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My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has outlined the facts as highlighted by the report of the Hillsborough independent panel in relation to the police. I should like to do the same as regards the response of the ambulance service on the day and the subsequent actions of pathologists and the coroner.

The panel found significant failings in the response and actions of the South Yorkshire Metropolitan ambulance service. Ambulance staff at the stadium were slow to respond and to realise that a major incident was unfolding, despite being close to where the crush was taking place. Poor communication between the emergency services led to delay, misunderstanding and, importantly, a failure fully to implement the major incident plan. The result was a lack of leadership and co-ordination by senior officers and that resources, including the emergency foot team with essential medical equipment, were not deployed. This clear failure continued for at least 45 minutes after fans were released from the pens. There was no systematic assessment of the condition of the victims, and there was a lack of basic equipment, much of which, again through poor communication, remained in ambulances parked outside the ground.

A number of doctors and nurses happened to be in the ground at the time as spectators. Their accounts, critical of the lack of leadership, co-ordination, triage and equipment, were vigorously refuted at the time by South Yorkshire metropolitan ambulance service. Sadly, they were an accurate portrayal of what happened that day. There is also evidence that a number of written statements were altered. In a number of cases, they deflected criticisms and emphasised the efficiency of the ambulance service response.

The Hillsborough independent panel also re-examined the evidence around the cause of death. In most cases, post mortem results stated that the cause of death was traumatic asphyxia, with the assumption made by the coroner that unconsciousness would have taken place within seconds and death within three to four minutes. As a result, it was repeatedly asserted by the coroner, by the High Court in the judicial review and by Lord Justice Stuart-Smith’s scrutiny that, by the time those who died had been removed from the pens, death would have been irreversible.

I regret to inform the House that the panel found clear evidence in at least 41 cases that that was not the case. The post mortem reports found that 28 people did not have traumatic asphyxia with obstruction of blood circulation and would have taken much longer to die. There was also separate evidence that in 31 cases the heart and lungs had continued to function after the crush, and, in 16 cases, for a prolonged period. However, these people would have remained vulnerable to a further incident brought on by something as simple as being placed on their back, which would further have obstructed their airway. It is not possible to say with certainty whether anyone could or would have survived under different circumstances, but it is highly likely that what happened to them after 3.15 pm played a significant part in whether they survived.

The Hillsborough independent report raised those and other clear failings by the NHS at the time—failings that might have contributed to the loss of as many as 41 lives. I have, in the past, made my own personal

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apology for my misunderstanding of the events at Hillsborough. Today, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the NHS, to make a sincere apology to the families, friend and loved ones of the victims of the 96. I am deeply sorry for the part that the NHS played in their grief, both at the time and in any attempt to conceal those failings in the 23 years since.

The ambulance service in south Yorkshire and across the country is very different today from how it was in 1989. We have learned valuable lessons from major incidents such as Hillsborough, but also more recently from the 7/7 bombings, the floods in 2007 and the Cumbria shootings in 2010. In 1989, ambulance services were predominantly about first aid and transporting people to hospital. Only around 10% of ambulance crews were qualified paramedics able directly to intervene at the scene of an emergency. Today, the service is characterised by a highly skilled and qualified work force. Around 60% of staff are paramedics.

Although the events of that day happened almost a quarter of a century ago and although the ambulance service has changed significantly since then, we should not and will not assume that the failings of 1989 have been fully rectified in 2012. I am totally committed to making certain that any and all steps are taken to ensure that any failings brought to light by the panel’s work are dealt with promptly and satisfactorily.

The chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has written to the Royal College of Pathologists, drawing its attention to the panel’s report and inviting it to reflect on what lessons might be learned by pathologists practising today. In addition, Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, has written to ambulance trusts, acute hospital trusts and strategic health authorities again asking them to consider what further lessons might be learned from the report that would improve NHS services.

I would like now to mention some of the extremely moving speeches that we have heard this evening. I apologise if I do not get round to mentioning all of them because of the time constraints, but let me say first that we have seen a debate this evening that has shown this House at its very best. I want to pay particular tribute to the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) for his campaigning. It is true to say that without his decision, with the support of the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), we would not be here today and justice would not have been done. He deserves huge credit for that.

