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If we are going to extend the learning age to 18, as proposed, we will inevitably need new buildings. We shall need to enlarge our cadre of teachers skilled in teaching the skills that industry and commerce need. We would be seen to be taking skills very seriously if 14, 15, 16 and 17 year-olds, rather than having to move from one comprehensive school to another or to an FE college to do their specialist work, were able to go to purpose-built colleges of technology, continually equipped with the latest tackle needed to develop their skills. We would show how much we cared. The Government’s commitment to rebuilding, or a major refurbishment of, all secondary schools provides us with an opportunity to consider how we can, through technology colleges, provide what we require to avoid continuing to play the catch-up game for another century, which we cannot afford. The only asset that this country has is its skilled and well educated people—its effective members of the community. We have made a commitment to rescuing ourselves from 140 years of catch-up and we should respond to that by being ready to look at whether the comprehensive model is the best fitted to deliver this agenda for 14 to 18 year-olds.

My second point echoes points already made. For the policy of continuing in learning to work, it must be in place next September to respond to the needs of 12 year-olds who have fallen behind and who will be the first to come to secondary schools expecting to stay in education, learning and skills development till 18. Otherwise, those people will regress in relation to their peers. It is a major challenge. Unless we succeed in that, the policy of continuing in learning till 18 will not work, because too many young people will not want to stay on after 16. After all, we have a big enough problem already with 14, 15 and 16 year-olds who choose not to go to school, and who, at 16, employers will welcome as employees or trainees on their premises.

The Prime Minister referred in his speech to the Labour Party conference to a moral duty to help those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. We have a moral duty to respond to the needs of those young people. It is a social imperative that we do not continue to have 200,000 young who are in neither employment, nor education, nor training. This battle needs to be fought and won initially at the primary and pre-primary level. I referred to those coming forward at 12 only because they are 12 already and we have to do something about them now, this September. The battle has to be won at every step of the way, including primary. I rejoice in what the Government are doing about extending this pre-school stage to 15 hours a week. It will cost money, but it will be worth it. The Government are going the right way—but what we have to do, having got the right policies, is to have the right instruments to deliver them.



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4.30 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, this has been a long but very interesting and diverse debate. We began with an extremely coherent and full statement from the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, covering the full ground of the Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech. Like the noble Lord, Lord Warner, I welcome the fact that on this occasion we are considering the public services of health, social care and education in the same debate. I have participated in too many debates on the gracious Speech in which I have been speaking on education alongside environment and agriculture, and it is a great joy to be speaking as part of the public sector debate.

I shall not address the specific health Bills that my noble friend Lady Barker addressed in her opening remarks. However, common themes on these public services come through our debates. In all of them, the Government aspire to provide the best quality service for everyone and are faced in all of them by considerable inequalities, both in the provision of service and in the outcome of that provision at present. They are anxious to try to even out those outcomes. Many of those inequalities are linked to social class—which picks up a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, mentioned. In all they are trying to do, the Government are trying to deliver high-quality services, so that everyone can fulfil their potential and not be handicapped by the old Beveridge giant evils of ill health, poverty and ignorance.

Three interesting themes came through from the debate. The first was resources. The right reverend prelates the Bishop of Leicester and the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, mentioned it, as did the noble Baronesses, Lady Howarth and Lady Murphy, who made the point that without resources we cannot deliver on our aspirations. We need money to deliver the programmes—not just money that is guaranteed for two years, but money that helps us to provide these services sustainably, over a period of years.

One Bill that falls within the education remit is the one for reclaiming unused bank balances that were to be used for the provision of youth services. It is important to remember that it is not just, as with the National Lottery, a matter of providing capital funding to provide new youth clubs. It is a question of providing the continuing sustainable resources that enable those local authorities that have the duty to provide youth services to continue to provide those services year in and year out. It is because we have not been providing those services year in and year out that we are confronted by something of a crisis in this area. Resources must be provided over a long period. In our debates today, it has come through particularly in remarks on the Children and Young Persons Bill that we look to local authorities to carry through the reforms in relation to looked-after children. Those responsibilities should be delegated to the local authorities, but they must have the resources to be able to carry through the duties imposed on them. So resources constitute one theme that has come through.



