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I very much agree with the two amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. At the risk of boring the Committee, I must once again raise the point that it is all very well laying these things down, but unless the context in which they can happen is provided, they will not happen. By context, I mean the organisation of the prison system and the youth justice system within it. These sorts of sentence plans have not only to be made but have to be passed around the system to enable the young people to take advantage of them.
This problem goes right back to 1990 and the recommendation that prisons should be grouped regionally so that people never leave their region and therefore the people who are responsible for delivering the programmes, the education, the work training, the medical treatment, the drug treatment and so on are the same people who will be looking after them when they come out of custody and therefore there is some hope of transitioning from one to the other. One of the problems of having a nationally run system, as at present, is that people are sent higgledy-piggledy all over the country, not for reasons of programming but for reasons of empty bed spaces. If you look at current programmes, you will find far too many of them are interrupted because people are moved at the wrong time, before they are completed. The worst example I came across was a boy who was moved the night before he took A-levels, for which he had prepared for 18 months.
We are very glad that, at last, we seem to be getting some coherence in delivery but, as I have mentioned before on the Floor of the House, there are two key words in this: "what" and "how". Somebody has to lay down what is to happen everywhere and make certain that it does. The "how" is left to people on the ground to deliver it appropriately with the people and the resources they have. There is an awful lot of "how" about at the moment. "How" is going down in minute detail, but nobody is delivering the "what". Suggesting that governors of prisons should be responsible is absolutely the wrong solution because governors change and when a new governor comes in, he changes all the programmes. Until and unless someone is made responsible and accountable for what happens in all young offender institutions all over the country, including the programming, what is provided and its content, none of this will come to pass. There are far too many people with individual responsibilities not working towards a coherent whole, and we need a coherent whole in which all these things can happen. Yet again, we are discussing a Bill that is being put forward by one ministry but we are really aiming at another. I hope that the messages being transferred to the Ministry of Justice will somehow get through because it is its responsibility to see that all these things that we are talking about can happen.
Lord Elton: My Lords, there is a third monosyllable to be added: "who". Throughout the National Health Service, we have never known who is responsible. There is a bit of that in the Prison Service, and I hope that it can be cleared up.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): My Lords, first, I thank all noble Lords who co-operated with us during the Recess in trying to ensure that we resolved as many issues as we possibly could. It was much appreciated.
I agree that we must aim to ensure a learning experience for young people in custody that is as consistent as possible. We are building a system where education is given the priority it deserves, where, when young people are moved, they do not go back to square one in their education. The education they were receiving and the knowledge and understanding of their needs that have been built up about them will move with them. Let me explain in detail how this will happen.
New Section 562E places a duty on local authorities to provide on request any educational information that they hold which a receiving local authority needs in order to perform its new duties. Importantly, if a receiving authority requests that information, the previous authority must provide it.
On the question of ensuring that the information is distributed around the system as quickly and effectively as possible, I am sure noble Lords will be pleased to know that the national rollout of the eAsset electronic system was completed in March 2009. So this is not now a paper system chasing young offenders; the information should now be on this national electronic database. That ought to improve efficiency and prevent papers getting sent to the wrong place or getting lost, and is a useful, practical step towards resolving what is after all a complex problem.
Alongside this, new Section 18A provides that in securing suitable provisions for persons in juvenile custody, local authorities must have regard to the desirability of enabling persons to complete programmes of study or training which they have already begun. This will help to ensure that, wherever possible, young people will be able to continue with education programmes which they have already started, and we will make this clear in guidance.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, asked how we will achieve this. One of the things that we hope will occur at the moment is the reduction of moves in custody. The reduction in the under-18 custodial population in recent months means that young people no longer have to be transferred to free up places in establishments operating at full capacity. This means that where transfers still take place, they are for reasons connected with the needs and circumstances of the individual young person. Again, we hope that that will also assist the situation.
Young people are not moved around the system without good reason. When they move-I am sure many noble Lords are aware that they do move-a range of factors based on the person's needs must be taken into account. This already includes education needs alongside other factors-such as the young person's age, any identified risk factors and closeness to home-in determining the best placement for the young person. However, we will work with the Youth
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The provisions in the Bill will help to raise standards of education across the secure estate, so that, where transfers occur, the person will not lose out on their education. Ofsted inspections of provision in custody will ensure that this happens, and its annual report to Parliament covers the whole of its remit, including a section on young offender education. In the longer term, we are also working to reduce the number and frequency of moves needed across the secure estate.