We heard an extremely moving speech from my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley), who talked about the appalling failing of West Midlands police and the agony that the family of Kevin Williams went through. The hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) talked about the fact that he was in the stadium on the day. The hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) talked about his shock at the elimination of inconvenient witness statements by South Yorkshire police, describing them as opinion and not fact.

The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) talked about the kindness of the people of Sheffield to the people of Liverpool and about how it is important, if we are going to have a culture of transparency, that it needs to come right from the very top. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) talked about how she was born and bred in Hillsborough, living only a stone’s

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throw away, and paid an important tribute to the members of South Yorkshire police force who behaved professionally and honourably. The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) talked about the huge workload faced by the IPCC, and highlighted the issue of ensuring that it has adequate resources. My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) talked about the power of football to bring people together and about the importance that everyone should be accountable for their actions, no matter whether they are still serving or not.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) talked about her support for the shadow Home Secretary’s desire for the IPCC to have powers to compel police officers to give evidence—something that we have said we are happy to talk to the shadow Home Secretary about. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) talked about the need to change the law to stop cover-ups. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller) talked about the need for The Sun and Kelvin MacKenzie to be accountable for their actions, and about the need for the investigation to be carried out quickly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans) talked about his concern for the families and victims. The hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) questioned whether all statements had been disclosed to the panel. If she has any details of any missing documents, I would ask her to let us know, so that we can ask officials to look into that. She also asked whether the Football Association was subject to investigation. I can confirm that the actions of the football authorities are within the scope of the review of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) spoke movingly as a football fan about the need to resolve this matter with decency and urgency. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), whose campaigning on this issue is second to none, talked about the question of when human nature should override the orders given by a senior officer. The hon. Member for St Helens North (Mr Watts) asked why the establishment and media did not expose the cover-up and, again, talked about the role of The Sun.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman) talked, as many Members did, about the importance of speed and parliamentary oversight. I can assure her that Parliament will be kept fully informed of the progress of the investigations. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) talked about the response of constituents to the way in which Parliament has responded to this issue following the Prime Minister’s statement. I agree—and the Government agree—on the importance of ongoing support for families.

The hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) talked movingly about the achievements of campaigners for justice for the Hillsborough victims. The right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) talked about the

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conspiring that has happened and how that shakes many people’s confidence in the very foundations of the state. The hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) said that, for all of us, it is impossible to understand what it is like to lose a child. She said that we must remember the law-abiding fans and the fact that the image of a hooligan was a stereotype that led to many of the problems that we are dealing with today.

Then we heard powerful contributions by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) and the hon. Members for Bassetlaw (John Mann), for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), for Blaydon (Mr Anderson), for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) and for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), although I am sorry that I do not have time to reference them all in detail.

I want to conclude by saying that, as the Prime Minister has said, the Hillsborough families have been the victims of a double injustice: first, through the events themselves, the failure of the state to protect their loved ones, and their interminable wait for the truth; and, secondly, through the injustice of the denigration of the deceased and the way in which everything that happened that day was portrayed as being somehow their own fault. The Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster, and it is clear, as the report states, that

“a swifter, more appropriate, better focused and properly equipped response had the potential to save more lives”.

10 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Mr Speaker: Order. I have not put the Question, because the motion has lapsed. I have listened with great respect to what the Secretary of State has said. I think that those attending to our debate can take it that the House has considered the matter of the Hillsborough independent panel report. I thank the Secretary of State and all colleagues for taking part in the debate.

Business without Debate

delegated legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Licences and Licensing

That the draft Late Night Levy (Application and Administration) Regulations 2012, which were laid before this House on 4 July, be approved.—(Nicky Morgan.)

Question agreed to.

administration

Ordered,

That Mr Mark Francois be discharged from the Administration Committee and Mr Desmond Swayne be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

22 Oct 2012 : Column 805

Educational Funding Gap

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Nicky Morgan.)

