Wednesday 12 September 2018
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, if there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.
My Lords, in 2017, on any one night, there were around 4,700 people sleeping rough in the United Kingdom. This figure was up 167% from 2010. On average, one homeless person every fortnight died on the streets. Most of those deaths went unnoticed—perhaps the one exception was the man who died just outside the Palace of Westminster, in Westminster Tube station. That, of course, hit the headlines, but the rest of the time those absolutely shocking figures are not talked about.
If we see homeless people, we might give money, walk on by or cross the road, feeling slightly embarrassed. Very rarely do we stop and engage with people who are homeless. I am of course speaking personally—other members of the Committee may feel very differently, but most people tend not to be sure what to do or how to respond. In particular, given the parallel and related but separate issue of begging, which has also been on the increase, there is sometimes the sense that we are not quite sure how to respond. When somebody says, “I need 20 quid for a hostel; I need X and Y”, if you engage them in conversation you may find that that person has not necessarily been in contact with any of the homeless services which could say, “We can provide you with accommodation; you don’t need the £20 you are claiming to need”.
In a country like the United Kingdom, with the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, the fact that thousands of people are sleeping rough is simply a scandal. It is not acceptable.
For years we have talked about homelessness as a policy issue in the context of needing more housing and needing more affordable housing. It was in that context that back in February, I tabled a Question for Short Debate as I had failed to secure a Topical Question in the ballot. Over the summer, the Government, in their wisdom, put forward their rough sleeping strategy. I suspect that the Minister thought that this was a debate we no longer need to have as the Government have their rough sleeping strategy and have put forward a whole set of policies. Clearly, the strategy is very welcome; it covers many of the multiagency issues that I was thinking about when I tabled a Question for Short Debate. But it seems sensible not to say, “Let’s not bother to have the debate” but rather to take this opportunity to look at what the Government are proposing and have at least a first run-through of the strategy. I am delighted that several noble Lords put their names forward without any prompting. They all have far more expertise in dealing with homeless and housing than I have.
I am proposing not to take the whole 10 minutes allocated to me—that might allow for a little more discussion in a very pressed debate. If people are homeless, by definition that means they do not have shelter or a roof over their head. However, that is not the main problem, because we simply say that there is a solution for that: we can build more houses and create more affordable property. Oh that it were so simple.
This is where I put my first challenge to the Minister. The strategy aims to halve homelessness by the end of this Parliament, which is understood to be 2022, but it could be sooner if there were to be a snap general election—the Minister might like to think about that. In particular, is the aim of eradicating homelessness and rough sleeping by 2027, while a fantastic ambition, feasible? It is clearly possible to say that we will create enough housing for everyone, but that seems to ignore the causes of homelessness, which are not just housing supply and demand but include a whole set of individual and social issues that need rather more attention.
Someone might become homeless because they have not been able to pay the rent. They might have become unemployed and have not been able to work their way through the benefits system, which has always been complicated, but it becomes even more so with universal credit. For somebody who is not functionally literate or numerate and certainly not IT-savvy, the process of applying online becomes very difficult. That is an issue for somebody who might suddenly find themselves in the position of losing their home, perhaps because they have lost their job—they might have been on a zero-hours contract, lacked an effective way of bringing money in and could not work their way through the benefits system. That becomes even harder for somebody who is already homeless. If they navigate their way through the system they might find their way to St Mungo’s, MEAM—Making Every Adult Matter—or one of the other charities that can help them, but if they do not, how do they navigate their way through the benefits system? It would be extremely helpful if the Minister were to tell us that.
The benefits system does not necessarily cause homelessness, but may make it difficult for people to find their way back into a home. There are many other factors, however: marital breakdown, domestic abuse and violence, and alcohol or drug addiction can all cause people to lose their home. The problems may be temporary or more long-term, but very often they interact with each other. This is one reason why multiagency solutions are so important. Drug and alcohol dependency might lead to people losing their accommodation, or to marital breakdown. Once you have lost that accommodation and find yourself on the street, you may not necessarily find a hostel place, because many have provisions that say, “If you are drinking or taking drugs, you are not welcome here”. Mechanisms for dealing with substance abuse need to be thought through alongside access to hostel and other accommodation.
Another issue that is frequently picked up, alongside substance abuse, is mental health. Again, the number of people with mental health problems sleeping on the streets has increased. The question here is how to deal with people who need medication but are not necessarily able to access doctors. If you do not have an address, how will you get the appropriate medical care? It is bad enough when you have a physical problem, but at least in that case you might be able to present yourself to a doctor and work your way through the system. An untreated mental health problem might become much worse. When that interacts with drugs or alcohol there needs to be not just someone who can offer you a bed for the night, but people who can offer other provisions. Currently, it is the charities that can do that. Some local authorities have multiagency responses. The Government’s rough sleeping strategy appears to be an excellent way forward and to offer new money. In places the strategy says, very clearly, “£5 million of new money”. It also talks about £1.2 billion to deal with homelessness, which I assume means new houses. How much of the budget mentioned in the rough sleeping strategy is actually new money and when that money comes from the NHS—the Government are saying that £30 million will come from it—is the NHS signed up to that?
I realise that I am going to take my full 10 minutes, so I apologise to other noble Lords. How much of the money is new and to what extent have other departments bought into the process? The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, who is an excellent Minister, speaks on behalf of housing, communities and local government, but as the LGA has suggested, the strategy also needs to be adopted by justice, health and social care, the Home Office, the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions. Can the Minister speak on behalf of all of those departments and, if he cannot do so, can he speak to them and undertake to come back and tell us whether they have all bought into the rough sleeping strategy? That is essential to put in place the multiagency solutions that are needed.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, for securing this debate. I will focus on women’s homelessness and the role that domestic abuse plays in it. About 700 women are sleeping rough at any one time, while 13,000 annually go to a refuge and 36,000 single women with children are in temporary accommodation—almost half of all those who are housed in that way. I also thank the women who over many years have shared their stories with me. It will not surprise noble Lords to learn that those stories are dominated by women’s experience of trauma and abuse. It is trauma from childhood and domestic abuse which has left some women with mental health and substance misuse problems, which then leads to their homelessness. Meeting those needs requires a great deal of multiagency work.
For example, the Green Room, a specialist women’s housing project here in London, last year worked with 18 different agencies to meet the needs of the women they support. Homeless women need good provision, good policies and good attitudes from those they encounter. Good provision starts with choice—giving homeless women options that support all their needs. The Mapping the Maze report from the charities AVA and Agenda showed that only one-third of areas in England offer more than refuge accommodation as a form of specialist accommodation for women. Good provision would be simple to access and sensitive to the trauma that women experience. It would combine dedicated support and co-ordination of the multiagency partners. With that in mind, I warmly welcome the introduction of the navigators in the rough sleeping strategy and the intention to pilot new approaches for homeless women. I hope very much that that will include housing provision first for women. Noble Lords will have seen the results of the Threshold housing project in Manchester, which works with women with histories of offending, 80% of whom still had a secured tenancy at the end of two years.
Good policy would mean alignment between this policy area and others, as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, mentioned. Recently I spoke to a practitioner who works for the charity Pause, which works with women who have had multiple children removed from them into care. She told me the story of a woman whose child was removed. She then suffered the bedroom tax because of the extra room. Her benefits were reduced and she ended up homeless. That is far from the spirit of the policy that my noble friend the Minister has worked so hard to deliver. Good attitudes would see staff across all agencies recognising and responding to domestic abuse at an early stage to avoid homelessness. This is set out clearly in the standards set out by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance. A recent report from Women’s Aid, Nowhere to Turn, highlighted that more than 50% of women in its survey who approached a local housing team were prevented making a valid homelessness application.
I finish by saying that if we really want to move the dial on the number of women who are homeless—and my sense is that in your Lordships’ House that is very much the case—we have to challenge the assumption that it is always the woman with her children who need to move for their safety. Research from SafeLives, where I was chief executive, shows that almost 40% of women needing housing support had to move, compared with 3% of their partners, who were evicted. That is more than 10 times as many women who had to move, with all the disruption that brings to them and their children. This is 2018, not 1975. I hope my noble friend the Minister will consider these points, both as this policy develops and in the upcoming domestic violence Bill.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, on securing this timely debate. The seventh annual report of the independent homelessness monitor shows starkly the huge increase in rough sleeper numbers, up 169% since 2010. It also shows that the vast bulk of the increase in statutory homelessness arises from a quadrupling of numbers ejected from the private rented sector, where the evidence suggests that reforms in local housing allowance are the main cause.
Jean Templeton, CEO of St Basil’s, a housing association which addresses youth homelessness, says that LHA levels,
“don’t come anywhere near the levels of rent expected in the private rented sector”.
I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation, the voice of housing associations in England. Our members provide over 2.6 million homes for around 6 million people. Housing associations have always played a key role in supporting and housing vulnerable and homeless people. They support individuals at every potential crisis point, both preventing homelessness and supporting those who have experienced it. The National Housing Federation has been working with our members and with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to explore how we can contribute to the successful implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, and how associations can collaborate with their local authorities on the duty to refer households at risk of becoming homeless. One awful element of this is that we have 120,000 children living in temporary accommodation, often a long way from family, friends, and support networks. When Ken Loach made “Cathy Come Home”, there were 60,000 children in temporary accommodation—half the current number. That number had reduced substantially over the years, but has grown hugely since 2010.
The Government’s strategy document is an important first step in tackling rough sleeping, but it is essential that the root causes of homelessness are addressed, including through the provision of genuinely affordable homes. NHF research shows that we need 90,000 new social rent homes a year, yet the strategy will provide only another 879 bed spaces, through the reannounced Move On Fund. Nor does the strategy really address the impact of welfare reform on the prevention and recovery of homelessness. The cumulative impact of benefit changes, such as the freezing of working age benefits, the spare room subsidy, and the design of universal credit, have made life harder for tenants and for social housing providers. To see an end to homelessness, the social security system must create a more secure environment for tenants and for social landlords.
Some welcome changes have been made: the recently announced review on housing-related support is an encouraging move towards a more joined-up approach on supported housing. The removal of the LHA cap for social housing, rent certainty for social housing providers, and an additional £2 billion for affordable homes, will all help. But the £2 billion will deliver only around 25,000 homes for social rent over the next three years, less than 10% of the social rented homes needed each year. Does the Minister agree that to build the genuinely affordable homes the country needs, we need to see muscular action on the availability of affordable land, including prioritising the sale of public land for social housing, finding ways to reduce the cost of private land, and capturing land value uplift for community benefit?
I was pleased to see the announcement of a feasibility study for a model to assess the effect of government intervention on homelessness. Can the Minister tell us when that feasibility study will take place? My hope is that it will generate a vigorous evaluation of the reasons for the astonishing rise in homelessness and the human misery that goes with it, which we can all see with our own eyes on our streets.
My Lords, poignant points have already been made. Homelessness is indeed a personal disaster for those whom it affects, but it is also a national tragedy and is one of the most visible signs of the nation’s housing crisis. I give credit to the Government for recent initiatives such as the rough sleeping strategy and the Homelessness Reduction Act but want to use my brief minutes to outline areas where I believe that, despite their genuine intentions, there is still work to be done.
From my time as mayor of a local authority and patron of a homeless charity—New Hope, Watford—it is apparent to me that two main factors exacerbate the problem of homelessness and remain the biggest barriers to the Government meeting their laudable aim to end rough sleeping by 2027. They are the impact of the frozen local housing allowance and associated welfare issues and the lack of appropriate social housing—in particular, supported housing. Were those two variables to change positively, it would result in fewer people reaching crisis point and becoming homeless.
Although the picture is different in different parts of the country, in high-cost areas, the local housing allowance cap means that even full housing benefit does not cover the rent—in some cases, nowhere near—and we know that eviction from the private rented sector is still the main cause of families presenting as homeless. It also makes private renting unaffordable ever for many low-income households.
The combination of this and the massive reduction in social housing means that councils cannot move these families on, and the average stay in temporary accommodation is increasing. This means that other families have to go into hostels or B&B accommodation, or even move out of area, at additional cost to the council and emotional and social cost for the families.
It is not just homes at social rent levels that are needed. That would indeed help families in temporary accommodation, but for rough sleepers, the right kind of accommodation with specialist support is much needed but in short supply. At New Hope, Watford, two-thirds of our service users have mental health issues. My experience has shown that there is simply not enough support for people with serious mental health and addiction issues.
Councils and the voluntary sector working together know what works and can get it right. We received government funding in 2016 to create an intervention team working with those in greatest need to address the issues raised by my noble friend Lady Smith. It is in the nature of how the Government fund such schemes that our number one problem is that the funding runs out in 2019 and there is the real prospect that the team will have to be disbanded. Bids are already going in to every available source to continue this proven work. Does it have to be this way?
Finally, the Homelessness Reduction Act has on the whole been a good thing. It has forced councils to put a stronger focus on prevention—although, to be fair, the best councils were already doing that. Councils have embraced this new role: we all want to work together to reduce homelessness. But it costs, largely in the number of staff needed to do the up-front intervention work. My authority received £35,000 from the Government for this work, but that does not even cover the costs, including on-costs, of one additional member of staff, and at the moment we employ four.
The LGA is asking that in the Government’s funding review, they should commit to address any shortfalls. This will ensure that the legislation is successful across all areas of the country. I sincerely hope that this happens.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, for initiating this important debate. I declare my interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and a member of an advisory board of the charity Crisis, which does great work to end homelessness.
Homelessness is not only the source of profound misery for those who suffer its consequences but a huge burden on society as a whole. A freedom of information request last month by Inside Housing magazine revealed that around £1 billion was spent last year just on the cost of providing temporary accommodation, mostly in low-grade bed-and-breakfast hotels and poor-quality private rented flats. But direct expenditure on temporary accommodation is a relatively small part of the total spending that homelessness triggers: for health and social care, for example, since ill-health and homelessness go hand in hand, and for the criminal justice system, since those leaving prison with nowhere to go are very likely to reoffend.
I welcome the range of measures that the Government are taking to address this social evil, including their new rough sleeping strategy, their decision to drop potentially disastrous plans for funding specialist supported housing, their overarching objective of increasing the supply of new homes and the renewed interest in social rented housing provision. It is good to see progress, too, in supporting the use of Housing First, which gets people who are long-term homeless and have complex needs off the streets and into a decent home where real help can be offered.
The best approach to homelessness is to prevent it in the first place. I had the privilege of taking the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 through your Lordships’ House. In the medium to longer term, the preventive measures introduced by the Act will reduce homelessness and save money, for sure. But will the resources currently available be insufficient to get hard-pressed local authorities up and running on this agenda? A comment on this from the Minister would be very welcome.