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A second theme that I think has come through is implementation. The noble Lord, Lord Low, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Young, Lady Howarth and Lady Murphy, mentioned this, as did the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in his opening remarks. If we are to carry through these programmes, we need competent people who must be trained—how foolish it is to take money from training budgets at a time when we desperately need to train more people—but above all people who are very well motivated. If people are to feel a sense of involvement with a service in order to implement it, they must feel a sense of ownership of it. It is vital that we motivate staff well. You have only to look at the fiasco of the medical training budget to realise what a very bad influence that was and what bad motivation it provided, so implementation and training competent management are vital. Therefore, the third theme that comes through is that of involvement and ownership. There are two senses in which this is important. One was picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, when he talked about personalisation. It is vital that the services that we provide meet the needs of the individual child, the individual patient or the individual looked-after child. We need to personalise the services that are given to those people, which is expensive.

I pick up the final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. We know that most teachers can identify children at ages six and seven who are likely to experience difficulties reading by the age of 11. We also know that if you get in there early and work with them at ages six and seven and give them personalised tuition at that point, whether it be phonics or just reading and reading recovery—it is a combination of everything and different kids respond to different methods—those children will be reading when they go through to secondary school aged 11. If they can read when they go through to secondary school aged 11, it is much more likely that they will not drop out of secondary school. A reading recovery programme costs £2,000 a year per child at age six. How much more valuable it is to put in that £2,000 per child at age six than—as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned—£40,000 per young person at age 16 or 17. Therefore, you should personalise services, get in there early and make sure that you provide the services that are needed.

Here I put in a plea for therapeutic services, which are vital. Many looked-after children have psychological and emotional needs. It is vital that we recognise this and provide for these needs as well as for their straight healthcare or reading needs. As I say, we need to get in there early and personalise services. The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, referred to localisation and making sure that Whitehall does not run everything. Whitehall does not know best for everybody and there are dangers in imposing top-down initiatives rather than pushing decisions down to the local level. Time and again these Benches have stressed the importance of making accountability local and not national.

Thinking about top-down initiatives, I confess that I worry about the Education and Skills Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, explained, the Government have been confronted by a pretty intractable problem.

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For all the money that has been pumped into the education budget, we have not been able to shift the participation of 16 and 17 year-olds as we would have wished. Above all, there is the problem of the 10 per cent who are not in education, employment or training. They oscillate between unemployment and short-term jobs for which they are paid at the minimum wage. They never acquire any qualifications, and they will probably go through life unemployed for most of the time. They are also much more likely to get involved in criminal activity. It has been an extraordinarily intractable problem.

The Government have a top-down answer. They say, “We have tried hard, and we have spent money on the education system for the past 10 years, and they are still not there. We are going to pass a law that says that they have got to be there. If they do not come, we will give them ASBOs and fine them or their parents”. That is top-down. To do the Government justice, they are not going to do that until 2015. Surely the answer is that those young people are not reading, so we have to put resources into making sure that they pass into secondary school.

Moreover, for the past 25 years we have had a curriculum in our secondary schools that has turned off 50 per cent of our young people. The Government are introducing a new curriculum—an important curriculum—in the new diplomas, but we do not yet know whether it is going to work. It has not been piloted. They are rolling out five of those diplomas next year. I am worried that the schools are not ready. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, made the point that if they are to deliver the diplomas properly, they must have specialist resources. Many schools do not have those specialist resources, let alone specialist teachers. Yes, they will work in consortia, and they will work with colleges, and many colleges will have those resources. The Increased Flexibility for 14 to 16 year-olds Programme that has already been introduced has shown that 14 year-olds benefit from such vocational initiatives.

I admit that I personally have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has been saying. It surely would be far better if we had dedicated facilities for these young people. The 14 and 15 year-olds, who often have the least motivation to go to school, will be wandering around the town from one school to another to study one subject here and another subject there. That is not the most suitable thing. Let us have dedicated technical institutes or technical high schools—which is very close to what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, was asking for—where, instead of being selected, children at age 14 can opt to go.