Mr Speaker: Order. In thanking everyone who has taken part in, or witnessed, this evening’s debate, may I appeal to right hon. and hon. Members who, unaccountably, might be leaving the Chamber and not wishing to stay to hear the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), to do so quickly and quietly, affording the hon. Gentleman the same courtesy that they would wish to be extended to them in similar circumstances?

10 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): It is a pleasure to have secured this important debate on the educational funding gap for 16 to 18-year-olds with special needs. I well remember, back in 2008—a date that will feature rather less auspiciously later in my remarks—going to Crewe and Nantwich to campaign in the by-election that resulted in the election of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), now the Under-Secretary of State for Education, to this House. It is a great pleasure to congratulate him on achieving ministerial office. I understand that this is the first Adjournment debate to which he has replied, and I am sure that he will want to give me as positive a response as possible to the requests that I intend to make.

I am going to focus on two specific areas. The first is the educational funding gap for 16 to 18-year-olds with special needs. The second, which is indirectly related to that, is the funding of what are known as enrichment courses at further education colleges for people in that age range and for those who are somewhat older. The two issues arise as a result of similar causes. I have forewarned those in the Minister’s office of what I am about to say, and they have seen the material to which I shall refer.

This material has been supplied to me by a splendid organisation called SCARF, which is in the New Forest. SCARF stands for Supporting special Children and their Relatives and Friends. I pay particular tribute to Sarah Newman, Cathy Cook and Pam Tibbles, among others, who were present at a meeting of the organisation with me and my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Mr Swayne). I know that my right hon. Friend would like to join me in participating in the debate tonight, but he is now governed by that particular form of omertà known as the silence of the Whips—or, in present circumstances, perhaps we should say the silence that most Whips generally observe.

I have learned about these problems first hand from SCARF; I have learned of the views of the principal of Totton college in New Forest East via SCARF; and I have learned of the views of the principal of Brockenhurst college, also in New Forest East, directly. I have also been sent briefings by a number of charities, including the National Autistic Society, Ambitious about Autism and the special needs charity Contact a Family.

I want to talk about the parents’ experiences, some of which will be drawn from SCARF’s recent submission to the Education Select Committee, but I shall refer first to one from a constituent who wrote to me recently

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about the strains and stresses placed on her family as a result of the funding gap to which I have referred. She writes as follows:

“Our son is 16 years old and has autism. He attends college just 3 days a week. We are paying £120 p/w for private day service provision on the other two days. This has been necessary to ease the extremely high levels of anxiety and stress for our son and ourselves as parents and to provide”

her son

“with continuing development of his personal, social and communication skills.”

This mother goes on to make a very important point:

“Adolescence and transition to further education, is a particularly difficult time for a young person with autism or any disability…Our son cannot be left unsupervised to structure and manage his own daily activities, hence the alternative was for myself to give up work and be his ‘buddy’ for those two days each week”

when there is no further education available for him.

“This is far from ideal as, aged 16, he does not want to be constantly shadowed by his mother and also having spent a summer holiday this way, the sheer exhaustion and strain has already resulted in breakdown in family relations. I am extremely concerned about the impact the cuts are having on families with disabled young people. I run a parent support group and am deeply saddened by the despair I see on parents faces”.

That is from the coal face, as it were.

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend—and his constituency neighbour—on securing this debate. He could have read from the sort of letter I have received from many of my constituents. Does he not believe that this policy is very short-sighted because the actual cost to the public purse of not enabling these young adults to reach their full potential will be much more in the longer term?

Dr Lewis: Absolutely. This is one of those classic cases where we are in danger of falling between two stools. There is education funding up to the age of 16 and then adult social funding from the age of 18, but if something goes terribly wrong in that two-year gap, the cost—in terms of both human suffering and additional support from the state resulting from the fallout of something going wrong at that time—will be colossal. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

The summary of the position is put forward, as I mentioned earlier, in SCARF’s submission to the Education Select Committee. It describes the overall situation as follows:

“Education funding has been repeatedly cut in recent years”.