The real interdepartmental problem, as noted by other noble Lords, is the undermining of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s good intentions by the Department for Work and Pensions. The latter’s cuts to help with housing costs are now a direct cause of the growth in homelessness—in particular, its freezing of rental support, or local housing allowances, while rents are rising leads to not only debt arrears and evictions but, on a much wider scale, to landlords ending tenancies for all those who depend on housing benefit help, replacing such tenants with those who can pay the full market rent. I heard on Monday from the National Landlords Association that 91% of the landlords it surveyed in London will not let to anyone on housing benefit, and the NLA’s prediction is that that number is set to get worse. Since there is a chronic shortage of social housing, this simply leaves the poorest with nowhere to go. Sadly, a new report from the Chartered Institute of Housing shows that the Government’s targeted affordability funding, which I had hoped would bridge the rental gap, covers only a few areas and in these places covers only 10% to 30% of the shortfall between the housing benefit and the market rent.
In conclusion, I endorse the plea from the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for multiagency interdepartmental action on homelessness. I urge the Government, in particular the MHCLG, to engage with the DWP since it is fuelling the rise in homelessness.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for introducing this important and timely debate. Almost wherever I go in the country, I see someone living on the streets. This of course is only the visible sign of homelessness compared with those people, families and children, who are living in temporary or substandard accommodation, often with no end in sight.
In the short time we have, I wish to make only a few brief points. Can the Minister tell us whether the department might look again at standardising the yearly count of rough sleepers? I was pleased to see that all councils took part in the 2017 count but this has not always been the case. Also, while some councils have teams which go out and physically count, others estimate their numbers. I believe that some standardisation in method would be the right decision, and give the right direction, to achieve a better understanding of the scale of this problem.
Turning to housing, we know that the lack of appropriate housing is a central issue. I am pleased that the Government are making homebuilding one of their highest priorities, investing £9 billion in affordable housing and £1 billion in flexible funding to help enterprising councils which wish to borrow more in order to build more. There has been £50 million made available to the Move On Fund for new homes outside of London, £19 million of new funding for supported lettings, £28 million for Housing First pilot schemes and £135 million from dormant accounts to support home financing innovations, to name but a few initiatives. More than 1 million new homes have entered the housing stock since 2010 and last year we had the biggest overall increase in housing supply in almost a decade.
In spite of this, Crisis has identified a “sharp” rise in the number made homeless from the private rental sector, from 11% in 2009-10 to 31% in 2015-16. Private landlords are reluctant to lease to people in receipt of benefits or people deemed homeless. What work is the department doing with the private sector to encourage more stability in their leasing and to encourage them to provide more leases to people who have been, or would be, homeless?
Private businesses are beginning to grasp the benefits of helping people who are homeless. I must declare an interest in the hospitality sector, as set out in the register, since one of the initiatives that is heavily involved in is area is the Only a Pavement Away campaign, which assists homeless people into hospitality careers. The charity is currently running trials with a number of pub and bar operators to coach and guide the homeless and more vulnerable in our society through their transition into the world of work. Full training, together with a network of support from companies, underpinned by a 12-month post-engagement support package, ensures that each individual has the best chance of success in turning their life around and boosting their self-worth and self-esteem.
There are many similar initiatives created by businesses without any government funding or encouragement at all. They have done this of their own volition and they should be applauded. Support into training and employment is such an important part of a homeless person securing independence and eradicating his or her homelessness for themselves for the long term. Could the Minister tell us how his department is working with other agencies and stakeholders to encourage them to employ and train people who are homeless?
Finally, does the Minister think more can be done to help people who have no fixed address to have better access to bank accounts? I know that there is an official recommendation from the Government to financial institutions that they can be more lenient with their identification requirements in this scenario, but is this happening in practice and is there more that can be done to promote this practice more widely?
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Smith of Newnham for raising this all-important debate. As rehearsed by other speakers, whatever the technical wording deployed by the Government about homelessness, rough sleeping is rising, by 15% in the last year alone. To talk about the peak in statutory homelessness is a fig-leaf that has frankly reached its autumnal days, as the UK Statistics Authority has made clear. While homelessness is significant and important, I hope that the Minister will share his responses on the undisputed crisis at hand, with people sleeping rough on the streets of our apparently advanced nation, and how agencies across the public and voluntary sectors in particular can be supported to end this.
Mental health, substance abuse, sexual abuse, immigration, leaving care and leaving prison are a few of the issues faced by agencies working to help people get off the streets. When I visited the St Mungo’s excellent facility in Shepherd’s Bush, the complexity of need was most striking. Some 73% of individuals it surveyed had a mental health need, 55% had substance abuse and 44% had physical health problems. That is why the rough sleeping strategy and the Homelessness Reduction Act are both welcome steps, but to end rough sleeping the Government need to go further and faster. For example, speed is required to support vulnerable groups such as victims of domestic violence. Will the Minister share any of the Government’s plans to provide swifter, more specific emergency accommodation and move on options for those victims?
Many agencies are already working tirelessly to provide support for rough sleepers. I will mention one example run by the charity Depaul. Its Nightstop scheme is highly innovative and involves volunteers across the country. It provides a same-night emergency accommodation service, linking young people in crisis with trained volunteer hosts who put them up in their own home, give them a hot meal and help them to wash their clothes. In 2017, 1,388 young people were placed with a host. Restful sleep, a restored sense of hope and a feeling of safety are all things that we take for granted, but which young people say they particularly gained from this service. Evaluation of the project suggests that, if Nightstop can help an individual avoid depression, then it can claim credit for resource savings of £530 per year for the NHS and £50 per year for local authorities, and a social value to the young person of more than £1,700. Will the Minister support extending these kinds of volunteer schemes.
This October, I will be doing the annual Depaul sleepout. How do people get up after a night on a pavement and then go to work? As we know, thanks to a recent Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme, many rough sleepers are now doing that. I do not know about the rest of your Lordships, but that is beyond my understanding. One night of rough sleeping every year for Depaul is a mere glimpse into the stress of that existence.
Finally, I commend to the Minister the work that Homeless Link and others in the Making Every Adult Matter coalition are doing to co-ordinate front-line organisations. Any noble Lord who has participated in outreach knows just how important that initial contact is and also how different every single person can be. Providing a package around an individual and understanding their immediate need, therefore helping them to take more control, is critical to ensuring that rough sleeping is never ever accepted or normal on our streets.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, was quite right to put “multi-agency solutions” in the title of this debate. I want to identify two groups that are much at risk of becoming homeless and for which central government has a responsibility. The armed services should check that those leaving them have sustainable accommodation when they come to the end of their service contracts. The risk in these cases is greater because they have been provided, sometimes for many years, with military quarters and have thus become unable or unused to coping with civilian life.
Prisoners may also become institutionalised by the time spent in custody. They may have little or no savings or may have been abandoned by their spouses and families. With 83,000 people in prison now, many are therefore discharged every single year. Co-operation by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice is therefore essential. Agreement in principle to care for those leaving the forces or prisons will not be enough in itself. It will be essential for instructions to be passed down to individual military units and to the governors of particular prisons.
I hope that I have shown that responsibility for preventing rough sleeping and homelessness is not exclusive to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It is yet another area where joined-up government is greatly needed. Health was mentioned, I think by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender. It will be essential to have the full support of voluntary organisations and charities that care for those from the services, for prisoners and for the families of both. The Cabinet Office has a major role to play in ensuring that this co-ordination and co-operation between departments takes place.
My Lords, I remind your Lordships that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association, to which I should add that I am a patron of Street Pastors in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which does some excellent work in supporting homeless people in Newcastle and in Tyneside more broadly. I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, for enabling us to have this debate. Many varied and important points have been raised and I hope they will all prove helpful to the Minister.
I want first to acknowledge that the Government are making efforts to reduce homelessness, both rough sleeping and the use of temporary accommodation. This is essential because the problem has got significantly worse. Indeed, it is evident from the contributions of those who have spoken in this debate that, so far, they are not sufficient.
I have a few specific points. One relates to the problems of resettlement of offenders—that is, prison leavers. The Government should look closely at how public services are integrated at a local level. Clearly, this has to be led by local government, given its central responsibility under the Homelessness Reduction Act and given the levers—some financial—that it has. I associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Best, about the role of the Department for Work and Pensions, but it goes wider than that; the Ministry of Justice also has a role in the preparation of prisoners to leave prison. It is clear to me that too many prisoners are being permitted to leave prison with no firm place to go; a number then end up sleeping rough. In addition, the National Health Service is to be responsible for doing more, particularly in relation to mental health issues. I hope that some of the pilots due to take place will produce swift outcomes. Will the Minister tell us how quickly he is expecting these pilots to produce clear outcomes?
On the Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping, I understand there is to be a review by 2020, but I am not clear whether it will simply reach a conclusion on what should happen or whether there will be an implementation. I very much hope for the latter.
All of us are aware of the excellent report, Everybody In, published by Crisis a few weeks ago. It demonstrate that over 20 years, or a little more, for the expenditure of £19.3 billion, benefits of £53.9 billion will accrue. I understand those figures were produced and verified by PricewaterhouseCoopers. I hope the Government will look closely at the Crisis report; I think it is the best report on homelessness policy we have had in recent times and a huge help.
On Housing First, I noted that the Minister’s letter to us of 5 September referred to it as being “internationally proven”. I am sure that is correct, but I hope we will consider those people receiving Housing First support who might have been better off with the support given 24/7 in a hostel. We need to be careful; Housing First might not necessarily be right for everybody.
I hope that the Minister will look carefully at the availability of resourcing and at new burdens being imposed on local government. Finally, I understand there will be a feasibility study to develop a model for assessing the effects of government interventions on homelessness, but I am not sure when this will take place.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, on securing this short debate, as other noble Lords have done. I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak. I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I will be unable to respond to individual points raised in the debate, due to time restrictions, but I agree wholeheartedly with the points raised by all noble Lords this afternoon.
We have debated homelessness on many occasions—its causes and the devastating effect it has on people’s lives. It is, as other noble Lords have said, a national disgrace that tonight, in one of the richest countries in the world, people will be sleeping on the streets only a few steps from this palace.
Like other noble Lords I welcome the rough sleeping strategy, which aims to eliminate it, although it is disappointing that the target for this to happen is 2027. The Government, and the policies that they have pursued, have made the problem so much worse over the past eight years. We have seen a 102% increase in rough sleeping and a 44% increase in homeless households—statistics from the department of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. Despite well-meaning aspirations to tackle this problem, decisions taken on matters such as welfare reform, benefit reform, the supply of social housing and the freezing of local housing allowance, have all contributed to making the problem so much worse, as the figures from Minister’s own department illustrate.
Another example is the Homelessness Reduction Act. It is a good piece of legislation and a positive step in addressing homelessness by helping individuals to address the issues, providing them with accommodation and preventing them becoming homeless in the first place. It is, however, completely undermined by the very Government who supported it and failed to provide the funding that local government needs to make it work properly. Local government has more duties and more requirements, but not the resources to deliver them.
We have a serious problem with housing at every point. I think that many in the Government see that, but for whatever reason they will just not take the simple measures that would make a real difference. Things could be done very quickly, such as properly funding the Homelessness Reduction Act, lifting the borrowing cap and allowing councils to retain 100% of the proceeds from right-to-buy sales. These would all make a positive difference, but the Government will not consider them. Until they do, I fear that we will debate these issues again and again, and, despite the good intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, the Government will not make the positive difference that they want to achieve.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, for bringing this debate forward. It is timely, and I can reassure her that I am not one of those who thought it inappropriate to have a debate on this very important issue. There are many aspects to it, as we have just heard from a very expert group of Peers, and I pay tribute to the expertise of the Committee. We have heard, for example, from the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, of the National Housing Federation, the noble Lord, Lord Best, of Crisis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, formerly of Shelter. They have great expertise, and other noble Lords have talked about many other dimensions of this issue, which has contributed to a first-class debate.
Noble Lords all know how damaging homelessness and rough sleeping are. It is a complex issue, as noble Lords have demonstrated. With the greatest respect to my friend and colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, it is not just about the money, although that is undeniably important; it is much more complex, as we all know.
Children who frequently move as a result of homelessness tend to have lower educational attainment. Homeless people are more likely to have poor physical and mental health. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, referred to deaths; there are too many deaths—one is of course too many. Other people’s lives are cut short because of bad health experiences while homeless. It is a disgrace—there is no doubt of that—and it is a problem for us.
My noble friend Lord Smith asked about the statistics. The daily count is 4,751. We are looking at these statistics to see if this is the best way of assessing the number of rough sleepers. It has been done this way, I think, for some time and may need looking at—it may not be the best way of determining the figure. Neither is this problem, as I realise while going up and down the country, just about our big cities—it also affects many small towns. It is a serious issue that we all have an obligation to look at.
As noble Lords have mentioned, we have committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027. We have heard the suggestion that this is highly ambitious and, from other noble Lords, perhaps not ambitious enough. I think the truth is that it is ambitious to eliminate it completely by 2027, because this is so complex. But we have a duty to make sure that it falls dramatically over that period because it is a judgment on a mature, developed society such as ours that this is so apparent and real a problem.
To deal with this problem, we are working with local authorities, public sector partners and our great voluntary sector—and with the faith sector, which deserves a mention too for what it has done. I have been up and down the country to see some of what it has done. Together with the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for example, I went to Sheffield Cathedral and I pay tribute to what is being done there in helping to challenge homelessness and address some of the problems.
Mention has also been made of the recent legislation, the Homelessness Reduction Act, which is going to make a great difference. I pay tribute to the work done by the noble Lord, Lord Best, in piloting it through our House and to all, because it had cross-party support. We therefore all have a share in ensuring that it is effective. Much of that Act came into force in April, relatively recently, and some it comes into force on 1 October, which is just around the corner. It aims to ensure that more people get the support they need to prevent them becoming homeless in the first place. I will say a bit more about that in just a while, if I can.
As has been said, we are spending more than £1.2 billion over the spending review period. If I may, I will write to noble Lords who have participated in the debate to show our breakdown of that and leave a copy of my response in the Library. The noble Baroness asked about the specific fund for the initiative on rough sleeping. It has £100 million, some of which is new money, some from other departments and some from other budgets in our department. If I may, I will set all that out in the letter when I send it round to noble Lords and pick up any points that I miss, given the paucity of time and the fact that I am not over all the detail of some of the more detailed questions asked.
Multiagency working matters; that is absolutely right and it is what we seek to do. We have an ambitious agenda, which certainly involves other departments. I want to come on to that but, as I have said, it is not just about the money. We can be almost certain that if we get this right, it will actually save money. That is not what it is about but it is estimated that rough sleepers cost public services on average three to four times more than an average adult. Our prime motivation should not be to save the Government money but to ensure that in a civilised society, the people in our own country get the help that they need. Nevertheless, it is important to note that over time, if properly executed, this should save money.
These costs do not just fall on local authorities or government; they fall on a whole range of public services. There is a massive contribution, too, from our voluntary sector. Noble Lords have referred to that much during the debate and I will say more about it later. I mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Bird, who is not in his place at the moment but has done an immense amount in this area. We should acknowledge that as well.
We need a joined-up strategic approach and our strategy certainly aims to have that. I am delighted that we are able to deploy the policy. Issues have been mentioned but, for example, there is a commitment from the Department of Health and Social Care, which includes up to £2 million towards health funding to test models of community-based provision, designed to help people who are sleeping rough to access health and support services. Particular mention was made of mental health services; I absolutely agree and accept that point.
The noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Shipley, referred to the Ministry of Justice, which has also made its commitment. By speaking to people who are sleeping rough and selling the Big Issue, you become very aware of how many of them have come out of the secure environments of the forces or prison. That is totally true. We have also therefore worked with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence on policies to ensure that there is early reference of these issues. This concentrates on one of the key themes of the policy: prevention, which is obviously the most desirable point, intervention, and recovery. I shall deal with the prevention point in a minute.
We are investing £3.2 million through the Ministry of Justice to launch pilots in a small number of resettlement prisons in England to support offenders identified as being at risk of rough sleeping when they come out of prison. Independently, we need to do much more about prisoners about to be released from prison to help them into work, and so on. Some of our prisons do great work. For example, I have been to Cardiff Prison—as a visitor, I hasten to add—to see some of the work done there. It is first class. Other prisons do similar work.
Our approach reflects the fact that many people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness have varied support needs. The Government have committed to £3.2 million funding in 47 areas to employ specialist personal advisers who will provide intensive support for the most at-risk care leavers. The aim is to have this wraparound, personalised service, drawing in large part from experience in Finland, where it has worked very successfully, personalising it to the individual, such that we have an advisory committee with a representative from Finland to advise us on how it has worked successfully there. It is worth saying that the problem is not unique to the United Kingdom: I suppose that we should take some comfort from that. The one country that seems to have cracked it and done great things is Finland, so there is stuff to learn.
As part of our rough sleeping initiative, on which we are spending £30 million this year and £45 million in 2019-20, our team of expert rough sleeping practitioners, drawn from across Whitehall and the sector, has been working proactively with local areas to develop bespoke plans to help people sleeping rough. As I said, that personalised service is important. To give an example of which the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, may well be aware, in Southwark, the initiative has provided £615,000 funding this year, part of which will go towards facilitating partnerships between the outreach team, health services and the police force. This will shorten the time individuals spend on the streets and ensure they can access health care.
I turn to the subject of domestic abuse, and pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lady Barran for the work that she has done and continues to do. She mentioned the Green Room in Westminster, which I had the privilege of visiting relatively recently, a safe space for some of London’s most vulnerable female rough sleepers who are currently at risk of or have historically experienced violence. I pay tribute to what is done on domestic abuse in the voluntary and public sectors. There is awesome and unwavering commitment from the people who work there. As the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, said, they need to be fleet of foot and have the necessary support. We are totally committed to the domestic abuse legislation that will be coming forward, and the Prime Minister has taken a particular interest in it and is driving it forward.
My noble friend Lady Barran and others mentioned navigators, who are crucial to the policy, working with people to ensure that we take this forward. As I said, the benefits of the personal approach are clear. There are some examples of where it has worked very well. In Sheffield city centre, I came across the example of a woman who had taken advantage of it and been supported by an enhanced support worker to give her the personal support that she needs. She is an older person, but the resettlement support she has received has got her back on the housing ladder again. That is important.
To mention social housing and affordable housing very quickly, it is crucial. This is not just about personal care, we must ensure that we have the housing in place. The social housing Green Paper is out for consultation, and we will obviously keep a close eye on it. We need to ensure that the Homelessness Reduction Act is delivering. It is very early days and it is not all in place yet.
I will turn to one or two other things that I wanted to say, particularly to reference some of the great work done by our voluntary organisations. Mention was made of Shelter, St Mungo’s—I had the opportunity to visit its Holborn branch; I think the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, mentioned it—MEAM and its coalition, New Hope Watford, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, and the Newcastle Street Pastors, which I know that the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, is closely involved with. I also saw the great work that it does when I was there.
This has been a great debate. I will write to noble Lords to pick up the specific points. There is much to be done, but I thank noble Lords for the general support they have given to thrust of what the Government are doing and I recognise that we certainly cannot be complacent.
My Lords, I realise that people were raising issues about private rental property. I have a house that I let out in Cambridge. It might be that I will need to look at the clause on housing benefit. That house is in the register of interests, but I thought, in the interest of completeness, that I had better say something about it. I thank everybody who participated.
Museums and Galleries
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this afternoon’s debate. As grant in aid for museums has reduced, museums have been encouraged to generate ever more revenues themselves. They have been extremely successful, raising more from commercial activities and donors than ever before, but there is a tension between a museum’s need to generate revenue and the performance of its public mission. There is one aspect of commercialisation that many say has gone too far, namely the fees charged to reproduce images of publicly owned artworks. Briefly, this is the practice whereby museums charge publishers, scholars and occasionally tea-towel makers—hold that thought for now—for a licence to reproduce images of artworks in their collection. Fees can range from £20 for an academic lecture to well over £200 per image for a book. These include images of artworks that are themselves out of copyright—the category that I most want to address.
The question is simple: in a digital age, should images in our public collections be restricted so that museums can earn money from them, or should that be shared as widely as possible as a means of expanding knowledge, stimulating our creative industries and engaging new and more diverse audiences?
A key issue is how image fees affect education. They have even been blamed for the reluctance of exam boards to offer an art history A-level. The textbooks are expensive to publish, thanks to image fees. A group of leading British art historians has said that image fees,
“pose a serious threat to art history”,
and has called for them to be abolished. Academic art history books can incur fees of many thousands of pounds, the net effect of which is to severely inhibit the publication of new scholarship. You might even say that image fees act as a tax on scholarship. Many museums say that they supply images for free for academic or non-commercial use, but they differ in how they define “non-commercial” and they tend not to be generous or realistic. The British Museum defines,
“anything that is in itself charged for, including textbooks and academic books”,
as a commercial publication.
It is true that some in the museum sector have been exploring a new approach to this issue. When the National Museum Directors’ Council issued a report on image fees in 2015, it was aptly named Striking the Balance; the balance being between supporting education and raising money. But here we must ask whether image fees do actually raise money for museums. The Striking the Balance report said that it was,
“difficult to identify detailed information about the commercial return”,
from licensing because of,
“a common reluctance to report relatively low direct revenues, often attributable to a fear that management will perceive the activity as not worth it (and hence that it may place jobs at risk)”.
Surprisingly, some institutions cannot say whether image licensing is actually profitable. For example, the Tate knows how much revenue image fees generate overall, but it does not know all the costs associated with raising that revenue and so cannot say whether it turns a profit. Selling images is expensive for museums. In 2017-18, the V&A’s Word and Image Department spent more than £200,000 on salaries and overheads. It is expensive for smaller collections too. The Government Art Collection spends some £7,000 annually selling image licences, but has made a profit of just £180 in the last five years. For some institutions, licensing is profitable. In 2016-17, licensing at the National Portrait Gallery contributed £114,000 to its overall budget of just over £20 million, although as a source of income it is declining.
The question must be whether museums are losing out from not sharing images of their collections as widely as possible either online, in print or even on screen by embracing what is known in the museum world as “open access”. In order to help sell images, British museums restrict the quality of the images available for the public to see on their websites. Those who are unable to visit museums in person, whether through lack of means or physical ability, have a less enriching experience. Furthermore, evidence is beginning to show that the more people see of a collection, the more they want to engage with it, and eventually spend their money in the museum that houses it. The Striking the Balance report concluded:
“There is a growing body of evidence that open access to digital content ... drives value back to the existing business model or revenue streams of the institution”.
International museums from the Rijksmuseum to the National Gallery of Finland are increasingly reaching the same conclusion. They see open access as a way to help education and bring in new and more diverse audiences. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York found that one painting was viewed almost 3,000 times a month on its own website, but the same image on Wikipedia was viewed four times as often, and in 29 different languages.
Such is the international embrace of open access that there is a danger that Britain will be left behind. A website called Europeana makes available 11.5 million open-access images of artworks, but just four have been contributed by the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery. More collections have gone “open” in Uruguay than in the UK. If we do not act soon, people will simply engage with images of art from non-UK collections that are more accessible. The global information revolution places our great national museums at risk of global irrelevance—the longer they restrict the use of images, the greater the damage will be not only to themselves but even to our economy and to the prestige and visibility around the world of our culture and history. British museums have some of the finest collections in the world, but we need to let the world see our collections.
How long can our museums deny the logic of arguments for greater openness, simply on the grounds that, by closely policing the use of their images, they can eke out an ever shrinking revenue, which in many cases does not even cover costs? At some point, museums will have to stop trying to control how the public engage with their collections. Ultimately, for museums to justify their ongoing call on substantial public funds, they must recognise the new realities. Will the Minister therefore hold a round-table meeting with stakeholders to consider a new way forward?
My Lords, the noble Lord has certainly mounted a welcome challenge to the museum and gallery establishment. In commenting, I should just say that I am involved with the British Library through the Eccles Centre for American Studies. I was, as a matter of history, the chairman of the trustees at Kew, where we held over 200,000 botanical drawings. I have also been much involved over many years in the Bowes Museum in County Durham; it is, of course, not a national museum, so it does not come within the scope of this debate.
The key sentence in the noble Lord’s presentation related to the size of the fees charged to reproduce publicly owned artworks. It is a pretty narrow ground on its own but, narrow though it is, it is quite complex. The noble Lord referred to the fact that, on the internet, the resolution is perhaps not very high—high resolution can be quite a challenging matter. We will have all picked up postcards in museums and galleries and been disappointed with the colour and printing of those postcards. Indeed, getting the colour completely right can be pretty difficult. Something that somebody wants to reproduce may be in store or in a frail state; its provenance may be quite uncertain or its attribution not for sure. There may be other images of that work available and so the work that has to be put in to make sure that the job is done professionally can be quite extensive.
Attached to this assertion that fees are too high are criticisms of commercialisation and even of policies restricting access. These need to be seen in a wider context. Let me take the V&A. We have been talking about funding. The V&A gets a grant in aid from the DCMS. In 2010, it got £44 million; in the last full year reported, it got £39 million of grant. The £5 million difference, if adjusted for inflation, amounts to a cut of 28%. That is quite severe by any standards. The £39 million is in fact just over half the total unrestricted expenditure of the V&A, so it needs to raise £34 million to reach its total of £73 million—quite a formidable challenge.
Then there is the question of intervention in this narrow field. Museums are granted day-to-day independence—a Herbert Morrisonian concept reflecting the difference in publicly owned bodies between strategy and day-to-day, which still persists. In my view, that independence, allowing trustees and management to run these institutions as they think fit, is extremely important; indeed, given the variability of the institutions, it is essential. Any form of government intervention will therefore have to be thought about carefully.
The demands on museums, as the noble Lord said, are increasing. Gone are the days of Dr Ashmole when one could say, “You are lucky to see what I have gathered together; you’d never see it if I had not done so. Do come and look, and I’ll tell you what it means”. The world of education, the internet, social media and so on brings a much broader, wider need to be involved in museums. Museums are recognising this with workshops and seminars. Much more engagement is taking place. I am sure that, with the way the world is going, there will need to be a greater response to that engagement and the search for knowledge, as has been mentioned.
In today’s circumstances, museums and galleries have quite a lot to contend with. The people who run them are not natural capitalists. I do not think “profit” is a word they would recognise or ever use. Certainly, I have not heard any senior person in the museums trade talking about making profits. Indeed, each year is a scramble to cover expenditure from income. Look at the V&A; the surplus at the end of its £73 million was tiny—under half a million, or thereabouts. The management of these museums are thinking about recovery of costs and maintaining a high level of service. Of course, this costs money: skilled people doing skilled work incur costs. It is not just image reproduction one should be thinking about, but the whole raft of advice and dialogue on a much wider front, involving curators, archivists, conservators and management itself.
It seems to me entirely reasonable for museums to seek to recover costs, although not necessarily all costs. Again, I do not think that museum managers tend to think about that balance. It is often said that people do not value the things for which they are not asked to pay. Perhaps that is a bit of a cliché, but there could be reason in it. The question then becomes: what are reasonable costs and are we prepared to pay them? We might want to negotiate; many negotiations do take place. Indeed, as has been mentioned, some institutions are more generous than others. I remember at the Bowes, which is not a national museum, we had a request by Sir Alistair Horne about a photograph of a Napoleonic brass clock. We said: “Go on, take your own pictures and we will not charge you a fee”. Not everybody is charging fees to everybody else all the time. It must depend on the funding position, the flow of demands upon the institution and how institutions respond individually.
I do not see that there is much wrong with the present position. The plea for this rather vague concept of open access is about not much more than saying, “Will you please make these areas free of charge altogether?” That is probably what it comes down to, which does not seem an appropriate response to what is happening to museums and galleries.
These things should be left to find their own level. Each institution should have its own policy and pursue its relationship with the public in the light of its own circumstances, tackling things case by case. If somebody is displeased and wants to appeal against some charge that is being imposed they can always go to the trustees of these institutions, who would no doubt be very willing to hear the case and see what they think. I hope, therefore, that not much more is heard of what seems to me to be a small storm in an academic teacup.
My Lords, this is an important and timely subject for short debate. My interest in it, as chairman of the Royal Armouries Museum—one of our national museums—is in the register. While the title of this debate speaks of balancing public access and commercial reuse of digital content, I have an uncomfortable feeling—confirmed in the opening speech by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg—that it is really about tilting the balance towards the private and commercial sector and away from the ongoing benefit to the public sector.
I will explain my concerns from my experience. The Royal Armouries collection comprises a quantity of objects and images where the original work is indeed out of copyright, and others where copyright does not apply. However, the original work is not the same as a photograph of the original. Images out of copyright are not free for all to create but are facsimiles of objects that are expensive to care for and store in perpetuity. Significant financial investment is required in photography, digitisation processes and technology, and in highly qualified and skilled staff to produce, caption, catalogue, store digitally and share these images where appropriate.
Above and beyond the core level of service as a public museum, the Royal Armouries, along with many other national museums, strives to invest in the digitisation of collections to a professional standard. To support this important activity, the museum must make substantial regular investment in professional collections management software, within which images may be safely stored, catalogued and made accessible. The museum can then share good and usable-quality digital images of our collections with the general public for non-commercial use, free of charge. Doing so makes our museum more accessible while heeding the wider conservation needs. The Royal Armouries openly supports and encourages free photography of the collections for non-commercial personal use by visitors. This helps to disseminate and broaden the reach of the collection, for instance via sharing on social media, and thereby to excite people about arms and armour, which is our core objective.
It is well known—and has been alluded to—that some European and other overseas museums now offer certain collection images free of charge. However, in my view these institutions do not form a realistic comparator, since their generous funding models differ fundamentally from those used in UK museums, which survive within a much leaner funding model.
There is also the expectation that public funding will be significantly complemented by self-generated income created through intense commercial activity by the museums. Since 2008, grant in aid has reduced considerably, and I am not alone in believing that the ratio of self-generated commercial income to grant in aid will need to continue to increase to bridge the shortfall between museum running costs and grant in aid. Image sales and other licensing income will be an essential component of future income streams, helping to relieve the burden on the public purse.
