My Lords, it is a great honour for me to be able to introduce this debate on the challenges facing young people. I have deliberately made it a wide-ranging debate. There are therefore topics that I will not cover, partly because I know that many of my colleagues intend so to do. I look forward to hearing from them. I want before I continue to thank all those organisations that have briefed me and, I am sure, other Members. It is a topic that has encouraged a lot of organisations to let us know what they are doing and to challenge us on how we are working with young people.
We have all been young, even if some of us have almost forgotten what it was like. Sometimes, this means that we think that we know what it is like for young people growing up in the UK today. The reality is very different. Some stories are good. Far fewer young people today smoke; they spend more money on mobile phones than on drink; they are not using as many drugs as did a previous generation; many more will get qualifications at school and go on to university, and there are fewer teenage pregnancies than we have ever recorded before. I am quite pleased about the latter because I was in charge of that policy when I was a Minister.
However, there are significant challenges for young people today. Social media has opened up incredible opportunities for young people: they can self-publish poems and books; they can stream their own music; they can communicate with friends and family around the world, but they can also be bullied and be subject to grooming, exploitation and to a different form of loneliness laced with insecurity and lack of self-worth.
The Prince’s Trust has produced the Macquarie Youth Index for the past nine years. This year’s reveals that young people’s happiness and confidence are at their lowest since they started to be measured. The number of young people who do not feel in control of their lives has increased by one-third year on year.
We know from a range of evidence that mental health challenges have really increased in recent years. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reports that in 2017 one in eight five to 19 year-olds had a diagnosed mental health disorder; that one in 20 had more than one; and that half of adults’ mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75% before the age of 24. These are diagnosed problems. All the organisations contacting us tell stories of the additional problems that young people face—from academic pressure, where exams have become the norm in a way that was never imagined when I was young, but also from social media.
But there are positives. Young people are just as likely as adults to volunteer. Noble Lords who know me well will not wonder that I talk about this. I have had the privilege of being involved with Voluntary Service Overseas in different ways over the last 50 years, twice as a volunteer. My first volunteering experience was in Kenya for two years. VSO has been the lead charity running International Citizen Service, a programme for 18 to 25 year-olds initiated by the coalition Government in 2011. A diverse range of young people go to a developing country in small groups and work for three months with a group of young people from the host country, who are also volunteering, on a project. They are all expected to contribute some volunteering in their own community when they return. I have met lots of ICS volunteers, here and when I have visited the developing world, and it is the most inspirational activity. Many of them will be the leaders of tomorrow, here and abroad. All of them are clear about their learning, what matters and what contribution young people can make. I just hope the Government can sort out the reprocurement quickly and make sure the programme can continue. The uncertainty has been going on for quite a long time.
We have to face the reality that young people today are part of a generation that is deeply divided in its opportunities. We know about intergenerational inequality, with benefits for my generation not having been reduced by the Government when for young people they have been. Layer rising inequality between young people and families on top of that and there is an even bigger problem. It matters more than ever what sort of family you are born into; not just how much money they have—of course, that does matter—but where you live, what value the family puts on education, and the stability within the family in this very unstable world. For young people coming from families where they experience trauma from domestic abuse and so on, the challenges are even greater. We know all too well that the number of children and young people ending up in care has risen to very difficult and challenging levels. We also know the problems that too many young people and children face and experience in the care system. Too many of them end up in the criminal justice system or in exploitive relationships when they try to move on.
The rise in knife crime has also shown us how vulnerable some young people are, particularly in poorer neighbourhoods, to exploitation by gang leaders and drug traffickers, with the perpetrators often also being victims.
The rise in homelessness is having severe consequences for some young people, who are moved with their families miles from where they were living, meaning that they have to move schools, work out a new set of friends and get to know a new area, which all add to their vulnerability. Too many are sofa-surfing, which puts them at risk, and hidden from services. Too many young women end up being asked for sexual favours to get a room for the night. The New Policy Institute found that, in 2015, 30% of 14 to 24 year-olds were living in poverty. A survey this year found that 40% of local authorities had experienced a rise in youth homelessness. The lack of affordable housing is a real problem for young people. There has been a substantial rise in the number living in the private rented sector, with home ownership among 16 to 24 year-olds falling substantially.
Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are losing out in education and are less likely to have power in their communities or in politics. If you have a degree, you are three times more likely to engage in civic life, although many reject traditional institutions—they may be deeply political in what they think about, but they are certainly not joining political parties. Only 50% of young people believe parliamentary institutions are essential for democracy. I suspect that number is greater at the end of this week. Maybe that is another reason why young people generally support a second vote on Brexit. Young people want to remain in the European Union—another area where my generation is totally out of touch with young people’s ambitions—by seven to one.
There are lots of other challenges, but all this is happening in a context of diminishing opportunities to find support. Young people are being left on their own, with no one to share ideas with and to help them work out how to shape their future. Since 2010, youth services spending has declined by 64%. Having been a youth and community worker when I was a lot younger, and having trained many youth and community workers, I know the opportunities that good youth work can open up for young people, and the safe spaces it provides for them to work things out and challenge themselves. How short-sighted we are to lose these opportunities.
Young people have ambition: they want a better world, decent homes and decent jobs. But we are building so many barriers for them. We need to listen to them, and to recognise that there need to be new ways of communicating and of enabling them to make a contribution. They need to be safe too. The Government cannot provide the whole answer but they set the context. They can close down opportunities or help to open them up. My problem is that there seems little chance at the moment of the Government recognising this, let alone engaging effectively to do it. Young people have something important and powerful to say about the future—theirs and ours—and we should listen to them.
My Lords, the maths for this debate rather stretches the definition of tight timing. I ask that noble Lords start winding up their speeches as the clock reaches four minutes, otherwise the Front-Bench speeches may have to be foreshortened.
My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness on introducing this debate. She has created an appalling dilemma for us all, because there are so many points to which each of us wants to respond—particularly as I find myself in agreement with a huge number of her points. It is a paradox that, at a time of greater prosperity, physical health and opportunity, we have young people who are anxious and uncertain. Maybe that is partly because we live in a time of such change.
Before moving on to more substantive matters, I want to comment on the wretched fetish of social media, to which so many young people are addicted. It feeds them false facts and a false reality, but they are obsessed with Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook—I cannot remember them all. It portrays all their friends as having a deliriously happy time while they are the only ones feeling lonely and isolated. It encourages them to compare themselves with their peers and causes problems around body image. The situation is extraordinarily serious: it causes bullying and much else besides. It is enormously important for us to do all that we can to create shared opportunities and purposeful activities in settings where young people feel part of a larger whole. Dangerous material can also come through on social media, and the NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign tackles the sexually inappropriate and violent material that young people see.
