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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I accept the explanation of the Minister in relation to Amendment No. 48 and pass on to Amendments Nos. 49 to 51.

In relation to those three amendments, I regard the knowledge of how many young people gained a qualification, how many were working towards a qualification and how many young people as a percentage were achieving levels of publicly-funded qualifications as being basic information, some of which is already in the public domain. I would be somewhat reassured if my understanding of what the Government said is correct. If it is not, perhaps the noble Lord will write to me.

I understood him to say that the argument between us was more about means to ends than the required information itself, and that the information would be subsumed in the guidance that would be distributed; that that information would be part of other information which would also be elicited; and that no one piece of information would be regarded as otiose in terms of what the outcomes were from publicly-funded courses.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I give the noble Baroness that assurance.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I welcome that and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 49 to 51 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Persons with learning difficulties]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 52:


The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 52 and 99 and return to Amendment No. 54 when I have heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, says.

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, spoke very eloquently in Committee about the problems faced by disabled people in securing work experience. The issue may be as fundamental as having support in deciding which kind of work to try. He proposed extending the provisions of Clause 13 to include the LSC's powers in respect of work experience. I am happy, in Amendments 52 and 99, to meet his request and to make similar provisions for the Welsh Council. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rix, will welcome the Government's response. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I can be extremely brief. In Clause 14 the council is required, in subsection (1)(a), to produce a report,


    "As soon as is reasonably practicable [on] the progress made during the year in the provision of post-16 education and training for disabled persons; (b) the Council's plans for the future provision of post-16 education and training for disabled persons",

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and in subsection (2) to,


    "send a copy of the report to the Secretary of State".

I believe that it is only right that a copy should be sent also to the local education authority.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I supported the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in Committee when she raised the issue of the importance of work experience for learners who fall under Clause 13; in other words, those with learning difficulties and disabilities. I am delighted that the Government considered those arguments and are now seeking to amend the Bill.

This is one of those instances where a minor amendment could have a major long-term impact. The Government are dedicating substantial resources and applying innovation to encourage disabled people to work through the New Deal scheme, supported employment and so on. Work experience for disabled people who are in, or are about to leave, further education is a necessary corollary and I am delighted that this has been recognised.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I too welcome this amendment and echo the words of my noble friend.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, in Amendment No. 54 the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, returned to a point that she made in Committee; that is, that the LSC's report on its provisions for disabled people should be copied to local authorities. I am afraid she will be disappointed that I have not changed my view since our last discussions. It is good practice and common sense for the LSC to follow the current arrangements of the FEFC and publish its report widely to many bodies, including local authorities. I would not want to pick out local authorities for particular treatment. But, more importantly, I do not believe that these arrangements should be a matter for legislation. I think that they are just common sense and a matter of normal practice now.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 53:


    After Clause 13, insert the following new clause--

TRANSPORT PROVISION FOR PERSONS WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES

(" .--(1) The Council shall secure the provision of financial resources to persons providing transport to enable people with learning difficulties to participate in all forms of post-16 education and training and such support must be made available for all who would find it either impossible or unreasonably difficult to access educational and training provision without it.
(2) The Council must make and publish a plan for the delivery of appropriate transport services and support for people with learning difficulties.
(3) The Council may pilot dedicated transport schemes, in partnership with statutory and voluntary organisations, for people with learning difficulties up to the age of 25.
(4) In undertaking an assessment of the transport needs of people with learning difficulties and in establishing pilot schemes, the Council shall have regard to individual needs in relation to orientation and personal safety when utilising transport options, for example the prevention of bullying and abuse.