Quite properly, the museum charges for commercial use of its images, in the manner of any commercial picture library where heavy investment has been made in developing the image stock and where the client buying the image will profit in some way from the use of the image—by charging for a book, a television programme, a tea-towel if you like, an advertising campaign, or another product, in which the image will appear and make their service more commercially appealing or profitable. I do not think it is right that a publicly funded body should make material available for commercial advantage and, in so doing, increase its reliance on the public purse. Importantly, controlling such commercial licensing also allows the Royal Armouries, in my case, to ensure appropriate regulation and the sensitive use of our images. It is vital to retain the right to protect the museum and its collections by placing images wisely within commercial associations or, in certain cases, by declining to do so. We do this in the best long-term interests of the museum’s brand, profile and reputation. From time to time circumstances arise where wholly inappropriate commercial associations have been suggested and which, had they been entered into, would surely have brought the Royal Armouries into disrepute and created a damaging public outcry.
Commercial intellectual property licensing can be and is directly measured as a contribution to the UK economy and I accept the value of IP generation in the UK and as an export internationally. However, I argue that the policy approach of the Royal Armouries provides a fair way to ensure wide public benefit from easy access to our collection while also ensuring that businesses can benefit from the appropriate commercial use of our images and at the same time help to support and offset the costs of producing and professionally archiving the images for public and other uses.
I hope that noble Lords will appreciate from this moderately lengthy explanation that the status quo is perfectly satisfactory from the point of view of the Royal Armouries museum and that the modest five-figure income stream that we derive is important to us, and one that we plan to expand, as we are in many other ways, to offer a better and more attractive service to the general public.
My Lords, the research I have done and listening to this debate suggest one key word, and I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, got there first: reasonableness. What is it reasonable to suggest you are going to get out of a nationally owned archive when people want to access it for certain functions? Where does the trade-off come in? I believe that the initial worry was about academic research in terms of where it starts and where it stops. If you write a textbook, you expect to sell thousands of copies of it, so it is clear that it is not a totally academic exercise. A reference book that is distributed to 100 libraries and has another 100 copies given away in a random manner by a desperate publisher may not be regarded as such. Given that, I would suggest that someone, somewhere, has to provide a definition of what is academic and what is commercial. It is reasonable to expect that academic work is supported because ultimately the commercial sector is helped by knowledge being passed on and disseminated. People do not turn up to look at things that they do not know are there. A balance has to be brought to this situation.
People probably do not go to the Royal Armouries museum to look at obscure coats of armour—I know just a little about military history—unless they know that some interesting changes are taking place. Again, some form of balance is needed. Famous paintings get people turning up to look at them. I remember my daughter being very disappointed at just how small the “Mona Lisa” is when she went to see the painting in Paris. Even so, she wanted to queue up and look at it.
When it comes to academic activity, in my opinion, a better definition that could be applied across the sector would be a good starting point. What is going to happen and how can you relate back to it? We need also to see a degree of openness on the part of the institutions. If it costs x amount of money when you tell someone to do something to a certain standard, you may possibly have a more justifiable case for saying that there is a cost which must be recouped in order to maintain the service. I cannot see any real objection to that. Certainly, if someone is desperately in need of a few images, choosing them by going through a procedure that is understood would help. I do not think that there is a matter of great principle here beyond the practicality of making sure that access is in place where that is justifiable at a cost that is reasonable.
It has already been mentioned that one of the ongoing repercussions from the crash 10 years ago is that certain institutions—including galleries and museums—are under more financial pressure than we envisaged when the current funding structure was put in place. There are no two ways about it; it resonates. If this is a reasonable process of recapturing expenditure for something else out there, then okay, but can we have a definition of where that starts and stops? That is something that I think we could look to the Government for; it does not have to be official, it could be a guideline. If a national institution does not want to follow that guideline, let it justify it. If the institution needs to make that money then justifying it for certain reasons should not be too difficult, because it will have had to look at it. It is also the case that, if you are going to make money out of this and are expecting a real return on it, you probably are a commercial activity, even if you are selling A-level or first-year university level textbooks—a nice high turnover there. I know somebody in that market who was producing those textbooks and said, “If you get it right, it’s quite a good little earner”. So why cannot we have some way of adapting this?
I do not really have much else to add except: can we please get some guidance on how to approach this? It is a little row that could rumble on unless somebody stands up and says, “This is what we expect to get out of it. These are our national institutions; they have received support and help, but the public have the right to see these things and to that information. If they are going to make money out of that process, this is the point where we think that starts, and then they can charge”. If we establish that publicly, I think that most of this problem will go away. It is not an unreasonable thing to ask for.
My Lords, I am more than grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for bringing this to our attention and giving us the opportunity to look at this matter—yet again, I have to say. I hope that he will go on bringing it to us until we have a way forward. The debate as I have heard it has not shown me the possibility of that just now.
I have a little experience, although some of it is not direct. The publishers of a book that I wrote some 20 years ago asked me for photographs to illustrate it, but then got cold feet when I produced the photographs, because they would require all kinds of consents and so on. It was a commercial exercise, so this is not a direct illustration, but there were feelings of frustration when, because of money matters, the publisher decided it was too expensive. I am quite sure that, with the illustrations, my book would have been a bestseller. In the end, it was remaindered pretty quickly after I published it. I am really saying that the educational purpose, the widening of information about important subjects, is what is at stake in this debate. It seems to me that that is worth holding in our heads.
With due respect to the noble Viscount, I do not think that cost alone was the ground on which the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, built his argument. I thought that he was talking about all kinds of considerations relating to education, to art education, to scholarly endeavour and to peer review in a global world. I felt rather drawn to that argument and did not for a moment think it was too narrowly focused. He suggested that all we are asking for is what other museums across the world are already doing. Let me confess another thing at this point: I did a lecture on Luther a few months ago, to celebrate his 500th anniversary. My reading in readiness for this debate has made me aware of how I may now be clapped in irons for having got—via the Rijksmuseum—two illustrations from the 14th and 15th centuries, which made the lecture absolutely focused, and illustrated of course, and allowed me to make points that I would have had all kinds of trouble with if I had gone into the theology of Luther merely verbally.
I am therefore more than sympathetic to this business of open access. The noble Viscount said that open access was, to his mind, a rather vague concept—I do not know which of the two words he might have difficulty understanding. I think that open access to the digitised illustrative material in a museum is the same as the open access that takes me through the doors of a museum in the first place.
As for the whole business of recovering costs and the dismal scenario that the noble Viscount presented of all the things that have to happen for something to be held on the record and in the ownership of a museum, we need some factual evidence, do we not? We need to know just what the costs are. Having digitised more than 1 million items for the British Museum—as it says in the briefing papers—what does making them difficult to get hold of add to the case for having them in the first place? Having digitised them, the next step is making use of what one has and making sure that it is spread. Surely, by properly acknowledging the provenance of an illustration in a commercial or non-commercial outlet, one is giving publicity to the institution that holds those pictures in the first place.
I am told that a very popular television programme that seeks to cultivate interest in art has to cut back on the amount of art it shows because of the expense of including it in the programme. I wonder who is winning. A programme about art should show as much art as possible. Then we can say, “Look, it is in the British Museum”, the Victoria and Albert or whatever. I have been a scholar in my time and I know that the world of scholarship asks us to look everywhere for material to illustrate our case and support our points. Yet all the time, a lot of money is charged to do that.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, cited the figure of £114,000, which was the only factual piece of evidence about the item that I heard which, in a budget of more than £20 million, seems such a small proportion to have claimed as a profit—although the noble Viscount does not like the word profit; surplus is a nicer word, perhaps, or a flowering of financial gain. That seems such a small amount that it is hardly worth going to the effort of safeguarding, ring-fencing and putting all sorts of barriers around this material.
Of course, I do not hold the exalted positions of the noble Viscount. I have been responsible for a museum, the Museum of Methodism—there is a pinprick in a great tapestry for you. All that we suggested to anybody who wanted to use our stuff was, “Come in and use it, but tell the world that this is where you got it from. We will make a project out of digitising. We will cover the costs and there are funders who will do that”. We have all our stuff digitised, but once we have it, we want to disseminate it. That seems to me the logical next step. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, mentioned balance. This material must be used for education.
I am aware that there are unsettled legal questions. On the train, I got lost reading some rather complicated legal material, and perhaps I shall have a cup of coffee with the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, if he can explain it to me. A long briefing document appeared just last month about this whole question within which exceptions to the copyright and risk of items in museums is specifically mentioned. This paragraph struck my eye:
“An outline of the key exceptions to copyright of most benefit to museums is provided below. However, because many of these exceptions are untested in law, as well as including a ‘fair dealing’ caveat, museums may need a healthy appetite for risk to fully benefit from them”.
It is about time that someone tested the question of copyright of digitised material in court so that, instead of having debates such as this, we could have a pointer from the law as to how best to proceed.
As far as I am concerned, having seen art as an exalted aspect of our educational system from a background of knowing nothing about art, it has opened my mind and touched my spirit enormously, and I want that to happen for everybody. Our rich and unparalleled resources need to be publicised, disseminated and made available to all. I echo the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. We ask the Government—I know that the Minister is a sensible man—whether it is possible for us to have a round table of stakeholders, so that these questions can be thrashed out in a proper way.
My Lords, I am pleased to respond to this debate and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for raising discussion on this interesting subject. I know that he holds strong views on it, as was apparent in his speech.
I declare an interest as I was previously Minister for Intellectual Property; I am also a patron of the Bucks County Museum and the Scott Polar Research Institute. I have a keen interest in the Museum of Brands and the Sir John Soane’s Museum, our smallest national museum. I put on record my sincere thanks to all the museums and galleries up and down the country for the work that they have been doing in digitising their vast collections, and the unique and interesting ways in which they are using digital tools and content to engage with wider audiences.
There are over 2,600 museums in England. These include national, local authority, independent, university, military, National Trust and English Heritage museums. It is quite a complex range but, for the purposes of today’s debate, we are focusing on the 13 national museums in England—those established by legislation and directly funded by government—the British Library and the two non-national museums. All these are sponsored by DCMS and collectively have over 200 million objects. That is quite a number and it is growing.
Public access is critical to everything that the 15 DCMS- sponsored museums and the British Library do. The strategic review of DCMS-sponsored museums, published last year, highlighted that those museums have made, and are making, great efforts to extend and deepen their reach to different audiences. As well as continuing to educate, inspire and entertain audiences young and old, sponsored museums play a key role in attracting international and domestic visitors to sites across the UK.
In 2017-18, DCMS-sponsored museums welcomed around 47 million visitors, including more than 22 million from overseas, demonstrating their value to tourism and the economy. In fact, seven of the most visited attractions in the UK were DCMS-sponsored museums and three were among the top 10 most visited museums in the world. Loans were made to over 4,000 venues, two-thirds of them overseas. This shows what an extensive reach they have, in the UK and internationally, and how well loved they are. They contribute significantly to their local economies and communities, and of course to tourism. They are also significant in helping the UK to be top of the global soft-power index.
Let me attempt to address some of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and his focus on balance. I start by trying to address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths: what do we mean by public access? There is a short description here but I am sure we could have a whole debate on what a definition might be. The Government have been clear that it relates simply to free public access to the permanent collection—a fairly short definition.
As arm’s-length bodies, national museums determine their own operational matters, including the decision to charge fees for the reuse of images of items in their collections. They need to cover their costs and generate revenues for the large amounts of free activities that they provide. My noble friend Lord Eccles spoke about the economies in museums and gave the V&A as an example. Independence and impartiality are critical to our national museums, and indeed to the whole arts and cultural sector. It would be highly unusual, even inappropriate, for the Government to intervene in an operational matter such as this. As my noble friend Lord Eccles said, museums differ greatly in their needs in both incomes and costs.
In 2016-17, the DCMS-sponsored museums had a combined total income of £981.6 million including just under half—£435 million—from central government. To deliver their full activities, develop new audiences and ways of engaging with people, including digitally, the national museums have always taken a blended approach to generating income, including philanthropic and commercial approaches. This is not a response to government cuts, as has been mentioned, but a key element of how they have always operated. It is crucial to ensuring that access to museums by the public and researchers is free. Commercial income includes catering services and retail activities, events such as weddings and corporate hire, sponsorship, charging for certain exhibitions and other fund-raising activities which noble Lords will be aware of. This can include charging fees for certain reuses of images that they have produced.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to international museums such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, while the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, made comparisons with museums abroad. The Rijksmuseum charges for entrance and therefore has a different funding model. It is not something that we are considering here. The Louvre in Paris is owned by the French Government and 50% of its annual income is provided by the state, but it is not free to enter except, apparently, for one Sunday a month. The entry fee charged is €15.
I shall answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, who spoke eloquently as the chair of a national museum. As I have said, the funding of our national museums is very different from international comparisons and is a small but important income source. It was therefore interesting to hear his views from his standpoint.
I understand that all DCMS-sponsored museums offer an image reproduction service. These differ depending on use and on the different collections and business models. Image size and purpose are key considerations. Many images, usually of low resolution, are available online for free for non-commercial use, with further options for academic use and where high-resolution images are requested. National museums offer a range of licence prices which are dependent upon the purpose and quality of the image. Several offer a lower price where a reproduction is for academic purposes. For example, the National Gallery offers a scholarly fee waiver while the National Portrait Gallery has an academic licence option. All national museums have images available for free on Art UK and many, including the V&A and the British Museum on the Europeana Collections, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. Knowing how important this is for any museum, the Government Art Collection which the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to, is currently considering this issue for a review of its own model. It is due to report shortly, which I hope will reassure the noble Lord.
There are significant costs in producing high-resolution images, particularly if an item is not already digitised or in 3D. National museums invest significant amounts in providing high-quality images. Given that this is a rolling programme, it is understandable that museums often cannot quantify the costs of providing a specific image digitally. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, raised the issue of digital access and costs. While the noble Lord and others have found this difficult to understand, through my discussions I can appreciate why it is difficult to be precise on a case-by-case basis. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the museums have control over their costs and incomes.
High-specification equipment, studio space and lighting to portray an artwork with accuracy and consistency are all things to be considered. Even the careful removal of an artwork from its location and its frame is labour-intensive. It needs to be done carefully, often in controlled conditions, so as not to damage the work. Museums need to ensure that specialist staff are available, a point made by noble Lords in the course of the debate. This service is significantly above and beyond the government policy that our national museums should provide free access for all to the permanent collections. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, suggested that charging limits access, but in reality we believe that the opposite is true. Any money earned above the costs from image licensing fees goes back into the museum to help people continue to enjoy the wonders that it possesses. If museums were not able to charge for this activity, I understand that in most cases that would result in services being severely limited or withdrawn, a point that my noble friend Lord Eccles alluded to.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked what is academic and what is commercial, perhaps wanting a definition. I am sympathetic to the noble Lord’s comments about the definition of academic versus commercial, but this is a matter for the national museums to decide. I understand that each provides guidance on their website about the definitions that they use.
That would be helpful. Again, it would be up to the museums to get together to decide on a generic definition. I will certainly take that back as a useful idea to have come out of this debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, asked about the possibility of a round table of national museums, an idea I have sympathy with. I will liaise with the museums and the Government Art Collection to encourage them to meet. The noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, might like to join in, as a way forward; that would be helpful, I hope, from his Royal Armouries perspective.
