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I have two comments. On one occasion I talked to the head of learning and skills at a young offender institution who told me that her first task was to motivate people to want to learn. As they had rejected education and schooling it was no good sending them back to the classroom until they had been motivated. Activities such as working out how to measure the football field and then doing it and then writing a letter about their favourite footballer, or building a wall and then counting how many bricks they needed, brought education home to them. You need time to do those things, and they can count as education.
The other thing, which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, mentioned, is the private sector. One of the saddest things for me every year is being invited to the birthday celebration of an organisation called the Voluntary Education Scheme, which started work in Feltham 15 years ago and in which outside volunteers come into Feltham to conduct one-to-one mentoring with young people on basic education needs. It is a marvellous programme and both the Inspectorate of Prisons and Ofsted have commended it year after year. Year after year, it is ignored. It could be put into every single place now. There are masses of volunteers around the country who would be only too willing to come and do this one to one. It is frustrated by the fact that the authorities seem unwilling to pick it up. It is also frustrating that, all too often, just as they have started to begin a working relationship with someone, he is moved.
I do hope that in all these activities the Government give a very firm commitment to ensure that once someone has embarked on an education course they
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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: We have a great deal of sympathy with the amendments. Amendment 116A could be taken as being a bit prescriptive, but given the second amendment, which broadens the provision considerably, it is most acceptable. To pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, at the moment, so many of these young people are just stuck in their cells all day long watching television. It would be a great advantage if they had some more purposeful activities.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I, too, support the amendments. It seems to me that 30 hours is an absolute minimum for these young people. We should also be mindful of the fact that the recent Bill about looked-after children took into account the fact that they have been moved from institution to institution and gave much more attention to the fact that during periods of particular educational testing they should not be moved. That could certainly be applied in this instance where there is even greater need. I also hope that we will take into account the idea of many more volunteers coming to those institutions. Such contact, as well as contact with young people who have engaged in education, regard themselves as ahead, and offer to be mentors of other young, would-be learners, could be exploited much more than it is at present. I very much support the amendments.
Lord Lucas: I do not think that it is specified in the Bill how local authorities are to set about securing educational provision. When the Government are thinking about how to put that into directions, could they include the voluntary aspect that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned? Otherwise, things just get parcelled up and all the resources tend to go to large-scale education providers who are in the industrial business of providing prison education. Although many of them do it very well, not to take the opportunity to encourage the voluntary sector and allow local education authorities to look locally as to what might come from the local voluntary sector to enhance existing provision would be a missed opportunity.
Baroness Blackstone: I had responsibility as a Minister for prison education when its funding was transferred from the Home Office to the education department. Sadly, I then moved to another department-sadly in the sense that I was not able to continue to try to promote education in young offender institutions. I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said about the importance of young people completing a programme that they have begun before they get transferred to another institution. That is extraordinarily disruptive and wasteful of taxpayers' resources.
It is also fundamentally important to ensure that every young person in an institution because they have been convicted of an offence that leads to custody is given the opportunity to have a decent go at some kind
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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I welcome these probing amendments and the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, to this debate. I concur that in Committee in another place our counterparts debated the possibility of introducing a statutory requirement for 30 hours of education and training in custody. My former honourable friend in the department, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, described how this would be impossible given the need for some young people in custody to participate in other activities such as drug rehabilitation. On that note, I am happy to share with the noble Lord what information we have on that question.
Instead, we are concentrating on ensuring through the provisions of this Bill that every young person in juvenile custody will have access to suitable education and training that is aligned to the provision offered in the mainstream learning sector. Amendments 116A and 116B present an ingenious way of addressing the point further by taking the discussion into the question of,
That activity would include just the sort of varied support that has been described. I know it is obvious, but we cannot require a local authority to deliver the range of activities listed in Amendment 116B. Health activities are commissioned by local primary care trusts, while others are best delivered by the custodial operators themselves. What we are talking about here is education provision. We want local authorities to concentrate on education and training provision because that is what they are good at and that is what they are providing to young people in the mainstream. We want cross-fertilisation between the mainstream and the secure setting. The amendment risks confusing that focus.
The amendment could inadvertently mean that a young person ends up with no education or training provision so long as they are engaged in purposeful activity. Moreover, I want to reassure noble Lords that this amendment is not necessary. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was concerned that young people are sitting in their rooms watching television, which does neither them nor society any good. There has been huge investment in recent years in the youth justice system. The primary purpose as set out in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is to prevent offending by children and young people. The Youth Justice Board has requirements for engagement in education, training and developmental activities. In its report for 2006-07, to which I have already referred, the average time spent in education was 26.2 hours per person per week. In YOIs, for example, performance targets are set for the time that young people spend out of their
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Our overriding aim in this Bill is to ensure that education and training in juvenile custody is secured by the local authority as the expert commissioner for these services. Local authorities will work with custodial operators to ensure that education and training is fully integrated into wider custodial regimes managed by the custodial operators in order to best meet young peoples' needs, and this is much like the arrangements we already have for the provision of healthcare services via primary care trusts.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred to the role of the voluntary sector and, in particular, to the voluntary education scheme in Feltham; I think that is a tremendous scheme. I would very much like to see third sector volunteers more widely involved and I welcome the opportunity to say that here. We will certainly consult third sector organisations about how best to reflect their role in the system that we aim to create. That is an important point to make.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and my noble friend Lady Blackstone spoke about the importance of continuity. The Bill is at one with that because it creates the expectation that the home local authority-which, in some ways, is an entirely new legal concept-will ensure that when a young person is released back into the community there is a formal system for picking them up and making sure that their education is continued. The host local authority must have regard to the completion of courses, which takes up the concern raised by noble Lords. I understand-people will remind me of this-that young people stay for an average of only three or four months, and not all courses are three or four months or less. It is therefore important that there is continuity; that is why the information sharing provisions are so important.
I accept that these are probing amendments but I hope that I have answered the noble Lord's questions. As I have said, I shall be happy to write to him about drug detoxification.
Lord Lucas: I am encouraged by what the noble Baroness said about the voluntary sector. In the letter she kindly wrote me, which I received today, she does not seem to reflect that in the way that local authorities will be commissioning provision in prison. I hope that she will look again at that paragraph of the letter to see whether there is scope for encouraging them to look wider. She said that she would expect them to fulfil their role by appointing a learning provider. I hope that there will be something more involved and more varied than that.
On funding, I understand that the funding is to be per prisoner rather than in respect of the amount of education being undertaken by a prisoner. Is that right?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: The picture that I have in my mind is that the local authority will ensure that there is appropriate provision tailored for the needs of a young person. So it must be very much about the needs of the young person. On the third sector, I am committed to ensuring that the Government,
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Lord De Mauley: I thank the Minister for her response. I suggest that all the subjects listed have at least an educational component to them, whether mental, physical or practical, and I ask that before Report she gives this some further thought, as indeed will I.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for his helpful support for the amendments. Like my noble friend Lord Lucas, his concept of voluntary educational work based on the Feltham example being extended nationwide has considerable potential. I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp and Lady Howe, for their support. The experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was also helpful.
I said this was a probing amendment but we look to the Government for some real progress. However, for today, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendments 116B to 123 not moved.
124: Clause 47, page 30, line 13, at end insert-
"( ) In performing the duty imposed by subsection (1), a local education authority must have regard to any existing Offenders' Learning and Skills Service contracts previously held with the Learning and Skills Council."
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I shall speak also to Amendment 152, which is grouped with this one. Both amendments deal with the transfer of funding under new structures and new organisations, and reflect concerns raised by the Association of Colleges.
New offender learning contracts between education providers and the LSC are due to begin on 1 August 2009. These contracts are for five years. The process of recontracting is inevitably time-consuming and costly, so it is welcome that the contracts will be for five years as that will provide some relative stability for the providers, for the institutions and, perhaps most importantly, for the young offenders themselves. However, with the abolition of the Learning and Skills Council, it is important that this relative certainty is not lost. As well as the funding and commissioning responsibilities for 16 to 19 education, local authorities have new responsibilities for the education and training of young offenders aged 18 and under. It would be advantageous for all concerned if the contracts recently signed were continued by the relevant local authority. Will the Minister confirm the legal position on this? Will the contracts automatically pass over to local authorities, or will they have the right to renegotiate? It will be a real pity and a waste of scarce resources if, after the long process of agreeing new contracts, colleges and others have to restart the procedure.
Amendment 152 would ensure that funding for young offenders was ring-fenced. As part of its responsibilities, the Young People's Learning Agency will pass funding to local authorities in order for them in turn to fund education and training in young offender institutions. As we have discussed, young offenders are often the least well educated among their age group, with the most desperate need for an improvement and enhancement in their skills and qualifications. We know how important education is in this context and the part that it plays in avoiding reoffending on release. The amendment would ensure that local authorities were not tempted to divert some of the funding provided for young offender institutions into mainstream funding elsewhere in their area.
We can already see that there will be considerable pressures on local authorities to fund the 16 to 18 provision in colleges and schools. There is a danger that there will be little equivalent pressure to fund the education for young offenders. What reassurance can the Minister offer that funding will be ring-fenced for this most vulnerable group of learners?
Lord Ramsbotham: I have put my name to Amendment 124 and I support Amendment 152.
I sound another caveat. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who I am glad to see in her place, may recall a conversation that we had when she took over her responsibility. At that time I was extremely concerned about the difference in the provision between different young offender institutions with regard to educational budgets.