The noble Baroness mentioned Dame Martina Milburn of the Prince’s Trust, who has now gone on to chair the Social Mobility Foundation. Dame Martina said:
“The single most important thing we can do to empower these young people is to help them into a job, an education course or on to a training programme”.
On all these counts, the Government deserve credit. Despite all the problems, it is the case that youth unemployment in the UK is at 11.5%. In France it is almost double that, at 20%; in Italy it is 30%; in Greece it is 43%; and the EU average is 15.1%. Whatever one thinks about the types of jobs or zero-hours contracts, they are an opportunity for meaningful activity, and the Government deserve credit.
It was Disraeli who wisely commented:
“Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends”.
The House will know that the Government have been relentless in their attack on inadequate schools. I know only too well, from my work in Camberwell, Brixton and Peckham, long ago in the 1970s and 1980s, about the inadequate education and the lack of expectations and rigour. Through UTCs, free schools and academies, the Government have been determined to raise standards. The Minister himself is a wonderful exemplar, as chairman of the Inspiration Trust, which has 14 academy schools in East Anglia. Will he tell me how many children previously in a failing local authority school are now in academies rated good or outstanding?
Only last week, at Battersea power station, the Secretary of State talked about the key need for skills. Further education and technical paths must be of equal esteem and effectiveness to revered universities. The CBI estimates that the greatest growth in jobs will be in management, professional and technical roles, all of which will require specialist skills that higher technical training courses could provide. This is an issue that unites the House, but we have to make real progress.
I move now to young people’s mental health, which the noble Baroness also mentioned. The increase in the figures is, I am sure, in part because people feel alienated and confused. We live in a diverse society, but in some ways that creates greater anxiety. David Goodhart’s book is about “anywhere” and “somewhere”, and the “somewhere” model gives more people a sense of space and belonging.
It has become more acceptable to talk about mental health problems, and I pay tribute to celebrities such as Jo Brand and Stephen Fry who have made mental illness an acceptable form of distress that can be discussed. I pay special tribute to the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. Charlie Waller took his own life in 1997. His parents, Mark and Rachel Waller, set up a pioneering charity which has been an exemplar for best practice by equipping young people to look after their mental well-being, helping people recognise the signs of depression and ensuring that expert and evidence-based help is available.
My particular preoccupation when Secretary of State all those years ago was to achieve proper recognition and understanding of mental health and in particular to insist that it was part of the health of the nation strategy. I welcome the transforming programme being set out to assist young people with mental health problems, with a partnership between the NSPCC and schools. The Prime Minister said that every school should have someone who knows about mental health. Nelson Mandela said:
“There can be no keener revelation of society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.
I agree, and we have more to do.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the passionate speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, and my noble friend Lady Armstrong.
I have always regarded policy on education and youth as, in principle, straightforward—the principle having been set out by the great philosopher RH Tawney:
“What the wise parent would wish for their children, so the state must wish for all its children”.
If the principle is straightforward, the problem is that what the wise parent would wish for their child is emphatically not delivered by the state for all children at the moment. I know that the Minister shares the great sense of urgency about the change and improvement needed. In the short time I have, I wish to raise three issues where I believe the state is not remotely living up to the expectations of the wise parent.
The first is exclusions from school. We face a crisis at the moment in the rising number of exclusions from schools, which lead directly to serious social disaffection and, in many cases, to the youth and adult justice systems. The figures are alarming. Permanent exclusions from school have gone up in each of the past five years. There were 4,630 in 2012, 4,950 in 2013, 5,795 in 2014 and 6,685 in 2015. Then, last year, there were 7,720. That is a rise from 4,600 to 7,700 in only four years—a totally unacceptable situation.
Fixed-period exclusions, which tend to escalate to permanent exclusions, have risen by just as much. I will not go through the figures for every year but there were 268,000 in 2012 and 381,000 in 2016. As a percentage of the pupil cohort, that is a rise of 3.5% to 4.8%. If you extrapolate from that, you get a social crisis that is truly alarming.
Edward Timpson, a former Children’s Minister, has been looking at this issue for some months. It needs intensive and urgent examination and we await his report with keen interest. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us something about it.
There is also the problem of off-rolling—of large numbers of pupils simply being taken off the rolls of schools. This practice is not properly policed and is becoming a rising problem on top of the figures I have already set out to the House.
My second issue is apprenticeships. The wise parent would wish for their child to have equality of opportunity whether they go on to university or a non-university course. We in this House and beyond have been going on about this issue now for at least a generation. The problem is that there is not equality of opportunity at the moment. The quality of provision and the amount of state investment are, out of all proportion, greater for pupils and young people going on to higher education than for those taking non-higher education routes.
I applaud the Government’s introduction of the apprenticeship levy in principle—it started two years ago—but it has not been properly managed. The number of youth apprenticeships on offer is declining, not rising, even as the apprenticeship levy has been introduced. The levels of youth unemployment, youth underemployment and inadequate training for young people are alarming, particularly in the more deprived communities, which also, as the Minister knows only too well, suffer from poor-quality schools. This also generates disaffection.
The third issue, touched on by my noble friend Lady Armstrong, is citizen engagement and how we train our young people for citizenship. I use the word “trained” deliberately because, like all social skills, it can and should be taught. I hugely regret that this Government have dismantled the citizenship education provision put in place by the last Government, but the issue is now becoming urgent because of Brexit. There is massive interest among young people in the Brexit process. I address meetings up and down the country on Brexit at the moment and I have never known larger meetings of young people. To put it bluntly, young people do not want to be excluded from the citizenship of Europe and they are expressing their views in numbers that I have never seen before in politics. To come to the nub of the issue, if we are to have a referendum next year, 16 and 17 year-olds should have the vote, there should be a ballot box and a polling station in every school, college and university in the country, and 16 and 17 year-olds should be automatically registered so that they do not have to go through the labyrinthine process of individual registration, which is keeping a large proportion of young people off the roll.
We face big and urgent issues and I have able to highlight only three. However, I would be grateful for the Minister’s comments on them at the end of the debate.
My Lords, when we talk about young people in a debate, we tend to go in one of two ways. One is, “It were tough when I were a lad. They don’t know what anything is about nowadays”, and the other is all gloom and dreadfulness. The answer is always somewhere in the middle. We are facing a world that is changing faster than anything anyone in this Chamber has experienced. Through the digital revolution, everything is happening more quickly. I think that the best thing the various bits of government could do is look at how we tell people what is out there and what the opportunities are.
At the moment, we have an entire society that seems to be going through something similar to the familiar story we hear in this Chamber from people who have held office about the red box with the one piece of relevant information tucked away at the bottom. You do not know where it is and you cannot find it. If you understand the systems you are dealing with, you will get the best out of society because the variety of information will come through in waves. If you do not know where to look, you will not. If you have guidance from family, friends and so on, it will help you to get the best out of society. It has always been the case that if you know what you are looking for, you will find it.
