Committee (5th Day)
Clause 47 : Provision of education for persons subject to youth detention
113B: Clause 47, page 29, line 11, at end insert “, and
(iii) suitable for level 3 courses”
We have now come to what we regard as an important part of the Bill where we will debate the clauses about education for those detained in youth accommodation. These are just a few clauses tucked away in the Part 2 LEA functions, and one could therefore be forgiven for not appreciating that this group is really the beginning of an entirely new and, as I say, important part of the Bill.
The Minister might want to say a few words explaining the positioning of the clauses when she responds. I presume that they have been placed here in order to reflect the intention to delegate to local authorities the responsibilities of providing enough suitable education or training for children and young people held in youth accommodation. Nevertheless, does she agree that perhaps there might be scope for giving these clauses a more prominent position in the Bill and, as such, perhaps elaborating on the provisions included here in order to provide greater clarity to the changes about to occur in the provision of education for this sector of the population?
Our amendments to this clause are designed to ensure that those detained in youth accommodation are given the best possible opportunities for appropriate, relevant and useful education. Specifically, Amendment 113B inserts a new sub-paragraph (iii), so that a duty is imposed on the LEA to secure that enough suitable education and training is provided to meet the reasonable needs of persons who are suitable for level 3 courses. This is inspired by a concern expressed by the Prisoners’ Education Trust. While it fully endorses the priority given to the significant proportion of prisoners who lack even basic qualifications, and so must be given considerable help to reach level 1 or 2, it would like further reassurance that help will be given to the perhaps smaller proportion who need and are capable of level 3 provision.
Not a great deal appears to have changed from the 2001-02 report, Second Chance, issued by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. It found that emphasis on provision at entry level and level 1 for subjects other than literacy and numeracy meant that,
“some learners who had already reached level 2 were offered a level 1 programme”,
and that in some establishments information and communication technology provision could not accommodate learners hoping to progress beyond level 2. This is a probing amendment. We hope to receive from the Minister a detailed explanation of how what we are asking for is definitely included in the duty already contained in the Bill for the LEA to provide suitable education and training. There is concern at the moment, however, that very few prisons are able to provide level 3 courses and that where they can these are limited in scope to just a few subjects or skills. This increases the pressure on young offenders’ prospects for future employment and resettlement. Can the Minister give us the reassurances that we seek in this regard? I beg to move.
We have considerable sympathy with the amendment. It would, of course, be highly desirable for young offenders to have a range of options for education and training, not only in subjects but in levels of achievement. As the noble Lord has already pointed out, where level 3 is available, it tends to be in narrow subject areas. We would see this as an aspiration. The concern is that resources are inevitably limited for education and training and they would be used to best effect in ensuring that every young person leaving custody is equipped with literacy and numeracy and, we hope, some further occupational skills. The danger is that if local authorities are required to provide level 3 provision, it may deflect both time and funding from the resources available. It may, in any event, apply only to a few. We would hope that local authorities would make appropriate arrangements for level 3 courses but, for those reasons, we would not wish to see this in the Bill.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, for giving me the opportunity to reassure him and the Prisoners’ Education Trust on these matters. I will, as he suggests, say a few words about these clauses generally. I appreciate the noble Lord’s thoughts about these clauses being tucked away in the Bill. I have a sense that we have not yet even got to the bits that are tucked away. I feel as though we are still quite near the beginning of the Bill; I am sure other noble Lords in the Committee have a similar sense. We are very much at the beginning of the Committee stage.
I will briefly set out the overall effect of the young offender clauses. I believe that there is much to be proud of in the Bill. One of the things that I am particularly proud of is that it ends the disapplication of education law to young people in custody. Currently, as noble Lords are well aware, education law stops at the door of the young offender institution and the Bill will end that. The Bill will join up provision for young offenders with that in the mainstream by giving responsibility for commissioning their education and training to the host local authority in which the custodial establishment is situated. Local authorities are well placed to do this; they already have responsibility for education up to the age of 16 and, as a result of the Bill, they will take on responsibility for education up the age of 19 in England.
As young people are often detained in custody outside their home areas, we are also introducing a duty on home local authorities to promote the fulfilment of young people’s learning potential. This will ensure that one authority remains involved in the person’s education regardless of where they are in the system. To ensure that accurate and up-to-date educational information is available to education providers in custody and on the person’s release, the Bill introduces strengthened information-sharing provisions, which are very important here.
Finally, the Bill makes substantial improvements to meeting the special educational needs of young people in custody, which we are due to discuss later in debates on further groupings. This is a very important set of clauses. As the Standing Committee for Youth Justice has said, this is an opportunity to level the educational playing field for young people in custody. While it is right that we debate the detail of how we do this, I hope that this will not obscure the significance of these reforms, to which the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, has already pointed.
On Amendment 113B, I reassure noble Lords that the Bill already secures level 3 provision. Subsection (1) of new Section 18A, which Clause 47 inserts, makes it clear that the local authority must secure provision so that enough suitable education and training is available to meet the reasonable needs of young people in juvenile custody. Subsection (2) also provides that in deciding whether education or training is suitable to meet a person’s reasonable needs, the authority must have regard to the person’s age, abilities and aptitudes. This means that where young people have a need for level 3 courses, to which the amendment refers, the local authority will take account of this under the duties in new Section 18A.
Additionally, local authorities are already required to have regard to the desirability of enabling a person to complete programmes of study which they have begun. This will include level 3 courses. I know from our discussions outside Committee that noble Lords are particularly concerned about this issue. I also emphasise that we will make it clear in guidance issued under new Section 18A that local authorities must secure provision to meet these reasonable needs. That guidance will set out in more detail that this includes the provision of level 3 courses.
I hope the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, and other noble Lords who are concerned about this matter will feel reassured and that the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, will withdraw his amendment.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, for expressing her sympathy for the amendment, and I thank the Minister for her response and her assurance that level 3 training will be included in the Bill. I will think carefully about what she said and I will talk to the Prisoners’ Education Trust to ensure that it is happy with the position. I said that this was a probing amendment, so for today I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 113B withdrawn.
114: Clause 47, page 29, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) sentence planning ensures that young people are able to return to school or college on release”
In moving Amendment 114, I shall also speak to Amendments 119 and 120 in the group.
As we have heard, Clause 47 is a vital clause in the middle of the Bill for those in youth detention. We see the benefit of an holistic approach to these young people, with education, personal skills, future employment and housing all overseen at a local level. The transfer to local authorities has been welcomed by many organisations, including the Children’s Society, which work with some of the most troubled children. Inevitably, local authorities will bear a disproportionate burden when they have young offender institutions in their area. As the Minister has explained, a balance needs to be struck between the home and the host authorities. Can the Minister say how resources will be allocated between them?
The Youth Justice Board has estimated that of around 150,000 children and young people under the age of 18 entering the youth justice system each year, around 70,000 are of compulsory school age—that is, under 16; and 15 per cent have statements of special educational needs, compared to about 3 per cent of the general population. There is tremendous disproportion there. Many young people have stopped attending school because they cannot cope with educational demands; or with the curriculum which is not always relevant to their needs; they have problems communicating with peers, teachers and families; and they display challenging behaviour.
Children who are detained have very often been failed by mainstream education and need the chance to make up for lost time. Learning programmes for them while in custody should enable them to gain basic skills—I hope some occupational skills—as well as confidence and self respect. Amendment 114 would ensure that progress made was not lost on release and that provision was in place for them to continue their education and training. This recommendation is supported by Barnardo’s—which has great expertise in working with these young people—as well as other children’s organisations.
Amendments 119 and 120 cover the desirability of suitable careers guidance and provision for assessment, accreditation and certification of achievement for young people while in custody. These reinforce the need for coherent provision. Your Lordships have already debated the need for professional, informed and impartial careers advice for those at school. Therefore, it is particularly relevant that young offenders have the most wide-ranging careers guidance available. Professional careers advisers will be knowledgeable about where the skills shortages are and where the young person’s skills and interests lie, and they should be in the best position to instil hope and ambition for purposeful employment.
If young offenders have the best opportunity to make their useful way in society, they will benefit from an individual learning plan to give them every chance while in custody to develop skills and knowledge. It may not be possible for them to fulfil all the workplace criteria for NVQs or apprenticeships, but there should be provision for assessment and accreditation of the skills and knowledge which they can acquire while in custody. My amendments offer an opportunity to level the educational playing field. Awarding bodies, such as City and Guilds, can give examples of countless occasions when presenting a certificate of achievement has resulted in people’s confidence blossoming and their self-respect growing. A certificate is a powerful motivator, as well as a step into a better future. There is also evidence that those in custody who take part in education and training are three times less likely to reoffend.
Many employers local to young offender institutions, as well as to prisons, are prepared to provide work experience to, and even to recruit future employees from, those in custody. We have heard in previous debates from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the success in those areas. The National Grid’s young offender programme has pioneered business involvement in the rehabilitation of offenders. It is engaged with more than 20 adult prisons and young offender establishments. Well over 1,000 offenders have gone through the programme, which has expanded into partnerships across industry, with more than 80 companies engaged. The reoffending rate is estimated at only 7 per cent, compared with the national average of 70 per cent. These schemes make economic sense for taxpayers in the United Kingdom—bearing in mind that it costs approximately £40,000 to keep a person in prison for one year—as well as all their social benefits.
For this and other programmes to be effective, it is vital that prison governors and prison officers are fully involved. Will the Minister say what consultation takes place with prison staff and what training is available to help them work to best effect when implementing work experience and accreditation for those in custody?
Finally, I wish to raise additional concern about educational provision for children detained in immigration removal centres. There are clear differentials in standards between education in mainstream schools and that which is offered in IRCs. What measures are being taken to ensure that the quality of educational provision for these disadvantaged young people is also being addressed? I look forward to the Minister’s reply, and I beg to move.
I support not only the other amendments that are grouped with this one, but also a number of subsequent amendments. To explain my support, I will expand on the hint that the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, has just given about the importance of liaison with the prison authorities in any attempt to improve the education of young offenders.
The Minister, when we were debating the first amendment, mentioned an understanding that there are current difficulties with the provision of education to young offenders, and that everything was to be gained by them coming into the mainstream and being subject to the same provision that is available outside. Everyone would welcome that; but we delude ourselves if we think that the road will be easy. Countless organisations involved in delivering activities, programmes, teaching, drug treatment, healthcare, resettlement programmes for families and so on, throughout the prison system, are frustrated by the inability of the system to deliver consistent support that enables them to do their work. I hope that it will help the Committee if I spend a moment or two outlining this, based on my experience and on what is currently happening.
Unfortunately, the Prison Service is very ill organised to look after any particular type of prisoner, with the exception of high-security prisoners—and that came about only after the escapes from Whitemoor and Parkhurst, which resulted in embarrassment to the Home Secretary. Someone was made responsible for them and accountable for everything that happened around them—the programmes, the selection of staff, the provision of resources. However, nobody is responsible for children, young offenders, women or any other type of prisoner. Unfortunately, what would happen if that were the case—for instance, a new governor of a prison would follow on from where his or her predecessor had left off—does not happen.
