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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Perhaps I may refer the noble Baroness to our debate on Tuesday 8th February at cols. 578 and 581, when I queried whether the provision provided by social services would remain adequate for mentally handicapped young people to complement the education supported by the new LSC. Understandably, the Minister said she could not speak from the Dispatch Box for social services, but she said that the Government were doing their best to improve social services in this area. I am sure that we all accept that and are very grateful for it.
Even if the noble Baroness cannot make commitments for other departments, which I am sure we all accept, the collaboration between government departments is something I would like to pursue in this area because education on its own, however excellent (certainly for all children with learning difficulties and especially for those with severe learning difficulties) cannot succeed unless social services, and indeed the Department of Health, is collaborating fully. I mention health because we must not forget that these children often have quite severe health problems as well.
I hope I may be pushing at an open door with the Government, because I am aware that for mentally handicapped adults--adults with learning difficulties--the Government are wisely encouraging more collaboration between health, social services and local authorities. I feel sure that the Government deserve congratulation on that initiative. Indeed, I have suggested to the Minister in another place that for mentally handicapped adults the Home Office should also be invited to join the loop because a disturbingly high proportion of the prison population is now mentally disordered--I believe the figure given is some 40 per cent. A growing number of those people may have learning disabilities.
Better collaboration between health and social services in areas indicated by the Home Office might prevent some of these people going to prison, which is obviously damaging for them--they are already unfortunate--and it is also, of course, very expensive. One fears that some prisoners will be in the age group covered by this clause--up to age 25.
And so, for the young people concerned it seems to me that we cannot provide even "adequate" education, let alone "sufficient and appropriate" education or training, as proposed by my noble friend's amendment, unless there is full collaboration between the noble Baroness's department, social services and
Finally, I think it would be worth having a representative of the Treasury present in this proposed inter-governmental collaboration because I am sure that the Government want to look at education which is effective, care-effective and cost-effective. I support the amendment.
Clause 12(1) and subsection Clause 39(1) empower the LSC and the CETW to carry out research relevant to any of their functions. Clearly, those functions include provision for all learners, including people with learning difficulties and disabilities. Identifying and meeting the learning needs of those groups will be part of the core business of the councils.
The LSC and the CETW will certainly therefore have all the powers that they require to carry out research into the needs of specific groups of learners, including those with disabilities and learning difficulties, and into how the learning process is and should be serving them best.
The FEFCs, working with organisations such as FEDA, have a good track record of research in this area and I certainly expect the LSC to maintain that level of priority. Indeed, further research is an important part of the consideration of plans for our future provision for disabled people which the LSC will be under a statutory duty to compile.
While research into the needs of such key groups will be an important part of the work of the LSC and the CETW, I see no need to give them statutory duties to that effect. Therefore, with the assurances that I have given, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendments.
With regard to Amendment No. 92, the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 recognised the importance of specialist provision and boarding accommodation as part of the learning opportunities available for people with learning difficulties. We have continued that approach and the good practice that currently exists in this Bill.
Our intention is that in discharging its duties in Clause 2 and 3, the LSC must give consideration to whether or not it can provide an adequate standard of education for a person with learning difficulties. Where it cannot, it must consider provision of boarding accommodation if a person is under 25, and may do so where a person is over 25. That is what Clause 13 means. Our use of the term "adequate" has a meaning similar to that at Clause 2(2)(b)--page 2 at line 8--where it alludes to the "quality" of provision adequate to meet the needs of a young person, and reflects the priority that we have given to meeting young peoples' needs.
Turning to what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, said, I entirely accept that in this area there is a need for collaboration across departments, just as there is a need for collaboration across departments in the setting up of the ConneXion service, where young people in various kinds of difficulties may require the services not just of my department but also of the Department of Health, which, of course, is responsible for social services, and in some cases the Home Office, where the young person has got into trouble with the law. As for the Treasury, that department always makes its presence known in departmental discussions of this kind. I take the point that the noble Lord makes. We are trying to have more effective joined-up government thinking in this and other areas.
Lord Addington: I thank the Minister for that reply. If I heard her correctly, I believe her reply was that the Government intend to do that anyway so there is no need for a specific duty to be placed on the face of the Bill. That is roughly what I understood her to say. However, we must bear in mind that so far we have never had enough information to allow people to find the right kind of help or the right processes are not available to them. That point lies behind the amendment. I do not know whether we shall ever achieve that. We can certainly do better and we can stop wasting time.
I said that this is a "may" or "shall" argument, although I do not believe that we should delay the Committee on this matter. However, I give notice that I shall return to the issue, on this Bill and others, because unless we get it clear and unless we know where to start looking people will continue to chase around and miss years in their education because they cannot find out what is going on.
The noble Baroness said: I travel hopefully on this amendment because it is purely a change to the grammar. I am sure there are no politics whatever in it because I had a jolly good look. I feel the provision should say "systems are" rather than "systems is" and I hope we will not be going through the Division Lobbies on this amendment.
My amendments relate to the same theme as that of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel; that is, to put into the public arena information in relation to the further education and post-16 sectors. Amendment No. 82 seeks to provide that, where the Secretary of State commissions work from the council, he will publish any such request in the interests of open government. Amendment No. 83 requests the council to,
We have gone a long way to produce this kind of information from the school sector. The amendments would do a service to the further education sector because in terms of its achievement it is an unsung part of the education service. It is a continuing bank of information which would be enormously useful, not only to show what our colleges are achieving, but also to help the Government and local communities using the colleges quantify the way in which the aims and objectives of the colleges are being achieved. I beg to move.
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