Schools Outreach Project

Orders of the Day — Petition – in the House of Commons at 12:33 am on 29th February 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Dorrell.]

Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset 12:35 am, 29th February 1988

I am most grateful for the opportunity to draw the attention of the House to the works of Schools Outreach. It fulfils a role which, so far as I am aware, is unique. It plugs a gap in preventive youth care that desperately needs to be filled. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science is to answer the debate, because his Department has shown interest in and provided support for the project. I want that interest and support to be extended, and I look forward with great interest to what he will say.

My hon. Friends the Members for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham), for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) and for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and they will do so with my full consent and encouragement. I have the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and for Bromsgrove (Mr. Miller) and many hon. Members on both sides of the House, especially those who represent constituencies in and around Birmingham. I also have the support of the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison).

Schools Outreach is a charity that was established in 1973 to support and encourage the work that has been done for many years, and continues to be done, by Gordon Bailey in preventive care among schoolchildren. Its aims are to train, support and sustain preventive care workers, who will establish child-centred, long-term relationships with young people in schools; to encourage young people to recognise the need for values and responsibilities; to help young people to acknowledge, accept and achieve their personal, social, moral and spiritual potential; to stimulate their wisdom in every aspect of life, and thereby prevent problems that would otherwise occur; and to present them with a programme that will offer a whole, balanced concept of the human personality. That is achieved in co-operation with teachers and youth workers, by participating in creating links between schools and their surrounding communities and by concentrating on enhancing links between schools and the parents of their pupils. In summary, it seeks to help young people to grow into mature, whole, fulfilled and responsible citizens.

The project arose from the work and experience of Gordon Bailey. While working as a volunteer youth worker at a youth centre in south-east Lancashire in the mid-1950s he became aware of the serious problems that some young people developed: involvement in crime, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol and drug abuse, truancy and alienation from school and community. Gordon Bailey was convinced that most, if not all, of those problems were preventable. His first success was with the problems of a 15-year-old boy whose parents had thrown him out of his home.

The conflict had arisen because of the boy's low sense of self-worth, combined with his parents' unrealistic expectations. Mr. Bailey was able to achieve a reconciliation between boy and parent. One month later, the boy's headmaster reported that, from being an extremely disruptive child who had been on the verge of expulsion from school, he had become responsible, and could Mr. Bailey do the same for the rest of the fourth-year pupils at the school? Mr. Bailey continued to visit the school for one full day every week, and by working during class periods with groups of pupils he found that he was able to establish and build developing relationships with the pupils.

By the early 1960s Mr. Bailey was able to see positive effects in the lives of the children. He had been able to create a classroom environment, made easier by his unofficial and informal approaches, within which children found themselves willing and able to discover the wisdom of becoming interested in and committed to their personal whole health and well-being. The core of the work is that it is child-centred and aimed at the development of the child's wisdom, so that problems that would threaten their well-being can be prevented.

Word of mouth commendations of Mr. Bailey's work resulted in such pressure on him to extend his work that in 1960 he resigned from his job as a television technician with Independent Television and entered full-time preventive care. Working with children in junior and secondary schools, he rediscovered the concept of getting alongside a child very early, watching for any sign of a risk to the health and well-being of the child, maintaining involvement with pastoral teaching staff and local child care agencies, the parents and family of a child at risk, and co-operating with and complementing all forms of child care. In the late 1960s, the needs of people in inner cities came to Mr. Bailey's attention, and in 1972, at the invitation of several head teachers, he and his wife and their four children moved to Birmingham. In the following year, the Schools Outreach project was established as a charity.

Mr. Bailey became linked informally with several schools, the local education authority and Winson Green prison in Birmingham. The link with the prisoners afforded an opportunity to assess the value of his work. Linked with 10 per cent. of the city's schools, as might have been expected, he came across several young boys from the schools in which he worked who passed through the prison on remand for assessment on their way through the penal system. Among the boys who were prison residents, he met about 10 per cent. from the schools he knew. By the late 1970s, however, he was no longer meeting in prison any former pupils from the schools where he had worked.

The aims of Mr. Bailey's classroom programme have been, first, to offer friendship to children; secondly, to encourage them to develop a sense of self-worth; thirdly, to take them through a programme of learning that offers each child the opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility towards his own and other people's health and well-being; and, fourthly, to prepare each child for adulthood and parentcraft. That is done by open as well as private discussion.