Every governor is given a list of targets and performance indicators, and a budget. As far as they are concerned, the main priority is to come in on budget and achieve the targets. So you get the ridiculous situation in which a governor coming into an establishment that has a lot of programmes running, which may have been running for some time, can decide that that is not how he or she will do things and is quite entitled to throw the whole lot out of the window and start again—as happened recently in Brixton. That is the worst type of environment in which to introduce something, particularly for young people. Therefore, until and unless people are appointed to be responsible and accountable for what happens to every single young offender and child in the prison system throughout England and Wales, this provision simply will not work.
The same applies, unfortunately, with heads of learning and skills. They, too, are subject to direction from a different ministry to that directing the prison governor, and often the prison governor does not respond to what the head of learning and skills says ought to happen. This must be put right.
In the process of providing education, two things need to happen. One is that somebody must lay down what is to happen. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice to say what is to happen to young offenders. Somebody else should then decide how to deliver the “what” that has been laid down. At the moment, the learning and skills councils are responsible for arranging contracts with individual establishments for the provision but no one is saying what is to be provided. What is so welcome in the amendments, as I am sure the Minister will realise, is that they contain details of the “whats” that must be included in the direction given to local authorities if they are to provide suitable education to meet the “reasonable needs” of young offenders in detention, to quote proposed new Section 18A. However, the clarity of the “what” must be followed up with consistency; and, again, this is where the Prison Service is too ill organised to be able to respond to the initiative in the Bill.
In 1990, there were riots in many prisons around the country—23 to be exact. Afterwards, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, was invited to write a report recommending what should be done to put the prison system on a better basis. He very quickly recognised that the three things most likely to prevent reoffending were a home, a job and a stable relationship, all of which were put at risk by imprisonment. Too many people were separated from the area in which their home, their job and their stable relationship existed. Therefore, he recommended that prisons should be organised into what he called “community clusters”. In other words, there should be sufficient prison places in each part of the country to accommodate every type of prisoner from that part of the country, with the exception of high-security prisons, as there were not enough of them. That has never happened; nor has it happened in response to the direction given in the only White Paper on prisons, Custody, Care and Justice, published in 1991, which said that the formation of community clusters was the intention.
Why does this matter? It matters because, unless people are held in a community cluster close to home, there will be continual problems with local authorities having responsibility for people from outside their area. That may not appear to matter too much if there are home-and-host agreements but, to me, there is a potential flaw line there because of the time that it takes to pass information from one to the other and to decide what people need.
In discussing the amendments to this legislation, particularly in relation to those over the age of 16 and in the context of things such as apprenticeships, we have been very keen to involve local employers in deciding what should be provided. However, local employers providing potential for apprentices and so on in Northumberland, for example, are not going to be very interested in prisoners who have been moved from London purely because there happen to be empty spaces in Castington, which is the young offender institution there. Since 1991, many people have been saying to the Prison Service, “For heaven’s sake, get your house in order. Get the prisons into regional or community clusters and then local ownership can come into play. All the employers, the education, the drug treatment and all the other things that are needed can be provided locally and there will be some hope of people making the transition from custody to the community and getting the community involved in the follow-on”. It is no good saying, “Well of course, if you start a level 3 course, you must follow it on”. That has to happen and you have to enable it to happen.
What I am really saying to the Minister is that, while of course people welcome what might happen, one must be aware that it is not going to happen unless another ministry gets its act in order to enable it to happen. This is not the first time that this sort of thing has been proposed. In 1998, when it was suggested that the Department for Education and Employment should take over responsibility for prisons, I remember having a long discussion with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on exactly the same subject. What has happened? Absolutely nothing.
In the same year, I remember a question being asked of the then Prisons Minister, Mr Boateng, about how much money was being made available for young offenders in prisons. Those sums varied from £483 in one prison to £2,500 in another because of the way the money was allocated. The same applies now to the time made available for education. A young offender in Werrington, for example, up in Shropshire, gets nearly 17 hours of education a week. If they are in Feltham, in London, they get 7.5 hours. Given that sort of inconsistency, you have real problems. I make no apologies for saying this at this point when we shall discuss detention because I seriously believe that the problems must be faced up to.
This week I presented to the Minister the report of the second stage of an initiative in which I and others have been involved for the past two and a half years. We suggest that a new type of young offender institution might be built. It is called an academy at the moment because that seems to be the in word. We suggest that account should be taken of the fact that these young people need a responsible adult, and particularly a continuing relationship with that responsible adult. If you are to prevent crime, it is essential to make certain that people are kept in the same area. Bubbling up from local authorities in the East End of London, social services, education, healthcare, housing, the Foyer movement, which provides accommodation for the homeless, and the police has come a suggestion for a site which contains a foyer for the homeless, a small custody centre for young offenders who have not committed very serious crimes—otherwise they might disrupt the place—and provision for all the education, training, work experience and other activities which they need as they are growing up. Local employers could offer those people employment opportunities in the local area.
It is interesting to note that, when planning this initiative, the one thing we could not find out was the cost to the Prison Service of running a young offender establishment. The relevant authority was very cagey about providing those figures. Eventually, we asked the Justice Secretary to get the figures released. He said that he would but they have still not been produced. The figures that we are discussing are very alarming. I shall explain why I think this is important in the context of this Bill in a moment. They disclose that whereas the Prison Service would like to say that the cost in relation to young offender institutions ranges between £35,000 and £55,000 a year, in fact, it is £107,000, because a lot of the costs are hidden. Why does this matter? It matters because of local authorities, which are being asked to take on the custody of children as well as education and a whole lot of other things to do with children’s matters. They are very happy to do so because they feel that local ownership provides a better service. However, as the academy project report points out, a very serious obstruction,
“is caused by doubt about the quantum of the funds to be transferred to local authorities and whether this would be sufficient to buy places in the secure estate”.
If the relevant body thinks that it is going to be able to provide what the Prison Service says it is providing now, with the money that the Prison Service says that it costs, there is going to be serious embarrassment because it will not be able to do so.
Therefore, I again suggest to the Minister that until and unless the whole funding of this matter is properly established and sorted out, it is extremely unwise to make a move which might end in disaster, bearing in mind that we are so heavily involved in looking after the nation’s tomorrow. I hope that I am not being overdramatic but it is essential that, before launching something of which I am sure many noble Lords instinctively approve because it suggests that something better can be achieved, we get our house in order to enable this to happen rather than risk throwing everything away for all the wrong reasons.
I apologise to the House because I have not spoken before in any debates on this Bill. But I feel compelled to rise following the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, to say that I have a rather cynical sense of déjà vu. We have debated this issue time and again in this House. I remember back in 2004—perhaps it was 2005—debating the whole issue of education in our prisons and the huge sense of frustration felt among the not hundreds but thousands of people who give of their time through voluntary and charitable organisations to support the system. There is a feeling that there is a terrible block between what they are trying to achieve and what is happening, or the lack of what is happening, across Whitehall. I urge the Minister to listen to every word that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said, as it makes so much sense.
The noble Lord made a key point, which I believe. This is not meant as a criticism, but it is a reality. There appears to be no sense of memory each time a governor is changed, which is part of the problem. Can we please urge those who work within the system to get out of their offices in Whitehall and to find out exactly what is going on? This is too important to ignore yet again.
The last suggestion made by my noble friend is excellent. In speaking to my amendments in this group, I declare an interest: my wife runs a charity in this area, as the Minister knows. If the Minister inquires of those in the department who have responsibility for prison education she will be amazed to discover that none of them has ever spent any length of time in a prison or knows what the conditions are like. Certainly, none of the LSC staff involved in deciding what education should be provided in a prison has that experience.
This is a great dislocation. If we are to allow local education authorities to decide in effect what education should be provided in local prisons, it must be done on the back of some understanding of what conditions are like in prisons. Someone should advise them on the realities of prison life. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said, you are dealing with an overcrowded and dysfunctional system which is just not capable of some of the things that this Bill seems to assume that it will do. The idea that it will be able to communicate effectively with all the local education authorities from which come the ever-moving population of prisoners that it has to look after, when it cannot even communicate effectively with itself, will not happen in any useful way.
It is a wonderful ambition that a local education authority, one of whose pupils has gone into prison, should not lose responsibility for that pupil but should track them, know what is happening to them in prison and prepare them for what will be provided for them on release, but nothing like it has ever been achieved. Given the current system, it seems unlikely that anything like that will be achieved without a lot of effort, planning and thought. In particular, we need to ensure that, within each of the organisations which are not part of the Prison Service but are involved in this process, there is a deep understanding of what is possible and what happens in prisons.
My two amendments try to tackle particular aspects of this. Many of the people, particularly in young offender institutions, are not there for long. They are there for three or six months. They come into prison with very particular and severe problems, which are not related to being six months behind in their maths GCSE but are related to their attitude to life and to work and perhaps to being a very long way behind in some of the fundamental foundations of education, meaning that they have become dissociated from the whole process of education.
If we look at this positively, prison is a chance to pick up these young people, re-establish them on the path they should be on and give them real impetus to get back into the system when they are returned to the school or the PRU or wherever it is they will be in their own community. But you cannot do that by just trying to patch them into something that apes the provision they have already rebelled against in the schools that they have come out of. Anyway, who is going to transmit that information as to where it is they have got to and what it is they are doing, and how is a prison supposed to provide a different education programme for every one of its inmates dependent on where they got to in their original schools? I do not think that it will function in that sort of way.
The opportunity is to provide remedial courses for most of these prisoners. Some of them will be there for longer, and some of them can be switched into a longer term process of learning, but most of them will, as I say, be there for a relatively short time. Most of them, I think, need particular programmes specifically designed for use in prisons, aimed at getting them up to speed and back on track—reading and writing, numeracy; socialisation above all: how to get on with other people, how not to hit someone when you disagree with them, all these sorts of problems that are prevalent in the prison community. That is one of the failings of the LSC in its time in charge of prison education. It has not understood that prisoners require something different. It has thought that it could plug them into education designed for helping adults with their literacy. That is an extremely difficult thing to do when motivation is lacking. It has tried to plug them into standard academic programmes when that has not been something that is likely to be available to them on release or it will not tie in with what has been available to them on release.
If the system described in the Bill is to come about, the other thing that I would look for—the prerequisite that I look for—is that nobody should be committed to a prison without being accompanied by a detailed statement of where they have got to in their education and what their educational characteristics and needs are like. Otherwise half the sentence will be spent by the prison trying to find out what it should have been doing in the first six weeks in the first place and the last six weeks will be spent doing nothing because there is no time to do anything and no courses are beginning at that particular moment. It really should be the responsibility of the courts and of the local authority to provide this information to go with the young person into prison so that the prison is prepared and available to do the best it can for that young person.
