Clause 19 — Secure colleges and other places for detention of young offenders etc

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (Programme) No. 2 – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 12th May 2014.

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Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Chair, Panel of Chairs, Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chairman of Ways and Means

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 14, page 19, line 16, at end insert—

‘(2A) A young woman may not be placed in a secure college established under subsection (1)(c).’.

Amendment 15, page 19, line 16, at end insert—

‘(2A) No person who is aged under 15 shall be detained in a secure college established under subsection (1)(c).’.

Amendment 12, page 20, line 30, at end insert—

‘(14) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure there is adequate specialist provision to cater for the health and wellbeing needs of all young persons detained in a secure college.’.

Amendment 13, page 20, line 30, at end insert—

‘(14) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements to ensure that sufficient places are available in secure children’s homes to enable young persons, for whom detention in a secure children’s home is deemed more appropriate by the relevant authority than detention in a secure college or young offender institution, to be so detained.’.

Amendment 16, page 20, line 37 leave out clause 20.

Amendment 21, page 71, line 1 leave out schedule 3.

Government amendments 5 and 6.

Amendment 17, page 76, line 10, leave out schedule 4.

Amendment 10, in schedule 4, page 74, line 17, at end insert—


4A (1) All staff employed as teachers, counsellors or nurses at a secure unit must hold qualifications as one of the following—

(a) qualified teachers;

(b) accredited member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists; and

(c) registered nurse (children).’.

Amendment 19, page 76, line 16, at end insert—

‘(3) The Principal shall—

(a) keep special educational provision in the secure college under review;

(b) keep SEN and disability training of secure college workforce under review;

(c) ensure persons detained who may have a special educational need are brought to the attention of their home local authority; and

(d) carry out (a), (b) and (c) with advice from the secure college SEN co-ordinator.’.

Amendment 11, page 77, line 20, leave out from ‘where’ until the end of line 21 and insert

‘a young person poses an imminent threat of injury to himself or others, and only when all other means of control have been exhausted.’.

Government amendments 3 and 4.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Justice)

Amendments 10 to 19, which stand in my name and that of my hon. Friend Mr Slaughter, relate to the Government’s proposed introduction of secure colleges. Let me set out some context. It is welcome that youth crime has come down substantially since the late 1990s, but it has led to new challenges in our youth justice system that need to be addressed. Reoffending rates are too high, and the cohort of young people in custody is a lot smaller now compared with a decade ago. These young people have complex needs and present very different challenges. We need a youth custody regime that can effectively meet those challenges, and effectively punish, rehabilitate and bring down reoffending. The question is whether creating secure colleges is the most effective solution.

More than a year has now passed since the Government consulted on these proposals, but in all that time, the key facts have remained the same. The Government have come to the House today with a set of proposals that they claim “will transform youth custody”, but there are no expert organisations expressing any enthusiasm for secure colleges. The Government claim that the colleges will put education at the heart of rehabilitation, but they cannot say how it will be delivered in practice. They claim the proposals will reduce the cost of youth custody, but it is not clear where the £85 million is coming from, and they have not produced any hard evidence to support this policy.

When we debated these changes in Committee, we said that we would listen to what the Government had to say and work with them constructively to improve the legislation. We also said that if Ministers wanted our support, they would need to present proper supporting evidence to justify going ahead with this experiment and address the serious concerns being raised by experts in the justice sector. Alas, no such evidence or improvements to the Bill have been forthcoming, which is why we cannot support these proposals, and why we have tabled amendments 16 to 18 to delete the secure college proposal from the Bill.

We all know the value of education, and how it can and should play an important role in rehabilitating young offenders. I am sure that everyone across the House agrees with that. The issue is that there are four areas where Ministers have plainly failed to make the case for secure colleges. Let me take each in turn. First, there has been a chronic lack of evidence to justify the creation of secure colleges. It is true that levels of educational attainment and purposeful activity are not good enough in many young offender institutions, and that education provision in the youth estate can and should be improved. We are agreed on that, but it seems the Justice Secretary is the only person who believes that the only way these problems can be solved is to plough tens of millions of pounds of public money into creating an entirely new type of institution.

Members of the Bill Committee took evidence for two full days, yet not one witness had a single word of support to offer for the Government’s plans for secure colleges. The deputy children’s commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, said that

“a 300-bed secure college will result in a large impersonal environment that does not adequately meet the emotional and mental health needs of children in custody.”

Similar concerns have been echoed by experts across the sector, including the Prison Reform Trust, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, and the Howard League for Penal Reform. Even the Government’s own impact assessment states:

“The Secure College model has never previously been tested.”

It confirms that these plans are untried, untested and that the results would be unpredictable. There is no quantifiable evidence that the secure colleges would reduce reoffending rates. Such little detail has been provided that it is hard to see how the reduction will be achieved in practice. So what alternatives to secure colleges has the Minister’s Department considered? He will recall that I asked him in Committee what assessment his Department had made of how the £85 million budget for the secure college could be alternatively spent. For example, instead of building the secure college, that money could be invested in improving educational provision in the existing youth estate. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm whether that option has been considered, and if not, why not.

