Young Offenders

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th March 1998.

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Photo of Ms Helen Clark Ms Helen Clark Labour, Peterborough 12:00 am, 30th March 1998

What plans he has to introduce schemes to (a) identify and (b) improve literacy and numeracy standards among young offenders in non-custodial regimes. [35169]

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

There are three measures that will help in particular: the final warning scheme will give an opportunity to nip things in the bud; the action plan order will give the courts the means to address a young offender's educational needs where those are relevant to offending; and the youth offending teams will include educational staff and have a key role in planning and supervising community sentences.

Photo of Ms Helen Clark Ms Helen Clark Labour, Peterborough

Does my hon. Friend agree with me—I am speaking as an ex-teacher—that many learning difficulties, particularly dyslexia, can lead to problems of social exclusion and alienation? Is he aware of the work that the Cambridgeshire probation service, which is based in Peterborough, is doing to research that important matter?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I am certainly interested in the results of any scheme. My hon. Friend is right to say that the failure to identify learning difficulties can lead to problems. Addressing offending behaviour often involves changing several aspects of young people's lives. I shall certainly study with interest any specific example on which my hon. Friend can provide information.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that these matters should be considered in relation to young people on bail in bail hostels? Is he aware of the difficulties being faced by local communities, such as Elworth near Sandbach in my constituency, where young people take drugs during daylight hours when they are completely free? Would it not be a good idea to provide further education for such young people or to occupy their time constructively in some other way?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I agree with the hon. Lady's final sentence. I hope that she will support the Government in introducing youth offending teams, one of whose targets will be bail support in order to ensure that such activities are avoided and something better is put in place for youngsters awaiting trial.