|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
(a) is to be made by statutory instrument,
(b) must be made before the time when the effective period would end but for the making of the order, and
(c) shall have the effect of extending, or further extending, that period for the period of two years beginning with that time.
Lord De Mauley: We have now come to what we regard as an important part of the Bill where we will debate the clauses about education for those detained in youth accommodation. These are just a few clauses tucked away in the Part 2 LEA functions, and one could therefore be forgiven for not appreciating that this group is really the beginning of an entirely new and, as I say, important part of the Bill.
The Minister might want to say a few words explaining the positioning of the clauses when she responds. I presume that they have been placed here in order to reflect the intention to delegate to local authorities the responsibilities of providing enough suitable education
16 July 2009 : Column 1325
Our amendments to this clause are designed to ensure that those detained in youth accommodation are given the best possible opportunities for appropriate, relevant and useful education. Specifically, Amendment 113B inserts a new sub-paragraph (iii), so that a duty is imposed on the LEA to secure that enough suitable education and training is provided to meet the reasonable needs of persons who are suitable for level 3 courses. This is inspired by a concern expressed by the Prisoners' Education Trust. While it fully endorses the priority given to the significant proportion of prisoners who lack even basic qualifications, and so must be given considerable help to reach level 1 or 2, it would like further reassurance that help will be given to the perhaps smaller proportion who need and are capable of level 3 provision.
Not a great deal appears to have changed from the 2001-02 report, Second Chance, issued by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons. It found that emphasis on provision at entry level and level 1 for subjects other than literacy and numeracy meant that,
and that in some establishments information and communication technology provision could not accommodate learners hoping to progress beyond level 2. This is a probing amendment. We hope to receive from the Minister a detailed explanation of how what we are asking for is definitely included in the duty already contained in the Bill for the LEA to provide suitable education and training. There is concern at the moment, however, that very few prisons are able to provide level 3 courses and that where they can these are limited in scope to just a few subjects or skills. This increases the pressure on young offenders' prospects for future employment and resettlement. Can the Minister give us the reassurances that we seek in this regard? I beg to move.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: We have considerable sympathy with the amendment. It would, of course, be highly desirable for young offenders to have a range of options for education and training, not only in subjects but in levels of achievement. As the noble Lord has already pointed out, where level 3 is available, it tends to be in narrow subject areas. We would see this as an aspiration. The concern is that resources are inevitably limited for education and training and they would be used to best effect in ensuring that every young person leaving custody is equipped with literacy and numeracy and, we hope, some further occupational skills. The danger is that if local authorities are required to provide level 3 provision, it may deflect both time and funding from the resources available. It may, in any event, apply only to a few. We would hope that local
16 July 2009 : Column 1326
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, for giving me the opportunity to reassure him and the Prisoners' Education Trust on these matters. I will, as he suggests, say a few words about these clauses generally. I appreciate the noble Lord's thoughts about these clauses being tucked away in the Bill. I have a sense that we have not yet even got to the bits that are tucked away. I feel as though we are still quite near the beginning of the Bill; I am sure other noble Lords in the Committee have a similar sense. We are very much at the beginning of the Committee stage.
I will briefly set out the overall effect of the young offender clauses. I believe that there is much to be proud of in the Bill. One of the things that I am particularly proud of is that it ends the disapplication of education law to young people in custody. Currently, as noble Lords are well aware, education law stops at the door of the young offender institution and the Bill will end that. The Bill will join up provision for young offenders with that in the mainstream by giving responsibility for commissioning their education and training to the host local authority in which the custodial establishment is situated. Local authorities are well placed to do this; they already have responsibility for education up to the age of 16 and, as a result of the Bill, they will take on responsibility for education up the age of 19 in England.
As young people are often detained in custody outside their home areas, we are also introducing a duty on home local authorities to promote the fulfilment of young people's learning potential. This will ensure that one authority remains involved in the person's education regardless of where they are in the system. To ensure that accurate and up-to-date educational information is available to education providers in custody and on the person's release, the Bill introduces strengthened information-sharing provisions, which are very important here.
