My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made in another place by the Minister for Children on Aiming High for Young People: A Ten Year Strategy for Positive Activities. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would like to make a Statement. Two weeks ago my right honourable friend the Secretary of State set out how the new Department for Children, Schools and Families would accelerate the drive to raise standards of attainment, particularly for the most disadvantaged children. This strategy today is responding to the distinctive needs of young people and how we can better support them through the development of positive activities.
“The joint review by my department and the Treasury of national and international research, including on the views of young people themselves, has established a number of key findings about adolescence on which we must now act.
“First, today’s teenagers indeed face a much more complex process of growing up, with an unprecedented range of opportunities and choices but also new risks and challenges. Secondly, social and economic trends, including globalisation, mean that academic and vocational skills alone are no longer sufficient to equip young people for our changing labour market. Thirdly, young people also need well developed capabilities, sometimes called ‘social and emotional’ or ‘non-cognitive’ skills, in order to acquire the flexibility, adaptability and resilience to overcome challenge and change. Employers are increasingly demanding these capabilities too. Finally, while committed parents and a good school are always crucial, these additional capabilities are acquired not through formal learning but by participating in positive structured activities with trusted adults.
“Whether it be sport, music, drama, volunteering, or being in the Scouts or Guides or a rap group, it is now clear that taking part in organised activities led by responsible adults is how young people develop confidence, tenacity and tolerance—how they learn to lead, co-operate with others and solve problems. These attributes are not just nice for young people to have. They are essential, both to overcome the challenges of adolescence and to mature into well adjusted adults. The strategy is focused on ensuring that all our youngsters can enjoy their teenage years, a formative time in their lives, while, crucially, developing the capabilities essential for success.
“The strategy builds on the unprecedented investment and progressive reform the Government have already made for young people through Every Child Matters and Connexions, with extra support targeted at those most in need. It complements our decision to raise the age of participation in education and extends the initiatives set out in the Green Paper, Youth Matters.
“As a result of these measures, the hard work of parents and many dedicated practitioners working with young people, and contrary to the hype about ‘youth in crisis’, the facts show that most young people are doing better than ever before. Exam results and the numbers staying on in education are both at all-time highs, with more than 59 per cent gaining five good GCSEs and 77 per cent of 16 and 17 year-olds continuing in learning and training. More young people are volunteering than any other age group. Compared to previous generations, they are more accepting of other faiths and races, more liberal about gender roles and more likely to feel satisfied with their lives.
“But we also know that a minority of young people are not sharing in this success: young people born into disadvantage, involved in high-risk behaviour, underachieving at school and, crucially, failing to develop the capabilities they need for the future. They are held back by low self-esteem, lack of self-discipline and poor self-control, all of which are strongly linked to serious problems such as crime, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of education and training and the misuse of drink and drugs. Disadvantaged young people are much less likely to get the chance to take part in positive activities organised through school or by their parents, so are doubly disadvantaged. The result is that the young people who most need these capabilities to meet the challenges they face are the least likely to acquire them.
“The backdrop to all this is an unrelentingly negative view of young people in this country, where the problems of the few eclipse the achievements of the many. Seventy-one per cent of media stories about young people are negative. No wonder 98 per cent of young people tell us they feel stereotyped, criticised and undervalued, their achievements unfairly disregarded.
“With this strategy we are determined both to rebalance the public debate about our young people and to transform their opportunities for positive activities and places to go, especially for those who are disadvantaged, vulnerable or disabled. Three principles underpin this vision: empowerment, access and quality. Our youth opportunity and capital funds are already putting real spending power in young people’s hands. Six hundred and fifty thousand teenagers have already taken part and benefited. It is already clear that when young people influence local decision-making, opportunities and services improve, so we will invest a further £173 million over the next three years through these funds. To ensure we are reaching the most disadvantaged and excluded, we will invest an additional £25 million in the most deprived neighbourhoods.