Preventive care, which Mr. Bailey and his team provide, is what most parents are able to provide for their own children, but in the inner cities of Britain today the environment is hostile. Good teachers and parents are often frustrated by the lack of time in which to establish and build deep friendships with their children. Lack of time results from distractions such as work, other children, the need for crisis management, and so on. I do not propose to say more about the responsibility of parents, except to observe that both the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for the Home Department have recently made excellent speeches acknowledging the urgent need for positive parenthood to prevent problems that Schools Outreach is trying to prevent. Sadly, however, the need for preventive care provided by schools to inner-city children remains urgent.

A pilot scheme has been established in the west midlands. It is encouraging that it has the support of so many hon. Members, on a cross-party basis. Eight workers are undergoing training in the skills that Gordon Bailey has developed over the past 20 years. Their basic training will end early in May. Between May and September, they will establish relationships with teachers and those who work in child care agencies. They will begin their full-time, long-term work with schoolchildren in September.

Four of the eight workers are male, and four are female. Four were teachers, and between them the British, Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities are represented. All eight are committed to community based, child-centred preventive care on a long-term basis. A headmaster who was appointed in 1974 to the school in Birmingham where Gordon Bailey was working has taken early retirement to direct the training.

It is difficult to evaluate any form of preventive care. However, there will be an independent evaluation of the Schools Outreach pilot scheme which will result in a report which should be completed and available in 1991.

A number of companies from commerce and industry are helping to fund the project. Groups of people, particularly parents who care about their children's futures, are working together in different places to raise money for the project. The Schools Outreach programme needs funds, and this is clearly an area in which a partnership between the private and public sectors is required. The private sector has already committed £200,000, and more is being sought. The total cost of the project over three years will be more than £500,000.

An application for funding for the pilot scheme has been considered by my hon. Friend the Minister. He turned the application down on its face value, but suggested that revised proposals could be made and that, on certain conditions, the Department would be willing to provide £150,000 towards the cost of the pilot scheme. I welcome what my hon. Friend has been able to offer, but I hope that there will be a continuing and increasingly positive approach to the project. I appreciate that the scheme does not fit neatly into the boundaries set by the Department's responsibilities, but that makes it all the more urgent that the project should receive support from central and local government.

I understand that the Department is concerned about what will happen after the pilot scheme ends. Such concerns must exist about any pilot scheme. This pilot scheme will have to prove itself, and the Outreach team recognises that. To object, as the Department did, that Schools Outreach has not spelt out clearly how effective relationships could be established between preventive care teachers and local authority welfare agents, suggests to me that the Department has not examined adequately the way in which Gordon Bailey and his small team have been working.

I appreciate that departmental money for new projects must be limited, but I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to reconsider the funding of this pilot scheme. In doing so, I do not want to appear unappreciative of the support that the Department has already promised. Schools Outreach has been tackling problems that affect young people; problems which established institutions are failing to tackle and with which parents feel helpless to deal. Many of us have put forward remedies in the House to tackle the problems of alienation, truancy and irresponsibility among young people that are manifest at football grounds, in inner cities, in classrooms and elsewhere. Schools Outreach is doing something about those problems.

I want to ask my hon. Friend the Minister some difficult questions. What does a teenage girl's pregnancy cost the community? How much does an abortion for a teenage girl cost? How much does it cost to keep young criminals in secure accommodation? How much does it cost to treat a drug addict? How much does it cost to treat an AIDS victim? What are the costs of legal aid for a young criminal going through the law courts? No doubt my hon. Friend will tell me that the costs involved are difficut to measure precisely, but it must undoubtedly be the case that for every pound spent on preventive care of the kind practised by Schools Outreach, hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds would be saved by the work that is carried out.

I invite my hon. Friend the Minister to try a simple cost-benefit analysis of that approach. If he tries that, he will want to increase his support for this worthwhile, excellent and unique project. I thank my hon. Friend for his support so far and invite him, for the sake of our young people, to do even more in future than he has been able to do so far.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Milton Keynes 12:49 am, 29th February 1988

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) managed to obtain this debate. Outreach is a wonderful organisation, and there is now sufficient proof of what it is doing to ensure its success.

I wish to make only two points in the short time available to me. First, let me reiterate what I said to my hon. Friend the Minister in a letter in June last year about the partnership aspect. If we are to ask the private sector to help in matters such as this, we must gear up Government support or everyone will lose heart. The amount of fund-raising has been remarkable, and a great success, but if the Government do not come in behind it, all that will be lost.

