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Education: 16 to 19

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a joint consultation document with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills that proposes to put local authorities in the lead in delivering our drive to raise the participation age and sets out plans to reform the skills landscape.

We want every 16 and 17 year-old to participate in education and training. And we want every adult to have the chance to improve their skills to get a job, a better job, or have a more successful economic life. In this document we set out our proposals for moving £7 billion of funding for education and training of 16 to 18 year-olds to local authorities while establishing a new skills funding agency to fund skills development for adults. We have been working closely with our colleagues in the Learning and Skills Council, with the Local Government Association and with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. These

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proposals set out our recommended models for consultation ahead of legislative proposals.

The key proposals in the document will help to deliver our ambition to raise the participation age and transform attainment by age 19 and underpin our aim of a demand-led system and the integration of employment and skills.

Local authorities are in the best place to lead the implementation of the new participation age locally. They are already responsible for schools and are taking responsibility for advising young people. We are now giving them new duties to ensure that the right range of provision is in place for young people to continue in education or training until age 19 and for funding it. In doing so, we are making sure that they have the ability to deliver in full the new curriculum and qualifications entitlement for young people, and to raise standards.

The consultation document sets out how, for young people, we aim to place leadership of the system, accountability for outcomes, duties and the funding to deliver, at a local level—local authorities will have the responsibility and duties to deliver for everyone from birth to 19. Our proposals include:

giving local authorities the responsibility for ensuring clear local leadership to ensure that every young person is pursuing a programme which engages them and prepares them for life, including young people to the age of 25 with learning difficulties and or disabilities. This includes responsibility for delivering the full entitlement to a choice from the 17 new diplomas, an apprenticeship place and the foundation learning tier, for learners working below level 2; giving local authorities responsibility for commissioning the £7 billion annually spent on education and training for 16 to 19 year-olds; more local accountability for local authorities to take an even more integrated approach to delivery of all children’s services from ages zero to 19, helping to deliver the children’s plan;funding schools and colleges in comparable ways through retaining the national funding formula; giving local authorities the powers to commission more places in schools and colleges, and contract with new providers in order to respond to the needs and demands of young people; requiring local authorities to work with each other to commission provision across coherent travel-to-learn areas; creating a common performance management framework for schools and colleges so that young people, their parents and carers can make informed decisions about learning opportunities and provide a robust framework for local authorities to carry out their duties in relation to school sixth form and sixth form college performance and for the DIUS Skills Funding Agency to carry out its duties in relation to FE colleges and providers performance;bringing local authorities together regionally, so that, with the regional development agency that

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will co-chair the regional tier, they can ensure that they cater for the future economic and skills needs of each region;creating a young people’s learning agency to carry out a small number of national level functions such as developing a national funding formula and helping to ensure that regional proposals are affordable and deliver universally high quality provision regardless of where a young person lives; enabling local authorities to work closely with the Young People’s Learning Agency and the DIUS Skills Funding Agency to make sure that capital funding through local authorities joins up with funding through the FE modernisation fund to create a coherent capital programme for both adult and young people’s facilities in FE; and ensuring that all providers will have a single commissioner for all 16-to-19 provision who will act on behalf of all the local authorities from which the colleges draws its students.

For adults, we have the opportunity to enable more effective delivery to the benefit of employers and people. The advent of skills accounts and growth of Train to Gain mark a radically different model of organising the skills system where the role of government is to make sure customers are well informed and well supported so that their demand for learning leads supply. We will create a dedicated, streamlined agency at the core of our reforms. Our proposals include:

the creation of a new dedicated skills funding agency which builds on the success of the Learning and Skills Council and is capable of responding quickly and flexibly to national, regional and local skills needs; the skills funding agency will route funding swiftly, efficiently and securely to FE colleges and other providers following the purchasing decisions of adults and employers. It will make sure public funds complement the large private investment which is made in adult skills and training;the skills funding agency will maintain oversight of the coherence and performance of the whole FE service and especially its responsiveness to the strategic skills needs of employers and learners;the agency will be responsible for the performance management of further education colleges and other providers. It will be the single point of intervention where either pre-19 or post-19 performance does not meet nationally agreed acceptable standards;as announced in World-class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All, the Government are creating a new national apprenticeships service (NAS) to take end-to-end responsibility for the apprenticeships programme, including ultimate accountability for national delivery of targets. The NAS will be a discrete, coherent service, led by a director reporting to the Secretaries of State for the DCSF and for the DIUS, and managed at first within the Learning and Skills Council and then the skills funding agency; the skills funding agency will manage the national employer service, the single service for employers with 5,000-plus employees. The relationship

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between NAS and the NES will be close, so that employers experience a “no-wrong-door” service; the skills funding agency will manage the creation and management of the new England-wide adult advancement and careers service, which will play a key role, with Jobcentre Plus, in boosting individual demand for skills and guiding people to the right training to meet their needs and help change their lives;the new agency will have an operational remit, established as a next steps agency; andour departments remain committed to college autonomy and deregulating the operating environments. The new further education improvement body and the FE sector’s own proposals for self regulation will be working together to raise the performance of the FE service for young people and adults.

