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In discussing the amendments to this legislation, particularly in relation to those over the age of 16 and in the context of things such as apprenticeships, we have been very keen to involve local employers in deciding what should be provided. However, local employers providing potential for apprentices and so on in Northumberland, for example, are not going to be very interested in prisoners who have been moved from London purely because there happen to be empty spaces in Castington, which is the young offender institution there. Since 1991, many people have been saying to the Prison Service, "For heaven's sake, get your house in order. Get the prisons into regional or community clusters and then local ownership can come into play. All the employers, the education, the drug treatment and all the other things that are needed can be provided locally and there will be some hope of people making the transition from custody to the community and getting the community involved in the follow-on". It is no good saying, "Well of course, if you start a level 3 course, you must follow it on". That has to happen and you have to enable it to happen.
What I am really saying to the Minister is that, while of course people welcome what might happen, one must be aware that it is not going to happen unless another ministry gets its act in order to enable it to happen. This is not the first time that this sort of thing has been proposed. In 1998, when it was suggested that the Department for Education and Employment should take over responsibility for prisons, I remember having a long discussion with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on exactly the same subject. What has happened? Absolutely nothing.
In the same year, I remember a question being asked of the then Prisons Minister, Mr Boateng, about how much money was being made available for young offenders in prisons. Those sums varied from £483 in one prison to £2,500 in another because of the way the money was allocated. The same applies now to the time made available for education. A young offender in Werrington, for example, up in Shropshire, gets nearly 17 hours of education a week. If they are in Feltham, in London, they get 7.5 hours. Given that sort of inconsistency, you have real problems. I make no apologies for saying this at this point when we shall discuss detention because I seriously believe that the problems must be faced up to.
This week I presented to the Minister the report of the second stage of an initiative in which I and others have been involved for the past two and a half years. We suggest that a new type of young offender institution might be built. It is called an academy at the moment because that seems to be the in word. We suggest that account should be taken of the fact that these young people need a responsible adult, and particularly a continuing relationship with that responsible adult. If you are to prevent crime, it is essential to make certain that people are kept in the same area. Bubbling up from local authorities in the East End of London, social services, education, healthcare, housing, the Foyer movement, which provides accommodation for the homeless, and the police has come a suggestion for a site which contains a foyer for the homeless, a small custody centre for young offenders who have not
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It is interesting to note that, when planning this initiative, the one thing we could not find out was the cost to the Prison Service of running a young offender establishment. The relevant authority was very cagey about providing those figures. Eventually, we asked the Justice Secretary to get the figures released. He said that he would but they have still not been produced. The figures that we are discussing are very alarming. I shall explain why I think this is important in the context of this Bill in a moment. They disclose that whereas the Prison Service would like to say that the cost in relation to young offender institutions ranges between £35,000 and £55,000 a year, in fact, it is £107,000, because a lot of the costs are hidden. Why does this matter? It matters because of local authorities, which are being asked to take on the custody of children as well as education and a whole lot of other things to do with children's matters. They are very happy to do so because they feel that local ownership provides a better service. However, as the academy project report points out, a very serious obstruction,
If the relevant body thinks that it is going to be able to provide what the Prison Service says it is providing now, with the money that the Prison Service says that it costs, there is going to be serious embarrassment because it will not be able to do so.
Therefore, I again suggest to the Minister that until and unless the whole funding of this matter is properly established and sorted out, it is extremely unwise to make a move which might end in disaster, bearing in mind that we are so heavily involved in looking after the nation's tomorrow. I hope that I am not being overdramatic but it is essential that, before launching something of which I am sure many noble Lords instinctively approve because it suggests that something better can be achieved, we get our house in order to enable this to happen rather than risk throwing everything away for all the wrong reasons.
Baroness Buscombe: I apologise to the House because I have not spoken before in any debates on this Bill. But I feel compelled to rise following the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, to say that I have a rather cynical sense of déjà vu. We have debated this issue time and again in this House. I remember back in 2004-perhaps it was 2005-debating the whole issue of education in our prisons and the huge sense of frustration felt among the not hundreds but thousands of people who give of their time through voluntary and charitable organisations to support the system. There is a feeling that there is a terrible block between what they are trying to achieve and what is happening, or the lack of what is happening, across Whitehall. I urge the Minister to listen to every word that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said, as it makes so much sense.
The noble Lord made a key point, which I believe. This is not meant as a criticism, but it is a reality. There appears to be no sense of memory each time a governor is changed, which is part of the problem. Can we please urge those who work within the system to get out of their offices in Whitehall and to find out exactly what is going on? This is too important to ignore yet again.
Lord Lucas: The last suggestion made by my noble friend is excellent. In speaking to my amendments in this group, I declare an interest: my wife runs a charity in this area, as the Minister knows. If the Minister inquires of those in the department who have responsibility for prison education she will be amazed to discover that none of them has ever spent any length of time in a prison or knows what the conditions are like. Certainly, none of the LSC staff involved in deciding what education should be provided in a prison has that experience.