“We want to go further. Our expectation is that by 2018 young people will have direct influence over at least 25 per cent of local authority budgets for positive activities. We also want a step-change in what is on offer to all young people, especially the most disadvantaged, so the strategy includes major new investment in places to go. Unclaimed bank assets will complement new government spending to support our aspiration of an exciting, modern, up-to-date place for young people in every community. Local authorities will lead public, voluntary and private sector partnerships, working with young people to develop visionary new facilities for teenagers, while addressing problems, such as poor transport, that otherwise mean some young people miss out.
“We want to develop young people’s capacity for leadership and entrepreneurship through a new fund, creating, in effect, a national institute of youth leadership. We will also support older teenagers to set up social enterprises in their communities and promote intergenerational activity by encouraging adults, especially active retired people, to volunteer and mentor young people.
“Our success in engaging the most excluded young people is the critical test of this strategy, because they have the most to gain yet are the least likely to participate. We will invest in a variety of ways of reaching them. In our most deprived communities we will test cutting-edge approaches to creating more and better youth facilities, informing how we spend unclaimed assets in future. We will invest up to £82 million, in addition to existing funding of £140 million, in established schemes such as the Positive Activities for Young People and Youth Inclusion programmes, to increase and make them available all year round. We will also invest up to £100 million so that third-sector providers with a proven track record in working with vulnerable young people can expand and sustain their activities into the future.
“We will build on the successful Do it 4 Real residential scheme, which demonstrates that bringing together young people from different backgrounds raises aspirations, especially among the more disadvantaged, and fosters community cohesion. A further £15 million will subsidise those who otherwise could not afford to take part.
“Finally, this new investment must be matched by further reform. Despite significant progress since Youth Matters, services for young people are too often fragmented, patchy and poor, yet research shows that only high-quality services make the difference.
“We need stronger leadership, and more skilled and creative people working with our teenagers—good role models who can relate to and inspire young people from all backgrounds. So this strategy sets out a 10-year workforce reform programme, supported by new investment of £25 million, including for a leadership programme to attract more graduates into the sector, building on the successful model of Teach First.
“We also expect local authorities, youth offending teams and primary care trusts to pool budgets, a radical change to drive a renewed focus on prevention.
“We are making the most ambitious commitment to all our young people for decades, supported over the period 2008-11 by £124 million-worth of new investment, reinvestment of unclaimed bank assets and £60 million of new government capital for youth facilities, and £495 million of baseline funding.
“I hope that Members of Parliament on all sides of the House can join together and take the lead in promoting a better appreciation of our nation’s young people—our future—and through this strategy achieve a transformation of the opportunities they need to succeed. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier today in another place.
Last night at the end of business, when the Minister and I had concluded regulations on the extension of disabled rights, we bade one another a fond farewell and happy recess, but we had reckoned without the hyperactivity of the new Department for Children, Schools and Families. We welcome any Statement that strives to support our younger people through the development of positive activities. Indeed, the Conservative Party has been applying its mind to this vital area for some time, as have the minds of some of the most recognised experts in the field.
My right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith, in his excellent report Breakthrough Britain and through his work at the Centre for Policy Studies, has done much to look at how we connect with young people through the many wonderful voluntary schemes throughout the country. My right honourable friend David Cameron held a meeting in January last year with youth leaders and set them a challenge of devising a programme that engaged young people and gave them a sense of purpose, optimism and belonging, that mixed up classes and backgrounds and was residential so that young people had time to work together and get to know each other. From that, he set up the Young Adult Trust, which seems to be a forerunner of some of what has been announced today.
This morning, we woke up to disturbing headlines in our newspapers from a troubling study published today by the think tank that is close to the Labour Party, the Institute for Public Policy Research. It revealed that British teenagers are more likely to drink, take drugs, have underage and unprotected sex, join gangs and get into fights than teenagers in any other European country. But it would be completely wrong to brand our young as bad kids and to simply see them in a negative light. As the Minister said, more young people are volunteering than any other age group, and if you go around the country and engage with teenagers involved in numerous activities you cannot help but be impressed by their enthusiasm, drive and pride in their achievements. We should celebrate the positive aspects of many of our young people, and excellent schemes such as the Diana awards do just that. Engaging with and not talking down our teenagers must be the way forward.