Otherwise I support entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said about his initiative in the East End. Tying things in in a coherent way between someone coming into prison and going out, between the opportunities and experiences they have in prison and those they will meet immediately afterwards, is a crucial part of rehabilitating particularly a young offender. They are so tied up in their own peer group and so influenced by what has been going on around them in terms of the group of people they have been with that if you just release them straight out of prison, you release them straight back to the conditions that caused their offending in the first place. To have a really secure system of breaking that cycle by keeping them tied into the worthwhile things they have discovered while they were in prison, presuming that the prison is working right, is a wonderful initiative to take. I very much hope the Government, and the Minister in particular, because she has acknowledged experience in cross-departmental initiatives, will take an interest in it.
On the question of continuity of education, I am sure that the Committee will find plenty to talk about in the amendments in my name which we will come to shortly. This debate has ranged so wide that it has put in my mind an improvement on parliamentary procedures beyond what we have now. This debate would have been so much enriched if the Minister with responsibility for prisons had been here as well as the noble Baroness, so that both of these incompatible halves could be put together and we might find an interface that works. It is too late to do that on Report this time, but I am minded to suggest that we produce a note for the Procedure Committee to consider in the next Session.
I am delighted to hear that. If we could see and hear that happening, it would be even more encouraging during a debate such as this.
The interest of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is well known. I should declare a dusty and rusty interest as having been Minister for the Prison Service for three years in the last century. That makes it sound even longer ago than it was.
The practical way in which the problem that the noble Lord described surfaces is when the local authority sends in the teachers with all the information that my noble friend wants them to have—and which I want them to have—but they find that, unfortunately, there are not enough prison officers to unlock the prisoners to get them into the classrooms, so they go away having done nothing. I have seen that happen frequently under existing arrangements.
I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that he repeats what he said today practically word for word in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, when it will have the audience it deserves, because it is highly important and the sort of destructive and constructive thinking that we need. I certainly support the objectives of those who have tabled the amendments. They chime in places with amendments that I have tabled later in the Bill, but the group would have been completely unmanageable if we had put them all together, so I make no apology for asking to discuss them later. In the mean time, I wish the amendments well.
I shall speak briefly to Amendments 115, 129 and 132, which are in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Low, and to some of which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has spoken. I endorse all that other noble Lords have said so far in this debate. It is an extremely important debate. If we can use the Bill to improve education for young people in prison, it is vital that we do so.
The interesting thing about Clauses 15 to 51 is that they transfer responsibility for the education and training of young offenders in juvenile custody to local authorities. We talked about civil servants from Whitehall getting experience of going into a prison, but I very much doubt whether those working in local authorities have had any experience of that at all. I hope that, in so far as they are taking over those responsibilities, they, too, will go into prisons to see what circumstances are like.
The three amendments that I am speaking to apply particularly to the issue of those with special educational needs. About 15 per cent of young people in custody have statements of special educational needs compared to about 3 per cent in the general population. If one takes the more general definition of special educational needs—those who, in schools, are classed as needing School Action or School Action Plus—in the general population, they make up about 15 per cent, but 50 per cent or more of those in prison have special educational needs of one sort or another.
Amendment 115 places a duty on local authorities to ensure that learning difficulty assessments are undertaken to meet the needs of persons over the compulsory school age but under 19—the 16 to 19 year-olds who have learning difficulties, a disability, or who have entered the youth justice system without having received a learning difficulty assessment. Many children and young people in offender institutions are in the NEET category, not in education, employment or training. Assessing their learning needs forms part of a wider process of re-engaging disabled children and young people in the NEET category in the post-16 education and training service. Disabled young people within offender institutions should have their learning needs assessed in detail and, where required, access to such provision and support should be made available.
Amendments 129 and 132 strengthen the duty on local authorities to have regard to the educational needs of young people in custody who have special educational needs or disabilities and to make available provision as set out in a child or young person’s statement of special educational needs where applicable. Amendment 129 relates to new Section 562B(2) of the Education Act 1996 being inserted by Clause 49. It requires the home authority to take such steps as it considers appropriate to promote a person’s fulfilment of his or her learning potential. However, this duty is not subject to the requirement to have particular regard to any special educational needs that a detained person may have. While we understand that the Government believe this to be implicit in the drafting, we believe that it would aid legal certainty to have it articulated in the Bill. Otherwise, we fear that it may have the unintended consequence of suggesting to the home authority that learners with special educational needs have less potential than other learners. The amendment would rectify this deficiency and create parity between the duties of both the host and the home authorities.
Turning to Amendment 132, new Section 18(1)(a) inserted by Clause 47 places a duty on local education authorities to secure that,
“enough suitable education is provided to meet the reasonable needs of children subject to youth detention in their area”.
Where children have been issued with a statement of special educational needs, new Section 562C(3) of the Education Act 1996, inserted by Clause 49, requires the host authority to use its “best endeavours” to meet the provision identified in the statement. We welcome the intent signalled by this amendment but it could be strengthened to require local authorities not only to use their best endeavours but also to meet these needs as identified in Part 3 of the statement. If the Government do not accept this, we hope that we can have an assurance that the formulation “best endeavours” is strong enough to ensure that children and young people will get the support they need.
Finally, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned in relation to costs. Local education authorities are going to have to assume the costs of giving support to these young people when they are in detention. If the cost is really closer to £110,000 rather than £55,000, it is vital that local authorities have the resources to provide such support. I strongly support what the noble Lord said about the issue.
I have with me a case history which helps to illustrate the concerns being raised. Recently I attended a meeting hosted by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. There was a clear and strong view among the stakeholders present that the cost of these places was being severely underestimated, thus putting in doubt a project to set up a small local institution in east London. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that in a ruling made some years ago Lord Justice Munby found that local authorities did have a responsibility under the Children Act 1989 for children in care and care leavers in young offender institutions. Some 20 to 25 social workers were then established in young offender institutions. Their work was evaluated by the National Children’s Bureau, which found that:
“The evaluation has thus demonstrated a clear need for social work posts in young offender institutions”.
It went on to say:
“These pieces of work include: systems for identifying looked after children and ensuring that their home local authorities meet their legal responsibilities”,
along with a range of other important services. Basically they ensured that when children in care or care leavers left their prison they were resettled properly in the home environment. It is very important work.
Yet, for many months now, the future of these social workers has been in doubt; there has been deep debate about who will fund them. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services was charged with finding a way of ensuring that local authorities shared the responsibility for funding these social workers in young offender institutions and it has not been successful. To the best of my understanding, the Local Government Association is resisting in principle the top-slicing of funds to provide for these social work posts. I make no comment on that but it illustrates the problems that noble Lords have raised about who will fund the work in young offender institutions and secure training centres.
It troubles me, for instance, that last year a Ms Knight received an award for being social worker of the year. She is one of these 20 or 25 social workers and works at the Brinsford young offender institution. For many months now, she and her colleagues have been living in uncertainty about the future of their jobs because nothing has been sorted out about this matter. What does that show about how much we value their work? These people, working in difficult circumstances, are uncertain about whether or not they will have a job in the next few months. They simply do not know where the money is coming from. Can that be right? Will the Minister look at this matter, talk to the LGA about what is happening and, if necessary, meet the LGA and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and knock some heads together? It is wrong that these social workers should have to live with this uncertainty.
The Prison Reform Trust produced a report, Wings of Learning, which looks at how prison officers could be trained and supported to become advocates for education in young offender institutions. It is a powerful work which the Minister will find of interest. It speaks to what many of your Lordships have said about the barriers and the resistance to supporting education in the secure estate and what might be done to break them down. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
In intervening in the general debate on these amendments, my eye has been particularly drawn to Amendment 115. Before you do anything else, an assessment and identification of those with any form of learning difficulty is vital. By definition, these people do not fit into the normal learning pattern and unless you know what you are dealing with you are going to get it wrong. The only question is the extent to which you get it wrong. Unless you identify the original problem, you will get it wrong.
If the person has a hidden disability—such as dyspraxia and dyslexia, which is probably the most common—and you do not get it right, everything else you do will be inappropriate. If you identify the disability and confirm to the person involved that that is the reason why they have not succeeded and that it is not because they are intrinsically thick and cannot succeed, you will have taken the first step towards giving them a chance to engage in the system. This is primarily because you have told the person that their disability is the reason why they have not succeeded—or have not succeeded to a far greater extent—not because they are stupid. Those with hidden disabilities are often written off as being stupid, lazy or whatever, but if you can start that communication with them they stand a better chance of succeeding.
I am particularly attracted to something that gives a proper assessment of that person. That means that you can start to communicate with them. Much of the rest of what goes on does not happen unless the person is willing to come to you. Anyone who has learnt anything about education knows that the first step is to get the other person willing to engage. If we do that and we are thus prepared—I am assuming that we are prepared at least to have a knowledge of what not to do with, for example, a dyslexic—then we will start to progress. Unless we get some form of assessment of what has gone wrong, though, we are not going to succeed.
I hope that the amendments that follow the line of finding out what is there are worked into the Bill. They would have to be formalised because the staff are simply not well enough trained at the moment to do it without this. It would enable the rest of the provisions to stand a chance of coming into effect.
My name is attached to three of these amendments. All of them underline the whole business of special needs. We are all concerned about the proportion of those who end up in custody who have these sorts of problems. To put it bluntly, we have failed in the past. I am one of those who is pleased at the thought that local education authorities are being brought back into the system—or, to put it another way, that they will continue the role that they already have in the extension of the school-leaving age to 19. For those with special educational needs, this will go beyond that time as well.
We need to look carefully at what my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham said. There were crucial points to be taken into consideration and repeated in the Queen’s Speech. As well as that, we need to be thinking of what is happening inside some of these institutions. If the local education authorities, plus the area in which the young offender institution is to be situated, are to have this overall joint responsibility, it is important that everyone is involved. The hint that the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, was definitely giving in what she said, and which is in some of the literature that I have been looking through, is that prisoners have a high regard for the education staff in prison and are very supportive of them, but that the prison officers are regarded, frankly, as not being much help at all within the prison. One needs the authority, which should be given by the Bill but may need underlining, to assert that education is of paramount importance and should take precedence over any other activity in the prison.
We come to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that these young people are in prison for only three months. For a start, we have failed them by sending them to prison even for that long. There is no point in doing that. Some of the plans for the future that many of us have been underlining in debates of this kind emphasise the need to keep a lot of offenders, particularly young ones, out of prison, and to assess them so that we can see that their needs are attended to. If they are in prison or a young offender institution, even if only for three months, let us start immediately. The most important thing is to assess what their particular needs are. That will fill in that time, as well as ensuring that that assessment is passed on to the next institution that they go on to.
I am not going to go on any more because quite clearly we have a mass of amendments. We will not get to the end of Committee stage by any means, but there are plenty of other areas that we all wish to address. I very much hope that local authorities will fund some of the activities as a result of their residents ending up in prison, because that sort of link is important, too. I hope that they do not feel, because they are sending someone off to a young offender institution, that ends their responsibility for paying for what is happening. I hope that all those things will be taken into account when we move on to some of the other issues.
Before the Minister winds up this very interesting debate, I shall just ask her a few questions about resources. Let us be blunt. Educating young people in custody is very expensive. I have some sympathy with a Government who have to do this at a time of economic crisis; it is difficult, but it must be done, because it is the most enormously good investment. It will save us all a great deal of money and distress in future.