At the moment, the huge opportunities of the modern world are often missed because the people we are talking about have no one to show them where to look. There is a changing variety of opportunities in the types of work available in the creative industries, but we are not training people to tell young people how at least to get their foot in the door. If you do not get that sort of information, you stand very little chance of being in a position to exploit what will happen tomorrow. We must at least react to what is going on today.
In my experience, democratic government is at its best when it reacts quickly to what is happening now. Future-gazing has a bad record of getting things horribly wrong, but if we react to what is happening today, we tend to get better results. At the moment, we are not getting the best out of the environment around us because not enough people know how to get into it or access it properly. We need to accept that the old structure of careers guidance and advice, which asks young people what they want to do next, has to be better.
We may well have to provide better structures for lifelong learning in this rapidly changing world, but unless someone tells a young person what is available now and helps them to think about their jumping-off point, they will miss out. If we continue to underinvest in the knowledge of what is out there and the guidance to take people through, the groups with the least input from those around them in the form of family and close-knit support structures will continue to underperform on a massive scale. Unless people are at least informed about what is available, we will not get the best out of them.
I could go on for longer on this subject and one or two others, but I will leave it by referring to a debate from a few days ago. We found ourselves talking about another problem we face today: people going to the gym, pumping themselves up and taking drugs. I could not find anyone who could tell me exactly what these drugs do to you and why they are bad for you. I know that they are bad, but I could not find out how exactly. If that can happen to someone reasonably well-informed, heaven help a 17 year-old who has not been told anything about the subject.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, for calling this timely and important debate and laying out the context so helpfully. If I may say so, feeding her experience as a community and youth worker into political discussion and policies in this area benefits the House greatly.
I declare my interest in the register as a trustee of an adolescent mental health service, the Brent Centre, which grew out of the Anna Freud Centre 50 years ago—I am sorry; it is rather difficult for me to concentrate while the noble Lord, Lord Baker, is speaking. Anna Freud’s last work on adolescence was entitled Adolescence as a Developmental Disturbance; I see the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, laughing. Adolescence is an extremely challenging time. Freud highlights physiognomic changes and, particularly importantly, the fact that this is the time when a child makes his or her transition from dependence on the mother or father and moves towards adulthood.
During that difficult period, the peer group becomes extremely important, which is why youth workers and community police officers are so important for young people then. They need positive role models in younger adults who they can identify with. If one wants to understand why gangs are such an issue, one needs to recognise that children moving towards adolescence who lack guidance, good role models and support from youth workers may be excluded from school and left to their own devices. It is not hard then to see why gangs exist, according to Freud’s developmental model.
I want to talk in particular about adolescents in children’s homes. They are often the most traumatised young people because not only have they been traumatised in their family home, but they have been removed from their families—a traumatic experience. Often, they are placed in the children’s home only after several placements in a foster care environment. They have had multiple losses. I welcome the efforts and interest of successive Governments in improving the experience of children and young people in residential care. According to Anna Freud’s model, residential care and children’s homes are absolutely appropriate for adolescents. The peer group can be a very good tool in working on these issues. It is no wonder that boarding schools can be an excellent place for many adolescents to grow up in.
However, the level of need in our country was identified some time ago—in 2004, I think—by the Office for National Statistics, which found that 69% of children and young people in such homes have a mental disorder of some kind and 45% of them have a conduct disorder. Those high levels of trauma are typically being managed by people with low qualification levels; if you are fortunate, the residential childcare worker may have an A-level and the manager may have a degree. There have been some improvements in that direction.
There is a variety of young people in such homes. Some of them do not have those kinds of issues, but many of them do. One needs to ensure that those staff are well supported; that is a cause for concern, especially regarding this level of need. Will the Minister look at forming a working group to ensure that staff and managers in children’s homes have the support of a clinical psychologist or a child and adolescent psychotherapist on an ongoing basis? They could then form the healthy and strong relationships with these challenging young people that will prevent them entering the criminal justice—as they do too often—and being sexually exploited, instead going on to have careers, have families of their own and avoid having their children taken into care at a later date.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness for securing this debate. It has been said that young people are our future. They are not; they are our present. They hold the potential to reimagine the world to see possibilities, not obstacles. They are a transformative presence today, while shaping their and our future. But, as we have heard, life is complex for them. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, commented, the world is changing fast for them. Yet I recognise more than anything else, as the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, commented, that their concerns are over identity and belonging.
In October, BBC Radio 4 announced the results of the “Loneliness Experiment”—a nationwide survey conducted by BBC Radio 4’s “All In The Mind”, in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection. The survey results indicated that 16 to 24 year-olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group. Some 40% of respondents aged 16 to 24 reported feeling lonely often or very often, while only 27% of people aged over 75 said the same.
The young are also disproportionately affected by violent crime. This is true for those from black and minority-ethnic or disadvantaged backgrounds. Last month, 250 churches across London gathered with youth workers, the police, those in education and young people to ask what we can do together. As part of their place in the local community, churches made a commitment to work in partnership with other organisations to build on the existing work of schools, after-school clubs and youth projects to make their communities places where young people could find their identity, and feel they belong and are safe. However, one of the greatest challenges is how we fund, recruit and retain good youth workers—people who will remain in the community as young people grow up. As we have heard, role models are highly important for us psychologically. They help to guide us through life during our development. They teach us to make the important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives.
I also know from my previous life as a nurse that the only way to tackle these problems is through a whole-system approach, which I understand is now the consensus view. Funding is central to this, and I welcome the £250 million allocated by the Mayor of London to establish a violence reduction unit. But, as the commission on youth violence has spoken of, funding is often given in silos, with youth clubs regularly competing against one another for narrow funding streams.
As others have, I pay particular testament to the vital youth work going on, particularly what is happening in places of worship in community halls across this country. In part of my diocese, in the London Borough of Camden—according to the End Child Poverty coalition, 40% of children there live in poverty—the youth workers of St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, mentor more than 20 young people a week, undertaking multiple prison visits a month. The likes of St Mary’s are working hard to give our young people the hope that they deserve.
One of the wonderful characteristics of London is its diversity. It is multifaith and multiracial. At the same time we have seen growth in young people feeling marginalised, but I believe that we have more in common than divides us. I end my remarks by reminding noble Lords that there is reason to be hopeful. Earlier this year I attended a youth Iftar—an opportunity for young people across different religions to celebrate their diversity and to discover new things about each other. Our conversations planted seeds that will build community bonds and friendships. It also helped us to learn to value each other, to help build the peaceful and just society that all our religions seek. I reflected that this type of grand vision begins by us taking simple steps towards each other, but at times we need to help each other to do that.