Finally, the Bill makes substantial improvements to meeting the special educational needs of young people in custody, which we are due to discuss later in debates on further groupings. This is a very important set of clauses. As the Standing Committee for Youth Justice has said, this is an opportunity to level the educational playing field for young people in custody. While it is right that we debate the detail of how we do this, I hope that this will not obscure the significance of these reforms, to which the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, has already pointed.
On Amendment 113B, I reassure noble Lords that the Bill already secures level 3 provision. Subsection (1) of new Section 18A, which Clause 47 inserts, makes it clear that the local authority must secure provision so that enough suitable education and training is available to meet the reasonable needs of young people in juvenile custody. Subsection (2) also provides that in deciding whether education or training is suitable to meet a person's reasonable needs, the authority must have regard to the person's age, abilities and aptitudes.
16 July 2009 : Column 1327
Additionally, local authorities are already required to have regard to the desirability of enabling a person to complete programmes of study which they have begun. This will include level 3 courses. I know from our discussions outside Committee that noble Lords are particularly concerned about this issue. I also emphasise that we will make it clear in guidance issued under new Section 18A that local authorities must secure provision to meet these reasonable needs. That guidance will set out in more detail that this includes the provision of level 3 courses.
Lord De Mauley: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, for expressing her sympathy for the amendment, and I thank the Minister for her response and her assurance that level 3 training will be included in the Bill. I will think carefully about what she said and I will talk to the Prisoners' Education Trust to ensure that it is happy with the position. I said that this was a probing amendment, so for today I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"( ) sentence planning ensures that young people are able to return to school or college on release"
As we have heard, Clause 47 is a vital clause in the middle of the Bill for those in youth detention. We see the benefit of an holistic approach to these young people, with education, personal skills, future employment and housing all overseen at a local level. The transfer to local authorities has been welcomed by many organisations, including the Children's Society, which work with some of the most troubled children. Inevitably, local authorities will bear a disproportionate burden when they have young offender institutions in their area. As the Minister has explained, a balance needs to be struck between the home and the host authorities. Can the Minister say how resources will be allocated between them?
The Youth Justice Board has estimated that of around 150,000 children and young people under the age of 18 entering the youth justice system each year, around 70,000 are of compulsory school age-that is, under 16; and 15 per cent have statements of special educational needs, compared to about 3 per cent of the general population. There is tremendous disproportion
16 July 2009 : Column 1328
Children who are detained have very often been failed by mainstream education and need the chance to make up for lost time. Learning programmes for them while in custody should enable them to gain basic skills-I hope some occupational skills-as well as confidence and self respect. Amendment 114 would ensure that progress made was not lost on release and that provision was in place for them to continue their education and training. This recommendation is supported by Barnardo's-which has great expertise in working with these young people-as well as other children's organisations.
Amendments 119 and 120 cover the desirability of suitable careers guidance and provision for assessment, accreditation and certification of achievement for young people while in custody. These reinforce the need for coherent provision. Your Lordships have already debated the need for professional, informed and impartial careers advice for those at school. Therefore, it is particularly relevant that young offenders have the most wide-ranging careers guidance available. Professional careers advisers will be knowledgeable about where the skills shortages are and where the young person's skills and interests lie, and they should be in the best position to instil hope and ambition for purposeful employment.
If young offenders have the best opportunity to make their useful way in society, they will benefit from an individual learning plan to give them every chance while in custody to develop skills and knowledge. It may not be possible for them to fulfil all the workplace criteria for NVQs or apprenticeships, but there should be provision for assessment and accreditation of the skills and knowledge which they can acquire while in custody. My amendments offer an opportunity to level the educational playing field. Awarding bodies, such as City and Guilds, can give examples of countless occasions when presenting a certificate of achievement has resulted in people's confidence blossoming and their self-respect growing. A certificate is a powerful motivator, as well as a step into a better future. There is also evidence that those in custody who take part in education and training are three times less likely to reoffend.
Many employers local to young offender institutions, as well as to prisons, are prepared to provide work experience to, and even to recruit future employees from, those in custody. We have heard in previous debates from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the success in those areas. The National Grid's young offender programme has pioneered business involvement in the rehabilitation of offenders. It is engaged with more than 20 adult prisons and young offender establishments. Well over 1,000 offenders have gone through the programme, which has expanded into partnerships across industry, with more than 80 companies engaged. The reoffending rate is estimated at only 7 per cent, compared with the national average
16 July 2009 : Column 1329
For this and other programmes to be effective, it is vital that prison governors and prison officers are fully involved. Will the Minister say what consultation takes place with prison staff and what training is available to help them work to best effect when implementing work experience and accreditation for those in custody?