It is expensive for two reasons. First, many of these young people have severe educational difficulties. Therefore, you need highly skilled staff and very small groups; indeed, in many cases, you need one-to-one tuition. The second reason is that the Government will now be asking local authorities all over the country to set up an absolute spider’s web of communications. A young offender institution with 40 young people in it may have to deal with 40 different home authorities, back to which the young people will go on their discharge. It takes time to do this. Are they going to be given the resources to do this? Any young offender institution dealing effectively with that number of local authorities to ensure that the time in education in prison is not wasted and can be continued with when they go back is going to have to employ somebody to do that job full time. Are they going to have the money to do it?
The amendments in this group cover a number of important areas, but have at their heart a desire to ensure that education for those detained in youth accommodation is constructed in the most helpful and productive way possible.
I start by offering my support in particular to Amendments 114 and 120, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. They clearly offer some very sensible suggestions for areas that this Bill should cover. Amendment 114, which would ensure that sentence planning had to reflect the fact that young people have to step back into school or college on release, raises a very important concern. It is vital that detention in youth accommodation is part and parcel of a process of development and rehabilitation, not just a punishment. We want to ensure that this is not the beginning of a spiral towards further detention, or later time in prison.
We also support Amendment 119. It is not only sensible but eminently desirable that those in youth accommodation should receive suitable careers guidance. We have been discussing amendments to ensure that the education that they receive is up to the mark, and will allow readjustment into life outside the young offender institution, so it is logical that that should also involve appropriate careers guidance to increase chances of productive employment after youth accommodation. Could the Minister explain the situation regarding careers guidance for this group of people at the moment? Does she feel that enough is being done? I am curious, too, and ask her whether she feels that youth accommodation should reflect as closely as possible education in schools—or does she think that there might be scope for having specific and intensive courses on literacy and numeracy, which may help young people to adapt to the school environment when they return? That could mean that sentence planning had to take into account the fact that some young people should be sent to a particular place of youth detention. Does she see any merit in that argument?
To this end, I support Amendment 118, tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who has spoken with such insight on this group of amendments, has put his name, which asks that rather than education in youth detention necessarily reflecting that which should happen in schools, it should complement it and allow those detained to prepare for educational opportunities that they may expect to receive on release.
That helpfully goes hand in hand with our later Amendment 124A regarding modular courses, which is specifically designed to prepare those detainees for the educational opportunities that we hope will be open to them on release. Perhaps I might say at this stage that I very much liked the idea, which I think was suggested by my noble friend Lady Buscombe, that those involved in the decision-making process should go and see the inside of the prison system themselves. I am ashamed to say that it is quite a long time since I made a visit, for instance, to Wormwood Scrubs and I, for one, would welcome an opportunity to see the system from the inside, especially the young offender system. If I am successful, I hope that I shall be released in time for the next day in Committee.
Amendment 136, also tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas, brings forward another important issue that people should not be subjected to youth accommodation without a full assessment of their educational needs and any special educational requirements. We support the principle behind the amendment. Without an assessment of needs or ability, there is simply no point in hours of education which could at best be unproductive and even possibly damaging.
Many of today’s contributions have concentrated on the need to ensure that the LEAs must provide for those with special educational needs or learning difficulties. Noble Lords across the Committee will be aware of our deep concern that no one should be left out in the cold by these clauses and that particular concern should be given to ensuring that those with special educational needs and learning difficulties should not be allowed to fall through the net.
We support Amendments 115 and 122. The Bill already imposes a duty on the LEA to have regard to special educational needs or learning difficulties when ensuring that enough suitable education is provided. We support this section of the Bill. Does the Minister agree that making sure the appropriate assessments are undertaken in order to identify the necessary requirements is key to fulfilling the obligation to ensure that suitable education is provided? It just seems to me that until these assessments are carried out there can be no guarantee that the education and training being provided is suitable for the people it is supposed to serve. Perhaps she could inform the Committee whether the intention behind the legislation was always that such assessments would be carried out. If so, it would be helpful to know why that should not be put in the Bill.
Our Amendment 117 in this group raises an issue that was also considered in another place. As the Bill stands, the LEA only has to take account of special educational needs or learning difficulties. We would argue, however, that there is a section missing from that. Surely it is important for language difficulties to be taken into account as well. Those in youth detention, who may not even speak English as their first language or who might have a speech impairment, for example, will not be taken into account by the provisions as laid out in Clause 47.
In the Children and Young People in Custody 2006-08 report, a sample of 2,500 15 to 18 year-olds in prison found that 7 per cent of young men and 6 per cent of young women did not speak English as their first language. That varied across the country. At Feltham, for example, only 78 per cent of young people spoke English as their first language. A large number of people therefore would benefit from the expansion of Clause 47(2)(b) to include language. In another place the Minister said:
“Currently, there is nowhere in the legislation that requires a local authority to include as a special educational need the fact that the language in which a person is taught is different to that spoken in their home”.—[Official Report, Commons, Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, 17/03/09; col. 358.]
Does the Minister admit that this might make education very difficult for the sizeable minority of people that this would affect?
I interrupt my noble friend to observe that those words are now in the Bill, in Clause 40(8):
“But a person is not to be taken to have a learning difficulty solely because the language (or form of language) in which the person is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which has at any time been spoken in the person’s home”.
I drew this to the Committee’s attention earlier, and warmly support my noble friend in his concern.
I am grateful to my noble friend. This somewhat undermines the good intentions behind the clause, which asks the LEA to ensure that suitable education is provided for everyone, a principle with which I am sure we could all agree.
The Minister in the other place said that she envisaged that the Government might cover this in the statutory guidance that will be produced. Can the Minister provide us with some assurance that that will be the case? Does she not think that there is a case for putting it in the Bill? We received no assurance about this in the other place, but I hope that she will have had a chance to reflect on the merits of the proposal and look forward to hearing what she has to say.
I am delighted to respond to what has been an important and extremely learned debate. I certainly welcome, and have listened carefully to, the responses from those who have been involved: the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Elton, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and many others who have a great deal of experience and have thought very carefully about these issues over many years.
I have a rather long speaking note, but I hope to go through the amendments and pick up the important points made by noble Lords. The first thing I want to say is that, in these kind of debates in Committee, I have a sense that the Government often stand at the Dispatch Box and say that we are producing guidance which will pick up the issues. In this case, I am optimistic that we will be able to share with the Committee the contents of guidance because we have the Summer Recess. This will help us a great deal, and it will help the Committee to have a much fuller picture of how the new system will work.
I want to respond quickly to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on one point. I remind the Committee that, since 2001, the operating expenditure of the Youth Justice Board has more than doubled. Spending on education for young people in custody has increased over sevenfold since April 2000. There have been real changes and a significant increase in the number of hours for which young people engage in the juvenile sector which has gone from seven to 26.5 over that period; I will correct that if it is wrong, but it is a significant improvement.
I am happy to write to the Committee with the figures that I have used. The point I am trying to make is that we are making progress, but I would not accept for a moment that there is 100 per cent consistency or that we have gone far enough. The really significant issue here is about taking a step forward, promoting consistency and applying education law to children and young people in custody for the first time. I will go through each amendment and respond to the points, but I hope we can keep that significant step and significant uplift in investment in mind because it is key.
I will talk first about Amendment 114. Education and training are already integrated into sentence planning. An assessment—which the Committee understands is key—of a young person’s individual needs is made when they enter the youth justice system. This is a requirement of the Youth Justice Board. It includes gathering information about the person’s education prior to coming into the system. This is used to inform the pre-sentence report, which is used in the sentencing process. It is already required that this assessment be forwarded to the custodial establishment so that it can inform the person’s sentence planning, spanning both time in custody and release into the community. Increasingly, juvenile sentences are less custodial and spent more in the community, so that is extremely important.
The Youth Justice Board recently rolled out an electronic form called E-Asset for this system. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was very concerned about communications. The E-Asset, which has been rolled out across the full juvenile secure estate, is designed to improve and speed up information transfer. The duty in the Bill on home local authorities to promote the fulfilment of a person’s learning potential will help to ensure that young people can continue their education and training on their release from custody. The intention there is very much along the lines of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the importance of community and providing consistency, so that when young people are released back into their communities, their education can be picked up. New Section 562B(3) specifically requires the home authority, where appropriate, to make arrangements for education and training provision on the person’s release from detention. Yes, you could describe that as a spider’s web, but you could also describe it as a safety net.
Amendment 119 picks up the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, about careers advice. The general requirement in the Education and Skills Act—which we debated almost a year ago—concerning careers advice already includes young people in custody, so I can reassure the noble Lord on that. Similar provision is made for Wales by directions under Section 123 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. We will issue statutory guidance and directions to local authorities in England next year to reinforce the existing non-statutory guidance regarding the provision of information, advice and guidance to services. This will include responsibilities for the provision of IAG services for young people in custody.
I will be delighted to help the Committee in that way. Coming to Amendments 118 and 136, the Bill inserts new Section 18A in the Education Act 1996 so that local authorities, in securing suitable provision for people in juvenile custody, will have to have regard to the desirability of enabling people to complete programmes of study that they have already begun. As I have said, that is extremely important and local authorities must have regard to any relevant curriculum and the desirability that the education should be comparable. The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, asked what our aspirations are. We are clearly saying that our aspiration is that education in the community and that delivered in custody should be comparable, taking account of—and being tailored according to—individual needs. In the Our Future: Building a 21st Century Schools System White Paper, we talked a lot about small group work and one-to-one provision in communities, and that comparison is very important for young people in the juvenile setting.
The duties have been carefully drafted to ensure that local authorities secure high-quality provision in juvenile custody that can be tailored to meet the needs of young people. We will make it clear in the statutory guidance that I have already talked about that, whenever appropriate, learning in custody should complement prior learning; we will be very clear about what is expected of the system. However, we recognise that this may not always be desirable or possible and that provision should be capable of being tailored to best meet the needs of young people. We must have not only high aspirations but flexibility. The information-sharing requirements and the YJB’s E-Asset system to which I have already referred will also help to ensure continuity, which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, most eloquently described to us as key.
Amendments 115, 121 and 122 relate to provision for young people with special educational needs. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, are particularly concerned about this. I fully agree that we must ensure that children and young people’s learning difficulties are identified and their needs met both when they are in custody and when they are in the community. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, talked, as he has in the past, about the challenges that bring young people into the system and how they need to be taken account of. I know that he appreciates those challenges.
We have been clear in new Section 18A that when local authorities secure suitable learning provision in juvenile custody, they must have regard to any special educational needs or learning difficulties that these young people may have. As we know, custody can provide a real opportunity for them to improve their skills and to re-engage in learning, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and others have argued. Young people are often in custody for only a short time of between three and four months, and it is important that their needs can be identified quickly and that we make the most of their short time in custody.