Secondly—time is far more important—I emphasise to my hon. Friend that every piece of legislation since the war has been detrimental to the family, and to the upbringing of young people in this country. The divorce laws, the fiscal operations, the social security regulations — all, in a sense, have been directed against young people's managing to make a success of their lives and having happy, stable family relationships.

I warmly welcome, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North, the speeches that have been made recently about the problem. If the Government mean what they say, this is the moment for them to put their money where their mouth is. I hope that the debate about this wonderful organisation, which is doing such good work, will be successful.

Photo of Dr John Blackburn Dr John Blackburn , Dudley West 12:51 am, 29th February 1988

The House pays a warm and generous tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) for raising this issue. I, too, have only two small points to make but they are important, and saturated with sincerity.

First, I have had the privilege of knowing Gordon Bailey for 35 years. I also know the work that he has undertaken, particularly in the west midlands, adjacent to my constituency. It is about time that we as a House determined that the quality of education also has a great bearing on moral teaching, and on the safeguards that will bring people up into responsible youth and manhood.

I recommend my hon. Friend the Minister to view the case with the greatest possible charity. No, not charity; we are looking for justice, and we are looking for a figure at least to match that of the private sector. It is in that spirit that — because of my constituency involvement with Schools Outreach, and because of the work that it is doing — I commend it warmly to my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford 12:52 am, 29th February 1988

The House is most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) for raising this matter tonight. I listened with great interest to his speech, as well as to the comments of my hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) and for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn).

The House will also note the presence in the Chamber of my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and my hon. Friends the Members for Bromsgrove (Mr. Miller) and for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell). They have come to listen to the discussion of an important topic which is well worthy of debate in the House.

The excellent work of Mr. Gordon Bailey and his Schools Outreach preventive care project has been ably described by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North. He is one of many hon. Members on both sides of the House who have been persuaded by the merits of Mr. Bailey's work. I am well aware of that, not least because of the considerable number of letters received by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and myself, both from hon. Members and from their noble Lordships.

The letters that we have received have given weighty support to the proposals from Mr. Bailey for my Department to provide funding for his preventive care project. We have also received a large number of letters from teachers, head teachers and others who have seen at first hand the value of the work carried out by Mr. Bailey, and have argued strongly for its replication in other schools. We do not need persuading, therefore, of the strength of feeling of those who know Mr. Bailey and are aware of his work in schools and elsewhere.

Since we first made contact with Mr. Bailey and learned of his activities, both my right hon. Friend and I have been impressed with his level of commitment and of the possible long-term benefits that might accrue from the placement of preventive care workers in schools. We have therefore given him every encouragement to develop proposals which provide the opportunity to judge the success of preventive care workers in influencing young people and helping them to tackle the various difficulties and temptations that they encounter in adolescence.

As my hon. Friend is aware, the intention of the Schools Outreach preventive care project is to place a preventive care worker in a school or a number of schools. Through their establishment of long-term relationships with young people, the care workers aim to discourage the development of problems in relation to crime—including vandalism — truancy, drug and alcohol abuse, family disintegration and child abuse.

The prime purpose of the work is to promote the physical and mental health and emotional well-being of young people, which will act as a basis for responsible and fulfilled citizenship in adult life. This is achieved through a blend of work in the classroom with groups of pupils, one-to-one counselling of individual pupils, and involvement in extra-curricular activities organised within the school. It is also intended that preventive care workers will seek, through links with parents, families, local youth centres and other local care agencies, to encourage strong ties between schools and the surrounding community. Over a period, it is hoped that care workers will be able to earn the respect and affection of the children, as well as the trust of parents and staff, helping each child towards his role as a worthwhile member of society.

Preventive care workers aim to supplement, but not be a substitute for, the efforts of parents and the teaching profession, and help in particular where either the home or the school is unable for whatever reason to provide the necessary support a child requires. They will not assume the responsibilities of existing agencies such as educational welfare services the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, educational psychologists and others. Their role rather will be a long-term one in helping the development of young people and preventing their future involvement in a range of destructive activities, both to themselves and to society at large.

Those aims are noble and worthy enough, but they bring with them the prospect of saving the public purse many thousands of pounds. The social and personal costs of a young person going off the rails during adolescence are of course enormous if that should lead to a lifestyle of delinquency, crime, or physical self-destruction through alcohol or drug abuse. The financial costs to society are also considerable. As Mr. Bailey has rightly pointed out in submitting his proposal for Government funding, if every preventive care worker succeeds in discouraging just one child from becoming involved in crime, or drug abuse, the financial savings to the taxpayer and to both local and central Government could be immense.