Finally, I wish to raise additional concern about educational provision for children detained in immigration removal centres. There are clear differentials in standards between education in mainstream schools and that which is offered in IRCs. What measures are being taken to ensure that the quality of educational provision for these disadvantaged young people is also being addressed? I look forward to the Minister's reply, and I beg to move.
Lord Ramsbotham: I support not only the other amendments that are grouped with this one, but also a number of subsequent amendments. To explain my support, I will expand on the hint that the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, has just given about the importance of liaison with the prison authorities in any attempt to improve the education of young offenders.
The Minister, when we were debating the first amendment, mentioned an understanding that there are current difficulties with the provision of education to young offenders, and that everything was to be gained by them coming into the mainstream and being subject to the same provision that is available outside. Everyone would welcome that; but we delude ourselves if we think that the road will be easy. Countless organisations involved in delivering activities, programmes, teaching, drug treatment, healthcare, resettlement programmes for families and so on, throughout the prison system, are frustrated by the inability of the system to deliver consistent support that enables them to do their work. I hope that it will help the Committee if I spend a moment or two outlining this, based on my experience and on what is currently happening.
Unfortunately, the Prison Service is very ill organised to look after any particular type of prisoner, with the exception of high-security prisoners-and that came about only after the escapes from Whitemoor and Parkhurst, which resulted in embarrassment to the Home Secretary. Someone was made responsible for them and accountable for everything that happened around them-the programmes, the selection of staff, the provision of resources. However, nobody is responsible for children, young offenders, women or any other type of prisoner. Unfortunately, what would happen if that were the case-for instance, a new governor of a prison would follow on from where his or her predecessor had left off-does not happen.
Every governor is given a list of targets and performance indicators, and a budget. As far as they are concerned, the main priority is to come in on budget and achieve the targets. So you get the ridiculous situation in which a governor coming into an establishment that has a lot of programmes running, which may have been running
16 July 2009 : Column 1330
The same applies, unfortunately, with heads of learning and skills. They, too, are subject to direction from a different ministry to that directing the prison governor, and often the prison governor does not respond to what the head of learning and skills says ought to happen. This must be put right.
In the process of providing education, two things need to happen. One is that somebody must lay down what is to happen. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice to say what is to happen to young offenders. Somebody else should then decide how to deliver the "what" that has been laid down. At the moment, the learning and skills councils are responsible for arranging contracts with individual establishments for the provision but no one is saying what is to be provided. What is so welcome in the amendments, as I am sure the Minister will realise, is that they contain details of the "whats" that must be included in the direction given to local authorities if they are to provide suitable education to meet the "reasonable needs" of young offenders in detention, to quote proposed new Section 18A. However, the clarity of the "what" must be followed up with consistency; and, again, this is where the Prison Service is too ill organised to be able to respond to the initiative in the Bill.
In 1990, there were riots in many prisons around the country-23 to be exact. Afterwards, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, was invited to write a report recommending what should be done to put the prison system on a better basis. He very quickly recognised that the three things most likely to prevent reoffending were a home, a job and a stable relationship, all of which were put at risk by imprisonment. Too many people were separated from the area in which their home, their job and their stable relationship existed. Therefore, he recommended that prisons should be organised into what he called "community clusters". In other words, there should be sufficient prison places in each part of the country to accommodate every type of prisoner from that part of the country, with the exception of high-security prisons, as there were not enough of them. That has never happened; nor has it happened in response to the direction given in the only White Paper on prisons, Custody, Care and Justice, published in 1991, which said that the formation of community clusters was the intention.
Why does this matter? It matters because, unless people are held in a community cluster close to home, there will be continual problems with local authorities having responsibility for people from outside their area. That may not appear to matter too much if there are home-and-host agreements but, to me, there is a potential flaw line there because of the time that it takes to pass information from one to the other and to decide what people need.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|