My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, for initiating this important debate. In the United Kingdom 90% of 16 to 24 year-olds own or have access to a smartphone and more than one-third spend more than 40 hours a week online. Teaching and learning moderation and constructive use of technology during formative years is essential for healthy young minds and bodies. Already, young people relate to each other differently. In just 15 years the number of teenagers who see their friends daily has halved. There is also evidence that young people in social situations are finding it harder to read the implications of facial expressions and body language. However, it is their behaviour online that indicates real trouble ahead, and I will talk about one of those behaviours—namely, youth gambling.
In the United Kingdom there are now 55,000 problem gamblers aged 11 to 16—a 400% increase in just two years—and a further 70,000 young people are at risk. As noble Lords will know, I have campaigned for years to at least reduce gambling advertising on and offline. I therefore welcome the industry’s decision to ban gambling advertising before the 9 pm watershed, during televised sporting events and for five minutes before and after the whistle. But let me be clear: this can only be the beginning of a long road to reform. Australia, which introduced the whistle-to-whistle rules originally, has now decided that these do not work effectively and is now banning gambling advertising between 5 am and 8.30 pm. Spain is considering bans from 6 am until 10 pm, and in January Italy is banning all gambling advertising on and offline. Avoiding a gambling epidemic among today’s young people also requires addressing gambling advertising online, where the industry spends five times what it spends on television.
The mental health issues to which this gives rise are considerable. Combined with the excitement of gambling is the release of dopamine in the brain, causing increased impulsivity and impaired decision-making. Addiction specialists indicate that those with these heightened levels of impulsivity are more vulnerable to risk-taking and to becoming addicted, meaning that young people are more at risk than adults. This is a key contributing factor to gambling-related suicide. What can be done? The DCMS and the Department of Health are already taking important initial steps, but more is needed and it is not all down to government. First, the normalisation of gambling through advertising on and offline must be addressed, and that should be the duty of the gambling industry, including organisations such as the Football Association.
Secondly, research that I independently commissioned suggests that parents, GPs and others do not know what to do to help young people manage their time on technological devices. They need education, guidelines and support. Thirdly, we need a 1% gambling industry levy to fund treatment, education and research into gambling-related harm, the latter being essential to widen the current evidence base upon which any legislation may be based. Finally, we need the age verification systems being introduced for porn under the Digital Economy Act 2017 to be extended to gambling websites.
Some argue that all these initiatives should be taken by the Government. I do not agree. Although I accept that some do require government assistance and support, the gambling industry must accept responsibility for moderating gambling-related harm among the young. They have a moral and social responsibility. I hope that the recent steps taken over television advertising are the beginning of a new and enlightened era in which the industry will voluntarily accept its moral responsibility in this area and help young people to grow up healthy in mind and body.
My Lords, in her excellent introduction my noble friend spoke of many issues. But when you ask young people what is the biggest challenge they face, at the top of virtually every list is the lack of employment opportunities. There is a paradox here. The noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, sees a country at work. However, young people looking at the job market see 10% of the workforce under- employed, 5 million underutilised and 5.8 million earning less than the living wage. They see a growing insecurity at work, with zero-hours contracts and work on IT platforms. At the same time there is a strong demand for skilled labour. That is what young people see.
I am sure the Minister will remind us of the Government’s efforts to deal with this. But manifestly they are not working. Let us take apprenticeships. We have been promised 3 million by 2020 but we know we are not going to reach that target. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, told us why. Some levy payers have been accused of spending the levy refund on training their own managers while importing workers. The Institute for Apprenticeships has tried to get more balance but studies show that poor management skills are partly responsible for our low productivity. We certainly need young people to be in management training but in addition to, not instead of, good apprenticeships.
Some employers rely on FE colleges for skills training. We have debated many times in this House how the funding for FE colleges has decreased, considerably reducing the opportunities for young people to earn and learn. Of course, the FE sector is where the young underemployed who want a second chance to train can go to learn.
Yes, the Department for Education has a skills budget and much of this work is subcontracted to the private sector. But like most public service companies, the training companies are in financial difficulties. We had a Question about this yesterday. The culture of financial survival has become more important than the culture of training young people. No wonder many of the companies that remain are graded poor by Ofsted—yet another hazard to be faced by young people.
Of course, a major contributor to this uncertainty are zero-hours contracts and platform work. By employing people outside the legal definition of “worker”, companies absolve themselves of any responsibility for training, developing skills or welfare. Eighteen months ago the Taylor report called for action on this very point; 18 months later there has been little movement. Does the Minister have any news on this?
Perhaps the Government think the answer lies in technology. Yes, online courses—or MOOCs—are well developed. I have done a couple myself and they are excellent for providing background learning, but they work far less well when you get down to the particular. It is much the same with artificial intelligence. Our own Select Committee tells us that it augments, rather than replaces, our intelligence. So we still need the computer science, maths and engineering skills, together with the creative skills. What steps are the Government taking to implement this in their future plans for young people’s transition into work?
We have to do a lot better at providing the means, the opportunities, the chances and the encouragement for young people to become good economic citizens. Indeed, this has to be central to a successful industrial strategy. I hope Ministers are working on it.
My Lords, after thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, for tabling this timely debate, I shall confine my contribution to the challenges facing those at the bottom of the pack, namely those young people who become involved with the criminal justice system. I also thank Edward Scott for his very helpful Library briefing.
To begin with numbers, as of June 2018 there were 894 children under the age of 18 in custody. This is a fall of more than 70% over the last 10 years, for which the Youth Justice Board must take much of the credit. Forty-seven of these were aged 14 or under and held in local authority secure children’s homes. Meanwhile 14,077 prisoners, or 17.5% of the total prison population, were classified as young adults in the age group 18 to 24. Young offenders used to be held in separate institutions which were for those aged from 15 to 18, or 18 to 21, or contained both age groups. However, in recent years too many young adults have been held in adult prisons on the grounds that they might grow up more quickly if held with adults, which I believe to be dangerous nonsense. All too frequently, adult prisons have no staff trained to look after or suitable facilities to cater for the educational, work training, social or medical needs of young adults, among whom were many “vulnerable and troubled”, as inspectors reported.
Moving on to the challenge that the YMCA believes causes most harm to young people, when released from custody only 27% of them had a job to go to. In 1991, in his seminal report on the prison riots in 1990, my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf identified the three things most likely to prevent a person reoffending: a home, a job, and a stable or family relationship, all of which were put at risk by the way that imprisonment was conducted. In 2017-18, inspectors gave only 43% of the prisons a positive rating for providing positive activity, finding that much of that provided was mundane, repetitive and rarely linked to resettlement objectives. I have always favoured the regionalisation of prisons, again recommended by my noble and learned friend in 1991, the impact of which I can best illustrate by describing an incident that I saw in a young offender institution which the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, knows well.