The second failure relates to education and welfare provision and goes to the heart of this debate. The Government’s objective is for secure colleges to transform the rehabilitation of young offenders through better education and training. That is a laudable ambition, but it needs to be placed in the context of the existing cohort of young people in custody. We know that the lives of the majority of those young people are characterised by multiple layers of complex disadvantages that include mental health issues, learning disabilities, self-harm issues, and problems with drugs, alcohol and family breakdown. That raises two fundamental points. First, those are not challenges that can be overcome through education alone—significant specialist health and welfare provision would also be required. Secondly, if secure colleges are to deliver educational outcomes over and above what has been achieved in the youth estate before, one of several things would need to happen: secure colleges would need to offer more hours of education and purposeful activity than existing institutions; they would need to have a higher calibre of teaching staff and a higher student-staff ratio; or they would need to offer some new model of transformative teaching that we have not seen before.

Secure colleges would also need to overcome a particular challenge identified by the Justice Committee in its youth justice report last year. It pointed out that the average time spent in custody is only 79 days.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

The Justice Committee did look at those issues, and one of the problems is that a plethora of agencies, organisations and contractors deals with individual young people in custody. Often, too many people are involved, and a closer focus from one or two clear directions is needed on how individuals will make progress in custody, especially in education.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Justice)

I will come to that point shortly. The average time a young person spends in custody is only 79 days, meaning that most young offenders are not in custody long enough to improve their basic skills, but beyond a few vague commitments, no meaningful detail has been provided on how education or welfare will be delivered.

The House does not need to take my word for that. The Secretary of State wrote to the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights a few weeks ago. Describing the secure college proposals, he said:

“The Bill establishes the secure college in law. Beyond the legal framework, the legislation does not specify details of the regime to be delivered within the secure college.”

So there we have it—there is no comprehensive plan in this Bill for how education or welfare will be provided. But we need to know how this will work. For instance, I have met one prospective bidder who has admitted that it would not be possible for it to deliver education and welfare itself and that it would need to bring in a range of other specialist providers. As my hon. Friend suggests, we could have a situation in which one provider operates the secure college, another delivers the teaching, and two or three others—or even more—deliver welfare services, all in the same institution. Will the Minister tell us what measures will be put in place to ensure that that does not lead to confusion and chaos on the ground? Where are the minimum standards in the Bill to ensure that corners are not cut when secure college contracts are put out for competition?

We have therefore tabled amendment 12, which would place a specific obligation on the Secretary of State on health and well-being provision, and amendment 10, which would require secure college staff in teaching, nursing or counselling roles to hold relevant qualifications. On education in particular, the Opposition believe that teachers should be properly qualified. That should be the case for any classroom, and it should certainly be the case when staff are working with challenging children who have complex needs, such as those who are found in a secure environment, but Ministers have given no guarantees yet that this will be the case in secure colleges.

That brings me to the third failure, which relates to the safeguarding of vulnerable young people who will be detained in the secure colleges. A number of concerns have been raised by groups across the sector, but Ministers have not been able to offer sufficient assurances on any of them. Let me run through three of them. First, there is the question of whether secure colleges should accommodate very young children or girls, which is highlighted by our amendments 14 and 15. These would prevent all girls and all 12 to 14-year-olds from being accommodated in secure colleges.

Both groups are in the extreme minority within the youth estate. In 2012-13, 96% of children in custody were boys, meaning that girls were outnumbered by more than 19 to one. According to the latest figures, there are only about 50 teenagers under the age of 14 in youth custody, and the majority are in secure children’s homes. The Government have signalled, however, that they intend secure colleges to accommodate both boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17. That would come with huge safety risks. Even the noble Lord McNally, until recently a Minister and now chair of the Youth Justice Board, has warned against this approach. He recently told the Justice Committee:

“I would want to advise the Secretary of State to think very hard about whether young females should be there”— that is, in secure colleges. He went on to say:

“Of course, co-education has its attractions, but I would not want the scheme to fail because of difficulties in trying to accommodate mixed groups”.

There is a further point here. The Minister told us in Committee that this issue would be addressed by the very architecture of the secure college, with different groups accommodated in separate units. He could not provide any further detail, however, because he said that not all the design decisions had been taken. This is just months before shovels are scheduled to be in the ground and construction of the secure college is due to begin early in 2015.

Secondly, the Government have thrown the future of secure children’s homes into doubt. Twenty-eight beds have already been cut and Ministers have signalled that many of the vulnerable young people currently accommodated in such homes will be moved into secure colleges. The kind of children for whom secure children’s homes cater would be all at sea in a 300-bed teenage Titan prison, and it goes against all the evidence showing that smaller establishments are by far the most effective for young people. It is easier to maintain control in such establishments, they are less violent, and staff are able to offer much greater hands-on support. They are also closer to home, enabling children to maintain links with their parents, which aids rehabilitation. That is why we have proposed amendment 13, which would require an adequate number of places in secure children’s homes to be maintained.