I am happy to confirm to the Committee that, in setting out how host local authorities should fulfil their obligations, we will say in statutory guidance that local authorities should ensure that general learning assessments, including using a short screening tool for learning difficulties and disabilities, are conducted quickly for all young people and used, along with educational information provided by the home authority, to inform decisions about the education or training to be provided to a person. This should continue to be recorded in the young person’s learning plan and will form part of a wider sentence plan.
The LSC commissioned Dyslexia Action to develop a tool to screen for learning disabilities, and a training programme to support its use is due to be rolled out very soon—from August—in young offender institutions. This is a similar screening tool to the one used in custody in Northern Ireland to screen for indicators of dyslexia, which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has already talked about in Committee. The new tool will enable learning providers to screen for a range of hidden disabilities. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, is concerned about these, and they include dyslexia and dyspraxia as well as disabilities on the autism spectrum. The Communication Trust is also considering this tool and whether it should be extended beyond YOIs to wider youth justice settings; so I think noble Lords will see some progress.
I thank the Minister for that very encouraging answer. I suggest that it might be appropriate if we looked at how this is explained to the person who has been identified and is worked into this. That is an important factor in the process. I hope that the Government will take that on board, because we do not want to return to it again if we are doing the right thing now.
I thank the noble Lord for that helpful recommendation; I shall take it back to the department and ensure that it is taken up.
Perhaps I may be clear. Clauses 49 and 50 will ensure that the home authority is made aware when a person leaves custody and that it is alerted to any special educational needs that have been identified in custody. This is important because of young people coming into custody who have not had a statement, and noble Lords have raised concerns about this. When special educational needs are identified, this needs to be communicated to help ensure that the young person’s needs are picked up when they get back to their home community.
I should also reassure the House that the power for a local authority in England to arrange learning difficulties assessment under Section 139A of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 still applies to those in juvenile custody, as it does in the community, and the local authority is already required to have regard to guidance issued under Section 139A(7). That is an important additional safeguard. In Wales, the power for Welsh Ministers to arrange an assessment under Section 140 will still apply.
Amendment 132 would require the special educational provision set out in part 3 of a person’s statement to be fully met in juvenile custody. I fully appreciate the motivation behind this amendment. As far as possible, we want to ensure that the special educational needs of all young people in custody are met—I say that clearly on the record—and then properly picked up on their release. At the same time, we cannot set local authorities up to fail, and we must take account of the practicalities of an ever-changing population in custody.
A statement of special educational needs, in particular part 3, details the individual requirements and support that a young person must receive, including, for example, provision which was made off-site from their school—such as a day a week at the local FE college, or the delivery of particular programmes of behaviour support offered by external providers. This is a very particular part of the statement. My concern about that part is that I do not want to set the system up to fail; but the spirit of what that statement is trying to achieve is absolutely key. I do not wish to undermine that in any way nor create any ambiguity about its importance.
In many cases, we expect that it will be appropriate to deliver the support set out in part 3 in juvenile custody. In young offender institutions, for example, learning support assistants are already employed to provide one-to-one support. To ensure the right provision is made, we are placing a duty on host authorities to use their best endeavours to make appropriate special educational provision while the young person is in custody. In most cases—I say that carefully—we expect that this will be the provision specified in part 3 of the person’s statement or provision as close as is practicable to it. However, in some cases, it may be that the provision specified in the statement is no longer entirely appropriate.
A specific duty simply to deliver what is in part 3 of a person’s statement would require the authority to deliver this support from the first day of the person’s sentence or period of secure remand. For some young people with highly specialised needs requiring particular specialist support, this will be impractical because that provision may need to be specifically procured and commissioned. It may not always be desirable because, for example, the priority to participate in drug detoxification or behavioural programmes might be more important at the very start.
I will just take some inspiration. Yes, we can be clear that that will find its way into the guidance. I hope that that will further reassure noble Lords.
As the Joint Committee on Human Rights said in its report on the Bill, it is not necessarily practical for all the duties imposed on local authorities by the education Acts to apply to the education and training of detained children, because of the constraints imposed by custody and the length of time for which children are usually detained. The constraints pose a challenge, but we are 100 per cent committed to delivering special educational needs support for these young people.
As regards Amendment 117, I reassure noble Lords—this is an important issue for the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley—that language difficulties are already encompassed in the definitions of special educational needs and learning difficulties that apply to the clause. Speaking English as a second language, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, reminded us, is not a special educational need or a learning difficulty, as defined in the Bill; but it is a reasonable need, and as such is covered by the general duty in Clause 47. I hope that it will help the noble Lord if I put that on the record. For the avoidance of doubt, we will be explicit on this in guidance.
We are already working with the Communication Trust and other relevant organisations to improve services in the youth justice system for young people with speech, language and communication needs. This includes working with practitioners in both the secure estate and young offending teams to help them recognise and meet the needs of young people.
As regards Amendment 129, I will also reassure noble Lords that the provisions in Clause 49 have been drafted specifically to ensure that the home authority must have regard to the young person’s needs. It would be impossible to comply with a duty to promote fulfilment of a person’s learning potential without having regard to any special educational needs or learning difficulties that the person may have. That is a point of clarification. Therefore, the effect of Amendment 129 is already implicit in the Bill. Again, for the avoidance of doubt, we will make this explicit in statutory guidance.
I should have spoken to Amendment 120, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Garden and Lady Sharp, which deals with enabling young people to enter for accredited qualifications. This would be covered by the general duty in new Section 18A—I should have said that at the start. For the avoidance of doubt, we will make that clear in guidance.
I will speak finally to government Amendment 323 to Clause 261—which at the moment feels a very long way away. This allows young offender provisions in Clauses 47 and 50 to be commenced, as far as they relate to Wales, by Welsh Ministers. Clause 51, as noble Lords will know, was inserted as a new clause on Report in another place. The amendment that we are tabling simply updates the corresponding commencement clause to allow Welsh Ministers to commence implementing Clause 51. If I were to fail to do that, my fellow Welsh Ministers would be very upset.
If noble Lords will bear with me, I will answer some points that came up in the debate. I am happy to take forward the concerns of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about social workers in secure settings: I will talk to him about that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was concerned about whether local authorities will get the money to do the job. My answer is: absolutely. Host local authorities will get additional funds to secure suitable provision. They will also be able to recoup the cost of making extra provision to meet the person’s special educational needs, as set out in the SEN statement.
In the same way as we have undertaken to write about commissioning, it may be helpful if I write a short note to noble Lords about how the funding arrangements will work between government and the YPLA, and about how the funding formula and the expectations will be set out. This is very much about promoting consistency across the system and driving up standards—a matter about which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was very concerned.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was looking for assurances about best endeavours. She asked whether they were strong enough to meet the needs of young people. I think that I have already said yes, so I hope that I have given that undertaking.
Again, perhaps I may be very clear about the guidance. I emphasise that this is about creating consistency across the system in the juvenile secure setting and driving up standards of education. The guidance that we have produced will be extremely important in doing that.
If I have missed any points of detail, I shall write to noble Lords. I close by saying that the department is very aware of the proposal that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, talked about, and we are following its developments with great interest. I also concur with noble Lords who talked about the need for Ministers and for noble Lords, in particular, to go out and see what it is really like out there. I have done that myself and it makes a difference when you can see the challenges. Those involved are often big young boys learning to read and write, some of whom have great challenges in their lives. This is a step towards giving them all a much better education and a much better opportunity.
Before the tide of responses begins, I should like to say that, having pressed for quite a long time for a diagnostic tool—if that is the right term—such as the noble Baroness described, I enormously welcome her announcement of what is to be rolled out in August in the way of screening young offenders for dyslexia and related disorders. That is very welcome indeed.
In the Minister’s compendious reply, for which I am extremely grateful, I missed any mention of funding. Particularly with the interpretation that the noble Baroness put on paragraphs (c) and (d) of new Section 18A(2), it seems that the educational burden on these establishments will be quite heavy if they are to make individual provision for continuing programmes of study already begun and are to hang on to the educational style of schools, rather than have a style of their own. I know that we will come to this issue later and I shall not stick to that argument in particular, but how are local education authorities to be funded? Who will decide what rate per prisoner is to be provided for? Can the noble Baroness give us her current working figures for that?
I do not have current working figures but I want to make it clear that we are not asking local authorities to fund juvenile custody places; we are asking them to deliver the education provision. There is obviously a significant difference between the two. Currently, as the noble Lord is aware, education provision is delivered by contractors. It may be helpful to set out for the Committee how the funding will work. Central government funding will be provided to the YPLA, and the YPLA will use funding formulas. The YPLA will support local authority planning. The funding will be clearly designated for the purposes of delivering education in a secure setting. Therefore, there is a very clear line of funding accountability from central government, YPLA, host local authority to provider juvenile establishment. As I say, I think that it will help the Committee if I set out the matter further in detail.
The DCSF may not be funding custody but I understand it is intended that youth custody funding will also be passed down to local authorities, in which case one is extremely concerned about how local authorities will balance their books and how much they will allocate to the various competing priorities with which they will be faced.
We intend to be absolutely clear about our expectations of local authorities in terms of education funding and the money that they will receive in order to deliver that. As I said, the Youth Justice Board is jointly accountable to DCSF. It is extremely important that we ensure that there is clarity about what the funding is for, where it will go, and that we have accountability. I am sure that noble Lords agree with that.
That is the point I was trying to make: there is total lack of clarity about the cost, certainly as regards the Prison Service accommodation, where most of these young people are held. Therefore, it is extremely important to establish exactly what that is so that local authorities are in no doubt about what the bill will be.
I ask for a little indulgence. I understood from the Minister that the department was giving a lot of consideration to the young offender project that my noble friend mentioned. Can she reassure me that the cost per place of making this provision, which would fall on the department and the local authority and which seems to be in doubt, will be looked at sympathetically? If the local authority is not able to reclaim the money needed to set up such an academy, is there any prospect that more of these excellent projects, which attempt to reclaim young offenders back into the community, will come forward?
I have not looked at the details of that proposal and therefore I am not sure that I can answer the noble Baroness’s points now. However, the youth crime action plan, which the department published some time ago, is absolutely clear about the need to develop innovative and community solutions. It is not simply about encouraging the accommodation of more young people in custody. We have to identify new and better ways to deal with these challenges in communities.
I entirely understand that the noble Baroness may not be able to give detailed figures now, but can we hope for something by October in terms of what the expected level of funding per juvenile prisoner is, and what that is expected to cover; that is, whether it covers just the contract with the education provider or whether there is an element of covering the prison’s costs in there too?
I was given some advice just now which says that there are no current plans for DCSF to fund wider costs of custody. I hope that I will be able to satisfy the noble Lord with regard to the funding of the education delivery that we are talking about here. I am also concerned to satisfy the Committee and to give it a picture of how the new system for driving up standards and promoting consistency will work. That is the challenge that the YPLA will have. I think that it would be helpful for noble Lords to have a diagram showing them that.
