|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The DfES has identified many of the problems through responses to its consultation paper Reducing Re-offending through Skills and Employment. Those problems include negative experiences of learning; lack of continuity between school and offender provision; exclusion from school; transfer between agencies, which disrupts learning; the need for records of achievement; and the need for vocational options. What has happened to those recommendations?
A recent Youth Justice Board report published research findings on the barriers faced by young people in the youth justice system when trying to access education, training and employment. The issues identified included low attainment, detachment from schoolsometimes due to bullyingpupil/teacher relations, size of class, and disruption of education by being in custody. Youth justice practitioners see complex rules on benefits and allowances, lack of continuity of education between custody and the community, lack of support for special educational needs, and inability to access education because of being in the youth justice system. Strategic barriers included educationalists lack of knowledge of the youth justice system, confused responsibilities and lines of accountabilitysuch as whether the YOT worker, the school, college or Connexions adviser is responsible for the young personand so on.
I am aware that the DfES published a consultation paper on education and training for young people in the youth justice system in April. It looks at four areas: transition from custody to community, the delivery of a personalised curriculum, workforce development, and clarifying accountability for the education of young offenders. What will happen to this consultation and in what timescale? The problem is urgent.
Young offenders should be a priority for LEAs, schools, FE colleges and training providers, otherwise we risk a cycle of deprivation, disengagement with society and ensuing reoffending. Guidance is urgently needed for LEAs, as well as training for staff in how the youth justice system works, designated staff in schools and colleges with responsibility for these young
8 May 2007 : Column 1340
I am delighted that the Minister for Education is responding to this debate, stressing education as opposed to criminality. I know that he has a broad view of the importance of education and is genuinely concerned about this issue. I hope that he will be able to tell us that young people in custody will have a better future than they now do.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, it is just as well that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is listening to us today. If it was a Minister from the Home Office, it would be on their last day and there would not be much point in talking to them. I hope that he has a slightly longer timescale in mind. We wish him well with the new Prime Minister.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for giving me the chance to talk on this subject, albeit briefly. I will address a couple of points. One is the curriculum in custody. It currently appears to be very much at the LSCs level of thinkingcourses designed basically for people out there in the community. For a lot of these kids, we need to reach much deeper. We must get right back to the level of socialisationequipping them with the underlying human skills necessary to tackle life and education. We should start by creating a structure where they can develop a trusting relationship with staff. A lot of these children do not have any experience of that kind of relationship or, if they have, it has broken down. Once that is in place, we should work from there to offer a real experience of teamwork, getting on with people, giving and taking orders, and learning how to exist in relationships.
If kids are only in for four months, that sort of thing might be achieved in that timescale. We must focus everything on that set of achievements. We must do away with things like 24-hour in-cell TV, which is immensely disruptive of any attempt to build relationships. Kids just hide themselves away in their cells, and do not need to engage with the outside. We must really concentrate on having a proper PSHE programme. You cannot learn anything unless you know the basics of PSHE; I do not mean the condom-on-a-banana sort of PSHE, but the kind of programme that is really well developed in schools such as Wellington and others which are really taking this forward. We
8 May 2007 : Column 1341
We can do a lot more to make these institutions educational institutions. We want to see the teachers in these places having a real career structure, with training at the bottom. I know that the Government want to see proper training, but it must be prison-specific. Teachers need to learn how to deal with extremely manipulative young men. They need to learn prison craft and how to build relationships in a way which is just not necessary for teachers outside; they are required to give that sort of one-on-one support. They need a career structure which leads upwards. It ought to be possible. I cannot see why a teacher should not aspire to become the number one governor of a YOI. That would give education a real status within the Prison Service. These institutions ought to have much better links with pupil referral units and the other educational institutions outside, which these children will be going on to. I see no reason why that should not be possible. Teachers run boarding schools. There is not an awful lot of difference.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has raised an important issue. I will concentrate my remarks on the education of juvenilesoffenders aged 18 or underin young offender institutions.
Education is crucial to the prospects of diverting young people from crime on release. Most young offenders in custody have been permanently excluded or have persistently truanted from school. A third of those entering custody have had no education at all in the previous six months. Youth Justice Board studies have shown that, when they are released, educational underachievement is one of the strongest factors associated with reoffending.