At Deerbolt in Barnard Castle, to help solve local skill shortages the local chamber of commerce brought in an aptitude test to see whether any of the young offenders had the potential to fill jobs. I shall never forget the grin that lit up the face of one young man, whose potential had been identified, when he was told that he could be trained in that skill while in prison so that, on release, he had a job to go to with a future. I believe that this could be repeated in every region in the country, thus helping to ameliorate skills shortages and the reoffending problem.
In addition to the 30% of people aged 14 to 21 in the United Kingdom who are living in poverty, 38% of those in secure training centres and 42% of those in young offender institutions have been in care. Forty-six per cent have been excluded from school and at least 70% are suffering from one or more personality disorders, about which virtually nothing is being done. In 1998, when the Office for National Statistics first disclosed this figure, it also found that the type of household they were living in,
“poor intellectual functioning and a history of sexual abuse or of bullying, were the factors most strongly associated with evidence of psychotic disorder”.
All this is on top of too many being locked up in their cells for 23 hours a day, with only limited access to the gym and almost none to playing fields, only 14 hours’ access to education per week, and their exposure to drugs and alcohol. Small wonder that 69% reoffend within a year.
What is to be done about all this? The only raw material that every nation has in common is its people. Woe betide it if it does not do everything possible to identify, nurture and develop the talents of its people—all its people—because unless it does, it has only itself to blame if it becomes a failed nation. I fear that on the evidence of the way that the criminal justice system is failing to respond to the challenges facing young people, that is where this great country of ours may be heading.
My Lords, I would like to say a few words building on the excellent speech by the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, on the extraordinary effect that gambling is having on young people today.
The Gambling Commission’s report Young People & Gambling 2018 revealed the extraordinary scale of the problem. After years of progress, gambling participation is up with 14% of 11 to 16 year-olds having spent their own money on gambling. That is more than those who have drunk alcohol, smoked or taken illegal drugs. As we have already heard, the report estimated that 55,000 young people are now classed as problem gamblers.
It is extraordinary that some companies seem to encourage gambling. For example, the “Victoria Derbyshire” programme did an exposé on a casino company running a student poker league and offering student discounts and free drinks. I think of the children who are encouraged to gamble by associating it with celebrities. Recently, Logan Paul, made famous on YouTube, participated in a boxing bout watched around the world by young people. It was sponsored by a gambling firm. It is exactly this kind of event that attracts children and socialises them into believing that gambling is normal and—this is the key thing—an integral part of sport.
For many of us it is sport where gambling’s most malign influence becomes apparent, whether it is the wall of gambling advertisements on the TV, often by former stars of the sport, or the pitch-side adverts. I too welcome the whistle-to-whistle ban proposed by sections of the gambling industry, although it does not deal with pitch-side adverts, online targeted advertisements and football shirts bearing the logos of gambling firms. It was this relationship between football and gambling that prompted Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, to designate gambling addiction as one of the “new threats” facing our health service, yet despite nine Premier League teams being sponsored by betting companies and the estimated gross gambling yield of £13.9 billion last year, the situation remains that the gambling industry has privatised profits and nationalised social costs.
Children love sport, and so they should, but why should they be bombarded without any choice with endless adverts? They see on average 3.8 gambling adverts a day and 66% of children have seen gambling adverts on television. In response, the charity BeGambleAware has started a campaign called “Can we have our ball back?” It is aimed at taking back sport from the gambling industry. If it does not succeed, we will create a generation who know the enjoyment of sport only through the prism of betting.
My third point is about the changing nature of gambling. The digital natives of the younger generation are wonderfully adept at using the internet and smartphones and are most at risk from the switch by gambling firms to online methods such as running adverts on social media, creating accounts followed by people with no age-verification necessary, and infecting game apps—even educational ones—with a constant barrage of betting adverts. Yet, more than that, the very nature of gambling is changing. No longer are people young or old limited by how long a bookie’s shop stays open and no longer are people easily prevented from gambling if they are underage, which is why we urgently need age verification. Phones with apps promoted by television personalities and games with in-app gambling facilities mark the change in the nature of gambling since 2005 when the Gambling Act was passed. Back then, no one had heard of loot boxes and skins, which is why countries such as Belgium have designated them as forms of gambling.
This debate is centred on the challenges facing young people and I have no doubt that one of them is the huge rise in gambling, which is why I hope we may have a special inquiry committee to investigate the social and economic impacts of gambling today.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness on raising this important issue. Despite the speed and ease of communication that we have heard about today, there is a danger that people may feel distant from those taking decisions that affect them. There is a problem especially for young people, who face challenges not faced by their parents. I wish to focus on the challenge that they face in making sense of who makes decisions affecting their lives and the means by which those decisions are made. A real danger is a sense of detachment from our political system.
The challenge faced by young people is making sense of the political community of which they are a part but to which they may not necessarily feel that they belong. The danger is that we shall have a population characterised by political apathy and distrust. That is to no one’s benefit. It is a threat to the health of the British political system. If young people have a sense that they can affect the decisions that shape their lives, the more likely we are to have an active and stable polity. We benefit from having an informed and engaged citizenry.
As Dr Avril Keating told the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement,
“research studies from other countries … have shown that civic participation during adolescence can have a wide range of benefits, both for individuals and for societies. In particular, these studies have found that participation in civic activities can have a positive effect on young people’s civic dispositions such as tolerance, trust, civic knowledge, political activism, political efficacy, sense of commitment to the community, and self-esteem”.
Society benefits from civic participation. It is thus a public good to ensure that young people have an awareness of our political system and how they can engage with it. I make no apology for returning to the theme that I developed in the recent debate on the report of the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. The report made a powerful case for enhancing citizenship education in our schools and it is particularly appropriate to return to that case today, not least given that it is my noble friend Lord Agnew who is to reply to the debate.
In the debate on the Select Committee report, I argued that for citizenship education to be taught effectively three conditions must be met: the subject must be taught by qualified teachers; it has to be distinctive and not combined with other subjects such as PSHE; and it needs to be taken seriously by schools. There is no real incentive for schools to invest resources in teaching citizenship. Given school budgets, the opportunity cost is too great.
On the first point, I remind my noble friend of his Answer to my Written Question in May when I asked him about the number of qualified teachers of citizenship in secondary schools. He revealed that in November 2016, of 4,800 teachers in state-funded secondary schools teaching citizenship, only 8.7% had a relevant post A-level qualification in the subject. A further 10.6% had a post A-level qualification in history. Even with those included, we are left with a situation where eight out of 10 teachers of citizenship lack a relevant post-A-level qualification. One could argue that it is better to be taught than not to be taught at all, but I would question that. Teaching citizenship badly can cause more harm than if it is not taught at all.