As my hon. Friends are aware, there is something of a history to the proposals from Mr. Bailey for Government funding of his work. I think that it is worth explaining the background. Mr. Bailey first submitted an application to the Department for funding in April 1986 for a two-year pilot project based in the west midlands. The cost of the proposal amounted to £254,000. That was intended to cover the establishment of an administrative and training headquarters for the pilot project, as well as covering the cost of employing and training preventive care workers to be deployed in 25 schools.

Given the pressure on the resources available to the Department, Mr. Bailey subsequently submitted a revised application with the cost scaled down to a total of £199,000, but despite the considerable sympathy which both I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had for the aims of the proposals, the pressure on resources meant that we could not fund the project at that time. However, in writing to Mr. Bailey to explain our decision I made it clear that it was based primarily on financial considerations. He was therefore invited to resubmit an application for funding, beginning in the financial year 1988–89.

Given that the Department had not been able to find resources for the project in 1987, Mr. Bailey had to seek alternative funding from elsewhere if his project was to make a start that year. It is a testimony to his personal commitment and powers of persuasion that he was able to obtain funding from private sources amounting to more than £90,000 in 1987–88. He has also obtained private funding for subsequent years amounting to a further £80,000.

Following discussions with DES officials, a revised application for Government funding was submitted by Mr. Bailey in August 1987. On that occasion the request was for a total of £566,000 to cover the final three years of a four-year pilot project. This application coincided with one from Mr. Bailey to the Department of Trade and Industry for funding of two preventive care workers in the Handsworth area of Birmingham as part of the inner cities programme. Having taken advice from my Department on the application, the Department of Trade and Industry were able to provide a total of £32,000 for the work proposed in Handsworth.

A decision on the revised proposal for DES funding was finally issued in December last year. Consideration of the proposal, and indeed the original application, took much longer than I would have wished. I assure my hon. Friends that the prime reason on both occasions was the need to ensure that they received detailed and thorough consideration within the Department.

As I am sure my hon. Friends will appreciate, the competition for resources within my Department has been particularly fierce of late, especially given the range of new initiatives resulting from the proposals contained in our Education Reform Bill. Many worthwhile proposals have been casualties of that competition. We have nevertheless been able to offer funding for the preventive care project, although at a reduced level and subject to certain conditions. We have been able to offer Mr. Bailey a total of £150,000 funding over three years. That is subject to certain conditions that we feel bound to impose, primarily to ensure that public money is well spent.

The most important condition that we have had to impose is that Mr. Bailey should obtain a guarantee from a local authority that it would be prepared to make a financial commitment to the project over the three-year pilot period. The authority would also need to be willing—subject to a favourable evaluation of the project—to continue to provide finance at the level supported during the pilot period to ensure the continued employment of preventive care workers for a minimum of three years after the completion of DES funding. We also sought further information from Mr. Bailey on the question of overlap between the work of other welfare agencies, teachers, and preventive care workers with regard to their role in pastoral care. Lastly, we had some concerns with regard to the plans for training of care workers prior to their going into schools.

The most important condition is the question of local authority funding. The others are matters of detail that could, one hopes, be resolved by further correspondence between the Department and Mr. Bailey. Indeed, Mr. Bailey has already been in touch with the Department spelling out how he believes the work of preventive care workers will relate to that of other welfare agencies and to the pastoral work of teaching staff in schools. He has provided us with much of the reassurance we require on this point. As I have suggested, however, the subject of funding direct from a local education authority is more of a problem.

Let me try to explain why that is such an important consideration for the Department. It follows from two elements of the proposals as submitted by Mr. Bailey. First, it has been presented as a pilot project, requiring DES funding for a limited period. By definition, a pilot project, if judged successful, is intended to form the basis of a longer-term exercise, normally on a much larger scale. There is no question of DES funding being available after the pilot project has been completed, so the finances for continued employment of preventive care workers would have to come from elsewhere.

Although Mr. Bailey continues to be extremely successful in securing private funding for his work, I am sure that he would be the first to acknowledge that his work cannot be totally reliant on private funds. That brings me on to the second element of the project, which is the need for relationships with young people to be built up over a period. To be able to form close relationships with youngsters, and to influence their long-term behaviour and development—

The motion having been made after Ten o'clock or Monday evening, and the debate having continued for half an hour, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at five minutes past One o'clock.