However, it would be wrong to claim that there is not a problem among some of our young people. We do them no favours whatever if we ignore it. There is nothing more dispiriting than young people with no sense of purpose. In the recent spate of killings of young men in London, many of the comments made by young and old alike in those communities were that there was simply nowhere for the young to play and no safe places for them to go or activities for them to get involved with. Therefore, we welcome the Government’s commitment to put more money into places to go.
The Minister said that visionary new facilities for teenagers would be developed, but visionary new facilities need visionary leaders. The success of most youth activities depends on the quality of leadership. I often think that if we could replicate Jerry Glover from Bolton Lads and Girls Club and Camilla Batmanghelidjh from Kids Company, we would have the answer to all our problems. They are truly inspirational. How will strong leadership in this area be encouraged and where will the Government find qualified youth leaders to implement their programme?
Bolton Lads and Girls Club was widely mentioned in the debate in another place. As a former director of the club, I am enormously proud of all that it achieves. But it is not easy to keep it going all year round, and it requires a great deal of money, most of which comes from dedicated fundraisers and applying for grants. All that takes time. If you speak to those who run some of our best facilities, they will tell you that they spend a disproportionate time keeping a roof over their heads rather than the youth work for which they have such a talent. The trouble with applying for money is that quite often the goalposts change, and the successful scheme that you set up with the proceeds of one grant can come under threat because some other scheme is seen as new and exciting. Yet the core activities are the most successful and require regular funding. Will the Minister assure me that this new revenue will be secure? It is the sustainability of all this that will be the hallmark of its success. Can he assure me, too, that good solid enterprises that have shown their strength and success over the years will not have to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops? Furthermore, can he assure me that we will not see good local voluntary provision driven out by state-run enterprises, as we have seen in the nursery sector?
There is much to welcome in this Statement. I particularly like the idea of promoting intergenerational activity by encouraging adults, especially active retired people, to volunteer and mentor young people. But there are also concerns, and it is quite right for Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition to highlight where things are not right—for example, the unacceptable time that many young people still have to wait for access to child and adolescent mental health services. In doing that, we are in no way running down the young people of this country or being negative.
We believe in championing young people and working with them, their parents and the voluntary sector to achieve the best outcomes—and where the Government do this, we will support them.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. When I heard this morning that we were to have a Statement at the end of business, I thought, “Oh dear—the Government’s parting shot”. Then I read it and realised that, rather than a parting shot, what we have here is a bright, shiny, sticky red lollipop to send us off with our buckets and spades, a song in our hearts and, perhaps, sugary red stuff all over our faces. I just hope that in the end it does not rot our teeth.
That is shorthand for saying how very much we welcome this Statement. For far too long, our youth services have been depleted and it is heartening to see that the Government are turning their attention to reversing that situation. I particularly agree with the Minister when he refers to the importance of social, emotional and non-cognitive skills. It is absolutely true that young people get a lot of this outside the classroom, through the sort of activities that he mentioned, but it is also true that young people need information about their own health and well-being, which is why I still feel that PSHE should be compulsory in the curriculum.
It was also very nice to hear the Minister say that this was all about helping our young people to enjoy their teenage years. That is so welcome because, of the five outcomes of Every Child Matters, the one about enjoying childhood has had the least attention. The recent UNICEF report about children’s well-being and the report mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, paint a picture of a country with a lot of very unhappy children. Although I know that the vast majority of our children are well looked-after and happy, those who are unhappy deserve our particular attention.
I also agree with the Minister about the undesirability of this negative image of our young people. It is simply not fair; the vast majority are well rooted in their community, do well in their schools and achieve their full potential. But what will the Minister do to engage with the press and change the large number of stories that it writes about young people in trouble? I used to work in public relations and often had to think up straplines for campaigns. The one that the Minister outlined for this programme—of empowerment, access and quality—sounds like a good strapline to me, especially the empowerment side of it. Children who have a role in deciding what is going to happen to them will engage more, which is why I am so cautious about the idea of compulsion in raising the education leaving age. We were particularly delighted to hear that 25 per cent of local authority spending will be influenced and decided by young people in future, so that they can shape the services they get.
