Report (2nd Day)

Part of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 22nd October 2014.

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Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 6:15 pm, 22nd October 2014

No, the answer is that by their secure college the Government are trying to provide a college which is sufficiently flexible to allow them to cope with whatever the demands are. Of course, it is impossible to predict precisely the age or the gender of those who will find themselves sent to a secure college, or to whatever the appropriate custodial institution may be. The answer is to set up a college which has the provision for a separate accommodation if that is appropriate.

It appears that we are somewhat damned if we do and damned if we do not. We were criticised for not having a separate accommodation for girls and young men, and we are now being criticised for having it and not using it. I hope that there will be some acknowledgment that we have made considerable efforts to try to find an appropriate way of housing them, should it be appropriate for them to be sent there.

Amendment 110 seeks to place a duty on the Secretary of State to make arrangements for adequate specialist provision to meet health and well-being needs in a secure college, and to make sufficient places available in a secure children’s home. Amendment 117B would impose a number of welfare requirements on secure colleges. These amendments go to the heart of which matters should be for primary legislation, which should be in secondary legislation and which are to be delivered through contractual arrangements. Some of the requirements in Amendment 117B relate to areas of fundamental importance—such as safeguarding, education, health and well-being, staff training and visits—and as such are matters that, rightly, we will address in the secure college rules.

Similarly, Amendment 110 would require the Secretary of State to make arrangements to ensure that secure colleges have adequate specialist provision in place to address young people’s health and well-being, and to ensure that sufficient places are available in a secure children’s home. The responsibility for commissioning health and well-being services, including specialist provision, for young people in a secure college will rest with NHS England. As noble Lords will be aware, this is in line with the arrangements currently in place for the existing secure estate.

Similarly, it is local authorities, not the Secretary of State, which are responsible for providing sufficient places in secure children’s homes. The Youth Justice Board recently agreed contracts with nine secure children’s homes. As I have previously indicated, we remain committed to ensuring that specialist separate accommodation will be available for the youngest and most vulnerable offenders. NHS England will assess the healthcare needs of all those detained in secure colleges, and commission services appropriate to meet their assessed needs. In doing so, NHS England applies the intercollegiate healthcare standards for children and young people in secure settings which were developed by the royal medical colleges at the invitation of the Youth Justice Board.

As we indicated in the recently published consultation on our plans for the rules, the role secure colleges play in healthcare is to provide the right environment where healthcare professionals can carry out their responsibilities for the care and well-being of young people. We therefore propose that the rules should include a requirement to ensure that a young person has safe and timely access to health services in a secure college. I hope that that goes some way towards reassuring the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, who is understandably concerned about the quite complex care needs that these young people will have.

As I said in answer in an earlier debate, the design of the healthcare facilities has been developed in collaboration with NHS England, which was consulted at that stage. Indeed, it was NHS England which advised us to amend our plans in order to bring the healthcare provision within the main educational block. NHS England assisted in the consultation and the way that the college is to be configured. Not only will this reduce the disruption to education when young people need to attend health appointments, but it will also help to normalise access to healthcare for a group of young people who, as I am sure that the noble Baroness and others will be aware, have not always had regular contact with a GP or with the specialist services they require. In some senses, it is hoped that they will be better off here than they might be in the community in terms of access to healthcare.

In our consultation we have proposed rules on the assessment and safeguarding of young people; on a minimum of 30 hours of educational activities for all young people each week; on access to healthcare services commissioned by NHS England; on staff training that is approved by the Secretary of State, and on an entitlement for all young people to receive at least one visit a week. It is worth noting that the Youth Justice Board operates an assisted visits scheme providing financial support to the families and carers of young people in custody. We have proposed a rule setting out the purpose and ethos of secure colleges. We stress that the welfare and safeguarding of young people are vital considerations, which is why we proposed that the requirements and protections I have outlined will be set out in secondary legislation.

Other considerations raised by Amendment 117B will be for contracts to address. We are clear, for example, that the education provision in secure colleges must respond to the regular departure and arrival of young people who may be on remand or serving short sentences. Therefore, roll-on roll-off courses designed quickly to develop skills and raise attainment, as are delivered in the current estate, must be available. However, while the average length of stay in youth custody may be only 85 days, this figure is skewed by the remand population. In fact, around 50% of the population in custody at any time will be serving sentences of at least six months in custody, which is the equivalent of two school terms and therefore provides a real opportunity to make a significant impact on a young person’s life.

I cannot agree to the requirement in Amendment 117B relating to the size of secure colleges. I have heard the arguments that smaller establishments are better environments for young people, and they have been rehearsed today. But there remains no evidence demonstrating that such places achieve better reoffending outcomes or that they present better value for money. While I know that much excellent work is done in secure children’s homes—I repeat what I said earlier in that regard—it is still sadly the case that 72% of young people detained in these establishments reoffend within a year and cost more than £210,000 a place each year. I should perhaps remind the party opposite that placing all young people in such accommodation would cost around an additional £100 million.