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Lord Judd: I support the amendment. Its relevance can be succinctly established: are we about empowering these young people and children, enabling them to develop a sense of their own worth and personal significance, or are we, by a host of arrangements that are in place, doing the reverse and continuing a culture in which the child inevitably comes to see himself as a passive player in a system? I believe that the latter situation is why so many of these children and young people go on to difficult futures and too often end up
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Lord Adonis: Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 places local authorities, and therefore independent reviewing officers, under a duty to promote the educational achievement of looked-after children. As part of this, they should pay particular attention to the needs of those with special educational needs and promote their interests, including their educational interests, to the fullest extent.
The noble Baroness is concerned that children in care may have less effective access to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal because, as she said, their social workers, as employees of local authorities, might be unlikely to appeal against their own authorities on behalf of such children. Let me say clearly that, if this were the case and appeals were not being made to the tribunal on behalf of these children when they should be, that situation would be unsatisfactory and would need to be addressed. We know that some cases are appealed by local authorities on behalf of children whom they look after. The issue is whether this is not done in other cases where it should be to best serve the interests of the looked-after child.
In October, when the former Education and Skills Select Committee of another place published its report on special educational needs assessment and funding, I announced that we would be conducting research into parents experience of the SEN assessment, statementing and tribunal system. We will ask researchers to look at the position of those caring for looked-after children with SEN, including local authority social workers, and whether they are reluctant to appeal to the tribunal and, if so, why that might be. In the Care Matters White Paper, we announced that we had asked Ofsted to report on the progress of children in care with SEN in 2009-10 and that we would consider whether the arrangements for appeal to the tribunal on behalf of children in care should be reviewed. On the basis of these two reviews, we will wish to consider the case for extending the right of appeal in the way that the noble Baroness suggests, but we believe it right to wait for this further information and advice before we take a step with such radical implications as that set out by the noble Baroness.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I am grateful to the Minister for that response. Do I take it that this also applies in relation to Amendment No. 101 and the whole question of children in care having the right to appeal in their own right against a placement? The SENDIST issue is separate from the other one that I raised of children being able to appeal in their own right; it concerns independent advocacy.
Lord Adonis: I am sorry. I should have replied separately on Amendment No. 101. The bulk of the noble Baronesss remarks concerned the first amendment in the group, which is what concentrated my mind.
Our view is not the same in that respect. Section 8 orders, other than residence orders, do not apply in respect of those children who are in the care of the local authority under a care order. There are good reasons for that. For such children, parental responsibility has been conferred on the local authority through the making of the care order. The making of arrangements for contact and for placement of a child who is in care is part of the local authoritys statutory duties in respect of that child. Once the family courts have made an order to place the child in the local authoritys care, it is right that the local authority has the ongoing statutory responsibility to plan for that childs care.
The Children Act 1989 is predicated on the basis that the courts are to decide whether the grounds for making a care order are met. If so, beyond the making of the order, it is for the local authority, rather than the courts, to exercise responsibility for the supervision of the care order. The role of the independent reviewing officer is important here in monitoring the local authoritys implementation of the care plan.
Other important safeguards are already built into the system to meet the objectives set out by the noble Baroness, particularly the duty to allow reasonable contact with parents and others and the requirement to take account of the childs wishes and feelings and those of his parents in taking decisions about placements and contact. A child who is the subject of a care order is, of course, also entitled to apply for a care order to be discharged and for a contact order under Section 34 of the Children Act 1989, and the IRO has an explicit duty, set out in regulations, to help the child to obtain legal advice to do so. Recourse to the full range of Section 8 orders is therefore not necessary. We do not go so far as the noble Baroness on this issue but we believe that there are already sufficient safeguards in the system.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. On the SENDIST issue, we are somewhat reassured by what he said. I hope that the review will look at the anomaly that exists at present and make proposals in relation to it. On the Section 8 orders, I will read again what the Minister said, which does not seem fully to meet the issues that we are raising here, so we may wish to bring the matter back. However, I will read through the response carefully and consider it. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 75 and 76, which are grouped with
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We think that it is for the head teacher to make such staffing decisions. The head teacher knows what is required, knows the people available to do the job, knows their qualifications and their characteristics, and should be the one to carry out the task, overseen, as are all other major decisions in the school, by the governors. That is why we tabled Amendment No. 76, which would designate a governor to carry out that role.
Amendment No. 75 is a probing amendment, not an Oliver Twist amendment this time. We wonder what sort of person the Government have in mind when setting up this statutory duty to have a designated person. The amendment says that it should be a teacher, but we are not necessarily totally wedded to that. It is important that the person should have the appropriate status in the school and the appropriate power to bring about change, if that is what the looked-after children attending the school need. The qualified teachers on the staff tend to have that status and power.
Given that 28 per cent of looked-after children have a statement of special educational needs compared with 3 per cent of children generally, will it be insisted on in regulations that that training must include training in special educational needs? That is most important, whether or not the person is a qualified teacher, particularly given that even qualified teachers, unless they are specialists in this area, have relatively little training in special educational needs during their initial teacher training qualification course. Many of them fortunately continue their professional development by learning about SEN. Given that every teacher is a teacher of special needs, every teacher should do that. It is, however, particularly important that this designated person, whether or not they are a teacher, has that sort of training. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me that subsection (2) includes that.
