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Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: I thank the Minister for that reply, which has given me some more questions to ask the Minister. The noble Lord did not respond to my point about the limit that the Government envisage for the regulations. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that in the light of his comment about hoping to ensure that the majority of claims are dealt with under the procedures of the small claims court.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am happy to respond. The noble Baroness rightly deduces that we intend to set the limit close to or at the level which applies at any time to claims which fall to be considered by the small claims court. That is currently £1,000, although my right honourable and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has plans for a higher small claims limit which could affect the eventual limit to be set under the Bill. I hope that that answers the question.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: I thank the Minister for that explanation, which helps but increases my astonishment at this paragraph. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, compared this amendment with claims by service personnel under the sex discrimination legislation. We are not here dealing with the same issue. We are dealing with injury to feelings, not lack of promotion or service opportunity, or being misled about opportunities which exist to return to work after maternity leave.

The Minister said that the Government do not intend to remove this provision from the Bill because it is their intention to promote the resolution of conflict. We would all agree with that, but even removing this paragraph from the Bill and so providing no limit on compensation would not of itself exclude conciliation to resolve the problem.

With regard to the small claims court, we are clearly talking about a limit of £1,000. That is to misunderstand the hurt feelings and discrimination suffered by many disabled people. Why should people covered by the Bill be treated worse than those covered by the sex discrimination and racial equality legislation? It is not

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equity. In this area the Bill is not treating people fairly. It discriminates against them. Clearly we shall not divide at this time of night, and so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Consequential Amendments]:

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 149:

Page 35, line 16, at end insert:

("Further and Higher Education Act 1992

. In Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (Courses of Further Education), in paragraph (j) for the words "which prepares them for entry to another course falling within paragraphs (d) to (h) above" there shall be substituted the words "as defined under section 4(6) (b) of this Act"
Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992

. In section 6 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 (further education to which section 1 applies), in subsection (1), after paragraph (f) there shall be inserted—
"(g) is designed to teach independent living and communication skills to persons with a disability which either prevents or hinders them from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided by institutions within the further education sector for persons of their age." ").

The noble Baroness said: In view of the hour I shall try not to be too long, but I shall not be very brief because this is a matter which is important and about which I feel passionately.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the responsibilities of the further education councils in England and Wales and the Secretary of State for Scotland include the provision of essential courses of benefit to young people with severe disabilities, even when they may not lead directly to a more academic or vocational course.

The amendment is necessary because at present it is unclear whether such people are covered by the further education sector or local authority provision. In practice, some students end up with no provision. Skill (the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities) can give many examples of students with severe learning difficulties who are in that predicament.

Another group encountering problems with gaining the skills they need are those people, often elderly, who have become deaf and are in need of lipreading skills. Those courses are sometimes available within the provision made by education authorities, but it is not always so, and many people do not have the opportunity of learning new ways to communicate. Skill feels that that duty is best placed in the further education sector.

LEAs have a responsibility to provide what are usually called leisure courses. But for students with severe learning difficulties life skills are not an optional extra. They are essential to enable them to operate as effectively as possible as independent adults. They do very much what a more academic course would do for a more academic student. The same is true for someone needing lipreading skills to survive successfully in society. We are talking, as it were, of A-levels in living. It is important that they should be able to learn such skills in a college environment surrounded by other students.

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That is one of the reasons why the noble Baroness, Lady David, and I cajoled and argued at length to get life skills included in Schedule 2. We succeeded on Third Reading thanks to the most welcome co-operation of the then Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness. I remember how pleased we were to have achieved that. I thought also that I had understood, but I cannot find it in writing anywhere, that the wording was to be interpreted fairly loosely, so that even if a student was unlikely to go on to a more academic course, he could still go to college to learn life skills.

We should remember that there are spin-off benefits. A more independent student is more likely to contribute to society and to need less from benefits and social services. The further education sector has no duty to provide this kind of course because of the tight structure of Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act and Section 6 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act. The general duty which LEAs have to make provision available seems insufficient to ensure that those students are adequately catered for. This limbo for students with severe disability needs to be eradicated by placing a clear duty on either the LEAs or the FE sector to provide for them. Does existing legislation cover the point but the bodies involved are unclear about their role? If so it would be helpful if the Government could clarify exactly who has this duty and ensure that provision is delivered in the way most appropriate for these students.

If, however, the existing legislation does not place a duty to provide independent living and communication skills for students with severe or newly acquired disabilities, we need to amend the law to ensure that such students can gain the essential skills in the way that is most suited to them. I very much hope that the Minister will provide not only enlightenment but also encouragement. I beg to move.

Baroness David: I strongly support the amendment. During the passage of many education Bills through this Chamber various issues have caused anxiety. One was the provision of adequate education and skills for those with learning disabilities who are over the age of 19. They are not properly provided for. A second was that while the 1992 Act was going through this Chamber we were most anxious about there being flexibility so that students could take courses in further education colleges or adult colleges. There could easily be difficulties for some of those students in finding the right course at any college. It is most important that they should be able to obtain it somewhere near their homes.

I hope that the amendment, which will cover many cases, will be accepted by the Government. I also hope that the Minister will recognise the existing difficulties for people over the age of 19 who have learning disabilities. They very much need these life skills and they should be able to obtain them in a variety of places; either a further education college or an adult college. I hope that the Minister can understand the problems which exist and can accept the amendment.

Lord Rix: During our discussions on Clause 12, the Minister was kind enough to redirect me to Schedule 4.

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Owing to the lateness of the hour, I say merely that I totally support the amendment. It would help colleges to do without unnecessary fuss and negotiations what colleges are becoming increasingly good at doing; namely, continuing the excellent work with young people with severe learning disabilities. That is begun in schools and it should continue in further education.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We on these Benches fully support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth). The existing scope for FEFC provision includes in Schedule 2 basic literacy and numeracy. It is logical to argue that skills such as lip reading are part of basic communication and survival skills.

Secondly, it is necessary to ensure that this is a duty not a power in order to give equality of treatment to those people, in particular those over the age of 19, for whom this is not adult education in the normally accepted use of the term, valuable and important though that is. We should not restrict life skills and treat them as being separate because in certain cases of severity of learning difficulty they may not lead on to a recognised course. In one particular case that I came across, taking a course at post-19 led to the difference between that person being able to feed and dress himself and not being able to do so. That is equally a right in developing human potential and the potential of people who may take much longer to learn. We fully support the amendment.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Addington: Once again the noble Baroness has dealt with a very important aspect of helping people with severe disabilities. They are being taught life skills which enable them to become part of the community. I can see no reason why the Government should wish to resist the amendment.

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