Thirdly, there are the conditions regarding the use of restraint. Opposition Members fully accept that there will be the occasional need to use reasonable force in youth custody environments. The Minister will be well aware, however, of the chorus of concerns raised that the Bill could be interpreted as allowing the use of reasonable force for the maintenance of good order and discipline. If so, this may be unlawful in the light of a ruling by the Court of Appeal in 2008, which we debated at length in Committee.

The Secretary of State’s letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights said that there should be

“limited and clearly defined circumstances” where reasonable force could be used to enforce good order and discipline, so I invite the Minister to lay out what these circumstances might be. I suspect he will say that this will all be worked out in the secure college rules, which have yet to be finalised. We keep coming back to this problem. A problem or area of concern is raised, and the Minister assures the House that it will be dealt with in the secure college rules. We then ask to see the secure college rules, but the Government have said they will not be available for scrutiny until after the Bill has become law.

I am sure the Minister will understand that this is a far from acceptable state of affairs. That is why the Opposition have retabled amendment 11, which would revise the wording in schedule 4. This would make it much clearer, resolve the legality issue and put a lot of minds at rest, while still allowing reasonable force to be used.

The fourth failure relates to costs. The initiative is clearly a cost-driven exercise. The Government’s impact assessment states:

“We need to reduce the cost of youth custody”— one of the key reasons behind it—but only this Government and this Justice Secretary would propose to save public money by spending £85 million of it when there is currently no space for this in the Ministry of Justice’s budget. No new money has been made available for the pathfinder, so further cuts will have to be made to existing services to pay for it.

Ministers also claim that the cost of a place in a secure college will be “significantly lower” than the current average cost of a place in youth custody of £100,000. At the same time, they also say that secure colleges will offer transformative education and training over and above what is being provided in existing institutions at a much higher cost. That sounds simply too good to be true, and it brings us to the final issue.

The Government are essentially asking for a blank cheque to go ahead with secure colleges. It is a pattern we have seen throughout the Bill’s scrutiny. Where experts in the sector raise problems, the Minister says, “We’ll work those out in the pathfinder.” Where Members of the House expose a lack of detail and ask questions, the Government say, “We’ll come back to you on that after the pathfinder.” I must remind the Minister—as he well knows—that this is not a Bill for a pilot. The Bill will set out the secure college model in law, and allow it to become the preferred model for future youth custody, which is the Government’s stated ambition, but as they stand these proposals are half-baked, lacking in credibility, and severely lacking in supporting evidence. We need answers to these questions if Parliament is to have confidence that this is a good use of public money, especially at a time when the MOJ budget has been cut and youth offending teams and other services are being squeezed.

I genuinely look forward to the Minister’s response, and I hope he can address the concerns raised, but unless he is able to announce a radical change of direction, the Opposition will not be able to support these proposals and we will seek to divide the House on amendment 18 to strike secure colleges from the Bill.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Conservative, South Swindon 9:15 pm, 12th May 2014

I rise to speak to amendment 19, which is tabled in my name, relating to the issue of accountability for special educational needs in the proposed secure colleges. The amendment would make the principal of the college responsible, first for reviewing the SEN provision available in the college; secondly for identifying whether the work force are appropriately skilled to support young people with SEN; thirdly for working with that young person’s home local authority when they might benefit from a new education, health and care assessment, which was established by the welcome Children and Families Act 2014; and finally for undertaking those duties with advice from the secure college’s special educational needs co-ordinator.

It is worth reminding the House once again why special educational needs in secure colleges is such a fundamental issue. Research suggests that 60% of children in custody have communication difficulties; a quarter of children in the youth justice system have a learning disability; three quarters have serious difficulties with literacy; and 17% of young offenders have a statement of SEN, compared with 3% of the general population. Those difficulties are often not identified until the young person enters custody. Ensuring that a young person’s SEN needs are recognised and supported is essential to the success of the Government’s stated aim in introducing secure colleges: to put education at the heart of youth custody. I fully support that aim.

We had a short debate on these issues in Committee, and I listened carefully to the Minister’s response to the concerns raised about SEN provision. He said that he would expect potential education providers to demonstrate that they could provide the necessary support for detained young people with SEN, and I am sure that he would agree that training for staff in that discipline is crucial. However, I understand that the Government do not want to constrain innovation by putting into statute too many specifications on what providers must deliver and that the more detailed requirements on provision will be included in the contract.

That is why my amendment does not specify the detailed SEN provision or training that must be provided; rather, it seeks to place duties on the principal to keep that provision and training under review. That has several advantages. It is a means of ensuring that contractual commitments relating to SEN are delivered on the ground. It creates a strong statutory framework around which the provision of SEN support and training can be provided, but it does so without being restrictive or prescriptive in the way the Minister was concerned about.

