales is for 100 beds. These are far too big. By contrast, no secure children's home has more than 40 children as a matter of professional policy, and is often much smaller.

Lastly, the quality and length of training of staff is absolutely vital. Currently, STCs put their staff through seven weeks of training before they start, with subsequent follow-up training days. Given the challenges of the children, that is entirely inadequate. It is unprofessional, I claim, and wrong to ask staff with such brief training to manage such children. The outcome has been that the turnover rate of staff in STCs is extremely high, and it is no accident that at Oakhill, the newest STC which has made a very unhappy start and has had a poor inspection report, the first director has resigned and has been replaced by a career prison governor from Ashfield YOI, who was responsible for 360 15 to 17 year-olds. Prison staff do not have the training to work with young children. Standards of practice are inevitably very different and ultimately the risk of the improper use of restraint, single separation or strip searching grows through a combination of inexperience, lack of training and therefore confidence.

In that light, even with the good intentions which I know those who are running the STCs have, particularly with their emphasis on education, it is quite clear that the needs of this group of children cannot be appropriately met in these institutions. Eight years ago they did not exist; they are a creation of this Government. In the past, very young prolific offenders had their needs met in specialist secure children's homes, in psychiatric units or in the community. Now we are punishing, not treating; criminalising, not civilising our vulnerable young people. A comprehensive review of the whole approach is urgently needed so that these children can be better helped. Otherwise, the costs both to the Government and the country will continue to escalate.

In Scotland—which I make no apologies for mentioning—because of the children's hearing system, all children are kept out of the criminal justice system until they are 16. There are no STCs, and all the needs of this group of children are met in secure children's homes. I have just visited a secure unit near Glasgow called Kenmure St. Mary's. There, we found a truly secure place, with an explicit welfare ethos and a very stable, highly trained staff who have a minimum of eight months training and accreditation. It has a very high staff-child ratio of 1:3. Needs are met in a differentiated way in specialist units, including assessment, training, long-term offender and sexually harmful behaviour units. Families are welcome from 9 am to 9 pm every day. There is a very low incidence of restraint based on TCI—therapeutic crisis intervention—and the catchment area is predominantly local so that contact with local services is easier. The children sleep in bedrooms, not the cells of the STC, and 90 per cent plus come through the hearing system.
 
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There it is, on our doorstep, and it is proof that other models exist which could and should be followed. It is a civilised, caring place. I have just had a letter from the Association of Directors of Social Work in Scotland expressing shock at the Carlile report, saying that it avoids the shocking excesses of force that the report discusses, and confirming that its system for under-16s is based on principles of welfare, not punishment—needs first, then deeds. I believe that the existing provision of secure children's homes in England and Wales, which have a similar philosophy, should be strengthened and developed along these lines.

Can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will look seriously at the therapeutically based, local, small-scale model for very young offenders before continuing any further down the child prison path with all its inappropriateness and the harm that follows? Will he also tell the House if he is prepared to take a new strategic look at how the relevant government departments and other agencies are operating with the needs of young children in mind?

Back in 1994, when the Tory government's proposals for STCs were first being discussed, Tony Blair said this in the Commons:

How right he was.

7.43 pm


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