I therefore have three questions for the Minister. First, does he agree that the teaching of citizenship to young people is vital to the health of our democracy? Secondly, does he agree with the conditions that I have advanced as necessary for citizenship to be taught effectively? Thirdly, if he does, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that those conditions are met?
My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Armstrong of Hill Top for introducing this excellent debate with such an outstanding speech, and I am grateful to other speakers. I shall speak about obesity and its relationship with mental health. Tackling childhood obesity is one of the biggest challenges that face us and, in turn, young people.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health cites obesity as one of the top three challenges facing young people. The statistics are startling. Data from the national weighing programme shows that children aged 10 to 11 are now the heaviest they have been since recording started. Government figures also show that almost one in five children are obese when they start primary school, which rises to one in three by the time they start secondary school at age 11. These figures come from the national child measurement programme, which measures children’s height and weight at the ages of four and 11. Between the ages of 12 and 15, the statistics are not as strong but seem to indicate that, if we extrapolate, they are probably even heavier. The most recent return from the national health survey shows a spike among those aged between 12 and 16, which is very worrying.
We are all aware of the risks from obesity—chronic, life-limiting conditions such as diabetes—but healthcare professionals are also seeing an increase in bullying, low self-esteem and mental health issues among overweight and obese children. That should be of grave concern to us. Mental health is a big issue, as others have described, and I shall not recite or repeat the statistics given to us so far. An emerging point that we need to address which we are aware of based on evidence is that half of adult mental health problems start before the age of 14.
This brings me to the three recommendations made in the Green Paper on child and adolescent mental health published in December 2017. The first was to,
“identify a Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health to oversee the approach to mental health and wellbeing”,
in schools. The recommendation went on:
“This link will provide rapid advice, consultation and signposting”.
The second was to,
“fund new Mental Health Support Teams, supervised by NHS children and young people’s mental health staff, to provide specific extra capacity for early intervention and ongoing help”,
in schools. The suggestion in the Green Paper was that this would be rolled out by 2025, stating that all areas would get training to help identify and train a designated senior lead for mental health. I should like to know whether the senior lead for mental health will assist in the campaign to fight childhood obesity. Will they be given specific training in this area? Will they be able to signpost children and their families to appropriate resources? Given the increasing problems we have with mental health, will the Government consider increasing the programme with a faster rollout aiming for an earlier date in 2025?
I recognise that these issues cross departmental boundaries and I normally speak on health topics, but increasingly we find that schools have been drawn into this and hear from teaching professionals that they are unhappy that they are required to carry additional burdens which they believe go beyond their remit. I should welcome a comment from the Minister on that, given that he now has substantial responsibilities. Recently, I read the report from the Chief Inspector of Schools, who felt that the balance was going way beyond what should be expected of professionals in school, and that it should revert to where it should properly be dealt with: with parents. Can he give a view on what she had to say and how we can resolve the issue, as the chief inspector believes that responsibility should not rest in schools?
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, for initiating this debate. I declare my interest as a governor of Coram, the children’s charity. Part of Coram, Coram Voice, delivers on behalf of the Department for Education the national advocacy safety net and advice service for looked-after children and care leavers, which goes under the name Always Heard. Our role is to attempt, as best we can, to voice the needs, concerns and experiences of the children and young people who are not represented here in person and who, in most instances, do not yet qualify to have their voices heard through exercising their right to vote.
The Prime Minister, yesterday morning, in what was perhaps even by her standards a rather busy day, said that she wants,
“a thriving economy with nowhere and nobody left behind; a stronger society where everyone can make the most of their talents”.
Those are laudable aims, but Brexit is, and has been, so all-consuming and reactive that it has allowed far less focus on those in danger of being left behind than they deserve. Debates such as this remind us of other pressing priorities. Surely, helping children and young people who are in many instances being left behind is a priority in which we all have a personal stake.
I will focus first on the issue of providing adequate independent advocacy for the more than 70,000 children and young people in England who are reliant on the state for their care and well-being because their families cannot safely care for them or they have suffered abuse or neglect. The complexities of and inconsistencies in the system mean that many children and young people are unaware of their rights and unsure where to turn for help, and they struggle to access the support to which they are legally entitled. An independent advocate could ensure that children’s views and wishes are communicated clearly and are taken into account—a point made clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Addington.
A 2016 report from the Children’s Commissioner for England indicated that half of local authorities were supporting less than 8% of the children they considered eligible for advocacy. Less than 10% of children in care and care leavers accessed a service in half of local authorities.
Secondly, I want to highlight the concern that many local authorities are struggling to provide timely or effective support to children who present as homeless or at risk of homelessness. The charity Centrepoint estimates that 103,000 young people in the UK presented to their council in 2017-18 as homeless or at risk, and less than half received effective support. And this is nearly 10 years since the Government issued clear joint guidance to children’s services and local housing authorities about their duties to secure or provide accommodation for homeless 16 and 17 year-olds—guidance that has recently been reinforced as a result of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. An important part of that Act is a new data-collection initiative, H-CLIC, which has the potential at last to create a central uniform hub of information that can be used to inform wider policy. What progress has been made on implementing the H-CLIC software and putting in place the necessary staff training programmes?
I suggest four ideas to the Minister for the Government’s consideration. The first is a duty on local authorities to provide an active offer of advocacy support. The second is the right to an independent advocate, enshrined in law, for all children and young people receiving or seeking care or support from the state, including those leaving care to adoption. Thirdly, there should be a requirement for local authorities to ensure provision of independent advocacy support and its active promotion to any child approaching local authority children’s or housing services. Fourthly, there should be a requirement to collate data on children presenting as homeless, including how many receive support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, how many receive support under Section 20 and how many were refused support.
Data is king; without it one is flying blind. It is difficult to identify trends, good or bad, in a timely fashion without it. It is essential in helping to identify best practices, and without reliable data it is impossible to establish appropriate key performance indicators, which create an easily intelligible shorthand to understand and analyse the extent to which we are succeeding in our legal and moral duty to help these children and young people.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, for initiating this debate. I will focus on forgotten young workers; in so doing I refer to a report, The Forgotten Workers, which highlights the plight of young workers in our economy. Launched a couple of weeks ago, it captures research by Dr Jo McBride of Durham University and Dr Andrew Smith of Bradford University. It examines an emerging social phenomenon of low-paid workers who have no choice but to work in multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.
The beauty of this report is that it is dominated by the evidence of the workers, not the opinions of academics. These young workers cannot get enough pay or hours; they do not get sufficient opportunities to acquire decent full-time work. They are trapped in a cycle of multiple low-paid jobs because of the lack of secure, full-time, better-paid work. The report is not solely about young people but they form a large part of the sample. Most are overqualified for the work they are involved in; despite having A-levels, degrees and even master’s degrees, they feel pressurised into taking any job—anything available—regardless of their qualifications.