One of the major challenges we face is linking up provision in custody and provision in the community. We do not want to see progress made by a young person while in a secure college to be lost after he of she is released, because for many detained young people—this is a sad reality, but it is true—custody might be the first time in many years that they have engaged in education. For far too many it is the first time their special educational needs are identified. It is therefore crucial that any information identified in a secure college is passed on to the home local authority so that there is continuity in ensuring that their needs are met. Upon release, those young people might be eligible for an education, health and care assessment from their home local authorities. That might need to begin before they are released so that a proper package can be put in place to prepare the ground for that transition. That is why my amendment would require the principal of a secure college to pass any information on a child’s special educational needs to their home local authority, building on the great strides that have been made in the 2014 Act.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his eminently good speech, which, as always, draws upon his expert knowledge of SEN. Is he not describing an integrated form of education whereby what takes place inside one particular institution is transferred seamlessly to others institutions involved? Is that not what we should be aiming for in all education across the prison system?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Conservative, South Swindon

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Already in the debate we have heard, in speeches and interventions, about the relatively short period of time that young people spend in custody. That continuity is absolutely essential if we are to take meaningful strides not only in dealing with rehabilitation, but in reducing reoffending rates, which concern all of us and are a priority for the Government.

My amendment is a probing amendment, but I am keen for my hon. Friend the Minister to consider further these proposals in relation to SEN provision in secure colleges: that education providers in those colleges be required by contract to put SEN at the heart of their education provision; that those providers also be required by contract to ensure adequate and proper training for staff so that they can properly identify special education needs and meet that need when it is identified; and finally, that we give further thought to exactly who in a secure college should be responsible for working with home local education authorities when young people either have education, health and care plans, or might be eligible for them. I commend those points to the House.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

I will be very brief, because other Members wish to speak. I find this whole secure college proposal abhorrent. It flies in the face of all the evidence that has been put before the Justice Committee and debated in the wider media. What do we know about trying to address the issues that confront young people once they get involved in this system? We know that the most successful units are the smaller ones. So what is the response? It is to create a mass-scale prison.

The other thing that we know works—this is absolutely critical—is for young people to be located close to their homes so that they can maintain family and community contact. The scale of this proposal in catering for about

25% of young people in the prison system means that these colleges will be located in the centre of the country, nowhere near the vast proportion of homes where these young people live, so we will be breaking down family connections. We have warnings before us, right across the piece, that in a mixed-gender establishment those most at risk will be young women. Some of the statements and evidence provided about those risks were frightening.

All the evidence tells us that a system such as that proposed will not work, and I think the Government know that. This is Oakwood for children, and we know what happened in that privatised prison—riots, assaults, and a lack of control. I think the Government know that there is a danger that that will be replicated in this large institution. That is why the Bill is allowing for the use of physical force against young people, contrary to everything the courts have told us.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, National Policy Statements Sub-Committee

Given that the hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the Justice Committee, was unable in the circumstances to visit Oakwood when we did so recently, I hope he would not want to give the impression that the Committee had formed the view that his description fits Oakwood as it is now rather than as it was at the beginning.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

I was unable to go on that visit because I was in hospital at the time. However, I have had the reports from Oakwood and I have met the Prison Officers Association. We have seen time and again the level of assaults there and the riots that have taken place. Only recently, a whole wing was taken over by prisoners. That is a result of privatisation. That is the agenda; that is what this is about. It is not about the rehabilitation, education and care of young people; the main thrust is reducing the overall cost of the system. That is why privatisation has come on to the agenda. As a result of this Government’s drive to reduce costs within the system, we are putting the lives of young people at risk.

I grew up on an estate where young people were sent into the prison system—that is, borstals. This proposal is bringing borstals back into the system. We thought we had got rid of them. They were like large-scale prisons where a regime of brutality could emerge because of packing so many young people in, and where costs were limited so there was not the intensive investment looking at children’s individual needs.

This is a dreadful proposal. If it is enacted, with £85 million spent on this large-scale Titan prison for young people, we will live to regret it, because it will damage young people’s lives and, rather than rehabilitate them, force them into a more brutal form of criminal practice in future.

Photo of Stephen Gilbert Stephen Gilbert Liberal Democrat, St Austell and Newquay

There is much to commend part 1 of the Bill, but, like other hon. Members, I cannot say the same for part 2.

The plans for secure colleges are a leap into the unknown that have the potential to deliver worse outcomes for the very vulnerable young people who are placed into custody across the secure youth estate. It is not just me or other hon. Members who are saying that; it is the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Prison Reform

Trust, the deputy Children’s Commissioner, and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice. Like them, I worry that the introduction of secure colleges could drive up the number of young people being sent into custody—something that we are seeking to avoid. I fear that they will not meet the emotional and mental health needs of children who are placed into them, that they will not meet the excellent standards of educational attainment in some of our secure children’s homes, and that they will provide for worse outcomes for some of the youngest, and therefore most vulnerable, people we need to detain.

As Dan Jarvis said, we are seeing a steady period of decline in youth imprisonment and youth crime, though one will not necessarily read about it in the newspapers. Overall, youth crime is down by 63% since 2002. Since 2009, there have been 55% fewer young people coming into the youth justice system and 36% fewer young people—that is, people under 18—in custody.

