Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The LSC commissioned Dyslexia Action to develop a tool to screen for learning disabilities, and a training programme to support its use is due to be rolled out very soon-from August-in young offender institutions. This is a similar screening tool to the one used in custody in Northern Ireland to screen for indicators of dyslexia, which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has already talked about in Committee. The new tool will enable learning providers to screen for a range of hidden disabilities. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, is concerned about these, and they include dyslexia and dyspraxia as well as disabilities on the autism spectrum. The Communication Trust is also considering this tool and whether it should be extended beyond YOIs to wider youth justice settings; so I think noble Lords will see some progress.

Lord Addington: I thank the Minister for that very encouraging answer. I suggest that it might be appropriate if we looked at how this is explained to the person who has been identified and is worked into this. That is an important factor in the process. I hope that the Government will take that on board, because we do not want to return to it again if we are doing the right thing now.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I thank the noble Lord for that helpful recommendation; I shall take it back to the department and ensure that it is taken up.

16 July 2009 : Column 1346

Perhaps I may be clear. Clauses 49 and 50 will ensure that the home authority is made aware when a person leaves custody and that it is alerted to any special educational needs that have been identified in custody. This is important because of young people coming into custody who have not had a statement, and noble Lords have raised concerns about this. When special educational needs are identified, this needs to be communicated to help ensure that the young person's needs are picked up when they get back to their home community.

I should also reassure the House that the power for a local authority in England to arrange learning difficulties assessment under Section 139A of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 still applies to those in juvenile custody, as it does in the community, and the local authority is already required to have regard to guidance issued under Section 139A(7). That is an important additional safeguard. In Wales, the power for Welsh Ministers to arrange an assessment under Section 140 will still apply.

Amendment 132 would require the special educational provision set out in part 3 of a person's statement to be fully met in juvenile custody. I fully appreciate the motivation behind this amendment. As far as possible, we want to ensure that the special educational needs of all young people in custody are met-I say that clearly on the record-and then properly picked up on their release. At the same time, we cannot set local authorities up to fail, and we must take account of the practicalities of an ever-changing population in custody.

A statement of special educational needs, in particular part 3, details the individual requirements and support that a young person must receive, including, for example, provision which was made off-site from their school-such as a day a week at the local FE college, or the delivery of particular programmes of behaviour support offered by external providers. This is a very particular part of the statement. My concern about that part is that I do not want to set the system up to fail; but the spirit of what that statement is trying to achieve is absolutely key. I do not wish to undermine that in any way nor create any ambiguity about its importance.

In many cases, we expect that it will be appropriate to deliver the support set out in part 3 in juvenile custody. In young offender institutions, for example, learning support assistants are already employed to provide one-to-one support. To ensure the right provision is made, we are placing a duty on host authorities to use their best endeavours to make appropriate special educational provision while the young person is in custody. In most cases-I say that carefully-we expect that this will be the provision specified in part 3 of the person's statement or provision as close as is practicable to it. However, in some cases, it may be that the provision specified in the statement is no longer entirely appropriate.

A specific duty simply to deliver what is in part 3 of a person's statement would require the authority to deliver this support from the first day of the person's sentence or period of secure remand. For some young people with highly specialised needs requiring particular specialist support, this will be impractical because that provision may need to be specifically procured and

16 July 2009 : Column 1347

commissioned. It may not always be desirable because, for example, the priority to participate in drug detoxification or behavioural programmes might be more important at the very start.

5 pm

Lord Elton: I understand all the caveats that the noble Baroness is giving, and welcome her undertakings. Is this the sort of thing that will be in the guidance that we might see a draft of in October?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I will just take some inspiration. Yes, we can be clear that that will find its way into the guidance. I hope that that will further reassure noble Lords.

As the Joint Committee on Human Rights said in its report on the Bill, it is not necessarily practical for all the duties imposed on local authorities by the education Acts to apply to the education and training of detained children, because of the constraints imposed by custody and the length of time for which children are usually detained. The constraints pose a challenge, but we are 100 per cent committed to delivering special educational needs support for these young people.

