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Amendment No. 128, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, seeks to highlight the whole range of options needed to meet the full range of circumstances faced by 16 to 18 year-olds. I reiterate that young people in full-time education or training will not necessarily have to follow a course that leads to an accredited qualification in order to fulfil the duty to participate. It will already be possible for an attendance notice to specify some form of full-time education or training that does not lead to a qualification, if that is the appropriate thing for the young person. It will also already be possible for an attendance notice to specify part-time accredited education or training if the young

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person is working. Furthermore, if the young person has a mental health condition, as set out in the noble Baroness’s amendment, that may constitute a reasonable excuse for not participating where Clause 39 prevents an attendance notice from being issued in any case. There will be no question of enforcement action being taken against those who have valid mental health reasons for not participating.

Amendments Nos. 129 and 130, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, concern the role of careers advisers in advising on the appropriateness of courses. I assure her that no young person should get to the stage of receiving an attendance notice unless suitable learning provision has already been identified for them, and offered to them, along with the right support to take up the opportunity. We believe that a Connexions personal adviser would be the most appropriate person to make judgments on these issues, given their experience and knowledge of the system, the area and the young people within it.

Amendments Nos. 131, 134 and 135, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, concern attendance panels. I assure her that it is intended that attendance panels will be independent. She asked specifically whether councillors and local authority employees would be members of those panels. We will clarify in regulations that someone employed by the local authority or the education institution in question should not serve on a panel. We will ensure that there is sufficient diversity among panel members and that they reflect the area in which the authority is based. Her Amendment No. 132 stipulates that panels should have three members. We intend that they should in most cases have three members, but we want to consult on whether they should be bigger in more complex cases. It would not make sense to introduce this inflexibility in primary legislation by fixing the number at three.

As regards the noble Baroness’s Amendment No. 137, Clause 43 requires that local authorities must make arrangements for a young person to appeal to an attendance panel against the attendance notice itself; the description of education or training that they must attend; and any variation in the notice. No grounds are specified so, as drafted, the provision already allows for the young person to appeal against the description on the ground of its suitability or, indeed, for any other reason.

The noble Baroness’s Amendment No. 140 concerns the timing of attendance panel hearings. I assure her that we wish appeals to be heard quickly. However, we do not believe it is appropriate to specify in primary legislation precisely how quickly they should be heard. We believe this matter is more appropriately dealt with in guidance, which we will provide to panels to assist them in carrying out their functions. These will be developed by my department in full consultation with local authorities, children’s charities and young people themselves. Similarly, I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that, as regards her Amendments Nos. 135A and 140A, we will take time in the lead-up to implementation to discuss with local authorities and other stakeholders how panels should be set up and how they should work. We will consult fully on our proposals before drawing up regulations under this

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clause, as well as under Clauses 42(1) and 48(3), as is routine. It is not necessary to put this requirement to consult in primary legislation.

Amendment No. 157, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, would change Clause 48 to state that regulations must be made by the Secretary of State. As I mentioned previously, attendance panels are a vital part of the process to enable young people’s cases to be heard by an independent panel. We intend to make regulations, as they are important to define the detail of the process as regards the procedure of panels and their powers in relation to appeals. We state that regulations “may” be made by the Secretary of State, in case they are not necessary and do not have to be made. Changing the text to make the Secretary of State responsible for all these regulations would make no difference to the current situation, as the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is already responsible.

On Amendment No. 136, in the name of the noble Baroness, I repeat that the attendance panel is crucial to the effectiveness and fairness of the enforcement system. It will be put in place to ensure that attendance notices are always issued fairly, and that sufficient opportunity and support are given. It provides an additional safeguard to ensure that no young person can enter the enforcement system inappropriately. We will ensure that it is effective and not overly bureaucratic. The impact assessment we published with the Bill estimates the cost of those elements of the enforcement system in which attendance panels would be involved. As I mentioned, we want to consult widely on the composition and operation of attendance panels. In doing so, we will take careful account of the likely costs of their establishment and ongoing functions, which we have committed to funding. It is therefore not necessary to have this requirement written into primary legislation.

Finally, Amendment No. 141 is a small, technical amendment to make clear for the avoidance of doubt that, where a variation to an attendance notice is provided for under this clause, all the requirements about the description of education or training in the notice still apply as they did to the original notice. The education or training must satisfy the central duty to participate, it must be suitable for the young person and so on.