The introduction of detention and training orders under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 resulted in a large spike in the number of under-18s being sent into custody, because courts saw that as a new solution. I fear that secure colleges could create a similar spike, with children being sent into custody rather than accessing the restorative and rehabilitative options that are available to meet their complex needs.

It is clear, not least from what my hon. Friend Mr Buckland has said, that the secure youth estate already faces considerable challenges taking account of the mental health needs, learning disabilities and difficulties, addictions, childhood abuse and neglect of the children in its care. We should not underestimate the background problems faced by those children who end up in custody.

The Prison Reform Trust study of 6,000 children in custody revealed that at least three quarters of the sample had absent fathers; a third had absent mothers; half lived in a deprived household; more than a quarter had witnessed domestic violence; another quarter had experience of local authority care; and one in five was known to have harmed themselves, and a shocking one in 10 to have attempted to take their own life. It is clear that if we are to address reoffending among that cohort, we have to first address those underlying issues.

My fear is that the proposed size of 300-plus for the colleges is simply too large to meet the complex needs and challenges presented by these children and to deliver the individual care and attention they need to resolve effectively their underlying issues and therefore reduce reoffending, which is what we all want.

Evidence from the adult estate indicates that smaller prisons are more effective than larger ones. When the former chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, gave evidence to the Justice Committee’s inquiry into effective sentencing, she said that it is “very evident” that, on measures of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement, smaller prisons are more effective.

Smaller prisons are also safer. All 16 deaths of children in custody since 2000 have occurred in young offender institutions and secure training centres—the largest types of institutions in the secure estate for children. There have been no deaths in custody in secure children’s homes since 2000. Although overall the use of restraint techniques against children on the secure estate continues to increase, good practice in secure children’s homes has seen a significant decrease in the use of restraint, including a reduction of more than 90% in one example, thanks to the introduction of new management processes by a determined leadership. This Bill, however, makes explicit provision to move away from those approaches that reduce restraint and towards an approach that legitimises it. As we have heard, secure colleges are likely to be an expensive experiment at a time when youth justice budgets are already under pressure and being stretched across the board.

Finally, I am particularly concerned about children under 15. Children aged between 12 and 14 are, as other Members have said, a small minority among the population of under-18s in custody. Indeed, as of 3 January, there were just 53 children aged under 14 in custody. I think we all recognise that there is a world of difference between most 13-year-olds and most 17-year-olds. It would, in my view, be wrong to place the two groups together in a large institution where safety, bullying and other issues cannot be effectively dealt with.

I do not think we need to reinvent the wheel. There are already very good examples of good practice in secure children’s homes. We need to learn from those and roll them out across the secure estate for children. We all make mistakes—heaven knows that I know that as well as anybody—and when we do, we need to strike the right balance between rehabilitation and punishment. Surely that is especially the case for those very young people who end up on the wrong side of the law.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 9:30 pm, 12th May 2014

I share all the concerns about secure training centres that have been expressed this evening by Members of all parties. I want briefly to ask the Minister about the position of young women and girls in particular. Frankly, it is baffling that young women could be in the same secure training centre as young men when we have taken such steps to differentiate the needs of adult women in the custody system. It is also baffling that, when we have ruled out Titan prisons for adults, we think they are appropriate for young people. We seem to be going in an utterly perverse direction.

We know that girls’ needs in the penal system are different from those of boys and young men. We know that girls are more likely to self-harm and to be placed in restraint and in segregation. We also know that their emotional and well-being needs are different. They have often been victims of terrible trauma and abuse prior to their entry into the penal system. Therefore, if girls and young women are to be placed in these centres, I want the Minister to address some specific issues with clear and direct responses.

First, will the Minister tell us whether any young woman who might be pregnant or who might be a young mother will be placed in one of the secure training centres? In my view, it would be utterly unacceptable for such young women to be confined in the centres. Secondly, will any young women or girls who have themselves been a victim of sexual or domestic abuse or violence be placed in such institutions? Again, it would be utterly inappropriate to put such young women where they would see themselves close to the risk of bullying, aggression and potentially harm from young men. Thirdly, will dedicated staff working only with girls and young women be employed in the secure training centres, or will the whole staff team be shared across the centres, with no specialist and dedicated provision for girls and young women? Finally, what assessment, if any, has his Department made of the impact on reoffending rates among girls and young women of being placed in such institutions? I am not aware of any evidence that such a goal would in any way be effectively achieved, but perhaps he will share such evidence as he has.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Labour, Wythenshawe and Sale East

Ministers in the Government who abandoned the Building Schools for the Future programme are now effectively asking Parliament to write a blank cheque for the introduction of the secure college. During my first Public Bill Committee, I was mightily impressed by the contributions of Members and Front Benchers on both sides and by how they comported themselves. There was unanimity on many items in the Bill, but this was a particular area of division. Like my hon. Friend John McDonnell, I do not think that even Ministers believe in this proposal. Yet the Government’s objective is laudable. The Minister has said that 69% of young offenders go on to reoffend. We should all share the ambition to do better, because that figure is too high.