As regards Amendment 117, I reassure noble Lords-this is an important issue for the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley-that language difficulties are already encompassed in the definitions of special educational needs and learning difficulties that apply to the clause. Speaking English as a second language, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, reminded us, is not a special educational need or a learning difficulty, as defined in the Bill; but it is a reasonable need, and as such is covered by the general duty in Clause 47. I hope that it will help the noble Lord if I put that on the record. For the avoidance of doubt, we will be explicit on this in guidance.

We are already working with the Communication Trust and other relevant organisations to improve services in the youth justice system for young people with speech, language and communication needs. This includes working with practitioners in both the secure estate and young offending teams to help them recognise and meet the needs of young people.

As regards Amendment 129, I will also reassure noble Lords that the provisions in Clause 49 have been drafted specifically to ensure that the home authority must have regard to the young person's needs. It would be impossible to comply with a duty to promote fulfilment of a person's learning potential without having regard to any special educational needs or learning difficulties that the person may have. That is a point of clarification. Therefore, the effect of Amendment 129 is already implicit in the Bill. Again, for the avoidance of doubt, we will make this explicit in statutory guidance.

I should have spoken to Amendment 120, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Garden and Lady Sharp, which deals with enabling young people to enter for accredited qualifications. This would be covered by the general duty in new Section 18A-I should have said that at the start. For the avoidance of doubt, we will make that clear in guidance.

I will speak finally to government Amendment 323 to Clause 261-which at the moment feels a very long way away. This allows young offender provisions in

16 July 2009 : Column 1348

Clauses 47 and 50 to be commenced, as far as they relate to Wales, by Welsh Ministers. Clause 51, as noble Lords will know, was inserted as a new clause on Report in another place. The amendment that we are tabling simply updates the corresponding commencement clause to allow Welsh Ministers to commence implementing Clause 51. If I were to fail to do that, my fellow Welsh Ministers would be very upset.

If noble Lords will bear with me, I will answer some points that came up in the debate. I am happy to take forward the concerns of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about social workers in secure settings: I will talk to him about that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was concerned about whether local authorities will get the money to do the job. My answer is: absolutely. Host local authorities will get additional funds to secure suitable provision. They will also be able to recoup the cost of making extra provision to meet the person's special educational needs, as set out in the SEN statement.

In the same way as we have undertaken to write about commissioning, it may be helpful if I write a short note to noble Lords about how the funding arrangements will work between government and the YPLA, and about how the funding formula and the expectations will be set out. This is very much about promoting consistency across the system and driving up standards-a matter about which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was very concerned.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was looking for assurances about best endeavours. She asked whether they were strong enough to meet the needs of young people. I think that I have already said yes, so I hope that I have given that undertaking.

Again, perhaps I may be very clear about the guidance. I emphasise that this is about creating consistency across the system in the juvenile secure setting and driving up standards of education. The guidance that we have produced will be extremely important in doing that.

If I have missed any points of detail, I shall write to noble Lords. I close by saying that the department is very aware of the proposal that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, talked about, and we are following its developments with great interest. I also concur with noble Lords who talked about the need for Ministers and for noble Lords, in particular, to go out and see what it is really like out there. I have done that myself and it makes a difference when you can see the challenges. Those involved are often big young boys learning to read and write, some of whom have great challenges in their lives. This is a step towards giving them all a much better education and a much better opportunity.

Lord Elton: Before the tide of responses begins, I should like to say that, having pressed for quite a long time for a diagnostic tool-if that is the right term-such as the noble Baroness described, I enormously welcome her announcement of what is to be rolled out in August in the way of screening young offenders for dyslexia and related disorders. That is very welcome indeed.