I was looking for my note on the Rose project to answer the specific issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. We strongly support its work. Ministers from my department have met with it several times. The Rose project is an example of just the type of best practice we will be looking to expand when ensuring that the system set out in the Bill is fully prepared for learners in all circumstances by 2013.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: I thank the Minister for his careful consideration of my amendments. I am most reassured by his answers.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: In response to my amendment, the Minister rightly said that careers advice for this particular group of young people would be provided by Connexions’ personal advisers. Is he confident that enough people will be trained in this

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role? The Connexions services has been doing quite a good job with a limited number of young people, but if we are to implement this Bill, Connexions will probably need to serve more young people. Is he confident that they will be properly trained, that they will have at their fingertips information on the career and educational training paths for these young people, and be able to provide the necessary advice?

Lord Adonis: I stress to the noble Baroness as I did when we last debated this issue that the quality standards for young people’s information, advice and guidance which apply to Connexions make clear its responsibilities in respect of all young people—their responsibilities do not simply apply to certain groups. She is right that their responsibilities will be enhanced under the Bill. Part of the reason for the five-year run-in period is to ensure that a sufficient number of suitably trained advisers can fulfil the additional functions under the Bill.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: I am extremely glad the Minister found his notes on the Rose project because I was much reassured by what he said. I had not been reassured by his earlier answer, from his brief, to Amendment No. 128. I thought at that point that he or his officials had rather missed the purpose of my amendment—no doubt that is my fault. It was specifically not to exclude from a requirement this category of young person. They do not want to be excluded; they want to be included.

The point of my amendment was to find a way to include what they need—structured job support—in the definition of fundable education and training. The Rose project is not cost-free. At present it is supported by charitable and local authority donations and so on. If it is to be rolled out on a wider scale for this tiny minority of young people—it is not going to be hugely expensive—it will need to be funded properly. It will need to be caught up within the definition of education and training.

Of course I know that severely mentally disabled or mentally ill young people will be excluded from the provision. Reassuringly the Minister has made that clear on many occasions. Yet this is a category that could be rescued. They do not need to be excluded; they want to be included. Anybody who had met them after their experience would know how tremendously valuable it is. I hope that on Report the Minister and his officials will have had another look at the Rose project and that we find some way of including this in the definition of recognisable education and training. In the mean time I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 not moved.]

Clause 41 agreed to.

5.15 pm

Clause 42 [Attendance panel]:

[Amendments Nos. 131 and 132 not moved.]

Baroness Garden of Frognal moved Amendment No. 133:

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The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 138, 151 and 158, which are in this group.

These amendments are supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They refer to the constitution of the attendance panel, which we have been discussing, and the young person's interaction with it. We cannot overlook the need for a young person to have the right to be involved at all stages of the enforcement process and to have the chance to present their case to an attendance panel, either in person or through a nominated representative. The young people in question may well have difficulty in expressing themselves, they may not be on good terms with their parents and they may not have ready access to informed, impartial advice. This could make them particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged when facing the prospect of an attendance panel.

Currently, the attendance panel can consider a young person's case at three points in time: first, on appeal against the attendance notice, as set out in Clause 43; secondly, on appeal against the penalty notice, in Clause 48; and, thirdly, at the decision whether the local authority can begin proceedings against the young person for failure to comply with the attendance notice, as set out in Clause 46. It is only at the third stage that the young person has the right to attend the attendance panel to put their case. The amendments would address that anomaly and send a clear message that the young person should be included in the full process.

Barnardo's, which supports these amendments, points out that communication rights are set down in law and in the UN convention; but it also points out that young people are more likely to co-operate if they feel part of the process and have a chance to express their concerns. Being involved may also help them to gain confidence and to develop other interpersonal and practical skills.

On independent advocacy, in Clause 48, it would be highly beneficial to young people and the Government if there were stronger advocacy powers in the Bill. A skilled independent advocate would empower the young person to make the right decision and help them to understand the requirements placed on them and to communicate their views. An advocate would also have the advantage of overcoming the formality of procedures, which may be daunting, and to make sense of language that may be confusing.