I have many objections to the secure college. My first objection is to its size and cost, as my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis pointed out. With 320 beds and at a cost of £85 million, it can only be described—as it has been—as a Titan. The up-front cost for each place is more than £250,000, which is more than places in secure homes, secure training centres or young offenders institutions. What position will they find themselves in once this college has been built? How will it distort the market for our other provision up and down the nation?

Liberty has stated that the proposal will work against the Government’s objective of reducing young offending. As my hon. Friend Kate Green said so eloquently, the position of young female offenders within the provision is completely unclear at the moment. The Youth Justice Board has advised against any accommodation for girls in such a secure college.

My second objection to the secure college is that the Government are not clear about its objectives. Is it supposed to be educational, or to have a custodial function? They have not worked that out. If the purpose is educational, my worry is how any educator in such an establishment can create the necessary relationships between themselves and those they educate. As a school teacher, I had 190 days—based on the old agrarian timetable—to teach a child, to build a relationship with them and their parents, and to pass that on through a sophisticated mechanism for the handover that involved reports and strategy. When he spoke so eloquently about SEN measures, Mr Buckland was exactly right to ask how such a process will happen. The average custodial sentence for a young person is less than 80 days, so how can an educator begin to establish such relationships in an educational environment that will bring the young person on? I do not think that there is any chance whatsoever of building such a relationship between educators and the young person. Young people with special educational needs also have complex social and emotional needs.

In conclusion, I could not agree more that large institutions are wrong for children, and they are particularly damaging for the most vulnerable children. Without clear objectives, the leaders we hope to employ in any such institution will find it an almost impossible task to navigate the mission that the Government have failed to clarify in Committee and in the House tonight. The Government should think again.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

I will be brief so that other colleagues can speak in this important debate. I was pleased that the Front-Bench spokesman gave way to me earlier because, having visited a number of young offenders institutions through my membership of the Justice Committee, I am alarmed by the background of many of the young people in those institutions. They are often the victims of abuse, neglect or simply an uncaring society and a lack of care throughout their lives. They often end up brutalised by the system, then come out and commit further offences. Life gets worse and worse for them.

The endless answer appears to be a bigger and bigger plethora of agencies, contractors and others who are supposed to assist these young people who are going through serious traumas in their lives. One problem is that too many agencies, too many people and too many organisations are intervening, often on a profit-centred basis rather than a care-centred basis. The people who lose out are the young people. The rest of society also loses out because the skills and abilities of those young people are lost to us as they set off on a life of crime and further imprisonment.

The Government now propose these very large secure training colleges. I am appalled by the whole idea. I agree with what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench and by Stephen Gilbert and others. We do not need big institutions, where people get lost, where self-harm takes place and suicides occur, and where bullying and harassment become a daily fact of life. That culture can become a form of control over those within the centres. We need something that is far more caring and far more focused on educational achievement and building social skills for the future.

I will make one last point so that others can contribute to the debate. During the investigation into youth justice, a number of us on the Justice Committee had the good fortune to visit young offenders institutions in Denmark and Norway. That was very instructive. They spend a great deal more money than us on dealing with young offenders. They have much smaller units in which to deal with them. They focus heavily on education and social skill development, and heavily encourage family visits and, where possible, education in a normal college outside the institution. The person who goes through the process of rehabilitation while in custody maintains a high degree of contact with the rest of society, rather than being totally locked away and coming out after some years having lost lots of social skills, if not lots of contacts. The results in Denmark and Norway are very low levels of reoffending compared with what we have, much lower levels of self-harm and attempted suicide, and, in the long run, a much lower level of crime in society.

My hon. Friend John McDonnell pointed to the obsession with the contract culture. That seems to be driving the Ministry of Justice at every turn. There are teams of people in the Ministry of Justice working out how to hive off, sell off, privatise and get rid of services, rather than focusing on the core function, which is the administration of a service and reducing the rate of reoffending—not creating profit centres for companies such as G4S and many others. Please can we not go down that road? I hope that the Minister understands that many of us feel passionately about this. We want to see young people being valued, not having their lives destroyed in these kinds of institutions.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Opposition Whip (Commons)

Nobody except the Minister thinks that secure colleges are a good idea—no educationist, no one who works in young offenders institutions, no one who works in the criminal justice system and no one who campaigns for improvements in the way that we treat children and young people in the justice system.

We do know that the vast majority of young people who end up in the criminal justice system have very poor literacy, numeracy and linguistic skills. The statistics show that 86% of offenders in young offenders institutions have been excluded from school. I maintain that the majority of those young people will have special educational needs because of physical or mental disabilities or emotional difficulties, whether or not those needs have been previously identified. Such children need to be educated in small groups and to do a wide range of activities. Simply sitting them at a desk and expecting them to learn does not work, and it has never worked for them.

I used to be the governor of a secondary school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, a number of whom were already in and out of the criminal justice system or at risk of being in it. There was a maximum of eight children per class, with a teacher and at least one or more teaching assistant. They tried never to have more than 40 children in the school at any one time, with the others undertaking practical work, outdoor education or other specialist activities. It was recognised that simply trying to push knowledge into them did not work, and that many of them learned better by doing.