The Government deserve some credit. Provision for the education of juveniles in custody has improved considerably since the establishment of the Youth Justice Board and the resulting injection of greater resources into custodial regimes for this age group, but there are some serious problems. All too often, juveniles in custody do not receive the minimum amount of education prescribed by the Youth Justice Board. The YJB requires a minimum of 25 hours in young offender institutions, and that this should be achieved for 90 per cent of young people. Against that, the reality is that 40 per cent of juveniles in young offender institutions were receiving less than 20 hours of education a week. At two establishments, over half the young people were receiving less than 15 hours. There is a gap between what is required and what really happens.
The Offenders Learning and Skills Service and the Youth Justice Board require one-third of programmes
8 May 2007 : Column 1342
What are the difficulties? The first is attracting teachers to work in young offender institutions and retaining them. Secondly, because education must be delivered for 50 weeks a year in custody, teachers do not benefit from school holidays in the same way as teachers in the community. Thirdly, the statutory probation year for a newly qualified teacher cannot be completed by working in custody, so staff often leave to complete the year in mainstream education and do not return. Fourthly, many do not feel that they are valued or rewarded for working with particularly difficult young people. Finally, there is no clear career structure comparable to the mainstream education system.
For the short period which most young offenders spend in custody, 92 per cent of juveniles sentenced receive detention and training orders. These range from four months to two years, of which half is spent in custody and the other half under post-release supervision. Many young people are in custody for a few weeks or months, which makes it difficult for them to complete externally organised qualifications.
How do we alleviate the problem? There is a need for streamlined arrangements so that young offenders may continue their education on release. However, we can expect that, even where young people have made educational progress, it will often break down quickly when they leave custody. A recent audit for the Youth Justice Board found that over half of young offenders had no arrangements for education, training or employment a month after being released. Only 6 per cent of youth offending teams said that young people were able to continue the education and training received in custody after release. In 2004-05, under 60 per cent of young people being supervised by youth offending teams following release were in suitable full-time education, training or employment. This compares with 74 per cent of all those supervised by youth offending teams now. There are many important aspects but time is short. I will pass my further notes to the Minister so that he can adequately deal with the questions that I wish to raise.
Baroness Coussins: My Lords, I am glad to have the opportunity to make my maiden speech on such an important topic. I would like to see the DfES consultation lead to a new and explicit commitment to include alcohol education for young people in custody. This aspect of education is often completely overlooked or tacked on as an afterthought to substance misuse programmes which focus on drugs.
I should first declare various interests. Until March this year I was a trustee of the Alcohol Education and Research Council, and until September 2006 was the
8 May 2007 : Column 1343
Young people in custody need a better understanding of how alcohol affects their behaviour, because it could help to prevent them reoffending. We do not know how many young people are in custody because of alcohol-related offences. It is reasonable to assume that many of them would not be there if they had not committed offences while under the influence. The youth lifestyles survey found a strong relationship between drunkenness and offending, albeit not a causal one. A much higher proportion of offenders aged 12 to 17 were found to be frequent drinkers than non-offenders.
Alcohol-related crime costs this country £7.3 billion a year. If alcohol education could help reduce the level of reoffending, those costs would begin to come down. The second reason why these young people need alcohol education, whatever their offence, is that they are likely to have missed out on it at school. It is part of the national curriculum. However, as we have already heard, one survey found that 83 per cent of boys in youth offender institutions had been excluded from school.
Alcohol education is not by itself a magic solution, but it can play a vital part in helping to inform and motivate personal responsibility. The Drinkaware Trust publishes an excellent resource called Streetwise, and I understand that tentative discussions are under way to adapt it for a youth offender audience. I encourage the Department for Education and Skills to get involved in this project.
My final point is that interventions on alcohol need to be specifically identified, with dedicated resources. A survey in Winchester prison revealed that although 49 per cent said that they would like to make use of an alcohol counselling service, amazingly 37 per cent of that group were not eligible for it because they did not also have a drug problem. Alcohol misuse alone did not qualify for help. Similarly, in the school curriculum there is sometimes a tendency in PSHE lessons to concentrate on illegal drugs and forget about alcohol. Substance misuse is often interpreted as meaning drugs not including alcohol.
The pendulum should not swing the other way and give alcohol undue prominence or blame. Alcohol is legal, drinking is normal and in moderation can even be beneficial. But young people in custody are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those with alcohol problems. Like over 90 per cent of adults in this country, they too will
8 May 2007 : Column 1344
The average time that a young person remains in custody is four months. That is surely enough time for them to benefit from some alcohol education. I hope that the review by the Department for Education and Skills will take this issue on board.