Places to go have long been a problem for young people. On Saturday my husband and I will head up to Aboyne, a town in Scotland with an Indian takeaway where we often get our supper. It used to be run by two young men who, unfortunately, had a fatal road accident. The community responded to the loss of those two young entrepreneurs by having a collection in which the town’s young people were very involved. The collection raised money to do something for the young people in the town. When asked what they wanted, they said, “We want a place to go to”. I am pleased to say that they now have it. No doubt we shall pass it next week when we go for our Indian takeaway.
I have a few short questions on the Statement. First, will any of these measures require legislation? How much of the money that was announced is really new money? I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, that children’s well-being is often determined by their mental health. Certainly, that mental health is improved by the sort of positive activities that we are talking about today. What about the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services? A great deal more investment and expertise still needs to be brought to bear on it. That needs to run alongside the programme we have just heard about.
Will the programme involve young offenders? Will it prevent offending—these activities will undoubtedly help with that—and help them when they come out of prison? The activities in which young people take part when they leave prison are important in preventing the very high level of reoffending that we have in this country. Will it involve older children helping younger children? The mentoring idea is absolutely wonderful. I particularly hope that it will involve the immigrant community and that a young person coming to this country from another country can be mentored and helped, perhaps by somebody of the same community who has been here longer, or by somebody in the indigenous community. That would help them to settle down and would be enormously helpful.
Will the programme involve our cultural and heritage institutions? Will the Government challenge our museums, theatres, sports facilities, music venues, stately homes, botanic gardens and other places to get involved with it? If the Government do that, it will become a lot more creative, dynamic and therefore successful.
Finally, a note of warning: if you broaden your net to bring in more people to work with young people, it could act as a magnet to paedophiles. Can the noble Lord reassure us that the appropriate CRB checks will be done on everybody who gets involved in this worthwhile new programme? We wish it a fair wind.
My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for their kind remarks. As the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, so rightly said, my department never sleeps. It never takes a holiday and it has deliberately engineered the proceedings of the House to keep your Lordships occupied to the very last gasp of July debating one of the most important issues facing us as a country—the well-being of the next generation and our young people.
I am delighted that I have managed to induce a song in the heart of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I manage to achieve that very rarely in my contributions in the House. Having visited Aboyne on holiday, I recall that it has an annual hurling competition which engages many young people in a largely positive activity. I am glad that I have sent her off on her summer holidays in good heart.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, also stressed the importance of intergenerational activity, with which I entirely agree. I thought that there was a specific mention of your Lordships in this context on page 5 of the strategy, which has a paragraph on peers and leisure time. The paragraph states:
“Friends and peers naturally become increasingly important during the teenage years, peaking in influence at around the age of 15”.
But as I read on it became clear that Members of your Lordships' House were not particularly envisaged in this context. However, the noble Baroness’s point is well taken. The important issue with which we are all grappling, which grows so much out of the work of schools and extended schools, is how we can engage adults and adult leaders. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, rightly stressed the importance of effective leaders, including younger leaders, in working with children in activities in which they want to take part outside conventional school hours. That is at the heart of our extended schools programme. More than 1,000 secondary schools are now extended schools, offering a programme of activities after school. We want all secondary schools to be extended schools by 2010.
The new leadership initiative, with substantial funding announced in the Statement, will specifically aim to upgrade the skills of existing youth leaders and attract a new cohort of youth leaders modelled, as the Statement said, on the very successful Teach First initiative, which has attracted a new cohort of high-performing graduates into teaching. We believe that we can do the same with respect to youth work. A number of other initiatives in this area are set out in the Statement.