Apparently, this started in 2008, but it happened again in 2010 and then in 2011. As a result,

“Further Education colleges can only offer 3 days a week of education to these young people. In addition, Social Services day-care is not available, except in the most extreme cases, until these young people turn 18 and are classed as adults. Consequently, many parents/carers are left to provide the care themselves for their young person on 2 weekdays every week…these young people end up stuck at home with their parent/carer, quickly becoming challenging and disruptive…the end result is a crisis which then requires significant support from health and social services.”

SCARF wants a guarantee that all young people with special needs or disabilities—I believe that LDD is shorthand for “learning difficulties and disabilities”—should have “the right to full-time education for 5 days a week up to at least the age of 18.”

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As I said in response to the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), I recognise that it may be necessary for more than one department to be involved. It is possible that those in the education department will say “We simply cannot carry the funding burden for the whole of that period.” Given that this used to be primarily the responsibility of the education department, if the education department is going to shuffle off that responsibility, it surely has a duty to find another department—perhaps one connected with social services—that will take the responsibility on.

As SCARF observes in its submission,

“since September 2008, our local FE colleges have had their funding repeatedly cut”.

It gives a number of examples of the way in which that can affect families. I shall not go into them in detail, because time does not allow me to, but one parent says that her son

“absconded without warning one freezing winter afternoon”

and was knocked down by a car, while another talks of the danger of her son’s lighting fires around the home and the fact that he needs active supervision all the time. Some parents have to give up their jobs, while others strain to find the money to pay people to be the buddies or supervisors of their children on those two days off.

There is no doubt that what was previously a relatively seamless five days a week of provision from childhood to adulthood is no longer available. The explanation, as I understand it, is this. Following the introduction of foundation learning qualifications, the basis was changed from generic or broad learning aims to education that would lead to the achievement of specific qualifications. That is fine for people who are not learning-disadvantaged or disabled, but it obviously has a huge negative impact on that category who are. There was also a reduction in what is called “entitlement funding” from 117 hours to only 30 hours a year, and a restriction excluding what are known as “enrichment” activities from the process. Such activities are not designed to lead to the world of work, but are designed simply to give greater quality to the life of a learning-disabled person.

That brings me to my second topic, which is the question of people who are in an older age category but who were previously able to take part in free enrichment courses on one day a week at local further education colleges. Let me give the example—with permission—of my constituent Jessica Snell. She is the daughter of the retired principal of Brockenhurst college. He writes:

“Jessica…is 38 years old and has Down’s syndrome. She lives with her parents and attends a local day centre for 3 days a week. For some time she has attended her local college for one day a week and has gained significantly in her life and social skills. Until 2010 the college was able to draw down funding and remit any fees. This year, she must pay £840 for one day a week for 30 weeks and has no additional income beyond her SDLA”—

severe disability living allowance—

“benefit from which she can pay. Her programme is not work related but she has opted for cooking, drama and craft, all of which add to her independent living skills and enjoyment of life. College also gives her the opportunity to meet and mix with a vibrant community of young people.”

Just as the 16 to 18-year-olds faced a tighter restriction as to whether or not they were going to get qualifications at the end of the process, so the older severe learning-disabled person faces a tighter restriction as to whether

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or not the course will ever get them into work. If the answer is no in each case, the funding has disappeared, with the consequences I have described.

I began by saying what a pleasure it was to see my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich at the Dispatch Box, and I hope for the far greater pleasure of hearing him say what the Government intend to do to bridge this damaging gap in order to help young people between the ages of 16 and 18 and people like Jessica, who in their adult years cannot hope to enter the world of work, but can still derive much personal satisfaction and advantage from having one day a week at a further education college.

I am sure the Minister will want to tell the House about the Bill on the reform of provision for children and young people with special educational needs, which I believe we will be considering next year. The national special needs charity to which I referred earlier, Contact a Family, has given great support to SCARF’s campaign, and welcomes the draft provisions published last month as far as they go, but it is deeply anxious that they do not guarantee a right to full-time education to those with learning difficulties and disabilities right up to the age of 18. Can the Minister assure us tonight that if his Department is unable single-handedly to fill the gap between these ages, it will work with other Departments so that, between them, we avoid this problem of falling between two stools and we reinstate the situation that used to apply before 2008 and has progressively—or regressively, I should say—deteriorated since then and that we return to the position in which, one way or another, people have five days a week of support between the ages of 16 and 18?