I sincerely thank the Minister for her full and considered reply to what has been a marathon session. The importance of this part of the Bill can be seen in the number and the quality of the contributions to this debate which have explored a wide range of issues, some of which are cross-departmental. The debate has also thrown up just how vital it is that special educational needs and learning and behavioural difficulties are assessed at the earliest opportunity in order for strong measures to be in place so that not so many young people with those difficulties and disadvantages end up in young offender institutions.
Many of the matters raised in this debate deserve much more consideration and positive action. We may have identified two actions to come out of this, one of which is strong support for the proposals and initiatives put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for academies. Another is that we should all visit prisons at the earliest opportunity. Those might be positive actions—
As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will be aware, the academy which we on these Benches are supporting in this instance is the very specific one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, which justifies all sorts of different needs for the community as well as for education. On that note, perhaps I may thank all noble Lords for taking part in this debate. I look forward to reading Hansard because I feel that there are matters which we will need to bring back at some stage for further discussion. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 114 withdrawn.
Amendment 115 not moved.
116A: Clause 47, page 29, line 11, at end insert—
“(1A) In deciding for the purposes of subsection (1) whether education or training is enough to meet persons’ reasonable needs, a minimum of 30 hours per week of purposeful activity must be provided.”
Our Amendments 116A and 116B are also probing amendments. We suggest that a statutory minimum of purposeful activity should be required for those detained in youth custody. When this area was debated in another place the amendment put forward there proposed to insert a statutory minimum of 30 hours per week of education and skills training to be provided. That was rejected by the Minister there on the grounds that it was too prescriptive and that some people might have wider needs, such as drug detoxification or behaviour programmes. As the Minister in the other place raised drug detoxification, it would be very helpful if the Minister in this House could write to noble Lords giving some data on the numbers of those in youth custody who require drug detoxification because it is a very specific and important area.
We have taken the Minister’s suggestions on board and have produced a new set of amendments. While they still prescribe a fixed minimum of 30 hours, this 30 hours could now include many different forms of beneficial work, which might be study or vocational training, psychotherapy or substance abuse treatment, or even just reading. They would all come under the 30 hours of purposeful activity. We are very concerned that those detained in youth accommodation should receive the best possible chance to improve their level of education. The Minister in the other place appeared to reject these amendments as being too prescriptive. Perhaps the Minister will correct me if I am wrong. Is it not the case that secure training centres already have a 25-hour target and for those of school age in young offender institutions the target is 15 hours? What proportion of prisoners achieve the target number of hours?
In the previous debate the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned an extract from a statement by the Minister in the other place dealing with statistics from 5 November 2008 which, as he said, show a range of hours in young offender institutions, ranging from 19.8 in Werrington to 5.3 in Glen Parva. Eighteen of the 21 YOIs were not reaching the 15-hour target, some by a very wide margin. So the Minister will understand why we feel that the added strength of having this set out on the face of the Bill would be very helpful.
Our concerns are perhaps exacerbated by the appalling statistics on even the basic literacy and numeracy of those detained in youth accommodation. Statistics from 2007 show that 48 per cent of prisoners had a reading age of 11 or below; 65 per cent had math skills below those of an 11 year-old; and 82 per cent had handwriting skills at the level of 11 years or below. These statistics are shocking and so I beg to move.
I support this amendment, and I am interested that the figure of 30 hours should be mentioned. The figure has not been plucked out of the air; it is in fact the figure currently required for adults in all private sector prisons, who have to reach 30 hours “purposeful activity”, as it is called. It seems to me an excellent description of what should be done. I have always described what I think should happen for prisoners as a full, purposeful and active day, starting early in the morning and ending with them going to bed tired at night. This is particularly true of young offenders.
When I was researching what we could do for young prisoners I saw that the state of Massachusetts has a full, purposeful and active day which is divided in two. Half is training, and that includes education and work skills, and half is community reparation. It is worth thinking about the fact that activities can be given that widen the day. Those certainly ought to be included to get young people out of their cells, where far too many of them spend far too long doing absolutely nothing.
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 are not moved from the establishment where that is happening until that course is completed. If the Minister cares to look at the track record in young offender institutions of courses completed, as opposed to courses started, she will find that literally millions of pounds have been wasted because the opportunity has not been provided for the course to be completed and the full value to be gained.
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.
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.
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.
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 of education or training. It is another form of waste if, while they are in custody, nothing is done to move them on and give them some sort of basis for getting a qualification when they come out of a young offender institution, which, in turn, we all know is enormously important in preventing reoffending. I fear that we still have not solved that issue adequately. I very much hope that the Bill can move us forward and make sure that every young person in a YOI gets proper education and training.
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,
“30 hours per week of purposeful activity”.
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 room and there are wider activities that they must participate in such as family visits, religious activities and association time.
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.
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?
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, our agencies and local authorities all work with the third sector because of what it has to offer in terms of innovation, closeness to service users and being very good at what it does. I am happy to put that on record.
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.
Amendment 116A withdrawn.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked about ring-fencing. I think I have been clear but I want to be absolutely clear that the YPLA grant letter will ensure that the YPLA spends its funds as designated on education in a juvenile setting.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, talked about the what and the how. As ever, it is helpful how these Committee debates crystallise thoughts. When we talk about the what, it is important that we, as the Government, set out clear expectations of what is expected. The YPLA will be our key agent in doing so. I have also heard clearly from discussion around the Committee that variations in delivery are a real challenge, which the YPLA will of course be in a strong position to iron out.
On the how, one of the most important aspects of this development is to ensure that local authorities have the opportunity to engage education in the juvenile custodial setting into the mainstream. This really struck me when I went to Feltham, talking to the staff there. They want to be part of a vibrant education community and to get cross-fertilisation and input from the mainstream. It is extremely important for us to develop that connection with local authorities.
I thank the Minister for her reply. I am still not entirely clear on the ring-fencing. She assured us that the YPLA would have ring-fenced funding, but my question was more on what happened to that funding when it passed to the local authorities, and whether they would ring-fence the funding provided by the YPLA. Perhaps the Minister might write to me to clarify that point? She has indicated that she will.
Meanwhile, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord De Mauley, for their contributions to this debate. Issues of funding will require more clarification as we move through the Bill but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 124 withdrawn.
Clause 47 agreed.
124A: After Clause 47, insert the following new Clause—
“Provision of educational courses for those persons detained in youth accommodation
(1) In designing educational courses for those detained in youth accommodation the appropriate authority must have regard to the desirability to institute short, modular courses to teach basic literacy and numeracy.
(2) These courses shall be between 2 and 8 weeks long.
(3) These courses shall be designed as part of a national framework.
(4) Particular areas may specialise in specific courses.
(5) There must be a regulated assessment in order to assess and monitor progress.”
We are already well into a series of debates this afternoon about young offender education. Our amendment is a probing amendment specifically to gauge the view of your Lordships' House regarding the provision of short, intensive, modular courses which concentrate on basic literacy and numeracy in order to ensure that time in youth accommodation is not wasted.
Many of those detained in youth accommodation have been excluded from school and so have not been receiving the education that they should. The report issued by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools, Children and Young People in Custody 2006-08, shows that, of a sample of 2,500 young people held in prisons, 86 per cent of young men had been excluded from school and over a third were under 14 when they last attended.
These statistics demonstrate the vital necessity to provide real and effective education for children and young people while subject to youth detention in order to help them to return to a life of school, education and then, we all hope, solid employment. It should be the focus of many of these establishments to make sure that school and college is a realistic option. Furthermore, short, intensive courses could, we suggest, be just what is needed in order to provide some form of a solution to the problems involving communication which have been highlighted by the Communication Trust.
The Bercow review said that the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists has estimated that at least 60 per cent of the 7,000 children and young people passing through YOIs each year have difficulties with speech, language and communication. This causes additional complications by making it less likely that the benefits of education or therapy will be absorbed. If not addressed, this can lead to an increased likelihood of reoffending. Short, intensive and specifically focused courses could, we suggest, really help to solve some of these problems.
I would contend that it is unrealistic to think that very long courses, with qualifications which appear at the outset to be in the far distance, are the most useful way of achieving this. It may, of course, mean that education would correspond more closely to that which takes place in schools, but that is not necessarily the most important factor. Many of these young people have been turned off by school already. Indeed, it is often a reason that contributed to their expulsion. I mentioned some statistics earlier. Further to those, reports from the Youth Justice Board show that 83 per cent of boys in custody have been excluded from school, and 41 per cent of boys and girls in custody were aged 14 or younger when they were last in school. All too often, those young people are moved around the system and so do not manage to complete their courses. This, I suggest, may have a more lasting and damaging impact on their self-esteem. It is also, frankly, a thorough waste of time. It is not, in our view, the way in which these young people should be treated. Many of them, as we have already discussed today, lack such basic skills as literacy and numeracy. Given these problems, it will be very difficult to ensure that the courses are successful and that people perform to the best of their abilities. It seems only sensible that we invest in basic skills now, so that they can reap the benefit of longer and more widely recognised courses later.
That is why we have tabled this amendment, which brings forward these short, modular courses which concentrate more specifically on improving literacy and numeracy. They could be designed as part of a national framework, so that while particular areas might specialise in a specific course, the courses could be designed on a similar structure, which would mean that people could transfer easily after completion from one course to another. We have also introduced the concept of a regulated assessment so that success and progress are properly assessed and monitored. We feel that the courses would be much more useful if there was a way of telling what people have achieved, so making it easier to build on their success should they have to move institution or return to youth accommodation later. Being able to see what level has been achieved may also be useful from the point of view of schools or colleges, in order to help young offenders reintegrate more successfully.
The Second Chance report from 2001-02 stated that,
“most departments attempted to base their programmes on short modules leading to some form of accreditation”.
We hope to build on this idea. The Children and Young People in Custody (2006-2008) report stated that 81 per cent of young men said that they were in education, and more than half said that they were learning a skill. However, even in the areas with the highest take-up of education, fewer than two-thirds said that they benefited from it. Surely this must be changed. It is important that we discover how a course of learning can be most beneficially structured to allow young people the best opportunity of improving their skill and learning level. It is even more important when one takes into account research by the Prisoners’ Education Trust, which shows that for a cohort of 377 prisoners who attended education, the reconviction rate was less than half of the national average. I hope that our amendment has at least given some ideas which might stimulate a useful discussion. I beg to move.
From these Benches we think that there is a great deal to be said for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. Am I right in thinking—perhaps the noble Lord would nod—that such short courses would follow the sort of assessment of the needs of the young person that we have been debating this afternoon? Yes, the noble Lord is nodding. That is fine, but we also need to consider those things which, in the normal course of learning to read, a very young child must have in place. I am referring particularly to listening and speaking. Many small children whose speech is not very well developed come into nurseries; the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, has mentioned difficulties with speech and language. Nursery teachers and teachers in the early years of primary schools have to work very hard with those young people’s speaking and listening skills before it is appropriate to start teaching them to read. That is why we on these Benches have some reservations about specifying phonics at too early an age. The professional teacher should decide the most appropriate time for a young child to be taught using them, because children’s ability to speak, listen and communicate varies so much.