Lord Judd: It strikes me that this is potentially a very helpful amendment to allow my noble friend to be able to fill in a little more of the picture that he has in mind. Let me make one observation in Grand Committee that I made on Second Reading. While it is obviously essential to have someone who has the ultimate specific responsibility of ensuring that things are happening, that should not become a substitute for the culture in a school. It seems to me that there is a cultural issue here that affects all staff. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that in teacher training, in-service training and the rest there is constant emphasis on the special responsibilities and needs in this area. Sometimes in society we like to have someone to blame when things go wrong and to say that they were specifically responsible when something did not happen. That person is never going to be able to achieve all that should be achieved creatively and imaginatively unless they are working with a well informed and committed bunch of colleagues.
Baroness Morris of Bolton: We support the amendments. An essential element of improving the quality of care for looked-after children is improving their education, so we support the proposal that someone with the appropriate status should be designated to be responsible for looked-after children to ensure that they are given any extra support that is needed at school. We want to make certain that looked-after children are given the same chances at succeeding as their peers, and this requires some extra help. Even knowing that there is someone there could be an important resource. Given that the key to this is bettering the childrens educational prospects, perhaps the person best designated to do this would be a teacher, as they need to be able to assist looked-after children in their educational plans and they should be properly trained. For a similar reason, we support the further amendment that a member of the governing body be designated to monitor the scheme. That adds a useful area of oversight, which will secure high standards of care and support and ensure that a designated teacher for looked-after children does not get ignored by a schools administration.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I very much support all three amendments. This gives me the opportunity to ask the Minister a question. If he does not have the answer now, perhaps he could write to me. Given, for all the reasons that we have heard about, how important it is to get the earliest possible help of one sort or another to children who are in needcertainly those who go into caredoes the basic teacher training course pay enough attention to this area? In other words, does it give teachers enough training to be able to help to diagnose such things at a very early agenot necessarily diagnose them themselvesand pick up signs that they can then refer to a specialist? I would be particularly grateful if we could look at that. Otherwise, I intend to table an amendment on Report.
Secondly, I support the governor idea. I declare an interest as president of the National Governors Association; I have been involved with governing
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Lord Adonis: I hope that on two of the three points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, I can give her complete satisfaction and that, on the third, I can satisfy her that our approach is appropriate. She asked whether the designated person with responsibility for promoting the educational achievements of looked-after children would be a teacher. It is our firm intention that that person should be a teacher. We intend to achieve that by regulations under Clause 17(3). She also asked whether the training would be for real. Clause 17(2) introduces a strong legal requirement that the governing body,
That is as strong as it gets in terms of new legislative requirements. I can assure the noble Baroness that this will be underpinned by guidance to spell out what it should mean in practice. For example, we will look at whether there should be accredited national training, which is what we have done in the case of special educational needs co-ordinators where we are improving the national training requirements following the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
Lord Adonis: I was not saying special educational needs training; I was talking about training appropriate to the role of the designated teacher in respect of looked-after children. Some element of that would have to deal with special educational needs children, but I would not want the noble Baroness to think that they should undergo the same training as SENCOs; rather, they would have to undergo training that is specific to their function as the designated teacher with responsibility for looked-after children.
On Amendment No. 76, we agree with the noble Baroness that school governors play a significant role in this area. It is right that they should pay full attention to promoting the educational achievement
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The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, asked whether we could improve initial teacher training in this regard. There is massive pressure on time in initial teacher training, particularly on the PGCE course, where very little time is spent in a higher education institution, but we regard this as an important area and we will look to see what improvements we can make in initial teacher training to promote awareness of the needs of looked-after children.
Baroness Walmsley: I thank the Minister for his reply. I am pleased that he is able to confirm that subsection (4), I presume, will ensure that the governing body receives regular reports on this matter. Whether it does so through a designated governor could, I suppose, be left to the governing body itself, but as long as that gets doneI suppose that subsection (4) will ensure that it willI will be quite satisfied. I thank the Minister for the clarity of the rest of his reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
( ) Section 104(2) of the 1989 Act (orders and regulations under that Act subject to negative resolution procedure) does not apply to the first regulations made by each of the appropriate national authorities which contain provision made (whether alone or with other provision) under section 23C(5B)(b) of that Act and
The noble Lord said: Regulations that will be laid under subsection (5B)(b) will define what higher education means for the purposes of this clause. They will therefore define in what circumstances a local authority will have to make the payment; that is, which courses of study will trigger a payment to a care leaver. Given that these regulations will effectively set the ambit of the delegated power by defining the total liability of local authorities in terms of these payments, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee recommended that regulations under this subsection should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure
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The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 84 stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Walmsley. The purpose of this amendment is to enable young people to stay with their foster carers between the ages of 18 and 21. The Care Matters White Paper indicated a desire to enable young people between the ages of 18 and 21 to stay with their former foster parents; it said that pilots of such schemes would be run in 2008. We believe that the provision of stable placements for young people making the transition into adult lifeboth those going into further or higher education and those needing more intensive supportcould make a massive difference to their life chances. Indeed, we had a lengthy debate on these issues yesterday. Many young people in care will have experienced significant disruption to their lives and they are likely to need additional help and support to enable them to succeed educationally and to make a successful transition to adult life. Despite this, children in care are often required to leave their foster carers before they are 18. Children in care, despite their vulnerability, are leaving care at a younger age than most other young people have to leave their families, which they do on average at about the age of 24.
At present some local authorities operate an unregulated form of supported lodgings arrangements to enable foster carers to continue to provide a placement for that young person post-18, but there are no guarantees of any support for the foster carer or for the young person. However, many local authorities do not provide even this option. We believe that every local authority should enable the provision of placements for young people between 18 and 21. We welcome the pilots, but we believe that it will be necessary to introduce regulations informed by them to resolve several issues and to avoid the myriad interpretations of the scheme across local authorities that may prevent foster carers from being able to provide these placements to young people desperately in need of support.
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