10.17 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Edward Timpson): I begin by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) for welcoming me to my new role and, I think, for reminding me of those heady days of 2008 in Crewe and Nantwich. More importantly for the purposes of the debate, I thank him for bringing before the House the important question of funding for students aged between 16 and 18 with learning difficulties and disabilities, and in particular those who are being educated in our further education colleges. As I have frequently heard my hon. Friend speak in this House, it comes as no surprise to me that he argues this case clearly and with passion on behalf of his constituents who are the parents of just such young learners. He has brought home the very real issues that they face in getting the best education for their children.

Although I am still relatively new in my post as Minister in the Department for Education, I have already become aware of the responsibility that rests with me for these young people. My Department has already set out our commitment in our May 2012 document “Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability—progress and next steps.” That approach follows on from the proposals in the earlier Green Paper. Our proposals, which we have drawn up into draft legislation that is currently being scrutinised, are designed to move away from the disjointed, labyrinthine and label-focused current system my hon. Friend described to a more seamless, supported and outcomes-focused system. In doing so, we seek to offer real hope for young

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people with learning difficulties and disabilities, and to help them meet their desires and aspirations, in the same way that other young people can.

The pressures are particularly acute at periods of transition, such as when people move from primary into secondary education and then from compulsory education into further or higher education. The concern for parents, as has been so eloquently expressed by my hon. Friend, is whether their children are getting the level of education and support they need, and whether appropriate funding is available to make sure that that happens. Although his constituents point to this concern as having begun in the 2008-09 academic year for the colleges in his area, which my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Mr Swayne) also represents, we know that it is a concern in other parts of the country as well. It is, of course, right that parents expect to receive an appropriate level of provision for their children’s needs, and so it is right that local authorities and colleges work closely with parents and the young people themselves to ensure that their needs are being properly met at all times.

My Department funds local authorities to make provision and support available for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities in a way that allows for five days a week learning where that is appropriate. The funding behind that has not declined, and we are not changing the overall funding for schools and high-needs pupils and students aged up to 25. The amount we allocate for these children and young people through additional learning support—a key feature—has increased year on year. The amount of high-level additional learning support we make available for 16 to 24-year-olds has, in fact, increased by more than a quarter in the past two years, from £97 million in 2010-11 to £124.9 million in 2012-13. Additional funding has been made available from the learners with learning difficulties and disabilities placement budget for students with high levels of learning difficulty and/or disability placed in FE colleges. That has also increased by a quarter, from £24.8 million to £35 million in the same time period.

I know from a visit I made last week to Hereward college in Coventry that the one thing that most young people aged 16 to 18 want is to have, as far as possible, the same opportunities and life chances as the rest of their peer group. For some young people, who may have learning difficulties and/or disabilities but are quite capable of undertaking unsupervised independent study on their own, a course involving three days a week of supervised learning in an FE college will be wholly appropriate to their needs. However, for others—this touches on the case that my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East cited—it will simply not be enough, particularly for those with more profound or limiting disabilities. So where it is clear that a young person would have difficulty managing their learning in a three-day-a-week setting with periods of unsupervised study, we would expect a programme to be offered over a longer period each week. That would and should be accompanied by additional support for learning, the funding for which I have set out, and support outside formal lessons, to be provided as appropriate.

Of course, it is not the business of government to tell autonomous FE colleges how to arrange the courses they provide or how to set their timetables. By the same

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token, it is essential that the provision on offer in these colleges is right for each individual. Nor is it true that all FE colleges have looked at the overall funding available to them from their local authority and decided to reduce the length of courses they offer to their students; many have worked together to find innovative solutions. For example, Luton local authority has funded a “broker” to put together programmes for its young people with highest needs, combining education, health and social care as appropriate. It has generated new types of day provision with very high support functions, taking on a new role as a commissioner of services. Neighbouring Hertfordshire has operated with two “brokers” since 2006, but is now attempting to merge the role into personal adviser roles. Both Hertfordshire and Luton were part of an original east of England regional initiative Improving Choice, which developed a “person-centred” approach, aiming to increase availability and access to support for study within their local area.