I strongly welcome what the noble Baroness said about the third sector, where we are at one. She mentioned the Bolton Lads and Girls Club. I cannot think what possibly brought that organisation to her mind; it may be some geographical association. The youth strategy mentions a number of other organisations, such as Fairbridge, an outstandingly successful third-sector provider, which focuses its attention on the most disengaged and disadvantaged. There are large numbers of organisations of that kind. A whole section of the Aiming High document concerns further encouragement to the third sector. I draw the attention of noble Lords particularly to chapter 5 and paragraphs 5.33 onwards, which set out proposals for working with the third sector, including the Government’s response to the third-sector review, which has a strong bearing on the provision of youth activities.
It commits us, for example, to delivering a two-year national programme for third-sector commissioning to train 2,000 commissioners in local authorities, primary care trusts and other agencies aiming to build in sustainability and long-term change through embedding the principles of good commissioning from the start. I particularly highlight that because unless local authorities and local arms of the state are effective at commissioning, they will never get the best out of third-sector providers, and many third-sector providers will never get the opportunity to offer their wares in the first place. I hope that the encouragement that we are giving to the third sector will stimulate significant further provision, which by definition engages stakeholders, because it is not going out of the state directly.
Both noble Baronesses asked about funding—was it for real and were we absolutely committed to new funding? I give the House an assurance that the £124 million of revenue funding announced in the Statement today is over and above the existing baseline for youth and youth-related activities of £495 million. Similarly, the £60 million of capital is over and above existing baselines. Over and above both those figures we will also be able to introduce additional funding from the unclaimed assets. We hope to have an assessment of what that will be, and we hope it will be reasonably considerable, in about a year. That funding will come on-stream from 2010-11, and it could unlock a significant and long-term source of revenue for the development of the capital infrastructure facilities for young people. I hope all that is useful.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, referred to the IPPR report. She is right to highlight that we need to do far more for our young people, and we would not be having the Statement today were that not the case. I stress that the IPPR report was based on findings from the World Health Organisation’s 2000 survey of health behaviours in school-age children. Since then, there have been significant improvements in conditions for young people. Some 700,000 children have been lifted out of poverty. We are glad to say that teenage pregnancy rates have come down and are now at their lowest level for 20 years. Drug use among 11 to 15 year-olds is decreasing. There has been a significant increase in educational achievement at GCSE and in staying on in education. The IPPR report makes no mention of early years provision, which has been transformed in the past seven years, or of the improvements that we have made in respect of child protection. So while we accept the need for radical change in this area—otherwise we would not be making the Statement—the situation is not as painted in the IPPR report, which uses historic data.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, mentioned mental health, and she was right to do so, because this is a significant and pressing issue in so many of our communities. About one in 10 children and young people aged five to 16 have a clinically diagnosed mental disorder. That proportion has not changed significantly in the past 10 years.
She was right to refer to the importance of CAMHS spending. We attach great importance to improvements in that respect. CAMHS mapping reports show that spending on CAMHS increased by 19 per cent between the financial years 2004-05 and 2005-06. There has been a historic increase, but we know that there have been issues regarding CAMHS funding in the most recent year and we are paying close attention to seeing how we can meet the needs of young people suffering from mental health disorders. Around 90 per cent of PCTs say they are commissioning a comprehensive CAMHS service. All except for three PCTs reported delivery of all three proxy indicators in respect of CAMHS by the end of March 2007. The situation is not as good as we would wish it to be, but we believe that it has been improving.
My Lords, it has been my experience that Ministers cannot go everywhere. On the other hand, it is invaluable that they should be seen and heard, particularly in the most deprived areas, such as my own in Hackney. Can the Minister be more specific about what part Ministers will play alongside Members of Parliament, councillors and all who help to provide vital services locally?