The young workers studied often had two, three, four or even five different jobs at once. One had five, as he could not get one decent full-time job with a reasonable salary to support his young family—and he had a master’s degree. McBride and Smith class these workers as “the underemployed” as they are low paid, cannot acquire sufficient working hours to make ends meet and yet are overqualified for the jobs they do. They also heard from older workers explaining how their sons and daughters were still living at home as they could not afford to leave. They were referred to as “boomerang kids”, as they could not afford rents or mortgages, given their low-wage employment.
The report brings to our attention that the rise in insecure, precarious work in the UK is reducing the chances of many people to attain decent, secure, better-paid work. The rapid growth of temporary, agency, casual, term-time only, seasonal and zero-hour contracts is reducing opportunities for our younger workforce to get full-time, secure jobs. These types of contracts are becoming more and more accepted as the norm; this needs to be addressed as it affects many of our people and has the potential to harm more young workers in the future. We all know that young people are finding it difficult to buy property. When they cannot get a full-time job, they also cannot get a part-time mortgage, rent, council tax, water rates or whatever.
The report recommends, among other things, that employment protection and policies need to be updated to address the changes that work and the wider labour market are undergoing. It also argues that there needs to be better regulation of wages and working time, with guaranteed hours and pay premiums restored for working non-standard hours. There also need to be more opportunities for young people to attain full-time, secure and better-paid work to make work pay. I will send a copy of the report to the Minister and place a copy in the Library for Members who would like to look at it.
It is heartening to hear that we have our own Select Committee, which I was not absolutely aware of, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord True, looking at intergenerational issues. I am sure this will produce some helpful suggestions on matters covered in this debate. I wish the Minister good luck with reading the report. We look forward to hearing back from him and to debating it in the House.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Armstrong for initiating this debate and for introducing it so powerfully. Coming last of the Back-Bench speakers is not enviable, and less so after a debate of such variety, covering so many important aspects. Noble Lords have spelled out eloquently many of the challenges facing young people. I shall not repeat their wise words.
The challenges facing young people are often diverse, complex and not of their own making. It is important both to protect young people and to empower them; these are basic human rights. I believe it is also important to involve young people in defining their own needs and to respond to their concerns with positive and appropriate interventions. That means asking young people and involving their energies in solving the problems. I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, about citizenship education and involving young people in education.
We can begin to have an impact on the challenges facing young people only if we listen to them and take their views seriously. Sometimes the biggest challenge for young people is being listened to. I want to give a couple of examples of the way that this might work. Last year, I was involved in a seminar in Portcullis House on child mental health and child-friendly justice, organised and funded by the Council of Europe and the UK Parliament. “Children” means those up to the age of 18. Half the participants were children and some older young people; the other half were European parliamentarians, NGOs and the police. Discussion took place in small groups, feeding back to plenary sessions. The young people were vocal about the challenges that they faced. They were totally involved and the seminar received some moving statements and suggestions for improving services. I will give noble Lords a flavour of what they said.
One said, “We are experts by experience. Policies are often good but badly implemented. There are problems of access, of waiting lists. There are not enough counsellors in schools and not enough mental health services for young people where they are treated in a child-centred way. Early diagnosis is important, otherwise the challenge of mental health gets bigger and bigger. We need key workers who follow the progress of the young person step by step”. I think that noble Lords will appreciate how sensible that advice is.
I shall now relate a few of the comments on child-friendly justice. I am pleased to see that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is here, as he has always supported child-friendly justice. The young people said that the training of professionals needs to make systems more child-friendly; that there are passionate and committed people in the workforce but they need support and funding; that children get passed around and that is not helpful; and that multi-agency work is needed. They said that some children have particular challenges—BME young men, refugees, and lesbian and gay young people, for example; that the justice system is designed for adults but too often applied to children; that the system should be built around the needs of the child and should rehabilitate rather than punish; that a child should be encouraged to grow out of crime; and that the age of responsibility—10 in England—should be raised.
Due to these young people expressing their feelings, a report involving them was produced last November, with follow-up round tables with Ministers—Jackie Doyle-Price and Ed Argar, in particular. The young people’s movement has grown and become more determined. Peer support and self-help are also growing. Can the Minister say how the Government are encouraging the voice of the child to be heard, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? Can his department perhaps provide examples of good practice? I believe that listening to young children and taking on board what they say is supremely important.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, for initiating this debate. I have very many happy memories of her time as Secretary of State for Local Government, when we had a vibrant youth service throughout the UK.
What are the challenges? They include jobs and unemployment, poverty and homelessness, a lack of affordable homes, physical health, education disparity, growing up too quickly and bullying. I suppose that those challenges have always been there but today we have some 21st-century challenges, which many of your Lordships have mentioned: the pressure of materialism, negative stereotyping, the pressures of 24-hour social networking, issues related to body image, eating disabilities or emotional difficulties with food, obesity and knife crime.
What we have heard is a sad catalogue of young people challenged in many ways. Jobs and unemployment continue to be an issue. Poverty and homelessness go hand in hand, and the number of young people living on our streets should be a matter of shame. Sadder still is that a significant minority of our young people tick several boxes on the list. Someone who is unemployed is also likely to be living in poverty. This same group of young people is unlikely to be in good health. Some of them will end up in the criminal justice system, often for petty crimes.
Of course, these issues have always been with us to a greater or lesser extent, certainly for as long as any of us can remember, but some things have improved. There are now more educational opportunities for young people, with most young people staying on until 18 and half of them moving into higher education—the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, is not here, but I should say that maintained schools are now outperforming academies. Job opportunities for young people are available, although many of the new jobs that this Government have created are zero-hours contracts which do not help them plan for their future.
Only yesterday, we heard the Prime Minister in Downing Street restate her determination to improve things in Britain. We first heard it on
I want to focus on a range of 21st-century pressures which the Government have failed to take action on or been slow to react to—they are pressures that nobody in this Chamber will have experienced as a young person. The noble Baronesses, Lady Armstrong and Lady Bottomley, and number of other noble Lords mentioned the internet. While the internet is not the root of all evil and has many good and valuable features, the failure of Governments, including ours, to establish any proper regulatory control over content and over how social media are used is totally unacceptable. Such lack of regulation—I do not pretend that regulation is easy—means that young people are exposed to many unwelcome influences.
Many of the profits of the big internet providers come, directly and indirectly, from pornography. It is legal somewhere in the world for almost any sexual activity to take place between two or more adults. All such activities, and some that border on the illegal, can easily be found on the internet by entering two words in Google or other search engine and clicking once on the top entry. There is immediate free access to more than 10 million hardcore videos. Thank goodness the British Board of Film Classification is now taking action following an initiative from the Government, but we must not be complacent; we must be really strict about what we do.