Let us not have, as with the diplomas, two channels of training which cannot mix and match. As the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, knows, this has been a constant criticism of the way in which the Government have introduced the diplomas. There is no mixing and matching; if you opt for a diploma line you go for a diploma, and if you fail that diploma you will fail everything. You do not get O-level Maths and English if you do a diploma; you perhaps get the equivalent thereof. But what if you pass that bit and

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fail the rest of it? There are some real difficulties with the diplomas as they are. We want a technical or vocational curriculum to be offered, with specialist subjects. I have a great deal of sympathy with the solution suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing; indeed, he and I have sat and talked about it outside on various occasions.

I have doubts about the Education and Skills Bill being too top-down. The other doubt that I have about it, which is picked up by the Apprenticeship Reform Bill, is whether employers will really deliver. For 148 years, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said, we have looked to employers to deliver on apprenticeships. Time and time again, they have not done that and they have not delivered on training. Are they going to respond to the skills pledge of the noble Lord, Lord Leitch? We do not have many more firms signed up. Behind the Apprenticeship Reform Bill is the threat, perhaps, of compulsion later—of some form of levy grant system. Maybe we should have that. Yes, we want apprenticeships, but we want them properly and coherently developed. At the moment there is far too much variation from one area to another on how many years people have to study for apprenticeships and what level they have to reach. I also warn noble Lords that far too many of those in modern apprenticeships are reaching only level 2, not the full level 3.

Given the time, I will not say anything further about either the Sale of Student Loans Bill—although I have some reservations about it—or the Children and Young Persons Bill. My noble friend Lady Walmsley, who cannot be here today, spoke at some length yesterday. That is on the record, in Hansard.

I return to the three themes that I picked up, because they are important. We must have long-term resources to sustain the services we need. We need good people who are well trained to implement those services, who are well motivated and who can act as champions for what we want. Lastly, we want personalisation and localisation. All are vital components of a successful policy.

4.46 pm

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of my party to this key area of the humble Address. We have been treated to a wide-ranging, expert and thoughtful debate.

We had a masterful exposé of smoke-and-mirrors accounting from my noble friend Lord James of Blackheath, a robust defence of the Conservative stewardship of the health service from my noble friend Lord Fowler, along with an incisive analysis of the crisis in HIV/AIDS. My noble friend Lord Colwyn pointed out in a measured way the problems facing dentists and I would hope that the Government would take up his offer of speaking to the profession. I had a wonderful vision of the noble Baronesses, Lady Emerton and Lady Murphy, deep sweeping and deep cleaning hospitals. It would be a brave bug that stood in their way or, indeed, a brave Minister.



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The noble Lord, Lord Soley, made a good pitch to appear on “Thought for the Day”. He could advocate his reasons why we should not be a “walk on by” society—a theme that I wholeheartedly endorse. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, highlighted the importance of flexible working to help women’s progress in medicine. As a dyslexic, I have enormous sympathy with the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock.

In the past six hours, we have had passionate and powerful speeches—all sprinkled with a good deal of common sense. I would love to mention every contribution because each deserves to be mentioned, but I fear that I will be foiled by the constraints of time. My noble friend Lord Howe set out the challenges we face in health and adult social care and how targets distort services. He explained why we feel that the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill falls a good deal short of the rhetoric of setting the NHS free from meddling politicians and putting power in the hands of patients.

My noble friend also spoke in his customary exemplary fashion and with sensitivity on some of the more controversial and difficult issues that will face us in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Inevitably, it will stir deep emotions on both sides of the argument because it raises issues of conscience. I personally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and my noble friend Lady Cumberlege on state-sponsored fatherlessness. This should not be a matter of party policy and I join my noble friend Lord Howe in calling for this issue to be decided on a free vote across the House. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us on that when he responds.

Much of the success in delivering good health adult social care will depend on a well trained and motivated workforce. It is the same in children’s services and education. Under the leadership of David Cameron, the Conservative Party has done much research and taken a good, hard look at where we can find solutions to the difficulties that overwhelm so many of the vulnerable in our society. Part of that is our Social Workers’ Commission, which has been so kindly mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. It was set up by my honourable friend Tim Loughton MP, and I had the great privilege to serve on it. Under the patronage of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Lord, Lord Laming, the commission’s experts had no affiliation to the Conservative Party, but shared a desire and dedication to inform the debate and to find solutions—the same desire that the noble Baronesses, Lady Pitkeathley and Lady Howarth of Breckland, expressed today. We hope that our report, entitled No More Blame Game—The Future for Children’s Social Workers, will stimulate a constructive debate because there is no doubt that children’s social workers operate very much at the sharp end of children’s services. We will need all their expertise to deliver the best possible outcomes for looked-after children.