My Lords, my noble friend rightly referred to Hackney, which he knows well, where the Government have been heavily engaged in the development of educational and youth-related facilities. I happen to know that, because I have been personally engaged in the development of a number of new secondary school academies in Hackney, which are proving to be highly successful in encouraging parents and young people to sustain the borough’s secondary educational work. At their heart, those academies have extended school activities, including youth activities after school, in the holidays and at weekends, which are absolutely central to their purpose. The concept of the extended school that is open for 12 hours a day, providing not only core educational services, but after-school youth activities and a range of facilities for the community, is at the heart of the academies we have been developing in Hackney. Ministers have been at the fore of those developments. Therefore, we have an important role in stimulating new provision and working closely with local authorities to see what they can do to enhance provision in this area.
The most important provision that we can make is as the guardians of the public purse and we have announced that we are making available to local authorities significant financial resources, which will enable them, in turn, to enhance facilities in their communities.
My Lords, I particularly welcome what the Minister said about funding for the third sector. Camila Batmanghelidjh was mentioned. She trains young people from deprived areas who, for instance, have been in custody and, in some cases, have been shot. They become peer mentors and they may be five or six years older than the young people attending. That group of 15 year-olds needs to look up to quasi-father figures who are not too old and who are well drawn into this work. I am gratified to hear of the funding for it.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister about the youth work qualification. I spoke to an academic last night who had many years of youth work experience. He was unhappy with the quality of the current youth work qualification. I am glad to hear of the leadership institution that the noble Lord described. What more is being done to develop the youth work qualification, the continual professional development of youth workers and their supervision? How will parents be brought into this? Adolescence is a difficult time in young people’s relationship with their parents. They need space, but we must also ensure that the bond with the parent is sustained. Some of Camila Batmanghelidjh’s most moving work is in bringing children back in touch with their parents. This is not an alternative to what parents have to offer. How will they be brought into this?
Perhaps I may make a quick comment on early-years provision. What the Government have done is very welcome, but there remains a worryingly high turnover of staff in early years care. That very much needs to be addressed.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his warm welcome for the report. He raises two important areas—the quality of youth workers and the engagement of parents. Youth workers are mostly employed locally. In many cases, they are employed by local authorities and, increasingly, directly by schools as assistants or mentors of one kind or another. Therefore, most of the regulation is locally based. I hope that with these additional funds it will be possible for local authorities and other local employers of youth workers to enhance the youth workers’ professional development and to see that they have far more effective opportunities to engage in induction training and things of that kind.
We are considering whether the new graduate initiative, which we have announced today and which, as I said, will draw lessons from the Teach First scheme, should lead to a new postgraduate qualification. We will also consider whether there should be linkages with the new leadership and management programme.
The role of parents is vital in encouraging children to engage in activities of this kind. As the facilities become available and the concept of the extended school develops—it is of course very accessible to young people because it is part of their established local community base—I hope that that will enhance parents’ encouragement to their children to take part in these activities.
My Lords, I should like to share an experience that I had in my early days as a councillor. The late Dick Young called at my door and said, “What are we going to do about the youngsters?”. We called a public meeting and, following that, formed the Greetland Community and Sporting Association, which came into being four years after Dick Young had come to my door. But, by then, the young people about whom he had been so concerned had become adults. Therefore, although the idea of bringing young people forward and turning them into decision-makers can be relevant with regard to revenue expenditure, I have some reservations about whether capital projects can be delivered in time for the young people to benefit from them. The Government may need to act with care on that.
My second point is totally different. Nearly four hours ago in the debate, I talked about the Unclaimed Assets Bill. The notes on the pre-legislative draft programme state that the discussion will be about money being reinvested in society and distributed in the community. I said that it sounded as though some, if not all, of that money was already spoken for due to the Statement that we would be hearing later. I am concerned. Unclaimed assets are very precious and everyone in the community will want to see where they are destined for. I am concerned that the document and the Statement indicate that the Big Lottery Fund should be the agency to distribute the resources. The Big Lottery Fund has already been created from two lottery funds, and regional decision-making has been scrapped. From the statements that have been made over the past few weeks about having regional spokespeople in the Commons and regional Select Committees and so on, the Government seem to have changed the regional dimension a bit, but I am concerned about that.