The skills landscape has grown and reshaped itself over the years. Whilst the current landscape has worked well, with the LSC playing a particularly critical role supporting the achievements of young people and adults since 2001, the ever-increasing pace of change means that the skills landscape must change if we are to achieve the skills challenges. With almost three-quarters of the workforce of 2020 already out of compulsory education, we need to make sure the skills landscape can respond to the demands of adults and employers.

Likewise, the Government believe that this system of local leadership for education and training for all young people will contribute to a radical transformation in the life chances of young people. This new system will support reform of the curriculum and qualifications and the reform of wider services for young people, to facilitate the raising of the participation age, to the benefit of young people, the economy and society.

The two complimentary systems set out in our proposals reflect the different needs of the young people and adult sectors. They allow the two national bodies to work closely together and co-ordinate their activity so that schools, colleges and other providers are in turn able to deliver excellent learning opportunities to all.

As we make the changes we are committed to minimising unnecessary costs and bureaucracy and making sure schools, colleges and providers are able to focus on effective education and training. We will continue to involve those who will be affected by the changes as we implement them.

We are confident these plans will provide for new and innovative ways of tackling education and skills challenges and strengthen support for young people and adults. It is absolutely essential that as we prepare for change we continue to challenge schools, colleges and all providers to deliver the best possible outcomes for young people and adults already in education and training. We have just seen the highest rise in numbers of young people achieving at level 2 and level 3 by the age of 19, and the numbers of adults achieving basic skills and level 2 qualifications reaching record levels. The Government are determined that these achievements are bettered. We will continue to be

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ambitious for the next cohort of young people and adults and will make the changes proposed in this document with a view to strengthening further the experience of these young people and adults in learning.

I am placing in the Library copies of the consultation document Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver. The consultation period runs from Monday 17 March to Monday 9 June.

Fire and Rescue Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My honourable friend the Minister for Local Government (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I would like to report to the House that this morning Sir Ken Knight, the Government’s chief fire and rescue adviser, published his report into the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) operational response to the widespread summer flooding of 2007.

Sir Ken’s report praises the FRS for its dedication and professionalism in dealing with severe challenges during the floods in protecting lives, infrastructure and property. I fully endorse those views.

The report examines a number of key issues including: FRS command and control, the national capability to respond to major floods, equipment and health and safety, training, effective use of flood-risk information, the national co-ordination of FRS assets such as high-volume pumps, and the role of category 2 responders including utility companies in such emergencies.

The Government welcome this report. Its findings will contribute directly to Sir Michael Pitt’s “lessons learned review” final report which is due to be published in the summer.

I have placed copies of the report in the Libraries of both Houses.

Health: Working-age Population

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) and I have today received Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of Britain’s working-age population, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, commissioned by our departments last year.

The report sets out the impact of working-age ill-health and the scale of the challenge ahead of us. Ill-health among working-age people impacts on many of our key priorities, such as eradicating child poverty, achieving full employment, tackling health inequalities and creating a strong and successful economy. While we have done much across government

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on this agenda over the past few years, there is clearly more still to do. This is the focus of today’s review.

The Government welcome the review and will consider Dame Carol’s findings carefully. Over the coming months we will study her recommendations closely and will develop detailed proposals to make a real difference. This work will support our wider challenge of ensuring that the NHS becomes more than just a treatment service for patients who are ill, but helps to keep people healthy and prevent ill-health from occurring too.

While it will take some time to develop this package of measures, I can today set out the immediate steps we are taking to ensure that 2008 marks a step change in the way we approach the health of the working-age population.

Dame Carol has flagged up that employee access to occupational health is often poor and there needs to be increased support for smaller employers. We can today announce that we are taking a next small step to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). An £11 million capital fund is being established to allow us to set up six new NHS Plus demonstration sites to look at innovative ways of supporting SMEs with occupational health services, adding to the five demonstration sites we established last year.

Meanwhile, we recognise that early intervention is crucial to helping people with health conditions stay in work and preventing milder health conditions from worsening. Therefore we will also be looking at the best way of exploring Dame Carol’s suggestion of a “Fit for Work”’ service for people in the early stages of sickness absence. Any such pilot will be evaluated to assess the benefits to individuals and businesses and the level of potential savings which could support the costs. There may also be the opportunity for employers to contribute to such a service if it were found to be effective.