This is a great dislocation. If we are to allow local education authorities to decide in effect what education should be provided in local prisons, it must be done on the back of some understanding of what conditions are like in prisons. Someone should advise them on the realities of prison life. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said, you are dealing with an overcrowded and dysfunctional system which is just not capable of some of the things that this Bill seems to assume that it will do. The idea that it will be able to communicate effectively with all the local education authorities from which come the ever-moving population of prisoners that it has to look after, when it cannot even communicate effectively with itself, will not happen in any useful way.
It is a wonderful ambition that a local education authority, one of whose pupils has gone into prison, should not lose responsibility for that pupil but should track them, know what is happening to them in prison and prepare them for what will be provided for them on release, but nothing like it has ever been achieved. Given the current system, it seems unlikely that anything like that will be achieved without a lot of effort, planning and thought. In particular, we need to ensure that, within each of the organisations which are not part of the Prison Service but are involved in this process, there is a deep understanding of what is possible and what happens in prisons.
My two amendments try to tackle particular aspects of this. Many of the people, particularly in young offender institutions, are not there for long. They are there for three or six months. They come into prison with very particular and severe problems, which are not related to being six months behind in their maths GCSE but are related to their attitude to life and to work and perhaps to being a very long way behind in some of the fundamental foundations of education, meaning that they have become dissociated from the whole process of education.
If we look at this positively, prison is a chance to pick up these young people, re-establish them on the path they should be on and give them real impetus to get back into the system when they are returned to the school or the PRU or wherever it is they will be in their own community. But you cannot do that by just trying to patch them into something that apes the provision
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The opportunity is to provide remedial courses for most of these prisoners. Some of them will be there for longer, and some of them can be switched into a longer term process of learning, but most of them will, as I say, be there for a relatively short time. Most of them, I think, need particular programmes specifically designed for use in prisons, aimed at getting them up to speed and back on track-reading and writing, numeracy; socialisation above all: how to get on with other people, how not to hit someone when you disagree with them, all these sorts of problems that are prevalent in the prison community. That is one of the failings of the LSC in its time in charge of prison education. It has not understood that prisoners require something different. It has thought that it could plug them into education designed for helping adults with their literacy. That is an extremely difficult thing to do when motivation is lacking. It has tried to plug them into standard academic programmes when that has not been something that is likely to be available to them on release or it will not tie in with what has been available to them on release.
If the system described in the Bill is to come about, the other thing that I would look for-the prerequisite that I look for-is that nobody should be committed to a prison without being accompanied by a detailed statement of where they have got to in their education and what their educational characteristics and needs are like. Otherwise half the sentence will be spent by the prison trying to find out what it should have been doing in the first six weeks in the first place and the last six weeks will be spent doing nothing because there is no time to do anything and no courses are beginning at that particular moment. It really should be the responsibility of the courts and of the local authority to provide this information to go with the young person into prison so that the prison is prepared and available to do the best it can for that young person.
Otherwise I support entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said about his initiative in the East End. Tying things in in a coherent way between someone coming into prison and going out, between the opportunities and experiences they have in prison and those they will meet immediately afterwards, is a crucial part of rehabilitating particularly a young offender. They are so tied up in their own peer group and so influenced by what has been going on around them in terms of the group of people they have been with that if you just release them straight out of prison, you release them straight back to the conditions that caused their offending in the first place. To have a really secure system of breaking that cycle by keeping them tied into the worthwhile things they have discovered while they were in prison, presuming that the prison is working right, is a wonderful initiative to take. I very much hope the Government, and the Minister in particular, because she has acknowledged experience in cross-departmental initiatives, will take an interest in it.
Lord Elton: On the question of continuity of education, I am sure that the Committee will find plenty to talk about in the amendments in my name which we will come to shortly. This debate has ranged so wide that it has put in my mind an improvement on parliamentary procedures beyond what we have now. This debate would have been so much enriched if the Minister with responsibility for prisons had been here as well as the noble Baroness, so that both of these incompatible halves could be put together and we might find an interface that works. It is too late to do that on Report this time, but I am minded to suggest that we produce a note for the Procedure Committee to consider in the next Session.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Good Governments do that all the time. This Government have been bringing in Ministers from other departments to contribute to legislative debates. Nothing is needed for the Procedure Committee; it just needs good will.
The interest of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is well known. I should declare a dusty and rusty interest as having been Minister for the Prison Service for three years in the last century. That makes it sound even longer ago than it was.
The practical way in which the problem that the noble Lord described surfaces is when the local authority sends in the teachers with all the information that my noble friend wants them to have-and which I want them to have-but they find that, unfortunately, there are not enough prison officers to unlock the prisoners to get them into the classrooms, so they go away having done nothing. I have seen that happen frequently under existing arrangements.