Lord Judd: My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, in her maiden speech. It was refreshingly direct and well informed. I am sure that it augurs well for her contributions in the future. I am just sorry that she only had four minutes; I would have liked to listen to her for longer. Her wider experience in corporate responsibility and self-regulation are badly needed in much of our deliberations. We look forward to all that she will have to say.
My noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen is also to be warmly thanked for giving us the opportunity for even a brief word on this important subject. She was right to emphasise that many in young offender institutions have been failed by society and we must face that reality. The reasons that they have been failed are complex; there is a matrix. There are many things to be tackled in society itself. The challenge is to have fewer people falling into crime rather than discussing how we help those who have fallen.
In the midst of all that we must never forget the issue of mental illness which is a highly relevant but very difficult issue. Many people in young offender institutions and prisons should not be there at all because they need more specialist support, analysis and help from professionals than can possibly be provided by dedicated staff in the institutions which basically provide custody.
Rehabilitation, as I never tire of saying in these debates, must be the top priority in our penal system. Not to have rehabilitation as the top priority is madness: it fails the young; it fails the prisoners; it leads to more wasted, and continued wasted, lives; it is economic nonsense because of the cost of reoffending later. If we are to make rehabilitation the key priority and mean it, education is central to that; and if education is to be central, it must be not only formal education, certainly, but also skills education and wider social education, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, sensibly argued.
I was president of the YMCA in England. The YMCA works with young offenders in young offender institutions. I was fascinated by that work. It brought home to me how serious the lack of education is among many of those who end up in this situation. It also brought home how much could be done. With education we have the living evidencepeople who have gone on to make a success of their lives. Indeed, they have gone on to become university graduates and postgraduates, having been given the opportunity to release their talent and put it to good use.
I commend the Government for the interdepartmental work that they are undertaking in recognition of the matrix. I am glad that my noble
8 May 2007 : Column 1345
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I congratulate Her Majestys Government on their significant investment in the education of young people in custody. I regret that there is not time now to acknowledge in detail what has been achieved. Much more needs to be done, of course. Edmund in Shakespeares King Lear says:
I should like to concentrate on how we educate young people in custody about relationships. Those young people have often never had the experience of being cared for. It is hard to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on this, but I shall try.
Academic and vocational attainments are vital, as we have heard, but the other side of the coin is a young persons social education, or what the continentals contain in their discipline of pedagogyeducation in the widest sense. Custody officers need to model good relationships to their young offenders, as the Carlile report emphasised. While most sentences are brief, many young people will return on several occasions. Each time, their relationship with their personal officer and the wider officer community should be an educative experience. That is one reason why improvements in training and continual professional development for custody officers are so essential, as we have heard. To be consistent models and to effectively engage, officers need a theoretical foundation for their work, appropriate supervision, and consultation with expert practitioners and mental health professionals. The same should go for teachers working in these environments. Officer retention and stability in the workforce must be aimed for.
A separate point is that, with the recognition of the need for the secure estate, probation, social services, the health service and youth offending teams to work together to achieve reductions in reoffending, Her Majestys Government should accelerate their programme of workforce development in the secure estate. That young people leaving custody too often walk off the face of a cliff serves no ones interests. Professional partnership requires parity of professional status.
A documentary recording the life of a young boy growing up in care shows him learning about relationships. Throughout his childhood in care, we hear on several occasionsin the run-ups to Christmas and to his birthdayshow much he is looking forward to seeing his father. On each occasion, the father simply does not turn up.
Many of the young men and women in custody are already parents. I recognise the important achievements of the Government in investment and staff development, but it is vital to go far further in developing officers and residential care workers. The personal officer/worker role must be thoroughly embedded and developed, but too many inspections point to its neglect. If we wish to prevent reoffending and break the cycle of low-achieving families, more attention needs to be paid to the social education of young offenders. Personal officers should be consistent, should take an interest in the welfare and progress of their young offenders and should keep their undertakings. They need to be trained and supported to do so. That is how the young men and women may have their first experience of a positive parental figure and how they may begin to learn how they might be consistent towards, take an interest in and keep their undertakings to their children. We need to stand up for, so to speak, bastardschildren in whom parents have not invested themselves. Otherwise we should not say,
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen for instigating this short but important debate. Education is a vital part of our social and cultural being. If this is denied us, we lose both the cement of valuable relationships and the bricks on which many of us build our future lives.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|