We are also committed to improving the support for those people who do fall out of work on to benefits. The new employment and support allowance and the significant investment we are making in Pathways to Work will help many new benefit recipients to return to work and fulfil their potential. I am also committed to helping those people who are currently on incapacity benefit. While they can already volunteer for the support available through Pathways, it is my ambition that, over time and as resources permit, we transfer everyone on incapacity benefit to the employment and support allowance. We will also look to apply a more active approach to existing incapacity benefit claimants as well as new ones, starting with those under 25. We will explore using a new funding mechanism to reward private and voluntary sector specialist providers for investing in helping long-term incapacity benefits claimants to return to work.

We will also ensure that, from 2010, all existing incapacity benefit customers will have the new work capability assessment applied when their entitlement to benefit is due to be reassessed. The new test will be a more accurate assessment of functional ability, reflecting the activities needed in today’s workplace,

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and looking at what people can do, as well as what they can’t do. In particular the new test will include a more extensive and fairer assessment of mental function.

Dame Carol rightly points out that mental ill-health represents a key challenge for the Government. As such, supporting people with mental health conditions will be a central element of the Government response, with our proposed national strategy on mental health and work forming part of the package. The development of the strategy will be led in part by Dame Carol herself, working closely with stakeholders in this area. As we develop this strategy we will assess the effectiveness of existing programmes and treatments on people with mental health conditions. We will also consider the findings of the Royal College of Psychiatrists report, Mental Health and Work,commissioned to support Dame Carol’s review.

We are also committed to ensuring that our pathways to work and improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) programmes are aligned as they are rolled out across the country, ensuring that people receive mental health and employment support in a joined-up fashion. I can today also announce that DWP will provide funding to test placing private or voluntary-sector advisers in the IAPT programme, offering employment advice to working-age people receiving therapy, whether in employment or not.

The measures I have set out today are our first steps in the journey set out by Dame Carol. We are committed to making this journey and radically improving the health of working-age people. We want to help more people to enter or remain in work and establish healthier workplaces as the norm, with an ultimate ambition of good jobs for all. Success in this agenda will benefit individuals, families, communities, businesses and the economy as a whole.

Copies of Working for a Healthier Tomorrowand its accompanying evidence summary will be placed in the Library.

Prisons: Drugs

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Minister of State (David Hanson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government are committed to improving prison drug treatment. Effective prison drug treatment lies at the heart of reducing reoffending; reducing the harm to individuals, their families and the wider community caused by drug misuse and in helping offenders to lead law-abiding, productive lives on release.

I am today with my right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo) and my honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Ivan Lewis), announcing additional Department of Health (DH) funding for prison clinical drug treatment. In 2007-08, £12.7 million was invested; this will rise to £24.4 million (actual) in 2008-09, £39 million (indicative) in 2009-10 and £43 million (indicative) in 2010-11. This additional funding, further developing the integrated

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drug treatment system (IDTS) in prisons, is aimed at improving the volume and quality of drug treatment with a particular emphasis on the first 28 days in custody and better integration with the community services to which most drug-misusing prisoners will return.

We are also pleased to announce that a national prison drug treatment review group will be established to oversee the continued development of prison drug treatment, informed by recommendations arising from a review of prison drug treatment funding conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) last year.

We are pleased that Professor Lord Kamlesh Patel from the University of Central Lancashire, has agreed to chair this group, which will consider the PwC recommendations in more detail, agree a single set of priorities and compile national guidance around the streamlining of the commissioning, delivery, funding and performance management of drug treatment for offenders. Lord Patel has made an important contribution both in his role as chairman on the Mental Health Commission and as a non-executive director on the board of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse.

Considerable progress has already been made—funding for prison treatment has increased year on year (up 1,008 per cent since 1996-97), prison drug treatment services have developed rapidly in the past few years with record numbers engaged in treatment. However, at the same time delivery systems had become increasingly complex. In May 2007, the Secretary of State for Health and the then Home Secretary requested an urgent review of the use of existing resources for drug treatment in prisons. The objective of the review was to explore how existing resources could be used more effectively to ensure that prison drug treatment services reduced reoffending and met the treatment needs for prisoners throughout their time in custody and in preparation for their release.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was appointed to undertake the review and its report was received in December 2007. The PwC report acknowledged the considerable investment in prison-based drug services over the past 10 years which had lead to major improvements, with many examples of excellent practice. But the report also identified the lack of a clear inter-departmental strategy; fragmented organisational arrangements for funding, commissioning, performance management and delivery of services; the lack of a clear evidence base for some services currently offered; and inefficiencies and gaps in services. The report recommended eight steps that should now be taken to build upon and improve the delivery of drug services to offenders in prison and to extract better value from the considerable resources invested.

The principal recommendation is to set up a national offender drug strategy group to commission a series of projects that would:

determine and agree the key outcomes needed for prisoners and offenders, both in prison and on release into the community;establish a set of national minimum standards for drug treatment in prison;
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