I want to ensure that I have covered all the points. The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked about credits for work that has been completed. That ought to take place with the updating of the individual learning plan, and now that we are conveying this in an electronic fashion I hope that that will indeed be the case.
I hope, with those assurances, that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendment. We all share exactly the same objectives: to ensure that the vital educational needs of young offenders are met, and that when they return to their local authority-whichever one that is-those needs continue to be met.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am not sure that I recognise the prison system as the Minister portrays it. He seems to think that by waving some political magic wand he can make things happen. He seems to think that an electronic system will automatically make people behave in some way or another-as if you can treat people in an educational system as automata that you can switch. Could he imagine switching his own child to another school, even with the best information provision possible, and not disrupting that child's education? That does not happen. There are friendship groups to re-form; there are different teachers; the children are at a different point in the curriculum. It is an immensely disruptive procedure.
If the noble Lord has a magic wand, as he seems to think he has, there is an easy way to apply it. There should be an instruction that someone undergoing a course of education cannot be moved until it is completed. That would set out the priorities. It is simple and can be effected.
I do not think that the Minister addressed the other part of my noble friend's amendment. The courts should have some knowledge and understanding of the available educational provisions in particular establishments so that they can make a reasonable decision of where a young person should be sent, under what conditions and the length of sentence. I am terribly disappointed that the Minister did not address that fundamental issue. We have these kids for only three or four months. If they are sent somewhere at random before we find out what they need, there will be the disorganisation, chaos and lack of education that we find all too commonly at the moment. There has to be progress in making this an integrated function to set these kids back on the right road. It is crucial that the courts should have access to assessments of a young person's requirements when the first decisions are made about their educational needs. I hope that the Minister is able to address that part of my noble friend's amendment.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I do not think that I suggested I have a magic wand. I sometimes feel that I am not much bigger than Sooty who did. We have tried to ensure that it is responsibility of the Youth Justice Board to facilitate the placement of remanded children and young people into juvenile custody, including the placement of the most sentenced children, and that it is managed nationally. The Youth Justice Board has a range of criteria on which placement decisions are made. The priority factors for a person's placement are their age, vulnerability and closeness to home. Obviously, closeness to home will help in terms of education.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: The noble Lord is correct. The priority factors for a person's placement are their age, vulnerability and closeness to home, which is where usually a person would receive their education. No one likes to move people. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked me to address two things. The first is the importance of the first placement, with which we would agree and which is one of the factors. His second point is what happens when you have to transfer a young person.
Of course, as a parent, that is the last thing you ever want to do, but there are occasions on which it happens; for example, when the safety of the young person or the young person's behaviour makes it a requirement that they have to move. In considering those moves, the Youth Justice Board follows a protocol which covers all transfers made across the entire secure estate for children and young people, and prescribes a process for each type of transfer. There are four main types of transfer; namely, vulnerable and at risk, discipline, planned and overcrowding. Now that the young offender institutions are not so full, we hope that overcrowding will not be such a problem.
Baroness Walmsley: As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said, education is not mentioned in those criteria. Although I am sure the Committee accepts that where there is a mental health problem or a danger to the young person, that should have a certain priority in decisions about moving the young person, I think that the issue of completion of education should come higher up the list than overcrowding. In a case of overcrowding, the governor will have some discretion as to which young people will be moved. Surely, education and the stage a young person has got to in his or her course should be in that list of criteria. I would point out to the Minister that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, simply asks that regard should be had to that.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: The noble Baroness makes a valid point and I shall address what we are doing to improve the situation. We will work with the
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Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, for their support, and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for continuing to emphasise what he calls the "what". I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Elton who raised the idea of the "who", and I thank the Minister for his response. As my noble friend Lord Lucas said, one hopes that the national electronic database will work in the way the Government intend. The Minister says that it ought to solve the problem, but while of course it ought to do so, we look to the Government to ensure that it does.