As for the future, the culture White Paper set out the aspiration to make the UK one of the world’s leading countries for digitised public collections. We have already seen that digitisation is having a significant impact: 61% of museums have digitised up to 50% of their collection. I understand that many larger museums have formed partnerships with technology companies—for example Google Cultural Institute—to help digitise their collections and allow access to items that have never been exhibited.
The Government’s Culture is Digital report, published earlier this year, set out policy commitments which help support the strands of work on digital capacity and innovation that were identified in the museums review last year. Particularly relevant is the task force, which included museum representatives such as the Natural History Museum and Wellcome Trust, convened by the National Archives to develop a new strategic approach to the digitisation and presentation of cultural objects. This will make collections more interoperable and sustainable, building on previous initiatives such as the Heritage Gateway, the National Archives Discovery Project and ArtUK. The National Gallery is also creating and disseminating the benefits of a new innovation lab to enable cultural organisations, especially museums, to make best use of advanced digital technologies in enhancing visitor experience and creating content.
In conclusion—I am afraid that time is a bit short—national museums provide free, in-person access to the permanent collections as a condition of government grant-in-aid funding, but need to be free to generate other revenue in whatever ways they see fit. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, spoke about Striking the Balance, and that is something I also alluded to: it is important to balance what national museums are required to do by Government with being independent and impartial.
Digital technology offers unprecedented opportunities for UK cultural organisations to engage new and hard-to-reach audiences, to become global leaders in the production of digital cultural content and to increase access to their world-class collections. Through the Culture is Digital project, the Government will work with our national museums to ensure that they are world leaders in digital content for now and the future. I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for raising the subject and bringing it into the public eye once again.
Addiction: England and Wales
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to move this Question. We have a very interesting list of Peers down to speak from a wide range of interests and backgrounds. I hope that we will have a wide-ranging debate and that the Minister will be able to answer some of the questions posed. I am particularly pleased to see that Peter Chadlington, the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, is on the list to speak. I look forward with great interest to what he will say about gambling. My reason for gratitude to him is that many years ago, he invited me to join the board of trustees of a charity, Action on Addiction, of which he was the chairman. In many respects, my journey commenced then; I joined because of my background and the work that I had done on alcohol.
I have much personal experience of addiction. I was on my knees and crashing when I was 40. I was a trade union official on the up but I was in great difficulty healthwise, my marriage was falling apart and I was given the prognosis that if I continued the way I was, leading the lifestyle I had, I would probably have been dead in two years’ time. I had to stop drinking, and I stopped. I say it not as a boast, because it is a day at a time, but I have now been sober for 36 years. Achieving that effected a major change in the direction of my life. I am forever grateful for all the support that I have had.
Addiction does not just affect the individual, it affects families and communities as well. I have learned a lot about how we can try to work on this subject. Noble Lords know that I have spoken frequently in the House on alcohol. I do not intend to spend too much time on that today as this is a broader debate. I express my sympathies for the Minister: she may find an awful lot coming her way that proves difficult to respond to, as it may be wide-ranging. However, I will say something on alcohol. The Government are working on an alcohol strategy. We have not had one since 2012. I should welcome any comments that the Minister has on the direction that is taking and when it is likely to emerge. I also advise her that the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm are shortly to publish a new charter on recovery for alcoholics. I will be looking to her and other Ministers to take an interest in that and to have early meetings with the authors of that document.
Today, I have also heard that an alcohol treatment levy is being sought by a charity, a combination of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK. There are great difficulties for treatment centres at the moment. Local authority budgets are being deeply cut, and in turn this has affected the treatments on offer for drugs and alcohol. Today, Jonathan Ashworth has been speaking in Birmingham and complaining bitterly about the consequences of the cuts and the declining opportunities for people with addictions, particularly to alcohol and drugs, to get recovery. One way forward suggested by the two charities I mentioned is a 1% increase in alcohol duty, which should be ring-fenced for alcohol treatment and given to local councils to try to recover some of the ground which has been lost in recent years with an end to some of the offerings available for alcohol treatment. So there are three bits of work there for the Minister, on which I suspect that she may already have had some good briefings already.
I should also like to hear her views about the spat which has been taking place this week following the Public Health England conference at Warwick University. The CEO, Duncan Selbie, has said that he is entering into a partnership with Drinkaware to run a campaign. There have been strong reactions to that in certain quarters, along with resignations from Public Health England bodies. I know Duncan well and he has a very good heart indeed, but perhaps the Minister might care to say whether she is happy to see a public body going into partnership with a charity which is independent but is 80% funded by the drinks industry. In my view, if that funding was withdrawn, the charity would not exist within six months. There is an indirect link with the drinks industry. I will leave alcohol at that point and come back more generally to addiction right across the board.
I collect a variety of strange documents and for some reason I retained a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology POSTnote on addictive behaviours, which was written as long ago as 2010. It is a lengthy and scholarly piece of work that deals particularly with research into the addictive dimensions of gambling, eating, sex and the internet. To those we could add a long list of other addictions. I have already mentioned alcohol and we know about drugs. In fairness, the Government have recently produced a drugs strategy. There is addiction to nicotine and in particular a strong addiction to sugar, which even in this House many of us may have. Many problems are related to that. We have seen a growth in addiction to psychoactive substances and there are great problems with that in prisons. We have seen a growth in the availability of and access to pornography, on a much wider scale than was the case 10 or 15 years ago.
There is also addiction to cannabis. There is a strong pressure group in the House of Lords for greater freedom and more liberal laws on cannabis, but linked to cannabis is the worrying drug known as skunk—an extremely strong version of it. Those who want to liberalise the law on cannabis should take a look at the problems we have in south-east London, which is classed as having higher levels of psychosis among its patients than anywhere else in Europe. We should be very careful before we start liberalising in some of these areas.
Then there is, of course, methadone. In 2005-06 methadone was barely known about but it is now a government-supported and regulated substitute for heroin. It was introduced by the then Labour Government with the intention of limiting the amount of money that would be spent on it as we tried to wean people off heroin and on to methadone. In some respects, this comes back to cannabis. You can see what happens when, for the best of reasons, you endeavour to reduce harm. We are now finding that from a starting point of virtually nil, apparently some £1 billion a year is being spent on methadone. I have done a lot of research to try to find out how much is being spent, but it is proving to be very difficult.
I shall be running out of time before getting anywhere with my speech. I want to talk mainly about the dramatic changes that have taken place since 2010 in technology. The Government have tried to address some of the changes in drug use, but it is technology that is driving many of these issues. The mobile phone is a casino in your pocket. It gives you access to marriage or divorce, or to pornography if you want it. We have seen such a big change in the space of a decade. We know now from research that there are five types of internet addiction: the cybersexual, in the form of cybersex and pornography; net compulsions related to online gambling, shopping, and stocks and shares trading; cyber relationships through social media, online dating and virtual connections is the third one. We have online game-playing, which is a very big problem, as many parents will say. The way these games are produced means that children become addicted to them. They have to purchase another game to keep the addiction running and parents have to spend more money. It is a very difficult habit to break. Finally, there is web-surfing and database searching, which many people do.
I worry in particular about AI. We will shortly have a very good report on artificial intelligence and a debate in the Lords based on that report. A government response to it has now come through. Many people can see that AI will be linked to addictive processes in the near future. We will have sex dolls, with people staying in their rooms and not communicating with each other. In Japan, for example, many people between 18 and 34 are not even having sexual intercourse, even though there is a low birth rate in Japan. What are they doing in their rooms? Who are they communicating with? We can see these dolls being produced in the Far East.
My 10 minutes are up, so I will be strict in observing the limit. This is a very wide-ranging topic covering many ethical issues, particularly what people are doing in terms of their relationships with each other and with their families. I hope that we will have a good debate and perhaps come back to this subject on another occasion.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for introducing this debate. I acknowledge that he was remarkably supportive and helpful to me during my seven years as chairman of Action on Addiction. I should declare the interest that my daughter is head of public policy for Google.
Today, 8.3 million people are unable to pay off personal debts and almost 9 million households have less than £250 in savings. Around 95% of homes in the UK have TV sets, and this year the gambling industry will spend around £312 million on advertising, which is 63% up since 2012. This advertising is seductive and urgent, and it offers, as a recent study by Warwick University shows, very high odds against propositions which the viewer believes could easily happen.
Some 75% of Premier League teams have gambling promotions on shirts and on hoardings, and recent research suggests that 71% of league clubs are affiliated with young people’s clubs sponsored by gambling companies. If you have a debt and it is preying on your mind, and if you are at home relaxing and watching television and suddenly something comes up on the screen offering you 20:1, 30:1, 40:1 or 50:1, youwill say to yourself, “I’ll just have a £10 bet. There’s nothing wrong with that and my problems will be solved”. As a top addiction therapist said recently, giving a child a smartphone is like “giving them a gram of cocaine”. When you gamble on your mobile, the gambling company has your details to market to you as it wishes. That is one reason why we have 2 million people with a potential gambling problem and over half a million people in treatment—an increase of 53% between 2012 and 2015. This weight of advertising normalises gambling. Online gambling games such as Robin of Sherwood Slot and Fortnite groom young people to learn how to gamble by using gambling-like features. Eight out of 10 people in Britain now believe that there are too many opportunities to gamble, and seven out of 10 regard gambling as dangerous to family life.
There are four trends that I want to highlight: personal debt; the promotion of gambling on television and so on; the use of mobile phones both for gambling and for the encouragement of gambling; and the effect of all that on young people—in my view it is contributing to the birth of a gambling epidemic.
There are five steps that I would ask the Government to consider. First, we urgently need independent research. It should be independently funded and look into all areas relating to advertising and promotion, particularly with regard to the young. Secondly, we must do as we did with tobacco in 1965 and stop all advertising and promotion of gambling on TV, particularly during live sporting events and an hour before and afterwards. We should look at what has happened in Australia and in Italy following a ban. Thirdly, we must protect our children by evaluating, and if necessary banning, all online games that encourage and groom young people to gamble. Fourthly, we must invest in helping those who are in danger of being addicted, or have become addicted, to gambling.
Finally, 1.4% of all gamblers become problem gamblers but an astonishing 11.5% of regular FOBT users become problem gamblers. We must implement the FOBT reduction now. Why are we waiting? The CEBR has produced a report that will be released tomorrow which points out a perfectly even spread as far as the Treasury is concerned. I would raise the levy on gambling companies from 0.1% to 1%, which would give us some £130 million a year to pay for all this work.
I come to my final point, and this is the worst thing of all. Gambling with Lives estimates on its website that some 500 young people—one every morning and one every afternoon of our working day—commit suicide in the United Kingdom with gambling contributing to their deaths. How many young people have to die before we act? I believe we will look back at gambling in the UK at the outset of the 21st century with the same bewilderment that we now look back at the mass advertising of tobacco or of alcohol, and we will wonder how it was possible for us all to sit on our hands.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for raising this issue and to the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington; I wish to address the same area, but he has done it with eloquence and passion. I will try not to repeat the arguments he made, although there may be a little bit of duplication.
Gambling addiction is now a major public health issue in the UK. We have an estimated 430,000 problem gamblers. As well as the huge financial cost to us as a nation, which falls on the taxpayer, it is affecting other areas of life. Last week, for example, Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, spoke of the huge additional burden it is putting on the NHS; some estimate that it is costing the NHS £610 million per year at a time when budgets are really stretched. But this is not about the financial costs alone. Gambling addicts have higher rates of separation and divorce than the general population, and higher levels of homelessness. Problem gambling affects all age groups, but particularly large numbers of children are either at risk or designated as problem gamblers.
We are told from the research that children will, on average, see at least three gambling adverts each day, so it is not surprising that recent research shows that 450,000 children aged from 11 to 15 in England and Wales gamble. We saw this clearly in the summer during the World Cup; every break was dominated by adverts. If we think that is just something that happened over the summer, what about last Sunday’s expose on BBC Radio’s “5 Live Investigates”, on which we were both featured? It exposed the number of Premier League club websites with youth sections directly linked to gambling sites. These sometimes even used the team’s colours. Within hours of the expose, all the clubs had removed the links, saying, “It was just one of those unfortunate things.”
This is serious. The advertising strategy is clever; for example, just last month a gambling company sponsored sports fixtures with adverts particularly designed to attract teenagers, as the personalities promoting the fixtures were dominated by well-known YouTubers. The straplines used to show they offer responsible gambling are incredibly clever: “When the fun stops, stop.” But if one looks at it, the word “fun” is in capital letters, in bold. In other words, it is subliminally saying just the opposite of what we are told they put it up to say; it is just a blatant advert.
Children, as we have heard, are being conditioned to think that gambling is both normal and a necessary enhancer of game play. Online games are increasingly using in-game gambling features. The lax regulation on online gambling poses a worrying threat to future rates of gambling, so I am not at all surprised that the number of people who think that gambling is dangerous to family life and should be discouraged has risen steadily since 2010. Research shows that problem gambling affects people in every part of society, but it is disproportionately harming people who are economically inactive or living in deprived areas. These communities have the greatest number of betting shops and FOBT machines.
The noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, has already mentioned some of the things we need to do. I concur with him on a number of them. We certainly need some form of mandatory levy on the gambling industry. I do not know how we would do it—I am not an expert—but, as Simon Stevens pointed out last week, the system of voluntary contributions is not working. We need independent academic research totally separate from the gambling industry, probably funded by that levy but with the money going through a third-party so that it cannot be influenced. It needs to look into the way that online games are normalising and socialising gambling among a whole generation of young people. Many parents I speak to are deeply concerned about this.
Thirdly, we need to give regulators additional power and responsibilities to police online gambling adverts. Fourthly, we need to get a handle on the social problems that gambling addiction is causing—in particular, suicide. We need to find a way to record the effect that gambling is having on suicides and to give coroners a statutory obligation always to record when there is clearly some link. We need that sort of research. No one is suggesting that responsible adults cannot have an occasional bet, but we have now moved way beyond this and we need to take action urgently.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, is to be warmly congratulated on securing this short debate. I thank him for his wonderful introduction and look forward to my noble friend’s response. My interest in addiction dates back nearly 40 years when I had myself to seek help for chronic alcoholism. My experience was much the same as the noble Lord described. I underwent a residential 12-step abstinence programme lasting about 12 weeks. It was known as the Minnesota model and probably still is. I have had the great good fortune to date not to have taken or wanted to take a drink or any other mood-altering substance. Hence, I have no personal experience of other forms of recovery. What I do know is that I still cannot take my own for granted.
What strikes me is how very little has changed in the intervening four decades in scientific knowledge or public understanding of the condition. That leads me to believe that, at the very least, the 12-step model still has a place, not least because of the extraordinary happiness and peace of mind that it confers on those of us who have found sobriety through that avenue. Before recovery, we addicts are notoriously devious, egotistical, dishonest and full of denial, and in most cases have been the cause of untold harm to ourselves and others. Recovery entails confronting that history of damage and those character defects in a process that is inevitably extremely painful. If one can agree that addiction is a disease, the process is not assigning blame but getting the patient to accept responsibility for the past and for their future. I might describe it as a very thorough housecleaning process.