Lord Lucas: In the Minister's compendious reply, for which I am extremely grateful, I missed any mention of funding. Particularly with the interpretation that

16 July 2009 : Column 1349

the noble Baroness put on paragraphs (c) and (d) of new Section 18A(2), it seems that the educational burden on these establishments will be quite heavy if they are to make individual provision for continuing programmes of study already begun and are to hang on to the educational style of schools, rather than have a style of their own. I know that we will come to this issue later and I shall not stick to that argument in particular, but how are local education authorities to be funded? Who will decide what rate per prisoner is to be provided for? Can the noble Baroness give us her current working figures for that?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I do not have current working figures but I want to make it clear that we are not asking local authorities to fund juvenile custody places; we are asking them to deliver the education provision. There is obviously a significant difference between the two. Currently, as the noble Lord is aware, education provision is delivered by contractors. It may be helpful to set out for the Committee how the funding will work. Central government funding will be provided to the YPLA, and the YPLA will use funding formulas. The YPLA will support local authority planning. The funding will be clearly designated for the purposes of delivering education in a secure setting. Therefore, there is a very clear line of funding accountability from central government, YPLA, host local authority to provider juvenile establishment. As I say, I think that it will help the Committee if I set out the matter further in detail.

Lord Ramsbotham: The DCSF may not be funding custody but I understand it is intended that youth custody funding will also be passed down to local authorities, in which case one is extremely concerned about how local authorities will balance their books and how much they will allocate to the various competing priorities with which they will be faced.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: We intend to be absolutely clear about our expectations of local authorities in terms of education funding and the money that they will receive in order to deliver that. As I said, the Youth Justice Board is jointly accountable to DCSF. It is extremely important that we ensure that there is clarity about what the funding is for, where it will go, and that we have accountability. I am sure that noble Lords agree with that.

Lord Ramsbotham: That is the point I was trying to make: there is total lack of clarity about the cost, certainly as regards the Prison Service accommodation, where most of these young people are held. Therefore, it is extremely important to establish exactly what that is so that local authorities are in no doubt about what the bill will be.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I entirely agree with the noble Lord.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I ask for a little indulgence. I understood from the Minister that the department was giving a lot of consideration to the young offender project that my noble friend mentioned. Can she reassure me that the cost per place of making this provision, which would fall on the department and the local authority and which seems to be in doubt, will be

16 July 2009 : Column 1350

looked at sympathetically? If the local authority is not able to reclaim the money needed to set up such an academy, is there any prospect that more of these excellent projects, which attempt to reclaim young offenders back into the community, will come forward?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I have not looked at the details of that proposal and therefore I am not sure that I can answer the noble Baroness's points now. However, the youth crime action plan, which the department published some time ago, is absolutely clear about the need to develop innovative and community solutions. It is not simply about encouraging the accommodation of more young people in custody. We have to identify new and better ways to deal with these challenges in communities.

Lord Lucas: I entirely understand that the noble Baroness may not be able to give detailed figures now, but can we hope for something by October in terms of what the expected level of funding per juvenile prisoner is, and what that is expected to cover; that is, whether it covers just the contract with the education provider or whether there is an element of covering the prison's costs in there too?

5.15 pm

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I was given some advice just now which says that there are no current plans for DCSF to fund wider costs of custody. I hope that I will be able to satisfy the noble Lord with regard to the funding of the education delivery that we are talking about here. I am also concerned to satisfy the Committee and to give it a picture of how the new system for driving up standards and promoting consistency will work. That is the challenge that the YPLA will have. I think that it would be helpful for noble Lords to have a diagram showing them that.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I sincerely thank the Minister for her full and considered reply to what has been a marathon session. The importance of this part of the Bill can be seen in the number and the quality of the contributions to this debate which have explored a wide range of issues, some of which are cross-departmental. The debate has also thrown up just how vital it is that special educational needs and learning and behavioural difficulties are assessed at the earliest opportunity in order for strong measures to be in place so that not so many young people with those difficulties and disadvantages end up in young offender institutions.