Why does the Minister think that trying to educate 320 young people together, often hundreds of miles away from home, will work? As others have said, the average length of time in custody is 79 days. Therefore, after 79 days those young people will be returned to their homes, and either return to their schools or have to find a new placement, facing the terrible difficulty of transition to a new school, and with the difficulty of having come from custody compounding their problems. The Minister expects them to be miles away from their families and other support services. How on earth will they have successful integration back to their home environment? How will they receive the support they need to ensure they stay out of custody?

In many other places we have seen that success happens in small units where young people can be treated as individuals and educated on how they should be able to take their rightful place in the world. Please will the Minister look at other systems where young people are treated in custody, and please will he not go ahead with this bizarre notion of a secure college? It is not going to work; please do not carry out this experiment at the cost of our young people in the criminal justice system.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 9:45 pm, 12th May 2014

I think that we had a constructive debate in Committee, and it is disappointing that the Opposition have set their face against secure colleges. I will not be able to pick up on all the points made during the debate, but let me do my best.

Amendments 16, 17, 18 and 21 would effectively remove from the Bill all reference to a secure college, and it is worth starting with the context of our proposed reform of the youth secure estate. At present we pay around £100,000 a year on average for a place in youth custody, and yet almost 70% of young people go on to reoffend within 12 months of release. For secure children’s homes the cost rises beyond £200,000 a place, yet reoffending outcomes are little different.

To give the House the facts, the proportion of offenders who reoffended in the 12 months to March 2012 is as follows: 69.9% in young offenders institutions; 70.1% in secure training centres; and 67.6% in secure children’s homes. That is why we need to do something different, and why we are pursuing the idea of secure colleges. I have heard the arguments tonight and, indeed previously, that there are better ways to improve the youth custodial estate, and in particular that smaller establishments such as secure children’s homes are more effective. The figures for reoffending that I have given do not demonstrate that, but I understand that plenty of good work is done across the estate.

Dan Jarvis asked whether we considered spending the money on the existing estate, and the answer is yes. However, if we continue to do the same things in the same ways, we can expect the same results. He seems to have said this evening that he accepts that the status quo is not acceptable but he does not think that secure colleges are the right way to go. He clearly favours a much more small-unit approach, such as secure children’s homes, but I wonder whether he has considered the cost of that. Our rough guess is that putting all young people currently detained in custody into a secure children’s home would cost in excess of £100 million more a year than we currently spend. I would be interested to hear—as, I am sure, would the House—how exactly that would be paid for by the Labour party if that is its intent. I suspect it does not know.

The truth is that no current model of youth custody is delivering the types of outcomes that we all want to see, or providing sufficient value for money for the taxpayer. That is why we want to consider secure colleges. I am conscious that there is an appetite to hear more detail on how secure colleges will operate than primary legislation can provide. It is therefore worth pointing out to the House that during the Bill’s passage we intend to publish and consult on our plans for secure college rules, including, where appropriate, setting out some indicative draft provisions. This will provide both Houses with more information on how we expect secure colleges to operate.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

During the passage of the Bill? We are on Report! This is the end of the Bill’s consideration in this House. We have one more day. We will not return to this issue unless the other place amends the proposed legislation.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

If the hon. Gentleman takes the time to look at the programme motion he will see that there are two days allowed on Report. This is the first day, not the second. [Interruption.] I have made the position clear.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

No, I am afraid I will not. I have 10 minutes left and a good deal of ground to cover. There will be a second day on Report and the other House will get to consider this matter. The hon. Gentleman was not present in Committee. Had he—

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure the Minister does not wish to mislead the House about the processes of this House. I would like absolute clarity. I am a Back-Bench Member dealing with this part of the Bill on day one, which is considering this part the Bill. On the basis of the programme motion, this part of the Bill will not come back for consideration on day two, so this is my last opportunity to consider the matter unless the other place amends the Bill on this point. I will not have the opportunity to take part in a debate informed by the publication of these rules. Is that accurate, Mr Speaker?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman has described the procedure accurately. What he has said is not something from which I wish to dissent. I cannot rule on it, but what he has said is procedurally correct.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I make two points to the hon. Gentleman. First, if he looks carefully at the programme motion—I am sure he understands this very well—he will see that there will be a Third Reading debate at the end of the second day on Report. He will have the opportunity to raise something then. Secondly, it really would not matter what the secure college rules say, would it? The hon. Gentleman has made his position crystal clear. He thinks this is a capitalist conspiracy to privatise youth justice. He is not interested in the details of secure colleges at all; he is interested only in what he perceives to be the political animus here. If he will allow me to do so, I will come on to the detail that he says he wants to discuss. Let us discuss it.

Amendments 13, 14 and 15 relate to secure children’s homes and the placement of under-15s and girls in secure colleges, an issue of perfectly legitimate concern that was raised in Committee. Let me set out the Government’s position. There was much debate in Committee, and again here on amendment 13, on secure children’s homes. We accept that secure colleges will not be appropriate for 10 and 11-year-olds remanded or sentenced to custody. We have also made it clear, in our response to the “Transforming Youth Justice” consultation, that there are likely to be some detained young people who will continue to require specialist separate accommodation on the grounds of their acute needs or vulnerability.