Religion plays no part in 12-step recovery, but there is a critical step that can be described only as spiritual. We come to accept that something larger than ourselves can relieve us of this hateful torment. It works. But that dimension and the confrontational element that I talked about is why I have always believed that the Government are probably not the principal mover in addressing the huge problem of addiction.
Most people understand the misery and sadness that accompanies addiction; they probably have personal experience with somebody they love. Rather fewer people understand the cruel reach of the illness. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, touched on it. For example, without help, the non-addict spouse or loved one of the addict often develops the same insidious and dangerous character defects as the addict. Addiction is a truly complex disease; its nuances are without limit.
What is also understood in some detail is the cost of addiction to the nation and to the economy. It is colossal. Happily, we live in an age of rather wonderful generosity on the part of some of our more charitable and public-spirited large companies. By my calculation, it would pay a company employing, say, 10,000 people to have its own abstinence programme. I could see a way forward where such companies could be given a fiscal incentive to trial such a scheme on the understanding that, if successful, smaller businesses and even individuals could piggyback on to their programme. I should love to develop this theme, which requires rather more than five minutes, if the Minister could spare the time.
I close by saying that the joy I have received through finding sobriety is beyond description. I know that millions more could find the haven that, by good fortune, I found. To that end, I believe that a partnership between business and government to tackle this hideous problem should not be ruled out.
My Lords, we are all deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, for the way in which he introduced today’s debate. His remarks were powerful, eloquent and moving. Indeed, all the contributions in this Committee this afternoon have reinforced his introductory remarks.
I want to raise three separate questions. The first is to reinforce what has already been said very powerfully about the issue of gambling. I too saw the remarks last week of Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS. As the right reverend Prelate pointed out, this is not just about the financial costs. Simon Stevens said:
“There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems”.
With over 430,000 problem gamblers, including 25,000 children, it is clear that this is not a fringe issue. Earlier today at Question Time I was able to pursue this point in following up on the Question raised by the right reverend Prelate with the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie. I want to come back to that question for a moment because it was specifically focused on young people. Although I was grateful to the noble Viscount for answering in part, I want to put the point again to the noble Baroness the Minister and, if she is not able to answer today, I hope that we will get a written response to the specific point about the Gambling Commission’s licensing codes and the targeting of children. In particular, will the Minister consider a change to provision 3.2.11 of the social responsibility code so that the requirement to,
“not deliberately provide facilities for gambling in such a way as to appeal particularly to children or young people, for example by reflecting or being associated with youth culture”—
those are the words elsewhere in the social responsibility code—applies to remote gambling as it already applies to non-remote gambling? That is a sensible and easy thing that the Government could do and they should get on with it. They should also do the things that the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, the right reverend Prelate and others have alluded to.
My second concern is something that I would like the Minister to raise with her noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, about representations that I sent him last week from Mr Nicholas Hatton about the popular dieting drug, Dinitrophenol. Mr Hatton studied at Liverpool John Moores University, where I held a chair and am an honorary fellow. It has a strong track record in research on drug abuse—in a city that sadly has relatively high rates of misuse of many kinds of drugs. With others, Mr Hatton produced a paper on Dinitrophenol, a drug that he says is widely available on the high street, despite substantial evidence regarding its toxic effects. Last year, a young woman from Worcester died after ingesting an overdose of the drug. I hope that the Minister will arrange for the paper that I sent to the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, to be reviewed and will produce a considered written reply in due course, examining in particular any addictive aspects of this drug. I reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said earlier about how simply making things more easily available is not necessarily the way to deal with a problem. Making them more easily available often provides open access for those people who may never have experienced those things in the first place. Simply having people addicted to things is not a solution.
My third point touches on the question of dangerous and massive addiction, particularly to antidepressants. Just before the House rose for the Summer Recess, the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, answered a Written Question from me about how many antidepressants had been dispensed to people under the age of 18 and to primary school-age children in the past 10 years. I asked also what the total cost was to the NHS. The reply was that:
“The information is not available in the format requested and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost”.
That simply is not good enough and is, I might say, uncharacteristic of a Minister who is usually marked by his courtesy and helpfulness to the House. These are children we are talking about and this information should be readily available and in the public domain. I ask the same question again today: how many antidepressants have been dispensed to those under the age of 18 and at what cost to the public purse?
I did, however, receive two rather more helpful replies which I want to put on the record. I also asked for details of the total number of antidepressant tablets which have been dispensed in the past 10 years. The figure is a staggering 552,303,604 at a cost to the public purse of £2.79 billion. The other question was about side-effects and the length of time for which these antidepressants have been taken by individual users. In the course of that reply, the noble Lord said:
“It is not possible to estimate how long on average patients receive antidepressants”.
I simply ask why not? Why are we not asking this question?
We are failing to ask the reasons why people become so deeply depressed in the first place. We fail to address the reasons why people become obese, addicted to gambling, pornography or drugs. It is bound up with the kind of society we have created, where half a million elderly people do not see a single person on an average day and where 800,000 children have no contact with their fathers. What kind of society have we created? This is what we should be addressing. This is why the noble Lord is right to place these important issues before us today.
My Lord, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, on securing time for this important debate. Sadly, it appears to be the practice of your Lordships’ House that debates on some of the most important issues facing us as a society, such as the subject we are debating today, are allocated the shortest time slots. This is a great pity.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked about trends in different types of addiction in England and Wales. I want to focus on only one trend, and that is the increasing use of synthetic cannabinoid substances, often known collectively as Spice. The use of these frighteningly dangerous drugs, which come in a variety of forms or brands, is wreaking havoc in our society. There is an urgent need for the Government to take them far more seriously than they have been. This is not only because of the increasing demand which the users of these substances are making on scarce local policing resources—in which I have a special interest—but, more importantly, because of the effect which these drugs are having on the lives of so many of our young people.
Police and crime commissioners up and down the country are seeing the horrifying effects of these substances on both police resources and public health every day of the year. That was why, about a month ago, on 28 August, all 20 Conservative police and crime commissioners, led by Marc Jones, the PCC for Lincolnshire, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary expressing concern about Spice and urging that it be reclassified as a class A drug. As they wrote in their letter:
“The wide scale abuse of these debilitating drugs within towns, cities and even villages across the UK is one of the most severe public health issues we have faced in decades and presently the response to tackle the issue is woefully inadequate … Spice simply put is a significant risk to our society and must be tackled effectively and with expediency”.
As I am sure everyone participating in this debate will know, Spice is a relatively new threat to our society. Because of its chemical composition, it is often seen and presented by interested agencies as an alternative version of cannabis. Looking at it this way is both misleading and dangerous. The effects of Spice are much worse for both the individual and society. Often referred to as zombie drugs, these substances have incapacitating and unpredictable psychoactive effects on those who take them. Users are increasingly seen slumped on the streets in a state of semi-consciousness, often passed out, sometimes aggressive and always highly unpredictable.
Spice does not only affect behaviour in these ways. It also costs lives. According to the Office for National Statistics, Spice has been linked to 27 deaths in 2016, and there is no reason to expect anything but an increase in the number of Spice-related deaths as the years go by. Clearly Spice must be given more attention by all agencies of government, both national and local.
As I said, the present justification for classifying Spice as a class B drug is rooted in its chemical composition and the similarities between Spice and cannabis but, as I also said, the physical and psychological effects that spice has on its users are much more extreme than those of cannabis. They are more comparable to class A drugs such as heroin, and it is therefore imperative that spice and the dealers who peddle it are treated with the same severity and concern as those who peddle heroin.
It is also vital—this is key—that the level of support to those hooked on Spice is equal to that for those hooked on heroin. This includes providing pathways away from criminalising the vulnerable, where possible, and ensuring that appropriate services are in place to treat their addiction. In an interesting speech in another place on 23 July, my honourable friend Ben Bradley said that Spice addicts often turn to heroin, not only because it is less debilitating, but because they know that there are services in place to assist addicts to break their heroin habit. This cannot be right. We cannot allow a situation to develop in this country where Spice addicts turn to heroin to get the help they need. We must recognise Spice for what it is—a dangerous substance that destroys human lives and devastates whole communities. We must listen to the cries for help from those addicted to Spice and from the police and crime commissioners who are trying so hard to help them.
Reclassifying Spice as a category A drug will not by itself solve the problem, but it will demonstrate that the Government understand the nature of the problem. As we all know, understanding a problem is a necessary first step to solving it.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, for introducing this important debate. Most people, in thinking of addiction, think of alcohol, nicotine, drugs and gambling addiction, but it can include surfing the internet, video games, work, cleanliness, anti-depressants, solvents, chocolate, sex and shopping. It is usually linked to mental ill health, which can either be the cause or the effect. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that we need to look at the reasons why people turn to the things to which they become addicted. The link is that the thing addicted to makes addicts feel good, or at least better for a while. Addiction can be a way of blocking out life’s difficulties, such as relationships, work, stress and poverty, but it brings its own stresses and economic pressures. This is why we need to do something more in PSHE in schools to develop children’s resilience to life’s pressures.
Whatever the addiction, I strongly believe that it should be treated as a health and not a criminal justice issue. All addictions can be treated, especially if caught early, and help can be very effective as long as it is available, but here is where the problem lies: there is a great shortage of mental health professionals and addiction services. Local authorities are finding it hard to maintain drug and alcohol services and smoking-cessation services. There is even less help for those addicted to gambling or gaming. That is why charities such as Action on Addiction are so important. Their high-quality residential and community courses, follow-up support, family support, research and professional education make an enormous difference to the lives of addicts and their families who are fortunate enough to access them.
About 3 million children live with parents who have alcohol or drug addiction. It affects their lives and education, as well as their physical and mental health. They are often classed as young carers and become entitled to the help that young carers can now get, but the understanding of their school is critical.
I am particularly concerned about the types of addiction that can afflict children. I was concerned to hear from GambleAware that 370,000 children under 16 have spent their own money on gambling and 25,000 may be problem gamblers. Like other speakers, I put this down to the prevalence of gambling advertising on TV, especially during sports coverage. I watched a lot of coverage of the test matches over the past few weeks and in every ad break you were asked to gamble.
As has been said, it is far too easy to gamble on phones and computers. I believe that this is also responsible for the massive number of adult problem gamblers. A 9 o’clock watershed means nothing, because some young people who are keen on sport often watch important matches at all times of the day and night. I support the demand of the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, and ask the Minister whether the Government are planning to restrict that advertising in any way.
There is no state provision for treatment of problem gamblers. Such services as there are come from charities and can reach fewer than one fifth of those who could benefit from them. As for children and young people’s mental health services, there is a crisis, with only one in five children with problems getting help. We must do more to stop this becoming a problem in the first place. Limiting this ubiquitous advertising is one thing that should be done.
Another thing taking hold among young people, which has just been recognised by the World Health Organization, is addiction to gaming. It was recently revealed that between 0.3% and 1% of the UK’s 32.5 million gamers have a gaming addiction, and many of them are young people. The developers of these games are not innocent. In the same way that tobacco companies made cigarettes more addictive by tweaking the ingredients, games developers have added features to keep players addicted. Strategies have included using behavioural science to entice users to play for longer and more often. The data that developers collect from users allows them to enhance the features of the games that users enjoy most. They allow players to personalise the games, which makes them feel ownership. Playing in teams makes it harder for a gamer to decide to leave, for fear of letting down the rest of the team.
We need to look at what has worked with other addictions to see whether we can learn anything relevant and put it to work. The biggest success in the UK has been reducing smoking. This has been done by reducing advertising and display, increasing the price through taxation, banning smoking in public places, providing a less harmful substitute in e-cigarettes and education about the dangers of smoking.
Smoking has been treated as a health issue and treatments are made available through doctors, pharmacies and local authorities. Some campaigners are calling for e-cigarettes to be available on prescription to assist smoking cessation and to be allowed in public places. Do the Government have any plans to do this and to learn from the success with smoking and apply it to other problems, such as gaming and gambling? It is no coincidence that most speakers today have mentioned gambling. It is a crisis now, not a crisis waiting to happen, and it is time that the Government took action.
My Lords, this has been a remarkable debate and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman: it is a pity that we could not have more time. I hope that we will have a further, lengthy debate on this important matter. My noble friend made a moving speech and graphically described the impact of addiction on individuals and families. His most telling point was that the opportunity to access activities that are addictive through technology, particularly for young people, is frightening. The spectre we see today is of young people who are offered so much temptation but given so little protection.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that PSHE curricula in schools are important, but the challenge to the Minister is to come forward with a cohesive response to the many challenges that noble Lords have raised tonight. At the moment, we have different departments dealing with different areas of addiction. There is little consistency. From what we have heard tonight, we need a much more cohesive response, both to reduce the opportunity for addiction —we must deal with that head on—and to provide more support and more addiction services.
I want to focus on just three areas. On the question of gambling, I think that it is remarkable that a significant proportion of football teams in the Premier League depend on betting companies for sponsorship and that the whole of the English Football League is sponsored corporately by Sky Bet.
Several noble Lords commented on the number of betting adverts during the World Cup, which was absolutely phenomenal. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is right: a huge amount of gambling is also advertised during the cricket. My party has announced plans to introduce a mandatory levy on the industry to fund increased research into, education on and treatment of gambling addiction, as well as to study the effects of advertising.
I always think that in QSDs one is allowed to go further and express personal views; I will certainly do so. We need to go further. Take Simon Stevens as an interesting example. It is great to see an NHS leader tackling this issue head on. He pointed out that eight Premiership football clubs with sponsorship from overseas gambling companies are refusing to pay the voluntary levy. Ministers could call in those clubs. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, exposing clubs to websites related to youth activity with gambling clearly had an immediate effect. The Government need to stop giving the response that this is nothing to do with them. Of course it is. Most of their departments are dealing with the after-effects of people whose lives have been destroyed by gambling.
Surely we have to revisit the liberalisation of our gambling laws. Is that not an inevitable consequence of the problems that we face? We need to revisit the official attitude towards gambling, which seems to be that it is all okay, basically. I am afraid that it is not. We need to make moves to discourage gambling as much as we possibly can. We will certainly have arguments about the nanny state; I understand that. I also understand that our society currently resists the concept of the nanny state. However, when you see how our young people are being damaged in so many ways, surely the Government have to reflect on whether they need a more restrictive policy, including on advertising. We also need to look at what happened with sponsorship and smoking. Seeing clubs being sponsored by betting gives the sense that everything is okay, but everything is not okay.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, on securing this important debate. I was very moved by his personal story, which has certainly inspired many of us. He highlighted the rapid changes that we are seeing in technology and society, and how those are having an impact on both the way in which people live their lives and the type of things that they can form an addiction to. We have heard a wide variety of views. I will do my best to cover as much as I can, but I will start by saying that I will endeavour to write to noble Lords on any questions I cannot answer in the time I have; I have only 12 minutes and noble Lords can hear that I am speaking quite quickly.