The Children and Young Persons Bill is rightly ambitious for those children who, for the most part, find themselves in the care of the state through

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no fault of their own. We welcome many of the proposals but, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester said, they are long overdue. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, that, like the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, we will give the Government a hard time on anything that falls short on providing the best care. For too long our debates have concentrated on the outrageous number of children in care, 60,000, who are moved from pillar to post, away from all that is comfortable and familiar. That affects not only their emotional well-being, but jeopardises their chance of decent qualifications. While I acknowledge that the figures have improved, it is still small wonder that only 12 per cent of looked-after children gained five good GCSEs.

It is good that the Government are committed to ensuring placement stability in the two years before GCSEs, but placement stability in an area where a child has roots and friendships should be a desired outcome at all stages of a child’s life in care. We welcome the Government’s intention to listen to children and to young people regarding important decisions that affect their future. I remember listening to a young girl in care who said that it was so dispiriting always to be talked about rather than talked to. I join the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in warmly welcoming the Government’s commitment to ensure that young people are not forced out of care before they are ready and to provide them with support and guidance for as long as they need it. Never again must we hear from the inspectors of 16 year-olds cast adrift into an uncertain future with all their worldly goods tied up in a black bin liner.

Is it any wonder that so many of those who leave the care system enter the prison system—failed first by their families and then by the state which professed to care for them? If they slip through the net, we must ensure that they are properly cared for while in custody; that they know that someone still cares for them on the outside; and that we will do all that we can to stop them reoffending. That includes education, vocational skills, communication skills and the arts, as so powerfully expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen. I so agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, about the arts raising much needed levels of self esteem.

I cannot leave the subject until I mention trafficking. It is a hideous trade, as we have heard so graphically from my noble friend Lord McColl. In March of this year, in our annual International Women’s Day debate, and again in June in a debate on trafficking, I mentioned the plight of a particular group of young people who are often overlooked. That is the scandal of young girls who leave the care of the state and are then trafficked within our own borders, mostly for sexual exploitation. These children just disappear. Last year, 48 victims of child trafficking went missing from the care of just three local authorities. That is a shocking figure, and one that we simply cannot ignore.

It could not possibly be a gracious Speech without an education Bill. We have now had three manifestos, 11 Acts of Parliament, 10 strategy documents, nine

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Green Papers, eight White Papers and six Secretaries of State, and yet almost half of 11 year-olds cannot read, write and add up properly, and in the past five years key stage 1 results at age seven have flat-lined. In their latest Bill—the Education and Skills Bill—the Government propose to raise the education participation age to 18 by 2015. The desire to ensure basic literacy and numeracy and to create a competitive and well skilled workforce is worthy, and the underlying ambition of the Government is sound. The educational charity Edge has called it a noble objective and went on to ask,

However, it feels that it is an initiative that will be doomed to failure unless the Government address why young people drop out in the first place. We share that concern.

By simply dictating that it will be compulsory to stay in education or training until 18, the Government run the risk of overlooking and thus perpetuating the reason why so many of our young are disenchanted with education—and there are many reasons why they are disillusioned and lack incentives to work. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation pointed out in its excellent report on poverty and social exclusion of December 2006 that it is often because the Government fail to take into account the importance and influence of families and communities in this area. It is therefore hardly surprising that the number of 16 to 18 year-olds not in education, employment or training has gone up under this Government from 160,000 to 220,000, considering that the UK has a higher proportion of children in workless households than any other EU country.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, so rightly said, compulsion does not seem to be the solution to the real, underlying problem of a lack of skills. The Government’s proposal to compel young people to stay in education or training until they are 18, backed by criminal sanctions for failing to do so, is an example of the Government appearing tough on skills deficiencies without being tough on the causes of skills deficiencies. Of course we on these Benches want to see more young people studying and training until they are 18, but the Government’s proposal is not well thought out.


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