I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that he repeats what he said today practically word for word in the debate on the Queen's Speech, when it will have the audience it deserves, because it is highly important and the sort of destructive and constructive thinking that we need. I certainly support the objectives of those who have tabled the amendments. They chime in places with amendments that I have tabled later in the Bill, but the group would have been completely unmanageable if we had put them all together, so I make no apology for asking to discuss them later. In the mean time, I wish the amendments well.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I shall speak briefly to Amendments 115, 129 and 132, which are in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Low, and to some of which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has spoken. I endorse all that other noble Lords have said so far in this debate. It is an extremely important debate. If we can use the Bill to improve education for young people in prison, it is vital that we do so.
The interesting thing about Clauses 15 to 51 is that they transfer responsibility for the education and training of young offenders in juvenile custody to local authorities. We talked about civil servants from Whitehall getting experience of going into a prison, but I very much doubt whether those working in local authorities have had any experience of that at all. I hope that, in so far as they are taking over those responsibilities, they, too, will go into prisons to see what circumstances are like.
The three amendments that I am speaking to apply particularly to the issue of those with special educational needs. About 15 per cent of young people in custody have statements of special educational needs compared to about 3 per cent in the general population. If one takes the more general definition of special educational needs-those who, in schools, are classed as needing School Action or School Action Plus-in the general population, they make up about 15 per cent, but 50 per cent or more of those in prison have special educational needs of one sort or another.
Amendment 115 places a duty on local authorities to ensure that learning difficulty assessments are undertaken to meet the needs of persons over the compulsory school age but under 19-the 16 to 19 year-olds who have learning difficulties, a disability, or who have entered the youth justice system without having received a learning difficulty assessment. Many children and young people in offender institutions are in the NEET category, not in education, employment or training. Assessing their learning needs forms part of a wider process of re-engaging disabled children and young people in the NEET category in the post-16 education and training service. Disabled young people within offender institutions should have their learning needs assessed in detail and, where required, access to such provision and support should be made available.
Amendments 129 and 132 strengthen the duty on local authorities to have regard to the educational needs of young people in custody who have special educational needs or disabilities and to make available provision as set out in a child or young person's statement of special educational needs where applicable. Amendment 129 relates to new Section 562B(2) of the Education Act 1996 being inserted by Clause 49. It requires the home authority to take such steps as it considers appropriate to promote a person's fulfilment of his or her learning potential. However, this duty is not subject to the requirement to have particular regard to any special educational needs that a detained person may have. While we understand that the Government believe this to be implicit in the drafting, we believe that it would aid legal certainty to have it articulated in the Bill. Otherwise, we fear that it may have the unintended consequence of suggesting to the home authority that learners with special educational needs have less potential than other learners. The amendment would rectify this deficiency and create parity between the duties of both the host and the home authorities.
Where children have been issued with a statement of special educational needs, new Section 562C(3) of the Education Act 1996, inserted by Clause 49, requires the host authority to use its "best endeavours" to meet the provision identified in the statement. We welcome the intent signalled by this amendment but it could be strengthened to require local authorities not only to use their best endeavours but also to meet these needs as identified in Part 3 of the statement. If the Government do not accept this, we hope that we can have an assurance that the formulation "best endeavours" is strong enough to ensure that children and young people will get the support they need.
Finally, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned in relation to costs. Local education authorities are going to have to assume the costs of giving support to these young people when they are in detention. If the cost is really closer to £110,000 rather than £55,000, it is vital that local authorities have the resources to provide such support. I strongly support what the noble Lord said about the issue.
The Earl of Listowel: I have with me a case history which helps to illustrate the concerns being raised. Recently I attended a meeting hosted by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. There was a clear and strong view among the stakeholders present that the cost of these places was being severely underestimated, thus putting in doubt a project to set up a small local institution in east London. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that in a ruling made some years ago Lord Justice Munby found that local authorities did have a responsibility under the Children Act 1989 for children in care and care leavers in young offender institutions. Some 20 to 25 social workers were then established in young offender institutions. Their work was evaluated by the National Children's Bureau, which found that:
along with a range of other important services. Basically they ensured that when children in care or care leavers left their prison they were resettled properly in the home environment. It is very important work.
Yet, for many months now, the future of these social workers has been in doubt; there has been deep debate about who will fund them. The Association of Directors of Children's Services was charged with finding a way of ensuring that local authorities shared the responsibility for funding these social workers in young offender institutions and it has not been successful. To the best of my understanding, the Local Government Association is resisting in principle the top-slicing of funds to provide for these social work posts. I make no comment on that but it illustrates the problems that noble Lords have raised about who will fund the work in young offender institutions and secure training centres.
It troubles me, for instance, that last year a Ms Knight received an award for being social worker of the year. She is one of these 20 or 25 social workers and works at the Brinsford young offender institution. For many months now, she and her colleagues have been living in uncertainty about the future of their jobs because nothing has been sorted out about this matter. What does that show about how much we value their work? These people, working in difficult circumstances, are uncertain about whether or not they will have a job in the next few months. They simply do not know where the money is coming from. Can that be right? Will the Minister look at this matter, talk to the LGA about what is happening and, if necessary, meet the LGA and the Association of Directors of Children's Services and knock some heads together? It is wrong that these social workers should have to live with this uncertainty.
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