I am also concerned that, if the money goes to the Big Lottery Fund, many people will be confused about whether it is lottery money or unclaimed assets money. Many organisations are torturing themselves over whether they should be using the receipts of gambling. Therefore, if the distribution body is the same, that will add to the confusion, and I hope that that will not happen.
My third point is, again, very important and it is always being discussed in terms of the lottery. It is whether we are talking about new money or displacement money. Surely unclaimed assets must be clearly seen as new money and never as displacement money.
My Lords, I can give the noble Lord that assurance. The funds from unclaimed assets will be additional and not a substitute for any existing government spending. The figures I gave today for increases in government spending—£124 million revenue over the next three years and £60 million capital—are before any funding from unclaimed assets.
In the document we published in May for the consultation that closes on 9 August, we clearly stated that the priorities for distribution in England will be youth services, financial capability and inclusion, and developing the social investment market. Youth services are very clearly set out there. This is not an extra put in for the purposes of today’s Statement; it was there when we launched the consultation on the distribution of funds from unclaimed assets back in May.
I do not agree with the noble Lord on the engagement of young people in the development of capital projects. Provided that there is a clear sense of what is to be provided, it does not take a huge length of time to provide capital assets. At the moment, as Minister with responsibility for schools, I am heavily engaged in the issue of school building. Once we have decided what we want to build, we can usually get schools up and running in two to three years. That is within the span of the teenage years. We should be more optimistic about what we can achieve if we engage with teenagers. Even where it takes longer to plan, who better to consult about the development of future youth facilities than young people, who will know not only what they may benefit from but also what those who follow them may benefit from? Actively engaging young people in the design of local youth facilities is a good policy, even in cases where it takes longer, and is much better than simply leaving it to adults, whose experience of such facilities is much older.
My Lords, I warmly welcome the announcement. As a parent of two teenagers, I know how difficult it is to pilot them through those years, and my children can be said to have all the advantages. I would like a couple of assurances. We talked about the initial funding, but what about funding in future years? The aims are necessary and laudable. Does the Minister agree that the biggest challenge is likely to be in deprived inner-city areas, where many young people opt out of school and have their own culture, in some cases gang culture? Breaking into those areas and making changes there will be the real challenge. Young people with special educational needs represent an additional challenge. However, I do not want to be seen as carping at the proposals, which are excellent. Delivering them and sustaining the delivery will be the challenge.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those remarks. He is right that sustainability is vital. In youth services, there is too long a history of facilities being started and it not being possible to sustain them in revenue funding. Because of the three-year spending profile we now have, thanks to the way we manage our Comprehensive Spending Reviews, we can now give commitments for three years, which is longer than in the past. It means that services can become much more embedded by the time of the next spending review so that it is possible to take account more effectively of what works. The £124 million revenue and £60 million capital over and above the baseline of £495 million that I referred to is in respect of the whole of the next Comprehensive Spending Review settlement, so it is a three-year settlement. I hope that the fact that it is being built up over that period will lead to sustainable services that will continue to be funded afterwards.
My noble friend is right about the priority that we should give to inner cities and deprived areas. The Statement referred to that. They are often the areas most lacking in community facilities, and they will get the appropriate priority.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the Statement and reinforce the points made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Morris and Lady Walmsley, about the importance of celebrating the achievements of young people. I commend to the Minister the successful good citizenship awards given by Liverpool John Moores University, where I hold a chair. Over 10 years, they have been extended and expanded into 1,000 schools in the north-west of England. They celebrate the undoubted achievements of young people. He will remember our debates on the legislative stages of previous education legislation and the amendments laid before your Lordships’ House on the low esteem of many non-academic youngsters. He will have seen recent reports about groups of young, particularly white, pupils in schools who are not reaching high academic standards. Is he looking at how the national curriculum deals with what may be the hopes and aspirations of those young people but which are not necessarily the same academic attainments that others will seek to achieve?