I suggested to the noble Baroness that what was needed was an educational needs assessment of what needed to be provided in each establishment for the population that was there. For example, a long-term young offender institution had very different needs from a remand centre, as did people housed between the ages of 15 and 18 from those between 19 and 21. I said that what one should not do was to accept the funding that was currently being provided by the Prison Service, because it was not based on a needs assessment and had been subject to cuts imposed by the Prison Service on the educational budget when it was under pressure to make cuts and was looking for suitable things to do.
I go back to what I said in my first intervention about the need to be quite clear that there is a what and a how here. The what is to be provided and must be laid down quite clearly so that there is no way in which people can interfere; the how is going to be delivered differently around the country, because there will be different providers. Particularly when you are looking at things such as work provision, you may have very different job experience being provided. We should remember that the task is to provide suitable education to meet the reasonable needs. I could not be more pleased that there are now five-year contracts, so at least there can be investment in what is provided, and continuity. But I am concerned that, unless something is done to make certain that there is consistent provision everywhere, you will go back to the problem that used to arise, whereby there is tremendous local variance around the country, which there could be with the number of local education authorities involved, if they are left to decide the what for themselves.
Lord De Mauley: The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, has tabled two important amendments. The changes imposed by the Bill bring in complex arrangements regarding different quangos, as well as lines of funding, reporting and responsibility. It is very important that we untangle these in Committee, so we can see how the legislation will work in practice. The Prisoners' Education Trust, which has been mentioned already today, has stated that it is worried because the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service, which holds primary responsibility for this area, is housed within the current LSC, which this Bill dissolves. The trust has expressed concern that it is unclear from the Bill whether, or how, its enactment will have an impact on current provision of offender learning. I hope that this debate will give the Minister the opportunity that she needs to go into detail about this and clarify the issue.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I am not certain that I shall be able to go into the kind of detail that the noble Lord is looking for on his last question. I may be able to give him more reassurance on that by the end of my speech, but I am not confident at the moment. If I cannot reassure him, I give a very firm undertaking to do so as soon as I possibly can.
I shall particularly address Amendments 124 and 152. As the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, has said, these concern funding and commissioning arrangements for the new system of providing education and training for young people in custody. I entirely agree with the intention behind Amendment 152, which would require that funding be earmarked by the Young People's Learning Agency to support education and training for children and young people in juvenile custody and to ensure that it must be spent on this purpose alone. I would argue that it is not necessary to put that in the Bill, but I say very clearly that I agree with the noble Baroness. We are committed to making a requirement through the annual grant letter to the YPLA that the funds dedicated for learning in the juvenile custody setting are, in fact, spent on this by relevant host local authorities.
The YPLA will set out both in the conditions of grant to local authorities and through-what I consider to be one of the most important documents that the YPLA will produce-the national commissioning framework, which will issue statutory guidance, that the funds for learning in juvenile custody must be spent on this purpose. So it will be clearly identified funding with a clearly identified purpose and a clear accountability.
Turning to Amendment 124, the Learning and Skills Council currently holds, as the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, suggested, Offenders' Learning and Skills Service contracts for the delivery of learning in juvenile accommodation in young offender institutions. The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, was concerned about this, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred to it as well. We expect that there will be significant benefits to local authorities in taking over these existing contracts when they take on their new duties under Clause 47. We are keen to ensure that progress made by the LSC and its providers operating in YOIs in recent years is built upon. So there are real benefits to local authorities, as the noble Baroness has described, of taking on these contracts.
We expect local authorities to be keen to take on these existing contracts, which will help promote, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, suggested, a smooth transition to the new arrangements. Indeed, a number of local authorities participated in the LSC's recent procurement process to appoint new providers to the YOIs from August, so they have already been involved. The units of procurement were arranged in the new contracts so that they can be easily novated to host local authorities, without the uncertainty that the noble Baroness suggests would be very unsettling.
For other types of juvenile custodial establishment, there are also current contracts in place that cover education and training. We are planning that implementation of these new duties will be phased in across the secure estate from 2010, taking into account the nature and length of existing contracts.
I hope I have reassured noble Lords that their genuine concerns will be addressed.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: Just to clarify, the noble Baroness is talking about the benefits to local authorities in continuity. Does that mean that they could, if they wished, renegotiate and tear up the old contracts?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I would have to get exact advice, but my expectation is that it would be very difficult for local authorities to do that. These are long-term contracts, and a contract is a contract. I expect that that is the case. When you talk about novation, as I understand it-I am not a lawyer, I have to be clear; I do not know whether we have any noble and learned Lords with us-it is very much about agreement on all sides. I am very happy again to write to the noble Baroness in very clear terms to help her with that.
Lord Elton: I may have slipped in concentration, but I am not clear therefore what the benefits are that the noble Baroness referred to.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: Is the noble Lord asking what are the benefits?
Lord Elton: To the local authority.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: The benefit to the local authority is having an experienced contractor deliver its educational duties. I am pretty confident that I can reassure noble Lords, but again I am very happy to write further.
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