Many of the matters raised in this debate deserve much more consideration and positive action. We may have identified two actions to come out of this, one of which is strong support for the proposals and initiatives put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for academies. Another is that we should all visit prisons at the earliest opportunity. Those might be positive actions-

Lord Lucas: Liberal Democrats supporting academies must be a first.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will be aware, the academy which we on these Benches are supporting in this instance is the

16 July 2009 : Column 1351

very specific one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, which justifies all sorts of different needs for the community as well as for education. On that note, perhaps I may thank all noble Lords for taking part in this debate. I look forward to reading Hansard because I feel that there are matters which we will need to bring back at some stage for further discussion. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 114 withdrawn.

Amendment 115 not moved.

Amendment 116A

Moved by Lord De Mauley

116A: Clause 47, page 29, line 11, at end insert-

"(1A) In deciding for the purposes of subsection (1) whether education or training is enough to meet persons' reasonable needs, a minimum of 30 hours per week of purposeful activity must be provided."

Lord De Mauley: Our Amendments 116A and 116B are also probing amendments. We suggest that a statutory minimum of purposeful activity should be required for those detained in youth custody. When this area was debated in another place the amendment put forward there proposed to insert a statutory minimum of 30 hours per week of education and skills training to be provided. That was rejected by the Minister there on the grounds that it was too prescriptive and that some people might have wider needs, such as drug detoxification or behaviour programmes. As the Minister in the other place raised drug detoxification, it would be very helpful if the Minister in this House could write to noble Lords giving some data on the numbers of those in youth custody who require drug detoxification because it is a very specific and important area.

We have taken the Minister's suggestions on board and have produced a new set of amendments. While they still prescribe a fixed minimum of 30 hours, this 30 hours could now include many different forms of beneficial work, which might be study or vocational training, psychotherapy or substance abuse treatment, or even just reading. They would all come under the 30 hours of purposeful activity. We are very concerned that those detained in youth accommodation should receive the best possible chance to improve their level of education. The Minister in the other place appeared to reject these amendments as being too prescriptive. Perhaps the Minister will correct me if I am wrong. Is it not the case that secure training centres already have a 25-hour target and for those of school age in young offender institutions the target is 15 hours? What proportion of prisoners achieve the target number of hours?

In the previous debate the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned an extract from a statement by the Minister in the other place dealing with statistics from 5 November 2008 which, as he said, show a range of hours in young offender institutions, ranging from 19.8 in Werrington to 5.3 in Glen Parva. Eighteen of the 21 YOIs were not reaching the 15-hour target, some by a very wide margin. So the Minister will

16 July 2009 : Column 1352

understand why we feel that the added strength of having this set out on the face of the Bill would be very helpful.

Our concerns are perhaps exacerbated by the appalling statistics on even the basic literacy and numeracy of those detained in youth accommodation. Statistics from 2007 show that 48 per cent of prisoners had a reading age of 11 or below; 65 per cent had math skills below those of an 11 year-old; and 82 per cent had handwriting skills at the level of 11 years or below. These statistics are shocking and so I beg to move.

Lord Ramsbotham: I support this amendment, and I am interested that the figure of 30 hours should be mentioned. The figure has not been plucked out of the air; it is in fact the figure currently required for adults in all private sector prisons, who have to reach 30 hours "purposeful activity", as it is called. It seems to me an excellent description of what should be done. I have always described what I think should happen for prisoners as a full, purposeful and active day, starting early in the morning and ending with them going to bed tired at night. This is particularly true of young offenders.

When I was researching what we could do for young prisoners I saw that the state of Massachusetts has a full, purposeful and active day which is divided in two. Half is training, and that includes education and work skills, and half is community reparation. It is worth thinking about the fact that activities can be given that widen the day. Those certainly ought to be included to get young people out of their cells, where far too many of them spend far too long doing absolutely nothing.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page