Under the current funding approach, the provision that young people with learning difficulties and disabilities receive will depend on what the local authority has set out in the learning difficulty assessment drawn up for them. This is designed to identify the young person’s educational needs, and describe the provision that will be made available to them that will be suitable and appropriate to their needs. A local authority should not be drawing up a learning difficulty assessment that recommends a three-day-a-week course in a local FE college where that would not be appropriate to the young person’s needs.

Dr Julian Lewis: It seems to me that the Minister is saying that things ought to be sorted out between the local authority and the college. Brockenhurst college, to which I referred, is regarded as a beacon college and both Mike Snell, a parent and former principal, and Di Roberts, the present principal, have been awarded the CBE for their efforts, but with the best will in the world they cannot bridge the gap by themselves. I know that Hampshire county council—I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it is highly competent—is doing its best to help but it cannot bridge the gap caused by the restriction in the definition of available funding that I described.

Mr Timpson: Of course we are concerned when provision is not being met in any individual situation and I will be happy, as always, to look more closely at the circumstances mentioned by my hon. Friend. If a child has an identified need that is not being met through the learning difficulty assessment, that shows exactly why we need the reforms we will introduce in primary legislation next year.

The information set out in a learning difficulty assessment is covered by statutory guidance, but the guidance does not prescribe in close detail what can and cannot be included in each and every case.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) on securing the debate. The Government’s direction of travel is that more post-16 funding will come through local authorities as part of the seamless approach, which is to be welcomed in many ways. How will he ensure that local authorities have the right capacity to do that job, which they have not done hitherto? In cases where many local authorities have to work with one college, how will he ensure that

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there is a co-ordinated rather than fragmented approach on behalf of the young people who will all attend the same college?

Mr Timpson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the important question of how to get the most out of the available resources. We are under no illusions about the tight economic situation which means we have to find more from less. That is why the reforms we will introduce in the new year will focus on joint commissioning between education and health so that we can try to pool our resources more effectively; on putting a local offer on the table so that parents can see close up what services are available to them and get as much accountability as possible from the local authority and health services; and on ensuring that we identify as early as possible the needs of each individual child. That will mean that the necessary work can be done as early as possible, preventing unnecessary work in the future that could have been avoided if provision had been offered earlier. Those are all reasons why the reforms, which I shall explain in more detail in the three minutes I have left, will make an important contribution to a more effective child and young person-centred system.

Our proposed special educational needs reforms will improve the situation for this group of young people in general. More specifically, our proposed new education, health and care plans will focus much more on the needs and aspirations of the young person and will be drawn up in consultation with them. It is important to note that following an assessment of the young person’s needs and negotiation with them and their parents, the plans will set out their education, health and social care needs not up to the age of 16 or 18 but up to the age of 25. That is a new statutory protection for young adults in further education.

Let me move quickly on to the second issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East. If

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I do not cover every point he has raised, I will be happy to write to him in more detail to ensure that he has a full and considered reply. Access to FE provision for adults with learning difficulties is rightly the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, but it is clear to me that there are issues of real concern here that my hon. Friend has helpfully raised. The Government prioritise funding where its impact is greatest on outcomes, and maximising that is part of the Government’s agenda to support people into employment. We fully fund units and qualifications for unemployed people in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance and employment support allowance, depending on what they need to help them enter and stay in work. In 2012-13 we are investing over £3.8 billion for more than 3 million adult training places through the Skills Funding Agency.

I hear the concerns that my hon. Friend raises in relation to specific funding streams to support enrichment and further qualifications. There have been some changes to the way that they have been calculated, and that may have had an impact on some individual college budgets. I will be able to provide him with a fuller picture of the effect that that has had. I hope also to provide him with some reassurance that we understand the importance of learning not just educationally, but from a nurturing perspective for all young people. That is very much at the forefront of the reforms that we will be taking through the House in the coming months.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this extremely important issue, and I look forward to being able to provide him with a fuller reply in due course that sets out all the issues that he has raised.

Question put and agreed to.

10.30 pm

House adjourned.