If the noble Lord’s amendment included speaking and listening as a precursor to reading and writing for those for whom that is necessary, his short-course idea is good because so many young people in custody are there for such a very short period. He used another word that I thought important: the word “intensive”. It does not appear in the amendment, but he used it several times when he moved the amendment and he is quite right. It may not be desirable for a young person to be in custody at all, but if they are you have to make the best of it and use every opportunity to send them out equipped with something that they did not have when they came in. That may mean their spending many, many hours a day working on their listening, speaking, reading, writing and numeracy skills.
In my experience of visiting young offender institutions and talking to the teachers in the education department, they use reading and writing very creatively and imaginatively on various topics that actually interest a young person and keep them motivated when learning how to read and write. The young person sees the reason for doing it: to find out more about cars or aeroplanes or whatever they are interested in.
As long as the noble Lord’s amendment actually means all those things—if they are implicit in what he is looking for—we very much support this idea.
Again, I put my name to this amendment, particularly because of the use of the word “modular”. I very much welcome what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has just said. I have mentioned in the House before a two-year pilot of speech and language therapists in young offender establishments that was funded by Lady Helen Hamlyn. Unfortunately, the Government could not find the money for continuing with therapists in young offender establishments, but I hope they will restore them. One of the factors of the pilot was that people coming in were being helped with a speech and language difficulty, and the question was what happened when they went out. The therapists said that they needed twice as much time as they had been given for the custodial sentence and that there should be continuity.
That leads me to a question to the Minister that is slightly outside the narrow box of the amendment. Young offenders between the ages of 15 and 18 in the Prison Service are virtually all on detention and training orders, which this Government newly introduced. Half of the order is spent in custody and half under supervision in the community. The sentence plan for a detention and training order is the responsibility of young offender teams who are already the responsibility of local government. What one hopes to see in all those sentence plans instead of four months in prison and four months in the community is an eight-month sentence, some of which should be spent in custody and some in the community.
Although we have been talking very largely about young offenders and young offenders in prison, my question to the Minister is: does the writ of the local education authority run to the Probation Service as well? It has always seemed to me that there is no reason why the sort of courses that are run in prison should not be run for young offenders outside in the community. They do not need to go to prison for it. They all have exactly the same educational needs, learning difficulties, work skill requirements and so on. It has always seemed to me that that a community sentence, as conducted, would be much more positively received by the public if they felt that it had the same content as what was happening in prison—aiming to prevent reoffending—rather than doing something like painting out graffiti. This of course will work only if the writ runs to the Probation Service and those who are responsible for supervising people in the community, and for supervising the educational part of that sentence.
I warmly support what the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, is driving at. I remember visiting Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre some time ago and speaking to a young man who had made immense strides in his reading during his short time in custody. He was going to go home and teach his mother and his siblings how to read. I strongly support the principle behind the amendment. I suppose it is like having a driving licence for us—I am sure that your Lordships understand the importance of being able to read and write.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, raised the importance of a topic approach. She reminded me of the very important work of the charity Youth UK, which was established in 1911 for the factory girls and works with young excluded people, such as those that the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, described. Perhaps I may describe that work briefly. Youth UK brings a youth-work approach to educating these young people, and it uses a curriculum similar to a primary curriculum, which is very much thematically based. Its pedagogic approach is to engage young people through the activities that they really enjoy doing to teach them how to read, write and count.
I join in what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said. There is not much point to giving children and young people in custody the same experience as they had in school, because they were turned off that experience. There needs to be the flexibility and creativity available in custodial settings to engage young people in a different and more effective way. I commend the work of Youth UK to the Minister.
I very much welcome my noble friend’s initiative and the support that noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has received. I want to reflect on a couple of things. It may be a bit dangerous to specify the length of courses, in view of the fact that they should extend from the period in custody to the period in the community. On the other hand, it is essential to make the courses part of a national framework. They ought to be standard throughout the country because, so often, a young person will be in a host community in his prison, and in a home community for the second half of the sentence. It is important that both authorities should deliver the same programme. Finally, I am delighted that the proposed courses are modular, because that means that if a young person goes back inside—heaven forefend, but it happens too often—he can pick up and continue with the same qualification.
I recognise that this is a probing amendment, but I want to pick up on what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said, because it is consistent with the issue that I wanted to raise. It also relates to what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was saying about the need for continuity between educational programmes that are provided in custody with those that are to be provided in the community, post custody. We also have to recognise that if we are to move towards more non-custodial sentences for young people—which I very much hope we are—those sentences should incorporate education and training. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who said that we need to reflect on whether we should specify “between 2 and 8 weeks”.
I also believe that a two-week programme, for many of the young people about whom we are talking, will not get them very far. The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, mentioned that many of the young people, for example if they are 16, will not have been in any form of education since they were 13 or 14. They will not have been attending school, which will be one reason why they are in trouble. I urge the Minister, in her reply, to say what the Government intend in this area. Any programme that is about something like literacy would need to last a lot longer than two weeks to get anywhere; otherwise the young people will spend two weeks learning a little and then quickly forget it all. There must be long-term continuity in their learning experience.
I warmly support these amendments. The exact timing of the courses may not be entirely sensible. On the other hand, we can regard them not just as courses but as something from which you can move on to more specific and relevant education, either still in the same institution as part of your course or sentence or when you are outside and, one hopes, getting back into work or an appropriate profession other than offending.
This brings to mind how things have not changed. It takes me back to my time as a juvenile magistrate in London, where for more than 20 years I was chairman of the court. The first thing that I did immediately a child appeared in court charged with an offence was to send for the attendance record. There was always a significant truancy record. One of my great regrets is that truancy has got rather blurred: these days we never hear exactly what it covers. However, what we certainly know—the figures have been quoted, so I will not repeat them—is that young people in prison have appalling inadequacies compared with the rest of the population when it comes to any form of learning. They have failed, we have failed them, and this is the result.
The idea that there should be assessments at the beginning of a young person’s time in custody seems to have been accepted. Obviously, that is an excellent start; but I also hope that, whatever the courses are, they will include some involvement of the voluntary sector—perhaps not with the initial short courses, but as part of the business of learning how to communicate. Often you will find, for example, that somebody who is good at bridge and has a huge amount of enthusiasm can go in and start teaching young people this skill, which involves maths and basic literacy as well. I very much support the amendment and I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that it can be accommodated.
I thoroughly support the amendment. It gives me two particular moments of pleasure—little rays of sunshine from a cloudy sky. One ray is falling on my noble friend on the Front Bench: it is the first time that I have noticed our Front Bench supporting modular courses. At last they are beginning to see the other side of the argument. The other ray is falling on me: at last I am beginning to understand what benefits might come from giving responsibility for prison education to local education authorities. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for the insight into how it would integrate both halves of a sentence under one management. I hope, too, that it will be allowed for in the way that the noble Baroness and her team set out the arrangements for commissioning the education in prisons that will be undertaken by local education authorities, ensuring that they will have enough flexibility to integrate provision and not find themselves using two different providers with completely different ideas about what education should consist of.
It is very important that we look at the idea of prison education being special and that we try to get away from at least the impression given in paragraphs (c) and (d) of new Section 18A(2) that in some way it should just be a continuation of what has failed before. Of course, for some youth offenders it will be appropriate that they carry on with their education—those who have done something immensely silly but are otherwise good students and just need to get back to real life. However, many pupils in prisons will have broken with education and will need to find a way back that is entirely different from what they rejected as school education.
My noble friend used two words that I completely support. One was “intensive”. An intensive experience is much better than being stuck with an hour a day, and it provides much greater potential for transformation. The other was “communication”. It is not just maths and English that these kids have not grasped; it is how to get on with, talk to and relate to other people. Those things can be equally well addressed—in fact, they can be extremely well addressed—in these short courses. Therefore, apart from the wording of the amendment, I am entirely happy with it.
My noble friend has assumed that the management will be saying the same in both halves of the sentence. That of course assumes that the young offender is imprisoned in his own community, which, I fear, very rarely happens. However, the benefits that would flow from this are an important consideration. It also underlines what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said earlier about the desirability of having area clusters for prisons, whereby prisoners would more often be members of the community and would therefore receive the same education under the same aegis, both inside and outside the prison. Incidentally, it would be a wholly desirable move in the direction of getting prison more closely integrated with the rest of the world. One day, if we get the local community to pay for the local prison, the members of that community will start doing something about local offenders before they get there.
I fully agree that there should be a clear focus on literacy and numeracy skills in education provision in custody. Too many young people enter custody with poor basic skills, and custody can provide an opportunity for them to develop their skills and achieve qualifications, as many noble Lords have said during this debate.
However—this is a point on which a number of noble Lords commented—we consider that specific requirements about literacy and numeracy provision should be made in the statutory guidance, where we can better reflect how we expect local authorities to meet young people’s needs. I reassure the Committee that we hope to have the statutory guidance available before Report so that noble Lords will be able to see what we mean by this.
Subsection (2)(e) of new Section 18A also makes it clear that local authorities must have regard to the desirability of the core entitlement being satisfied when securing suitable provision for young people in custody. This already includes the functional skills of English and maths. The amendment would restrict the flexibility of local authorities to respond to young people’s needs. We do not, for example, want to limit young people to eight-week courses where it might be more appropriate for them to study for GCSE maths and English. I stress the words “might be”, as that might not be the right path for them. Literacy and numeracy learning might also be embedded in, for example, vocational learning or the arts. Indeed, this often presents a more engaging way of learning.
It is also already the case that the Youth Justice Board requires young people entering custody to be assessed for literacy and numeracy. The YJB reports that, during 2007-08, in young offender institutions 99.4 per cent of young people were assessed, in secure children’s homes 98.2 per cent were assessed, and in secure training centres 97.1 per cent of young people were assessed.
As my noble friend said in the previous debate, under the new regime we intend to set out in statutory guidance to host authorities that when they are securing the provision of education and training in juvenile custody, authorities should ensure, through the arrangements they make with providers, that a general learning assessment, including assessment of literacy and numeracy skills, is carried out. This should be used, along with educational information from the home local authority, to inform decisions as to how the provision is best tailored to their needs.
The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, asked about short courses. We agree with him that they should be available and we certainly endorse their value. However, some young people will need more tuition than others. In terms of getting them back into learning, I come back to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, made about the value of learning support assistants and volunteers. They are often employed in juvenile custodial establishments to help provide one-to-one support for young people with high levels of literacy and numeracy needs. I do not know how far that scheme extends but I shall try to find that out. That includes the voluntary scheme in Feltham to which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rightly stressed the importance of speech therapy and listening as part of a tailored approach following assessment. We are working with the Communication Trust to help improve services for young people in the youth justice system with speech, language and communication needs. The work will also include awareness-raising activities and supporting practitioners in youth offending teams in the secure estate to recognise and meet the needs of young people with speech, language and communication needs. This includes work with youth offending teams which supervise young people in the community.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, raised the question of continuity after the sentence and the two halves. We endorse that. As regards the legal entitlement, we have raised the participation age and local education authorities have a responsibility to ensure that young people are either in education, training or employment. We see this provision as part of that process. A number of noble Lords referred to the very important point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on continuity, including the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for referring to UK Youth and to the importance of giving these young people a different experience from that which they encounter in school. We know that many of these young people have been turned off learning by their experience of formal standard education. We have to find new, fresh and innovative approaches.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, talked about truancy. We have made great efforts to ensure that school attendance is better than ever and have placed more responsibility and pressure on parents to ensure that they deliver young people to school. However, we are not complacent—I note the noble Baroness’s body language—in that area by any means. We understand the importance of the issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, also referred to the central role of local authorities. As I have said before, we agree that local authorities are well placed to lead a multi-agency approach in supporting young people, particularly as they leave custody and return to the community.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, also referred to the curriculum. The guidance will set out our expectations of what should be provided in custody in terms of the curriculum. We will consult on this guidance with relevant partners and interested groups. As I said, we will publish the guidance before Report.
We welcome the opportunity to have this debate on this very important area. We welcome the intentions behind the amendment but we believe that we can satisfy this need much better through statutory guidance for the reasons that I have outlined. I hope that with those reassurances the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for her contribution and I can confirm what she has asked, especially about the necessary intensity of the proposed modular courses. My noble friend Lord Lucas also referred to that. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for putting his name to this amendment and for his contribution to the debate. I should also like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for his graphic example of the benefits of really useful education in these institutions.
My noble friend Lord Elton’s word of caution on specifying the length of courses is well taken, as is his point, which was echoed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Blackstone and Lady Howe, about the need to link the education while in detention to what happens when they come out. I thank my noble friend Lord Lucas for his support, even if he spoke with a somewhat forked tongue. I thank the Minister for his response and we keenly look forward to seeing the guidance, which, as we go on with these debates, becomes ever more important. On that basis, for today, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 124A withdrawn.
124B: After Clause 47, insert the following new Clause—
“Basic reading assessment for persons subject to youth detention
(1) The appropriate authority must carry out an assessment and make a record of those who cannot read when they enter youth detention.
(2) The appropriate authority must also make a record of those who cannot read when they leave youth detention.”
We have tabled Amendment 124B in order to address the pressing issue of the enormous number of children and young people who enter centres of youth accommodation and cannot read. In the 2004-05 prison education report from the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, Professor David Wilson is quoted as saying that,
“quite clearly prisoners come from some of the most marginalised sections of our community in which frankly very few of them have level 1 educational achievement, i.e. they have not got the skills of an eleven-year-old in terms of reading and writing. That clearly does affect their chances of being able to gain employment once they are released back into those communities. So if you can actually use prison as a positive experience to counteract some of the very negative schooling experiences they have … so much the better”.
Moreover, the same report reminds us that in 2004-05 half of all prisoners are at or below the level expected of an 11 year-old in reading, two-thirds in numeracy and four-fifths in writing. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister what the figures would be for this year.
These figures are for all prisoners. Nevertheless, they are galling and illustrate a trend which is also being seen in centres of youth accommodation. This is an area where real help is needed. Sometimes it is the simple solutions which can make the most difference. We would argue therefore that instituting a basic reading assessment for all who enter youth accommodation and a similar assessment when they leave might have a far greater impact on standards of education than might at first be apparent. A simple assessment would mean that no young person was allowed to slip through the net. An ability to read is a crucial part of education, which many of these young people are lacking. An assessment at the beginning of their time in detention would ensure that they were given tuition in this important area and were not subjected to potentially embarrassing situations if they were set to study other courses.
Moreover, without the basic ability to read, many of the other courses would do no good at all, but might have the disastrous effect of damaging a spark of ambition or a desire to learn. Furthermore, an assessment on entry and another at the end of time detained in youth accommodation would be another indicator by which to assess the establishment. Those centres which did not manage to improve the reading ability of those young people should be called into question and have their teaching methods and staff thoroughly scrutinised and brought up to standard.
It is important that a failure of the system does not end up letting down these vulnerable young people. A simple reading assessment could help show which centres of youth accommodation were up to the job and which were not. It seems clear to me that this is a basic improvement in the system that could have manifold beneficial consequences. At the heart of this issue is that these people are in desperate need of effective education. No matter how professional and high quality the education provided within youth accommodation is, it will not achieve the aims it has set out to do without making sure that those who cannot read are identified and remedial action taken. Does the Minister agree that reading is a fundamentally important part of education—a stepping stone to all that comes after? I look forward to his response and beg to move.
I have put my name to this amendment because I think that it deals with a fundamental point. It also links to the previous amendment and something that I would like to say.
I always used to think that in the target and performance indicator-obsessed Prison Service there ought to be a target based on the number of people who came into prison unable to read and the number who left unable to read and that it should be used as an indictment of the prison that had failed to teach them. It never actually happened. But one good thing that has happened, which links back to the previous amendment, is that thanks to the initiative of someone called Christopher Morgan, a reading programme called Toe by Toe, designed by a remedial primary school teacher, has now been introduced into almost every prison in the country through the Shannon Trust, which he founded with the profits he made from a book describing his correspondence with a lifer.
The beauty of the programme is that although it takes six weeks to go through a large book page by page with no more than 20 minutes a day, a prisoner can teach another prisoner to read—so there is a double-whammy in it. It is hugely successful. The beauty of having a manual is that it does not matter whether the person moves from one establishment to another or back into the community, the book can go with them, and provided that there is a mentor, who can be another prisoner or a member of the public, there is no disruption to the programme. If someone is given a six-month detention and training order, three months in and three months out, and they cannot read when they come in, there is no reason why they should not be put on the six-month Toe by Toe course, with the end result that they can read thanks to a number of people being involved in the process rather than just one.
There is another time implication. I have often thought that sentencers ought to be provided with a prospectus of what it is possible for a prison or programmes within a prison to do and how long they take. That is not to be a mandatory sentence. However, if someone cannot read and you are not quite sure whether to give them two months or six and you know that it takes six months to teach someone to read, why not give them a six-month sentence in order to achieve a purpose at the end of it? The point is wider than the subject under debate, but I think that it would help sentencers if they were informed about what it is possible to do, particularly in the educational field, and particularly to help young people decide what to do.
I have one basic question. The noble Baroness said that there would be an assessment coming through. How will that tie into this basic idea, and where is the meeting of minds between the Government and the Opposition on it? I know that it is an uncomfortable place when you find yourself having to agree in public but I think that we should occasionally bite our tongues and do it.
One thing that is slightly worrying about this is the obsession with reading, when you are dealing with many disabilities that mean that reading words will be that much more difficult. I suggest that we must be very careful about how we do that. Thus, I suggest that although the idea behind the amendment is fine, I do not think that the wording is quite flexible enough to embrace many of those groups. As my noble friend said, preparation for how to cope with conditions such as dyslexia is as important as the acquisition of reading and literacy skills. For instance, with modern technology, you have to acquire enough reading to use the technology to have articles read back to you—text put in something called Clarity, which I have recently discovered and wish that it was there 20 years ago, something that allows you to take text and have it read back to you.
Having enough literacy skill to be able to use it—enough to understand how to use voice-operated activity—may be appropriate to match day-to-day skills, but it may not be the sole aim here. I approve of the aim, but it may not be flexible enough to provide real-life skills or real-life coping strategies for many people with those conditions.
The amendment prompts me to ask whether the Minister can give some information of the state of libraries in secure accommodation. There was concern some time ago regarding children’s homes and there was a big push on that. I imagine that, as the Government have been investing heavily, there should be plenty of magazines and books available. That also makes me think that it is a long time since I have visited a secure facility. The hint from the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, was helpful. It is certainly helpful to get out there and see what is happening on the ground. If any of your Lordships are organising visits, I would certainly be very interested to hear about them.
I very much support the amendment for two reasons. First, it gives a clear point when we can assess whether there has been success or failure. It prompts me to think of my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham, because when one thinks of all the speeches that he has made, above all, he is calling for someone to be accountable—someone who can take the blame rather than pass it on. That is exactly what is being asked for here. I also like another of my noble friend’s suggestions: involving a range of people to help to decide whether the time in prison has been a success. I hope that it can be joined to stages in which reading, maths, or whatever, can be seen to be working towards a point at which the individual concerned—as well as the people who have helped them—can feel proud of their achievement.
It strikes me that we have a meeting of minds here—that the Committee believes that it is a good idea to have an assessment when a young person goes into custody. I have to tell the Committee that that has long been Liberal Democrat policy, so I will sign you all up later. Of course, it must be of quality and delivered by people who can identify problems such as dyslexia. I know that the Minister was assuring us that that could be done.
The amendment is really about added value and raises the question of how we evaluate the success or failure of the education department in any particular custodial setting in helping a young person how to read. I am not sure what is the appropriate authority, but I presume that it must be the host authority commissioning the education in that prison. The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, is nodding. Perhaps the Minister could tell us a little about how the Government envisage that the quality of education delivered is to be assessed under the new regime.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, for introducing another interesting area for exploration. There is no dubiety or equivocation about this. Young people should be assessed for their literacy needs on entering custody, and this should cover the range of literacy skills, not just the ability to read. I was wrestling with the meeting of minds and biting my tongue at the same time—
I take the point. As I said in my previous contribution and indeed gave the statistics, young people entering custody receive a learning assessment in order to identify their personal needs, and there are already in place a series of requirements about these arrangements. Under the new regime we will set out in guidance that local authorities should ensure in the arrangements they make with providers that young people are assessed for their learning needs, including literacy and numeracy assessments, and that these should inform decisions as to the particular education or training to be provided.
I shall answer the specific points raised. A number of noble Lords asked how we judge success. The statistics related to it are revealed in two examples. The Youth Justice Board reports that in 2007-08, 93.7 per cent of young people under detention and training orders who spend at least three months in a secure children’s home improve their literacy and/or numeracy skills by at least one level. In secure training centres, the figure is 93.6 per cent. Some 46.5 per cent of young people under detention and training orders who spend at least six months in young offender institutions improve their literacy and/or numeracy skills by at least one level. We might argue about whether that is satisfactory enough. Finally, before they leave an establishment, every young person goes through what is known as resettlement planning, so there ought to be an assessment within that. However, it may be helpful if we write with specific details about the process. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred to evaluation, so we undertake to write on that point.
On the question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about the availability of books and magazines, we do not have any central data about libraries, but any figures we do have we will make available. Again, there is no difference in the objectives, but on this amendment we believe once again that guidance is the appropriate place. Also, as I have indicated, we will write to noble Lords about one specific area of evaluation. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. The contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was, as always, particularly helpful to extending our understanding of what really happens in all of this. I am grateful also to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for their support. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Her comments about added value really are what this is all about.
The Minister suggested that this was an exploration. That suggests to me that he does not appreciate the seriousness with which we make this point. We feel that we will not get anywhere without an assessment at the beginning and an assessment at the end of sentencing. We feel very strongly about this and perhaps it might strengthen the Minister’s arm in his internal discussions if, despite the lateness of the hour, we were to test the opinion of the Committee.
House adjourned at 7 pm.