The Minister also said that guidance will be forthcoming to give effect to continuity of training and education. Every effort should be made to show us at least a draft of the guidance before the Report stage; it would be extremely helpful if that was possible. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lucas for his request for a response on the sentence planning aspect, as well as to my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for their interventions. We will need to think carefully about the Minister's response, but until the Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Elton: This amendment seeks to leave out a sub-paragraph. In the third paragraph of the letter sent by the Minister last Friday evening to interested Peers, she wrote that the reforms set out in this Bill to make local authorities responsible for the education and training of young people in youth custody,
In the Bill as drafted, new Section 18A(1) set out in Clause 47 requires local authorities to provide education to those aged under 19, while new Section 18A(7)(b) restricts the requirement so that it applies only if the young people are being held in what is described as "relevant youth accommodation" in their area. In Clause 48(3), new Section 562(1A)(b)(ii)-if your
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In her letter the Minister said that she was considering an amendment to address the plight of the rare birds of passage that she is planning for. After she has considered what I have said, will she confirm that she will table an amendment to agree that the Bill should make provision for the much larger, possibly non-migratory flocks, that I fear we may be destined to see perched in adult accommodation in the future? I beg to move.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, I should like to add to my noble friend's comments about the gratitude we feel towards noble Lords who have been generous with their time over the past few weeks to help us in focusing our work in preparation for Committee. I am grateful to noble Lords across the House for the help that they have given us.
In response to the noble Lord's remarks, I understand his concern. As I said in my letter, which he has described clearly and carefully to the Committee, it is a rare event for a young person aged under 18 to be held in the young adult prison estate. As the noble Lord explained, the Youth Justice Board report for April 2008 pointed out that only one young person under the age of 18 was moved from juvenile custody to young adult custody.
I should like to think about the noble Lord's concern about a future situation in which large numbers of under-18s could be decanted into adult accommodation. This is not something that we on these Benches would envisage-I hope it is not something that anyone on any Benches around the House would envisage-but I shall explore what guidance we can give to the chief executive of Skills Funding and how we can work with Welsh Ministers to produce that guidance. I shall happily continue the dialogue with the noble Lord between now and Report to ensure that we can provide the reassurances necessary to meet his concerns. With that, I hope he will consider withdrawing his amendment.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I echo my thanks to her for the time that she has spent and, more particularly, the time that her Bill team have spent, some of them on Saturday mornings, which is far beyond the call of duty. It is much appreciated.
Having said that and in the light of what the noble Baroness said-understanding that she has taken on board that we are talking about more than just one or two a year when the shoe pinches-I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(e) he is detained in relevant youth accommodation"."
Lord Elton: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 128, 133 and 134. The first amendment seeks simply to make local authorities apply the same standards and supply the same support to detained young persons as they do to other persons of the same age. Amendment 134 is designed to ensure that any existing knowledge about the special educational needs of a detainee is known to the host authority and acted on by it at the earliest possible time.
The whole group, in fact, has been largely overtaken by the lengthy letter that the Minister sent us over the weekend, so I need not elaborate on the detail of this except in one respect: Amendment 128 is less of a probing amendment than the rest because it requires that there should be a standard format in which information about a child's or young person's educational progress is kept and transmitted. The noble Lord mentioned the e-Asset system; I would like to know whether that is uniform not only throughout England but also in Wales. I am aware that there are transfers of prisoners across the Severn as well as between regional boundaries, and it is important that the same format of document should come with the arriving inmate from wherever he has come and to wherever he is going, so that everyone knows what to look for where. I have set out a system for doing this that is perhaps simplistic but that I think none the less would work. So far as I am concerned, it could be electronic, on hard copy or both. I would advise that it was not put into service until the system for transferring,
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Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I put my name to these amendments because, as with so much of the Bill, there is a read-across to an aspect contained in another Bill that is linked with the intention of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I refer to the Health and Social Care Act, on which we had long discussions about the role of the social workers who were responsible for children in care who went into custody. Those social workers had the duty of being in loco parentis, overseeing all the programmes that were planned with and for that young offender during their detention and training order in custody, as well as overseeing the resettlement or rehabilitation plan that was made at the end.
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