The Bill provides for secure colleges. It does not seek to make any changes to the existing legislative provision relating to secure children’s homes. Local authorities, rather than the Secretary of State, provide secure children’s homes. We think it is right that they retain that responsibility. The nine new Youth Justice Board contracts and the increased use of welfare places demonstrate that there is currently high demand for secure children’s home provision. Quite properly, the Secretary of State and the YJB exercise their various powers to provide and commission secure accommodation for young people remanded or sentenced to custody in such a way that suitable accommodation is available for those young people. That includes commissioning places in secure children’s homes as appropriate. I have made it clear before that that will continue.

There was also detailed discussion in Committee of whether girls and under-15s will be accommodated in secure colleges. Amendments 14 and 15 would prevent the placement of any young person under 15, and any girl, in secure colleges. Let me point out again that I recognise concerns that accommodating a large number of boys and only a small number of girls could, if the risks are not properly managed, place those girls at risk. That was very much the point made by Kate Green. I also recognise that girls in custody often have a range of complex needs and that it will be important that the secure colleges meet those needs. I am afraid that I do not have time to go into the detail she raised, but I will write to her if I can. The one question I can answer immediately relates to care for young mothers. There is currently a mother and baby unit at the Rainsbrook secure training centre. If that is not to continue, we must make provision elsewhere.

My hon. Friend Stephen Gilbert and others suggested that it might be daunting for children as young as 12 to be in the same secure establishments as 17-year-olds, although such age groups rub shoulders in mainstream secondary education and, indeed, in some of the other establishments that we have discussed. I am confident that those risks can be managed in secure colleges, and I want young girls and younger children to have access to the facilities and opportunities that will be provided in them. Having said that, I should make it clear that no final decisions have been made on who will be accommodated in the pathfinder secure college. Such decisions will be taken later in the development of the pathfinder, and in the light of careful analysis of the needs of the youth custodial population and the implications for the different groups who may be accommodated.

Amendment 11 makes an important point about the use of force. I recognise that the issues of good order and discipline and how they are maintained are at the heart of the amendment. There was considerable debate about those issues in Committee. I sought to reassure Members then, and I am happy to try to do so again now.

The duties of custody officers include maintaining good order and discipline, but the provisions in the Bill will not by themselves allow them to use force for that purpose. That will not be possible unless specific provision is made in the secure college rules, in which the boundaries on the use of force should be set out. I repeat that we intend to consult on our approach to secure college rules.

I entirely understand that the term “good order and discipline” could be considered too broad in this context. Let me try to explain exactly what we have in mind. This is not about using force for the purpose of discipline as a form of punishment, or simply to make a young person follow an instruction. We have always made it clear that force must not be used merely to secure compliance with an order. We believe that, as a last resort, in the limited circumstances in which all attempts to resolve the situation without resorting to force have failed, and in which a young person’s behaviour is having an impact on his or her own safety and welfare or that of others, some force—subject to strict conditions and safeguards—may be necessary. Force may be used as part of securing good order and discipline only when there are clear risks to the maintaining of a safe and stable environment for young people, and when its use is a necessary and proportionate response in order to protect the welfare of the individual or that of others. I hope that that explanation is helpful. As I have said, further debate will doubtless take place when Members have seen the secure college rules.

I am grateful to those who tabled amendments relating to health and education. I shall not have time to discuss them in detail, but Members may wish to read the Hansard report of the Committee stage, when we debated precisely these matters. NHS England will have a duty to assess the needs of young people in a secure college to determine which services should be provided. NHS England applies the Intercollegiate Healthcare Standards for Children and Young People in Secure Settings, which were developed by the royal medical colleges and published last year.

The qualifications of teachers have been mentioned. It is, of course, important for properly qualified individuals to provide many services in secure colleges, but in some cases engaging and effective education may be delivered by individuals without a teaching qualification. I believe that the experience and aptitude of staff who work with this challenging cohort are more important than the qualifications that they may have. I should also remind Members that secure colleges will be inspected by Ofsted.

A key point has been made about special educational needs. I apologise to my hon. Friend Mr Buckland for the fact that I shall not have a chance to discuss it with him in detail, but it was raised in Committee, and I assure him that a great deal of further thought will be given to how those needs can be met.

Amendments 5 and 6 are required as a consequence of the agreement in Committee to extend the secure college provisions of the Bill to Wales. We have liaised closely with the Welsh Government on our plans for secure colleges, and they have confirmed to us that they are content for the amendments to be made.

Amendments 3 and 4 to clause 63 are technical amendments to correct the territorial extent of the provisions on contracting out. I hope they will cause the House no difficulty.

The House divided:

Ayes 196, Noes 295.

Division number 273 Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (Programme) No. 2 — Clause 19 — Secure colleges and other places for detention of young offenders etc

Aye: 196 MPs

No: 295 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Question accordingly negatived.

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

Mr Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).