The noble Lord also made reference to special needs groups. He will recall that in the past few weeks we have had correspondence about a primary school in south London. It is all very well placing requirements on schools to provide for access, for instance, to disabled children, but, when a five year old who has a sibling in a school cannot gain a place in that school simply because it is not possible to expand the doorway and to make extra space in a classroom as the resources are not available, he will surely agree that we have a long way to go between requirements, the rhetoric and the resources needed to put some of these fine words into practice.
My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right about the need for continuing improvements for children with special educational needs. It is partly an issue of resources, but it is also the priority that is given within schools and other public institutions to make what are now called “reasonable adjustments”, which of course all institutions, including schools, under the Disability Discrimination Act are required to make. All secondary schools as of now and all primary schools in due course will be required to have disability equality schemes that will set out how they plan to make reasonable adjustments for children with disabilities. The priority given to this area is increasing, but it is right to say that further improvements are needed.
The noble Lord is absolutely correct that in the past schools have not done nearly well enough for lower attaining pupils who are disaffected and who drop out in the teenage years. That is why we are giving such a significant boost to vocational education. Last year, in the Education and Inspections Bill, we debated at length the new diplomas that are being introduced from next year, which are particularly targeted at pupils for whom the traditional academic curriculum may not be appropriate. It is vital that those young people who are not going to follow a conventional track have very effective literacy and numeracy skills. Too often in the past our schools have not succeeded in giving all young people, particularly those who take a more vocational pathway, those essential life skills, including literacy and numeracy, which are vital for them to succeed in life.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their looked-after children initiative, under which they are conducting pilot schemes that extend the support for children in foster care after the age of 16. How does that initiative fit in with the Statement given today? I was not sure whether his reference to “mentoring” was that scheme? What is the timetable for the Government to reach a conclusion on that and possibly to roll out the scheme nationally?
My Lords, we are talking about complementary activities for children in care. Today’s Statement does not replace the Statements that we have made about looked-after children and the improvements we intend to make in the next Session, which were debated in the House earlier today. I will come back to the noble Lord on the specific scheme he refers to. I am not sure what he is specifically referring to, but I will give him chapter and verse on that.
My Lords, I join others in congratulating the Government. For too long our youth services have had too low a priority. It is good to see them being given such high priority. One reason they were given low priority was that on the whole the responsibility was given to local authorities and they were a discretionary service rather than a statutory service. The Minister did not answer the question posed by my noble friend Lady Walmsley on whether legislative changes are required. If they are not, can he assure us that the services will not suffer as a result of being once more pushed down the list of priorities?
That picks up the question of funding raised by several noble Lords. There is an assurance on funding for three years, but, too often, there have been initiatives where money is available for one or two years but then it fades away. It is important to have sustainable funding. After all, this is called a 10-year strategy for positive action. There must be some assurance that there will be money for the longer term, as well as shorter-term money. Finally, what is the link between the proposals and the current Connexions service in terms of mentoring activities?
My Lords, almost all—I cannot say absolutely all, but almost all—of the proposals in the strategy that we have announced today do not require legislation. They are a matter of developing additional services or schemes that can take place without legislation. The bigger issue is that raised by the noble Baroness and my noble friend about the sustainability of funding them. It is not a legislative issue; it will be a sustainable funding issue.
However, as the noble Baroness knows, because she and I debated this at great length last year, the Education and Inspections Act 2006 itself enhances the legal duties on local authorities to provide youth activities. We strengthened those provisions as they went through the House. Therefore, to some extent, what we are announcing today can be seen as building on the enhanced legal duties that local authorities have.
The same is true in respect of the Connexions service. The provisions for youth mentoring build on the duties of Connexions. Connexions is much more focused on conventional school choices for children and their career choices thereafter, so much of its work builds on that of the careers service, whereas this is much more to do with positive activities over and above conventional schooling.
My Lords, in moving that the House do now adjourn, I wish all Members and all staff a very pleasant summer break— perhaps a drier, not a totally dry break. In that, I include all the staff who are not in the Chamber and, of course, our Hansard writers.
Moved, That the House do now adjourn.—(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 4.01 pm.