As noble Lords have said, it is important that the Government monitor and understand the trends and changes in addiction, and take action where it is appropriate and necessary. However, as we have heard, addiction is complex and we cannot do this alone. It is important that we work and are seen to work in partnership with industry, the health sector and others to address these new challenges as they emerge.
When we think of addiction, the things that spring to mind are the usual suspects, as we have heard: addiction to drugs, alcohol, nicotine and gambling, as my noble friend Lord Chadlington put so well. However, it is possible to be addicted to just about anything, including food, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, indicated. Personally, I am addicted to chocolate and sugar; I do not say that as a joke. Recently I was diagnosed with diabetes and I am finding it very difficult. It is not easy when someone says, “Get off this addiction”; it is very difficult. Of course, we have internet, social media, gaming and addiction to prescription drugs—so I understand some of the issues that have been put on the table. Like other noble Lords, I suggest that we have debates on each of those subjects individually, given that that they are all big subjects in their own right. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that we need to have a greater cohesive understanding and strategy on addiction and to learn from experience to do with smoking and alcohol. I certainly agree with that.
As the right reverend Prelate said, we must not forget that all the addictions can have a massive impact on the individual, their friends and family. Addictions are often linked to mental health problems and it can be a way of blocking out difficult issues, such as the stress that can accompany poverty and unemployment, or pressures at work or within the home: all those can trigger addiction. I will focus on the areas where we are seeing the greatest harm from addiction—namely, alcohol, drugs and tobacco—although I will try to address the other issues that have been raised.
Reading media reports recently on “Generation Sensible” might lead people to think that risky behaviours are reducing. Statistics show that young people are drinking less, using illicit drugs less and smoking less than their parents did at their age. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and other noble Lords stated, young people face other pressures that can lead them down the route of addiction, particularly with the all-pervasive use of social media and the internet in today’s society. That means that we must be flexible and adaptable in our response.
I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Chadlington for his work in supporting people who are addicted to alcohol. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for sharing his personal experience and my noble friend Lord Cavendish, who also raised that important issue. I pay tribute to him, too; as I said, it is a difficult area. Around 9% of men and 3% of women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence. The Government are in the process of developing a new alcohol strategy, which will be published early next year. Through that work we are looking at how we can better support vulnerable people, target action at harmful and dependent drinkers, and strengthen partnerships. We are aware that there is significant unmet need for help with alcohol dependence, with an estimate that only one in five people with alcohol dependence in the UK are accessing treatment. We need to do much better than that and, in particular, improve outcomes for those with dual mental health and alcohol issues.
My noble friend Lord Wasserman raised the drug Spice and the level of support that is needed. We are making good progress: drug use in England and Wales is lower than it was a decade ago. In 2016-17, 8.5% of adults had used a drug in the last year, compared to 10.1% of adults in 2006-7. More adults are leaving treatment successfully than in 2009-10, and the average waiting time to access treatment is now two days.
Despite continued declines in smoking rates, smoking remains the single largest cause of premature death and preventable illness in England. In 2017 we published a new tobacco control plan, followed by a delivery plan published on 7 June. We can be proud that independent experts have rated UK tobacco control as the best in Europe. Since the previous tobacco control plan, smoking prevalence has substantially reduced, from 19.8% of adults in England smoking at the start of the plan in 2011 to 14.9% in 2017, which is the lowest level since records began. We need to continue to drive forward progress to meet the ambitions in the tobacco control plan, particularly among those who are most deprived, and vulnerable groups in our community such as pregnant women.
On specific questions raised in the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and my noble friend Lord Cavendish, asked questions on the alcohol strategy; I think the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked when it will be published, and asked about stakeholders and a treatment levy. As I have already said, the new alcohol strategy will be published early next year. We are engaging with stakeholders as we develop it. I am afraid that alcohol duty is a matter for the Treasury, so much as I would like to stand here and say, “Yes, it is a good idea”, I cannot. However, I will bring to the Treasury’s attention the report that was referred to.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, also raised an issue regarding Drinkaware and a PHE partnership. As the noble Lord will be aware, Drinkaware is a charity completely independent of the alcohol industry. PHE partners with organisations that share our ambitions. I heard what he said about the funding, but it is independent. PHE partners with organisations that share ambitions to reduce health problems associated with drinking and whose work is underpinned by evidence. We must remember that we have to look at evidence and outcomes.
My noble friend Lord Chadlington, the right reverend Prelate, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, discussed gambling and some of the measures that they would like to see implemented. I state for the record that we take gambling-related harm seriously in the department. The measures that we have taken include reducing the number of fixed-odd betting terminals—gosh; I have only one minute left and I have not got anywhere. We are taking this seriously and I take on board the comments that have been made. My noble friend Lord Chadlington also mentioned gambling and suicide. The Government updated their suicide prevention strategy in 2017, and we will continue to keep it updated. I will come back on the other questions that my noble friend raised.
The noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Hunt, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and other noble Lords, raised issues around Simon Stevens and sponsorship. GambleAware has published donations and pledges that cover the first quarter of the year. These total nearly £3 million, and many more operatives are expected to donate in the months to come. I understood about looking at the Gambling Commission, the licensing code and the responsibility for the code, but I will write to noble Lords on this issue as there is insufficient time for me to cover that.
My noble friend Lord Cavendish mentioned gaming and addiction. Once again, we totally understand the problem. As he will be aware, the World Health Organization has recognised gaming disorder as a mental health condition due to addictive behaviours.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, mentioned the overprescription of drugs. I share his concerns; it is an issue that I personally have been concerned with, as have the Government. I will write to him with more details on the issues that he raises. He also raised his letter on addiction relating to diet pills. We have received that letter and I reassure him that we are working very closely with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on a substantive reply.
I am afraid I am being told that I have run out of time. I still have questions to answer from my noble friend Lord Wasserman and others on subjects such as PSHE education on addiction and lessons to be learned from the tobacco industry. I shall end by saying that it has been a fascinating debate containing far too much to skim over in the way that we have had to. I shall certainly write to all noble Lords on all the questions that I have not answered, and hopefully we can get a debate on each one of those areas to do them much more justice.
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am very pleased to have secured today’s debate following the publication of Steve Holliday’s independent youth full-time social action review in January and the Government’s response just before the Summer Recess. I thank the small but perfectly formed number of noble Lords who are taking part in the debate. I would like to make the case for expanding youth full-time social action in England. I hope that the Minister will elaborate in his response on the actions that the Government intend to take regarding the recommendations made in the review, particularly the progress being made in establishing a youth full-time social action pilot.
I pay tribute to the dedication of those young people across the country who volunteer full-time for a year or so, pouring countless hours into their communities. Among other things, they are supporting disadvantaged children to do better at school; helping people sleeping rough to find shelter and turn their lives around; speeding up the recovery of hospital patients; supporting those relying on social care; and taking part in environmental action with local and global impact. They do so without asking for recognition, reward or support from Government. Just because they do not ask for it, however, does not mean it should not be provided.
We can take a look at what is happening in other countries. Governments in Germany, France and the United States have recognised the value of youth full-time social action by creating national programmes for young adults aged 18 to 27 that attract many thousands of applicants. These programmes allow their young participants to choose to volunteer full time for up to a year in tackling some of their society’s biggest challenges and working in those areas about which they care about most. In return for this incredible undertaking, the volunteers receive generous expenses to support them while they serve and rewards for completing their programmes, such as educational grants and student debt forgiveness.
The projects are supported by these Governments because of the positive impact that they can have on public service provision, youth employment, career development, social integration and citizenship and civic engagement, so it will come as no surprise that these initiatives are proven to offer real value for money for the Governments who invest in them. Evidence from the United States’ AmeriCorps programme, which recruits about 80,000 young full-time volunteers every year, suggests that for every dollar invested by the Federal Government, they receive almost $4 in return. Owing to the status of youth full-time social action in those countries, graduates are admired by their fellow citizens, rewarded by their Governments and sought after by universities and employers. A few years ago, President Obama said:
“If you’re an employer who wants to hire talented, dedicated, patriotic, skilled, tireless, energetic workers, look to AmeriCorps … Citizens who perform national service are special. You want them on your team”.
Let us compare that with how we treat full-time volunteers here in the UK. Instead of having their service acknowledged and rewarded, full-time volunteers in England are categorised as not in education, employment or training. In other words, they are seen as part of a problem instead of part of a solution. This status is not just insulting to all the young people who pour in thousands of hours to improve their local communities; it also has stark practical implications. They are forbidden from receiving any support if they do not turn up to volunteer on a given day, in effect barring them from sick and holiday pay.
The benefits system can be hugely problematic for the participants and the legal framework is not always clear. Therefore, one question that I would like to ask the Minister is whether he can work with the DWP to provide jobcentres with clear guidance so as to get a consistency of approach and an openness to make participation easier. That was brought to my attention when I visited City Year UK at Compass secondary school in London last year. City Year UK is a charity which challenges 18 to 25 year-olds to tackle educational inequality through a year of full-time voluntary service. Its full-time volunteer mentors support pupils in primary and secondary schools who are growing up in some of the most difficult and disadvantaged communities here. The volunteers are integral to the school day. They encourage pupils who are at risk of falling behind by supporting them both in and out of the classroom, and they encourage them to enjoy learning. In some cases, the volunteers are being forced to withdraw from the scheme because of unhelpful interventions from jobcentres. It is bad for them, bad for the school and, above all, bad for the students they support, many of whom have abandonment issues.
In the case of City Year UK, pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds are supported by the volunteers and we see improved attendance, behaviour and attainment. The volunteers benefit from the front-line work experience, and City Year UK runs a leadership development programme, which also helps to deliver their work-readiness skills. In the same month that I visited the volunteers at the school, the then Minister for Civil Society, recognising the difficulties of the status of full-time volunteers in this country, launched the youth full-time social action review. This was chaired by the former CEO of National Grid, Steve Holliday, who was supported by expert panellists such as Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England. The findings were published in January and acknowledged that youth full-time social action does indeed play an important role in meeting governmental priorities on social mobility, inclusion, careers education and skills development. Consequently, the review called for the Government to better support, encourage and recognise these full-time youth volunteers.
The review made a number of sensible, practical recommendations to the Government on how to achieve this—for example, by encouraging jobcentres to be more open to the idea. However, I want to focus on what I think is the most significant recommendation from the review, and that is the creation of a government-backed youth full-time social action pilot scheme—one which could eventually work to grow and emulate initiatives such as AmeriCorps.
Although Mr Holliday calls on the Department for Education to initiate this pilot, I think that it could be equally, if not better, co-ordinated out of the DCMS. I say that because that department already runs a youth social action programme—the National Citizen Service. This three- to four-week social action programme for 16 and 17 year-olds has already laid a foundation on which to build a long-term offer. The NCS now engages around 100,000 young people every year, 64% of whom say that they want to continue volunteering. A new long-term offer for those over 18 could meet some of this demand and, above all, it could make sure that NCS is not a short, one-off programme but instead creates a lifelong habit of social action. This was called for by the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement of your Lordships’ House. NCS at 16 should be the beginning and definitely not the limit of a young person’s opportunity to serve.
Sadly, the Government’s response to the review lacked anything of the ambition and vision of the young people who stepped up to serve through social action. Indeed, the Government chose to release their response as Parliament was going into recess on what “The West Wing” always liked to call the “taking out the trash day”. There was no mention of a pilot programme, no connection to NCS, no action at all—the hallmarks of a colossal missed opportunity.
The publication of the review could not have come at a better time. I am afraid this nation does not feel at ease with itself, and what could be more inspiring to all of us than a co-ordinated programme of full-time voluntary action which is properly recognised and celebrated? We all know that too many young people lack the skills to participate fully in the modern employment market. Evidence shows that this sort of programme could make a real difference. The Government have just published the rather good Civil Society Strategy which has young people and volunteering at its core. They will shortly publish strategies on how to build integrated communities and how to beat loneliness.
I believe that the time and the need to explore the possibility of expanding new full-time social action is now. The first step towards this is establishing a pilot programme with the support of the sector—organisations such as City Year, Volunteering Matters, vinspired, Depaul, The Scout Association and The Wildlife Trusts. I thank everyone speaking in the debate, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market. She and I share a wide-ranging interest in the voluntary sector. Although sometimes we come to it from a slightly different angle, we always end up having rather interesting discussions, of which I hope this is one.
I start from a very obvious but necessary point: we all agree that social action is a good thing. It is something that we all wish to encourage. It is something of which all Governments of every stripe are in favour. Going back to the 19th century, one can look at different initiatives which have arisen from different Governments, all in the name of trying to stimulate social action. I can certainly think back to the time of the Blair Government, when there were big new programmes of volunteering and social action announced with great fanfare.
Every time this House debates and discusses social action, we return to four key things: what is the purpose, what is the good that any programme of social action is trying to achieve which cannot be attained in any other way? How is access and eligibility for any programme going to be enabled? What resources will be behind it? Who is going to co-ordinate it? I am afraid we are back with those four questions again today. I was forcibly reminded of that by the fact that I was up very early yesterday morning attending a panel event in which four people were talking about the civil society response to Grenfell Tower. I was very struck by what they said. They had a tale to tell of unsurpassed generosity. In a very short space of time, people from all over this country sent £27 million. People sent goods. People turned up to volunteer to do something in a very immediate way to help in a place in which there was a clear need for social action to overcome a problem. Yet, even in a borough—to give Kensington and Chelsea its due—which has managed more than others to keep their voluntary infrastructure bodies funded, there was a complete lack of infrastructure to coordinate that outpouring of people who wanted to do something about social action. That is not just because it was an exceptional tragedy; it was because local government has been systematically stripped of its resources. Many of the first resources to go in local authorities have been those co-ordinating bodies. Consequently, what is left in any borough or local council are very small local organisations, sometimes religious, with a limited capacity to take on board some of the bigger and more intractable problems of social action. A key question that we have to think about when we talk about these national programmes of social action is: who will be there to translate that good will into something of a practical nature?
As we go through this I think we will see not a lack of willingness on the part of local government to treat social action as important, nor a lack of ideas for different, time-limited funds of which social action is an integral part. What we will see is a lack of coherence and long-term thinking. The question that I return to is: whatever this or any national Government’s enthusiasm for social action, how is it possible to ensure that we make the best of what young people have to give if there is no obvious and evident place in which there can be a coherent, co-coordinated response?
Noble Lords will not be surprised—the Minister certainly will not—if I turn to the subject of the National Citizen Service. I am on record as being somewhat critical of it. I do not dispute that the National Citizen Service does great things for young people or that those who go on it have a very good time. What I have always disputed, right from the beginning, is whether that very short-term programme can really be justified given how expensive it is per placement as compared to other services. We must return to asking questions about the National Citizen Service in some detail because it gets 95% of all central government spending on youth services at a time when local government resources for youth services are plummeting.
The Government sometimes come out with the value-for-money figures which noble Lords will have heard the chief executive of the National Citizen Service trot out again earlier in the summer. Those are presented on the basis of the return for every pound invested. I have no doubt that the academics who were brought in to produce that evidence base did a very good and thorough job. But in themselves the figures do not prove that the National Citizen Service is, comparatively speaking, the best way in which the Government should be spending the bulk of the money which they have to spend on this.