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(5) Local learning and skills councils must secure the provision of mobility training requested by people with learning difficulties participating in post-16 education and training.
(6) For the purposes of this section transport includes--
(a) the use of public transport;
(b) the use of general transport provided by institutions, employers and training providers;
(c) the use of transport provided by voluntary sector providers;
(d) the use of private hire vehicles and other forms of private transport;
(e) the use of specialist transport provided for disabled people.
(7) For the purposes of this section recipients of financial resources shall include people with learning difficulties up to the age of 25 who have extra transport costs in accessing post-16 learning.
(8) For the purposes of this section mobility training includes enabling disabled people to access vehicles safely, orientate themselves on vehicles, travel in safety and deal confidently with the street environment.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that I shall not take up too much time on this amendment, because it is merely a redrafting of the wording of an amendment we discussed at Committee stage.

When we discuss transport provision for those with learning difficulties we are talking of a small group who actually need it--and such is defined in the amendment. It is for those who will benefit from the special support, particularly training.

This is necessitated by the fact that if one cannot reach a college, one cannot participate in education. It is as simple as that. It is a very basic part in the requirement.

This amendment is now drawn that little bit tighter so that only those who will really benefit from it are brought within the provision. We are not talking of vast numbers of people; at least, that is not the intention. If the wording is not perfect, I am prepared to give way on that. The intention here is to have a smaller group, so I hope that we shall not hear stories about too many people being brought in. If we cannot get people to these colleges, they cannot attend. They cannot do the course. It is as simple as that. Their education will not exist.

I have been given various case studies. One case was of a girl who had learning disabilities who was inclined to give everyone a big hug when meeting for the first time. She became very excited and stammered very badly when she spoke to people. One can imagine this combination for a person without training who is having to deal with the bus service. The amendment would give to local authorities--for those people involved--the ability actually to deal with these problems through training. It is a very basic step we are taking. I hope that the Government will be able to say something very positive. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, when on 10th February, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, withdrew his previous wider-ranging amendment, he urged us to go away, rack our brains and to come back with something else that would solve the problem. These two amendments are an attempt to do that. I should

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like to support both the amendments. I am more enthusiastic about Amendment No. 53 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, because it is wider. It would help all disabled learners who otherwise could not, or only with unreasonable difficulty could, access an educational and training position. It is tighter than the previous amendment, as he said. I hope that it will be acceptable to the Government.

I have added my name to Amendment No. 67 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. He apologises for not being present. He has asked me to speak briefly to it. He said that he would not move the amendment when the time came. It is a more pragmatic attempt to obtain half a loaf that would catch all young disabled learners in real need of help and would exclude those not in such great need. It is only half a loaf because it does not cover adult, older lifelong learners. Certainly, I hope the Minister may look kindly on Amendment No. 67 if she cannot accept the wider-ranging Amendment No. 63, and that she will acknowledge that more would still have to be done.

I know the Minister is very keen that disabled learners should be able to make the most of the educational opportunities on offer and is very aware that transport provision has long been a thorny problem and still does not work as well as it should. This Bill offers great opportunities to disabled learners. It has been strengthened today by the most welcome amendments, Amendments Nos. 55 and 100, which deal with the duty to promote equality of opportunity. One of the definitions of an opportunity is an occasion offering a possibility. It has to be within reach. I do not think that Tantalus would have described the bunch of grapes beyond his grasp as a gastronomic opportunity. I hope that when the Minister comes to reply she can accept Amendment No. 53 or Amendment No. 67 or can at least offer some positive solution so that the educational opportunities in the Bill can be grasped by disabled learners and do not remain an unobtainable dream.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Rix: My Lords, as I mentioned at Second Reading, learning to travel independently can make a tremendous difference to the life of a student with a learning disability. That applies even to those with a profound, multiple disability who may well require different forms of transport--private transport arrangements. They, too, need to be equipped with the skills to use transport. It is an interesting fact that 20 years ago the BBC and I dwelt on this point when we presented the programme "Let's Go" for people with a learning disability. Twenty years later, we still do not have it right, although I am happy to say that in her letter to me the Minister has given an assurance that the learning and skills council will use its powers to secure the future provision of mobility training. I hope that will be added to the necessity for life-long learning.


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