This would not involve opening up an enormous process. These young people will form only a small group, and finding positive routes for them at the earliest stage will be of long-term benefit to them and society. We on these Benches strongly support these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Elton: The noble Baroness has raised an issue that I shall raise in another context—when I speak to Amendments Nos. 228C to 228E. Common to both is a background document, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was open for signature in 1989 and came into force on 2 September 1990. Article 12 has two paragraphs, which I should read into the record. The first paragraph states:

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The second paragraph, concerning advocacy, states:

The question is not whether we should respond to that article in the way we draft the Bill but at what stage in the process affecting the child it should be brought into effect.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My amendments in this group follow closely those of the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. I agree with the noble Baroness that it should be of the utmost importance for a young person, his advocate or his representative to be present at all relevant hearings. Young people will be much more likely to engage with the panel’s decision if they are part of the process. I endorse the comments of my noble friend Lord Elton.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I support all these amendments. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is crucial here. It makes it clear that, in any proceedings affecting the child, they have the right to express a view. We are also talking about a new set of compulsions—I will not call them more than that. There are concerns about creating a criminal record. We are trying to avoid that and to make certain that it does not happen. Nevertheless, this is a new form of compulsion and it is essential that the child not only has the right to be heard but also the right to have an advocate to help them to express their views. That will be even more important when the child has a learning difficulty. I hope that we will have positive reassurances from the Minister.

Lord Adonis: I give those positive reassurances to the Committee. Amendments Nos. 133, 138, 139, 151, 158 and 159 would add detail to the attendance panel process. When the attendance panel considers whether it is appropriate for a local authority to begin proceedings against a young person in the youth court, Clause 46 states that regulations must ensure that the young person is invited to make representations to the panel. Clause 46(5) says that the regulations,

that is, a recommendation to institute proceedings—

We will also make it clear in regulations that the young person concerned could bring someone with them or send someone to make representations on their behalf. That was another concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Garden.

The other amendments in the noble Baroness’s group make a similar requirement where the panel is considering an appeal against an attendance notice, or an appeal against a fixed penalty notice, as set out in

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Clauses 43 and 48. We agree with what the noble Baroness seeks to achieve. We have committed to ensuring that the young person will be invited to attend proceedings or to bring someone with them to represent them in their place if they wish to. This will be put in regulations that will be made about the procedure to be followed by an attendance panel in hearing appeals and in making representations. The panel will also invite other people who understand the young person’s circumstances to make representations.

The noble Baroness’s Amendment No. 133 calls for the provision of independent advocacy to be made available by the local authority for attendance panel hearings. I have described how the young person will be invited to bring someone with them or to send someone in their place. The attendance panel will not be set up like a court; it is not intended to be overly formal or intimidating. Its main role will be to review the circumstances of the case and the steps taken by the local authority and others to ensure that everything possible has been done to offer the young person an appropriate learning place and the right support to re-engage them in learning. Committing to advocacy for all would be unnecessarily bureaucratic and burdensome. However, if the case were to continue to the youth court, the young person would, of course, be entitled to legal representation.

We have also committed to consider carefully whether the guidance given to local authorities should indicate that, where young people have specific needs such as problems with communication, there should be an expectation that they will have access to independent advocacy services. I hope that these reassurances go some way towards meeting the concerns raised by the noble Baroness.

Lord Elton: I am sure that the noble Lord will give me a reassuring answer. As there are so many regulations in view with this Bill, can we take it that the regulations will be in place before the relevant clauses come into force?

Lord Adonis: Yes—I hesitate slightly because they come into force in 2013 in a practical sense. However, if by “come into force” the noble Lord means by the time the Bill becomes law, I am not sure that the regulations will all be in place by then. There will be a process leading up to implementation—as long as it is clearly understood what “come into force” means.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Obviously, this is recognised in all parts of the Committee as being an important issue. I thank the Minister for his reply, which seems to offer reassurances. I shall read carefully what has been said. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 134 to 136 not moved.]

Clause 42 agreed to.

Clause 43 [Appeal arrangements]:

[Amendments Nos. 137 to 140A not moved.]

Clause 43 agreed to.

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Clause 44 [Variation and revocation of attendance notice]:

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 141:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 142 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 44, as amended, agreed to.

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