I have another question for the Minister. I know that the NCS Trust is making big efforts to get its overhead costs down, because it has been criticised for those. As part of its restructuring programme this summer, it announced that it would be changing the way it deals with a number of delivery partners. If I may pick my noble friend Lady Scott up on this, it is not the DCMS which runs the National Citizen Service; it just hands over a lot of money—£1 billion over three years. What can the Minister tell us about the efforts being made not only to bring down the overhead costs of the National Citizen Service but to improve its relationships with the rest of the voluntary sector? Given that it is largely not a citizenship service at all but a social action service, from its inception Members of your Lordships’ House have said that the National Citizen Service would rest or fall on the quality and durability of its relationships with the rest of the voluntary sector. So I ask them to do that.
The report around which today’s debate is structured asks for stronger managerial input for a full-time social action programme to be bolted on to the NCS. I am not sure that the NCS is the correct vehicle. The question is the extent to which the NCS is becoming, as it was supposed to be, the initial step that young people take towards a longer-term career or make a life-long commitment to social action and volunteering. I am not sure that the evidence is there yet. The NCS has just finished its summer programme for this year and no doubt we will see its next report.
I return to the point about local authorities. I am not asking for a return to the old structure of community service volunteers of years ago, not least because young people today want to do many more things online in a way that is very different from how it was 20 or 30 years ago. I still think there is a role for local government in making sense of the social action capacity of young people in a very immediate and enduring way. I also think that it is the role of government not necessarily to be the arbiter or founder of new schemes, but it certainly is for them to commission and deliver the comparative research data which at the moment is missing in all this. We urgently need data on these things to enable the Government to answer the question: where is the money best spent for the most effective return?
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, on securing this debate. I enjoyed listening to her, as indeed I enjoyed her raising some of these themes on the Bill we discussed two years ago on the NCS. She was not alone in her criticisms of the Government’s approach—the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, was rather more vehement on some points, some of which she repeated today and which I think still have salience. Together, it was obvious that the Government’s initial proposals and those which eventually came through were given a strong critique during the Bill’s passage through this House, and rightly so, because a number of questions still echo in my mind from that time, which we have referred to today.
Turning to the subject of this debate focussing on the recent review, it is wise to bear in mind some of the points made in the earlier two speeches. Obviously the Minister will respond as he sees fit. In coming back to this relatively recently and with not a great deal of continuing interest in it because I have been doing other things, it is disappointing to read of the still relatively limited way in which the NCS is reaching out. Other were concerns expressed at that time that we perhaps also need to reflect on. I seem to remember the main points made were that the NCS, by the way it was created and the way it was funded, would generally destabilise provision. I do not think that has happened as much as people feared, but some effect can be detected. I think we were worried that it would not do sufficient to reach out to the hard-to-reach people, who other bodies, previously set up independently of government and which had a lot of expertise, had been warning that it would be hard to get to, and the evidence is still there that it is not reaching those people. We were worried that it would find it very difficult to scale up. I think that the number is still 100,000 people. That seems a long way short of what we were promised it would be by now during discussion on the Bill.
Perhaps good news is coming down the track, but I am not aware of it. Without scale, we cannot really justify some of the rhetoric used when this was set up: that its costs would be disproportionately high and that the opportunity costs—referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker—money that would otherwise have gone to good and effective schemes in this area, would be diverted and that that would be unfair. There were also worries about the general scale of what it was about.
Those were criticisms of a yet to be formed body, but the Government should now defend where they have got to on this, because it is largely their responsibility—a particular aspect of Government, perhaps, but one still Government as a whole. They would be wrong if they were try to conceal anything that should be disclosed about the success or otherwise of this programme.
Taking those memories forward, what struck me positively was that although very strong views were expressed by bodies such as the Scouts and Guides, and others, about the emergence of NCS and its attempt to become, in effect, the standard under which everything else would be done, they did not use the opportunity that they had to destroy what was proposed. Indeed, they acted in a very responsible way, by giving it a chance to establish itself, hoping and praying that it would be an effective addition to the social action area—in particular to young people looking for experience of a wider world before joining whatever career they wanted—and to work together with it, where possible, to make more of the whole than would otherwise be the case.
In that sense, it was good that the DCMS gave assurances, during the Bill’s passage, that it would try to fill some of the points that were missing at the time—as it has indeed done to quite an extent. I think in particular of the concern—I think it was expressed by a group working in the City—about its being a short-term project, and that no consideration was given to year-long projects, which the group supported and seemed to be doing well. Another concern was that there was no sense of continuity of activity—a point made by both earlier speakers. Those who wanted to spend more time in this area, giving more back and benefiting society as a result, would not be able to do so, because the ladders needed for people to progress, or the additional functions into which they could go, would not be there, because of the absence of funding or a broader context.
The decision to set up the review was good, because it meant that some of these issues would not just sit and wait for some casual attention: they were going to be picked up and looked at in the round, and policies would be developed to resolve them. One issue that I recall, which was included in today’s briefing, was the rather absurd situation whereby we want to encourage volunteering but do not provide the appropriate benefits, through the DWP—or credit, when it is done outside public support—so that pensions or other long-term entitlements such as sick pay, are not affected. Why cannot that be sorted? It seems such an obvious and sensible thing that the Government would just do it, particularly when they have very little else to do. At least, however, the task of reviewing these issues was given to those conducting the report, with the expectation that out of it would come recommendations that the Government could action.
The report was conducted by someone with considerable knowledge in this area who also took advice and has published what is a very good read. What is sad, however, is that the Government have again ducked the opportunity to take this another step forward. While credit has been given to the overall policy statement, some of the narrower issues are yet to be addressed. I hope that in his response, the Minister can provide a satisfactory answer why this is the case.
The issue is, however, wider than that. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, in particular, picked up on this. We have a situation where everyone agrees that voluntary action is a good thing. We want to emulate the best in the world: why not, since we are a big country with resources? We should have the capacity to do it. We have untapped capacity in our society: people who want to do things because they see something wrong—who want to exercise their judgment to try to improve it. There are people who see tragedy and disaster and want to get involved—examples of that have been given. It needs, however, a partnership approach, and the sensitivity of those involved to recognise where Government can act and to let Government do what they can, but to push them to do so when they do not. It also needs, however, a comprehensive overall plan—a road map—to allow people to do it.
I am left perplexed as to why we are not further down this track than we are. The effort that went in to getting NCS up and running will be justified only if we can see a bigger, broader picture on a larger canvas in which people want to be involved, not because they want their lives to be in it permanently but because they would feel their investment of an additional year or two would be worthwhile.
It should be seen in the round of existing provisions, both domestic and overseas, because there lots of people would like to travel and do other things, such as giving something back to overseas territories, and that is to be welcomed. It should be done in a way which does not disadvantage anybody who desires to take this route forward and which enhances the capacity we have as a country to spend a little bit of money to obtain a huge amount of return from voluntary support. It should be done in a way which gives people courage to come back with more proposals, invention, and ideas to make sure that we allow those who have the capacity, skills and the time to contribute in a way which is effective and efficient for the long term.
My Lords, this may be a tail-end of the day debate, but I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, on securing it. It is certainly far from unimportant. While the debate has focused on full-time social action, young people, and the Steve Holliday review, I feel it makes sense for me to extend my comments initially to encompass social action for all age groups. I am reminded of my own maiden speech in this House in 2010 which had a focus on the big society, but I will not go there today.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, we should be aspiring to be the best in the world and England has a great record of people helping others. Almost a quarter of the population formally volunteer at least once a month and many more do so informally. Social action is about people coming together to improve the lives of others, and solve problems that are important in their communities. It involves people giving their time in a range of forms: from volunteering and community-owned services to community organising or simple neighbourly acts. To give the Committee an example, the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme has trained people of all ages in what it is like to live with dementia and then how to turn that understanding into action. The programme has been widely successful, with 2.5 million of its dementia friends working to create environments where people with dementia are enabled to live and be well-cared for.
Young people have a vital role to play. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has recently recruited 15 young people to spend time with older people in their own homes to help combat loneliness. In time, this number will grow to 200 young people. This is just one of the projects supported by the Pears Foundation and the #iwill fund, backed by the Government and the Big Lottery Fund.
For young people, we know that participation in social action opens doors. As the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, said, young participants develop key skills for work and life, build their resilience and enhance their well-being, all while giving back to their communities. The National Youth Social Action Survey 2017 by Ipsos MORI found that young people who take part in social action have higher life-satisfaction, improved job prospects and stronger personal networks. I suspect the Committee will know that but what is critically important, both to the individual and to our communities, is not the number of hours that young people spend doing social action but the quality of that social action and experience for young people. For example, it matters that the social action has a clear impact on the community or social problem, and it is important that that is shaped and owned by young people themselves.
I come to the Independent Review of Full-Time Social Action. Given the complexities of this area and the inherent challenges, the full-time social action review by Steve Holliday was an important piece of work. I want to take an opportunity to thank Steve and the panel members for their dedication to the review and to everyone who was involved in this consultation. In particular, I extend these thanks to all the young people who provided vital evidence. These young people painted a mixed picture of full-time social action opportunities. Some found the experience helped them through a difficult time in their lives and furnished them with new skills for the future. However, some young people also highlighted the barriers that prevented them taking part in full-time opportunities.
Important issues were raised, such as inadequate financial support to cover living costs and negative implications for social housing, along with study and caring commitments. One young person said that,
“on balance, it would be a struggle to say it was worth it, by virtue of the short and long-term personal and financial repercussions ... I do not regret the time I spent volunteering, but would personally not recommend anyone take a voluntary position unless they have significant financial backing”.
The review also reflects that:
“The evidence demonstrating the impact of FTSA in contrast with part-time social action is currently very limited. Many organisations argue that quality of social action is more important than quantity”.
The Government therefore welcome a report that acknowledges these issues and sets out a series of steps to make full-time social action opportunities more accessible. In our response we have welcomed a number of the recommendations, including the excellent work of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations to create good practice guidance for organisations which provide full-time social action opportunities.
The recommendations in the panel’s report also mention a proposal for a government-backed full-time social action pilot, a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, spoke about in positive terms. It is certainly a well-intentioned proposal, but given the lack of a clear evidence base and feedback from young people, we do not think that there is sufficient evidence for a separate full-time social action fund. Instead, we suggest that full-time social action providers who are interested in running such a pilot should apply for open funding streams such as the Home Office’s £22 million Early Intervention Fund or the £40 million #iwill Fund, jointly funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Big Lottery Fund. As noble Lords will be aware, we back a number of high-quality programmes for young people. We have also recently published the Civil Society Strategy which has been mentioned. It sets out a vision for the next 10 years and the vital role that young people can play in tackling challenges and creating a better future.
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked who would be able to translate the good will into practicalities, which is a fair question. The Government are running a large number of programmes to support youth social action, ranging from the National Citizen Service to the #iwill Fund, which I have just mentioned. I can elaborate further on this in a letter should I need to do so.
Our flagship policy is the National Citizen Service, which again was mentioned by various speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. However, I certainly note the reservations that were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker. It is a programme that is open to all young people aged 15 to 17 and is designed to deliver a concentrated programme of positive activities, personal development and social action for them. I am pleased to say that so far, nearly 500,000 young people from all social backgrounds have taken part in the NCS. Together they have given over 12 million hours of volunteer time. We also know that NCS graduates give back an additional 6.3 hours of volunteering per month, compared to their peers who have not taken part in the programme.
I want to address a number of questions that were raised about the NCS, which I felt was an important focus of this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked whether in the short term the NCS programme is worth it. In her view it is expensive when compared with other programmes, making up 95% of the Office for Civil Society’s funding for young people. However, consecutive independent evaluations show that the programme consistently delivers positive impacts against its core objectives. I am not expecting the noble Baroness to agree with that, but that is where we are coming from. She also said that the NCS Trust is making efforts to reduce both its overhead and more general costs, as well as improving the relationships it has with the voluntary sector. Perhaps I may go a little further and say that we are working with the trust to create efficiencies and drive down costs, delivering better value for money for the taxpayer. We are also encouraging a wide range of organisations, including voluntary organisations, to express their interest during an NCS recommissioning bidding process. There is work to be done, which I hope is of some reassurance to the noble Baroness.
What the Minister just said spoke to a thought. I thought that the whole point of the Bill that we passed two years ago was to create the NCS as an independent body. So when he said “we are working with them” to do this, that and the next thing, including reducing costs, can he describe what mechanism the Government have for that independent body?
Those are both very fair questions. As the noble Lord and the noble Baroness probably know, I was not involved in that Bill. I shall write to them, because it is important to set out precisely what the Bill said about the relationship between the Government and the setting up of the NCS and where we are now, which I would argue should be the same. Let me, without making any commitments, clarify what is meant by “we”. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, will know a lot more about the relationship that was set up. It is important that we get that right.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, had a few reservations about the NCS, saying that he thought that it was limited in reaching out to hard-to-reach young people and that it had not been scaled up. The NCS aids social cohesion. Eight out of 10 participants felt more positive about people from different backgrounds participating after the NCS was set up. Social mixing is a core aim of the NCS and, as I said earlier, nearly 500,000 young people have taken part. By the way, just to reassure the Committee, it is the fastest growing youth movement in a century, so surely there must be some good coming out of it—I hope so.
We are supporting young people to participate in social action by backing the #iwill campaign run by Step Up To Serve. This campaign is mobilising business, philanthropists, the voluntary sector and institutions to make social action a part of life for all 10 to 20 year- olds. To support this, in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund, we are working with other funders to create new opportunities for young people to participate in social action. The £40 million #iwillFund, has to date partnered with 20 match funders and has estimated that it will create 650,000 new opportunities for young people.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, asked whether we can work with the DWP to give jobcentres clearer guidance to recognise volunteering hours. That is a fair point. The DWP already recognises that volunteering can help young people develop vital skills for work. Unemployed people claiming jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit are required to spend a certain amount of time searching for work, as we know. Outside this, they can spend as many hours as they like volunteering. The DWP has also committed to update guidance to job coaches around their ability to provide additional, discretionary flexibility to claimants.
A note has come from behind me which may be helpful, about how the NCS and the DCMS work together. We are making the NCS an arm’s-length body. We are working with it on the basis that we are ensuring its accountability to Parliament while ensuring that it retains its independence. I think I need to embellish that in a letter—I see the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, nodding. That is an indication that we want to provide clarity on this.
In conclusion, the Government are providing people up and down the country with a range of opportunities to take part in their communities. It would not be right to conclude this debate without mentioning the important role that Scouts and Guides play, in the great tradition of Baden-Powell—the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, raised this point. Young people who join these and other uniformed organisations participate in weekly activities, contribute to their communities and develop key skills, such as teamwork, character and resilience. On Monday, the Government announced £5 million of new investment to create an additional 5,500 places for young people from disadvantaged communities. This will help more young people access these groups, participate in their communities and reach their full potential.
Committee adjourned at 7.29 pm.