|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Blatch: The noble Baroness has just argued that the amendment will not be needed if the issue of proportionality has no relevance. In that case, the only requirement is that regard should be had to the issue of proportionality. If it had no relevance, it would be discarded and they would move on to something else. It does not seem to be an argument against my proposal. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: I can be brief on this amendment. It seeks to leave out subsection (6) in Clause 12; to explore with the Minister what, frankly--if I may use the colloquialism--this gobbledegook means. Why is it necessary to write into primary legislation that, having received a request for some steps to be taken to improve the provision for a disabled child, the governors must see whether the steps that they propose to take do meet the request being made? I should have thought that was obvious. I beg to move.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I hope that I can also be brief in response. The amendment would remove the factor that schools must take into account in relation to the reasonable adjustment duty which deals with the wishes of the parents of a disabled child to have the disability treated as confidential.
As I explained earlier, the duty on responsible bodies to make reasonable adjustments is anticipatory--we emphasised that in earlier discussions in Committee this afternoon. Anything that can be done in reasonable anticipation that pupils with particular disabilities may attend the institution therefore has to be done, irrespective of knowledge or confidentiality issues.
However, some disabilities are not obviously apparent and Clause 12 allows schools to take into consideration a request made by a parent of a disabled child that a disability may remain confidential. That might include disabilities that could cause a child to feel embarrassed or vulnerable. The school must take into account whether making a particular adjustment will result in disclosure of the disability contrary to the wishes of the parent. That is the basis of this amendment.
Baroness Blatch: I have two points to make. First, that is not an answer to the proposition I was making, nor was it an answer to the problem here. Secondly, the noble Lord addressed something quite different; something which this amendment does not seek. In my book, that is otiose.
If the school is either anticipatorily considering or considering when it is about to make a determination whether it is reasonable for the responsible body to have to take a particular step in relation to a child, it would go without saying that the school would have to consider whether it matched up to the request being made. It really is otiose, and I hope that it will disappear from this Bill before it passes from this House.
Lord Lucas: Perhaps I could pick up what may be the origin of this problem. Subsection (5), when read with subsection (6), just about makes sense. But subsection (5) does not say that subsection (6) only applies when subsection (5) applies; so subsection (6)
The noble Baroness said: This is a subject that was discussed earlier today. It is a simple amendment and I believe it is necessary. In Clause 12, provision is made for a request of confidentiality as to the nature of a person's disability to be observed by the local authority. Such a request for confidentiality is made by the parent of a disabled person and, while it is reasonable for the parent to make such a request on behalf of a young child, it is also proper for the child--certainly if they are of secondary school age--to be able to request that confidentiality themselves.
I beg the Minister not to tell me that young people do not have the capacity to request confidentiality when I sat through the whole of yesterday being convinced that they do indeed have the capacity to request confidentiality if they are taking the morning-after pill. This is simply to guard the young person's coyness, sensitivity or whatever it might be, about their particular disabilities. It seems reasonable that a child--certainly of secondary school age--should be allowed to request confidentiality. I beg to move.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I note that the noble Baroness introduces an aspect of yesterday's debate which revolved around confidentiality in relation to a medical position, and not directly in relation to the educational one. Surely the noble Baroness would accept the whole basis of our education system as far as responsibilities and rights are concerned; namely, that the parent is at the heart of the system. It is the assumption that parents generally act in the best interests of their children on which the whole of the school system is surely based.
Of course we expect schools to take account of the views of the disabled child. Disabled children may well have views about keeping their disability confidential. Schools should always work in partnership with their pupils and their parents. That is particularly important when a child has special needs or disabilities.
The noble Lord says, "Ah, but taking the morning after pill is a medical matter". it is about sleeping around and taking a pill after the event. We are talking about young people with disabilities they are sensitive about who do not wish that to be known more widely than it needs to be known within the education sector. I can see no reason at all why the noble Lord should not be sympathetic to both the parent's request and also to the individual teenager's request.
Lord Rix: Perhaps I can speak up for the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in this instance. I believe that a great deal of bullying takes place when people have physical impairments of one sort or another. The child should be able to keep that confidential from, not necessarily the authorities perhaps because of the special circumstances of going to school, but certainly from his or her fellow pupils.
It should be their right to ask that this is kept to themselves, and they should be able to say that to their parents as well. I cannot believe that parents would not be confidential in these circumstances, but it could happen. To grant a child a right of confidentiality is fair and just.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I offer my support to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. It seems to me that it is utterly right on these occasions, if children are old enough to express their own views on this, that they should be taken into account. If I might say so, the logic of the reply the Minister gave us points entirely in that direction.
Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I too support the amendment. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his reply. We are talking about conditions such as being incontinent and having HIV status, etcetera. Those are sensitive issues. I beg him to think again.
The noble Lord said: I rise to move the amendment of my noble friend Lord Ashley, which, if accepted, will put due pressure on authorities to recognise that disability ranges far wider than having limbs that do not work. The clause as drafted requires authorities to prepare strategies and plans for improving the physical environment of schools. That is admirable, particularly for children in wheelchairs or with callipers. However, it does nothing for children with any other disabilities.
To be properly educated, blind children may need braille or in some cases large print. Deaf children may need portable induction loops, videos with subtitles or TVs with teletext. The planning duty should cover provision of these essential aids over time so that children do not need to be statemented before they get them. Speedy decisions matter in education. It has been said that the planning duty will include such an adjustment. But the Bill does not say that and my noble friend Lord Ashley and I do not accept that view. The language needs to be strengthened to ensure that there is no need for argument or disagreement. I wholeheartedly support my noble friend's amendment.
I turn now to Amendment No. 113A, which stands in my name. This amendment to Clause 13 requires stronger LEA planning for the inclusion of children with special educational needs. It was encouraging to see the support expressed at Second Reading for increasing the inclusion of SEN pupils in mainstream schools. It is, however, vitally important that such inclusion should be properly organised and resourced if is to be effective.
The amendment provides a stronger planning requirement on education authorities and schools in order that children with special educational needs are provided with properly supported mainstream education. With many others, I believe that LEAs and schools should have a fixed period of time to prepare to support the full diversity of disabled children and the whole range of impairments.
Sharon Rustemier of the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education has prepared a number of case studies demonstrating the stress and emotional strain for families in obtaining adequate mainstream support, provision for which we feel should be theirs as a basic human right and which requires stronger legislation to achieve. I shall be making those case studies available to the Minister and I hope that she will look at them with her customary care and understanding.
In Sharon's view, schools need to be ready, in order to cater for diversity, to support any child in their locality and be prepared to set up arrangements as necessary to accommodate individuals, whatever their needs. Cleves School, in London Newham, is a good example of how teams of teachers and learning supporters work together with other professionals and parents to provide every child with access to learning.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|