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Written Statements

Volume 677: debated on Thursday 18 June 2020

Written Statements

Thursday 18 June 2020

Health and Social Care

Contingencies Fund Advance

The Department of Health and Social Care’s vote on account cash limit has been used in full between April 2020 and June 2020 to support the running costs of the department, NHS and arm’s length bodies, including expenditure on the covid-19 pandemic. This application from the contingencies fund is to access the budgetary cover already included in the 2020-21 Main Supply Estimate, as set out below.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £24,250,000,000 and additional capital of £750,000,000 will be sought in a main estimate for Department of Health and Social Care. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £25,000,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.



Youth Custody

Youth offending has fallen—to 38.4% in the latest youth justice statistics —thanks to successive Governments’ efforts to improve education, social care and mental health support. Clear guidance to the judiciary that custody should be an absolute last resort for children has also seen numbers fall by 78% between 2008 and 2019. There are now fewer than 700 children currently held in young offender institutions, secure training centres and secure children’s homes. This is an unprecedented low, and down from a peak of 3,200 in October 2002.

This is a success that as a society we should be incredibly proud of. These early interventions have meant that thousands of children each year avoid heading into adulthood as criminals, into a life of crime that is much harder to break once ingrained. This Government’s efforts to support children and upgrade their life chances continue at pace—whether that be the additional funding being put into our schools or the extra support now available to children’s mental health services.

But we know there is far more still to do, particularly for those who still enter custody—a much more concentrated mix of children with complex issues, over 50% of whom have convictions for serious violence. We are spending £5 million putting each prison officer who works in the youth custody estate through a specialist degree programme, giving them a greater understanding of child and adolescent development. We have also increased the number of staff in young offender institutions by a third in the last four years.

We are investing in the development of enhanced support units (ESUs) to provide specialist psychological support and services for children with the most complex needs, with ESUs now at Feltham and Wetherby YOIs. We are also working with NHS England on a new integrated approach to strengthen the provision of health care and support (“SECURE STAIRS”) which is rolling out across the youth secure estate.

But there are elements of practice in youth custody which, frankly, have not been good enough. Today I have published two reports on the use of restraint and separation in the secure youth justice estate.

Staff in the youth estate are trained to use behaviour management and de-escalation techniques and only resort to physical restraint when there is no alternative and either their safety or that of children is at further risk.

However, keen to ensure those prison officers working with children were receiving adequate training and were using such techniques appropriately, the Government commissioned Charlie Taylor, then the chair of the Youth Justice Board, to carry out an independent review into the use of pain-inducing restraint.

In his report, Charlie Taylor references a number of incidents in which he believes the use of a pain-inducing restraint potentially saved a child’s life. He is therefore clear that staff must retain the ability to intervene safely when there is a clear and imminent risk of serious harm to a child, themselves or another member of staff. However, he also found instances where it was used inappropriately and, now, I want to ensure the use of such restraint is proportionate and reasonable and only used when there is no other alternative.

That is why the Government have accepted all 15 recommendations in Charlie Taylor’s report, and the youth custody service has developed a programme of work which will implement them. Techniques that cause pain, albeit in order to prevent further serious harm, will no longer be taught alongside other methods to manage behaviour, to make it even clearer that these are a last resort designed only to protect children or staff from further injury. This will ensure that such techniques are only used when there is no alternative in order to prevent serious harm and therefore protect children and staff from trauma wherever possible. A panel will also be established to carefully scrutinise incidents in which a pain-inducing restraint has been used to ensure they are being used appropriately and that the welfare of children and staff is a key consideration.

The second report I have published today builds on our initial response to the thematic report on separation in young offender institutions, which HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) published in January.

The findings in the report made for some challenging reading at the time and I was pleased with the exceptional effort from the youth custody service in acting so swiftly to address the regime provided for separated children.

It is extremely unfortunate that at the point at which we were starting to see improvements for separated children we went into a period, that because of coronavirus, has forced us into a situation where all children in custody have unfortunately had to spend more time behind their doors than we would wish.

I accepted the overarching recommendation for a new system of separation to be implemented, which was called for by HMIP in their thematic report. As we look to restart aspects of daily life for children in custody I am determined that we do not return to the practices of old. This new, child-centred policy will draw on best practice from other establishments to ensure consistency across the youth estate.

Inappropriate use of these techniques must not happen again. Our response to these findings will help to ensure all children in custody have all the support they need to turn their lives around.

I will place a copy of both reports in the Libraries of both Houses.



Contingencies Fund

I hereby give notice of the Department for Transport having drawn advances from the contingencies fund totalling £7,000,000,000 to enable expenditure on covid-19 support packages for transport to be spent ahead of the passage of the Supply and Appropriation Act. The schemes include:

Emergency measures agreements with the train operating companies; the covid-19 bus services support grant; safeguarding critical ferry freight routes; and supporting regional transport networks such as Transport for London and light rail networks. Furthermore, the Department brought-forward the payment of local authority road maintenance grants announced in the Budget. Barnett consequentials have already been applied in the usual way to any funding on top of the Department for Transport’s current budgets.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £5,253,000,000 and additional capital of £603,000,000 and £1,144,000,000 of cash will be sought in a Main Estimate for the Department for Transport. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £7,000,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.

The cash advance will be repaid upon receiving Royal assent of the Supply and Appropriation Bill.


Work and Pensions

Pensions: Interim Guidance for Superfunds

The pensions regulator has today published an interim regulatory regime for defined benefit pension “superfunds”.

A superfund is a privately funded “for profit” consolidation vehicle, which takes over responsibility for defined benefit pension schemes liabilities from the sponsoring employer. To enter a superfund, sponsoring employers are required to pay a significant, upfront sum to improve the funding level of their scheme, in exchange for discharging their pensions liabilities.

This is an interim regime. The Government will continue to develop the permanent regime before legislating, with full and proper parliamentary scrutiny in the usual way.

Operation of the interim regime will be kept under review by the Government to ensure that it is properly protecting and advancing the interests of pension scheme members and the pension protection fund.

The Government will continue to develop a permanent regime for superfunds. This is an innovative area and market participants should not assume that the permanent regime will automatically replicate the interim regime. Alongside responses to the defined benefit pension scheme consolidation consultation, the Government will be informed by experience gained during the interim regime when considering the features of the permanent regime, including those relating to capital adequacy. The permanent regime may include an alternative set of requirements, including more prudent requirements, compared to the interim regime, but we cannot pre-empt the parliamentary process.

The permanent regime will be designed to protect pension scheme members and the pension protection fund, including by ensuring that superfunds have the necessary flexibility to continue contributing to a strong pensions ecosystem in which sponsoring companies and scheme trustees have a range of options open to them.

The Government believe that superfunds have the potential to improve the likelihood of members getting their benefits in full whilst providing employers with a new, affordable option to manage their legacy pension liabilities. However, if at any point it appears that changes to the interim regime are required in order to protect and advance the interests of scheme members, the Government and the pensions regulator will take prompt, robust action.

Today’s publication will mean that the pensions regulator will have a much firmer basis to take action against a superfund should they deem it a necessary and proportionate step.

The guidance can be accessed at the following address: