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Riots, Communities and Victims Panel

Volume 739: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2012


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to take forward the recommendations of the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel on building character and personal resilience.

My Lords, many aspects of the panel’s report chime with the Government’s ambitions on reform. The panel’s focus on character is reflected in the Government’s Positive for Youth statement, which stresses the importance of personal and social development and the building of resilience. An accompanying outcomes framework is aimed at supporting local practitioners working with young people, including schools, and it sets out the capabilities that together help foster character and how that might be measured.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. Given that the report of the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, which I thought was extremely good, contains nine specific recommendations to help build character and enhance the personal resilience of young people relevant to schools, youth services and local organisations such as scouts and guides, does the Minister share my disappointment that there was no mention of whether or how these would be taken forward in the Secretary of State’s Statement back in July? Will she confirm that there will be a further Statement from the Secretary of State explaining what has happened to those recommendations, and when might that Statement be made?

My Lords, as I said previously when I answered a question about the riots, there will be a further response in due course. The Government are already taking quite a lot of action that chimes with the report. We are already funding cadets, summer schools, the National Citizen Service, and Myplace, which is a national programme to build world-class youth centres. All of those will contribute to helping young people develop their resilience and character.

My Lords, in their response to the riots panel report—I declare an interest as a panel member—the Government were kind enough to agree with us that when it comes to children, early intervention is crucial. Given that, will the Minister reassure the House of the inaccuracy of the reports that are abroad that the Government’s plans to fund nursery places for deprived two year-olds are to be funded not from an underspend but by raiding £1.6 billion over three years from the early intervention grant, thus putting Sure Start intervention at risk?

My Lords, I am not in a position to confirm that. However, it is worth saying that one thing that the Government are doing is to provide and support parenting courses. One aspect of this is that young children need a family background; they need the support of parents; and they need nursery education. All of that will start to build the resilience mentioned over and over again in the report, to help them resist things later in life when they may be faced with problems such as riots.

Do the Government recognise, as the panel did, the importance of providing support to young people at weekends and in the school holidays? Has the Minister picked up on the enormous importance of volunteers in providing this cover, and in monitoring during school terms as well? If so, will the Government undertake some means of supporting the employer volunteering encouragement schemes that produce the people to do this at minimum cost and maximum efficiency?

My Lords, I endorse entirely what my noble friend said about volunteering. The more volunteers we have, the more we can do. The volunteers at the Olympic Games showed how valuable they can be. We already support summer schools where young people have an opportunity to develop. We also support the National Citizen Service, which will be supported by volunteers as well. There is plenty going on. The Myplace scheme for developing youth clubs will also need volunteers to help with it. I hope that my noble friend will understand that this is an area where there is room for expansion.

My Lords, have the Government noted the way in which youth workers from churches, voluntary organisations and local authorities helped prevent riots in so many places? What plans do they have to ensure that funding for such youth services does not decline in future, thereby increasing the possibility of a repeat of the riots?

My Lords, as I indicated, we are supporting the creation of new youth centres through Myplace money. I emphasised that it was absolutely vital that people who were responsible for young people and had an effect on them should help them build resilience and character. That is a major part of the report to which the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, and my noble friend Lady Tyler referred. It demonstrates that even within the same school there are some children who can develop that character, leadership and resilience against actions such as the riots, and some who cannot. I accept the point of the right reverend Prelate about the need to have youth services. We are funding them.

Is the noble Baroness satisfied that maintained secondary schools—and all secondary schools—are doing as much as should be done to stimulate character and resilience in pupils, which they have the opportunity to do when the pupils are at school?

My Lords, the aim of the Department for Education is that all schools should create a framework to enable teachers to take control of a classroom. That includes taking control of the behaviour of young people and being able to influence how they grow up, against a framework and parameters. I mentioned the parenting classes that are being set up. The noble Lord, with all his experience, will understand that that is a great step forward for the future.