A major concern of young men and young women is body image, where a standard of perfection is made to seem the norm. Websites used by young people are populated by what we might called the “Love Island” generation, with perfect bodies. Even on the Mail Online, the front page is always half full of beautiful people, with women who all seem to be size 8 and men who must spend all their time in the gym.
Social media are a recent phenomenon, but the majority of young people now use them daily on their mobile phone, iPad and computer. While they are a great communications tool if used wisely, misuse is also significant in a number of ways.
Age verification has been the subject of frequent discussions between government and internet providers. In 2015, the Independent carried a story about the age limit for Facebook being raised to 16. Nearly four years later, it remains at 13 but seems very easy to circumvent, with figures showing that nearly four out of five young people under 13 have social media accounts. I remember at my school children as young as seven and eight having Facebook accounts. It is now clear that we cannot put the internet genie back in the bottle, so we must make sure that children and young people are resilient enough to cope as best they can with these 24/7 pressures—perhaps Mr Clegg could help us on that score.
I was going to talk about gambling, but the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington and the right reverent Prelate the Bishop of St Albans gave us a tour de force on that subject. There is something perverse about seven and eight year-olds going to the souvenir shop of their football club and coming away with a football shirt with an advert on the back for internet betting. It cannot be right that over half our Premier League football clubs are sponsored by betting companies.
Most of these problems have led to a huge increase in mental health problems. I will not repeat the figures given at the beginning by the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong. I will give only the two alarming and terrifying figures that frighten me most: of those 11 to 16 year-olds with mental health issues, 25.5% have self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point. Currently, 65% of children and young people with mental health problems do not have access to mental health provision. What are the Government doing about it? Let me give you something good. I came across a young girl who suffered from severe depression, which was picked up at her school by CAMHS. She had to wait a while for CAMHS to be involved, but it referred her immediately to her doctor, who gave her medication, sent her to a counsellor and gave her an app to use. That was fantastic and almost immediate. This sort of reaction should be available to every young person with a mental health problem, which sadly is not the case.
The Government have set up seven trail-blazers. Great. These trail-blazers will do the work and report, but what are we doing with other schools in the meantime? I am concerned that our mental health initiatives are more health-based than school-based. I want to see not just a mental health awareness champion but quick access to mental health experts in every school. CAMHS—child and adolescent mental health services—was good but was reduced to a shadow of its former self by local government cuts. As I said in an Oral Question, we have a fantastic psychological service in the local authorities, which could be the solution to many of these issues. We should look at what is happening in Wales, where in most schools there is access to counsellors. The solution is not about just putting some money in and setting up trail-blazers but about seeing that young people do not slip through the net.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, raised two issues. I agree with him entirely about school exclusions. It is rather interesting that at one end there are huge numbers of school exclusions—something like 45 schools have excluded 20% of their pupils—and at the other end a huge and increasing number of young people are in home education. Schools are off-rolling their pupils to private companies, which they pay so that those children are not in school. That cannot be what our education service is about.
Finally, how successful are we in engaging young people to decide their own future? It is alarming that the number of young people who vote in local or national elections is pitifully low. If we could encourage them to register to vote, Governments of all political persuasions would take notice and do something about their issues and concerns.
My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in a debate of this kind. I just wish that the levels of passion with which we began the week and with which a few of us at the fag end of the week are obliged to debate this important issue had been in inverse proportion—that we could be truly full and passionate now and that just a few people had been worried about Europe at the beginning of the week. Would that not have been a wonderful and proper reflection of our priorities?
It is so marvellous to see the Government Front Bench giving me a hearty “hear, hear” on that—I mention it so that it will go into Hansard. How wonderful, too, to speak in a debate initiated by my noble friend—she was a noble friend before she was ennobled and became a Member of this House—who has not only led and shaped policy that was humane and reached parts that are not normally reached from government levels, but has also done it on the streets and in the communities, which gave authority to what she said.
I have made a patchwork of notes of the speeches that have been made. It would be invidious to mention people by name but it is worth me trying to describe the pattern. The subjects fixed on by various Members were duplicated by others. More than one person spoke on each of these subjects and they all reflect the list in the very helpful Library briefing: mental health, loneliness and identity, employment, citizenship, obesity and mental health, care and gambling—which got a special mention. Members have felt it important to emphasise each other’s points, as we reach out to give an adequate response to the challenge implicit in the debate. I am happy about that.
I have been thinking more generically. I am the president of the Boys’ Brigade and that gives me access to lots of young people across the countries of the United Kingdom. I spent quite a lot of the summer on leadership training courses in Belfast and Edinburgh, and at the Boys’ Brigade headquarters here in England. My work in schools and communities has gone on and on, particularly through my church work, and if there is a voice that I want to presume to have heard, it is that of the young black boys and girls with whom I have had extraordinary opportunities for conversation and development. I will come back to that in a moment.
Thinking back over the past 18 months or so and the debates in which I have taken part, I note that those debates were about obesity, mental health, children’s use of the internet and safeguarding them from its worst aspects, gambling and children, and bullying, knife crime and the criminal justice system. I think of those five subjects and wonder why we cannot see that, instead of separate debates that compartmentalise them, a gravitas and critical mass is beginning to be built up that might lead us—as in the 1980s with the Children Act 1989—to look at the place of children generically, from all angles, to see whether we should not find a more creative way forward. I think too of the headline topics in the briefing from the Library: unemployment, poverty, homelessness, crime and prison, and suicide and mental health. Again, we have five different tags.
I am interested in the number of subjects being five. At the moment, I am doing a bit of work on the Beveridge report. When it went through this very Parliament there was a Division in that war-time debate—a time when nobody wanted to divide the House. It was initiated from this side of the House by my own hero, Jim Griffiths, the Member of Parliament for Llanelli. In the end, it led to a commitment on the part of the Labour Party to implement the Beveridge report instantly as soon as it got into office. I believe that that was a major factor in the election victory of July 1945. Beveridge identified five evils: squalor, illness, ignorance, disease and want. Instead of looking at those in a compartmentalised way, through his report he looked at creating a welfare state that would stretch into areas of need in a more generic way.
I spoke to an 18 year-old black man whose mother was worried that, with his splendid A-levels, he did not want to go to university. I sat him down and asked him to tell me why. He said, “I know you’re going to tell me that I could be the Prime Minister, a journalist, a barrister, a teacher or a social worker. But on the street, we all know that those things take too long and we have too many obstacles as black people to get into the professions where we might scintillate and develop a career”. I said, “Well, if you are not going to go into those, what are you going to go into?” “Five things”, he said—there you are, five again. He said, “Quick money is to be made in one of these: crime, drugs, fame, music and football”. Each one of them, of course, is a lottery, with about the same chances as you have in the National Lottery to make it and the kind of money that they fantasise about. At the same time, it made me aware of what extra obstacles young black people are faced by in a world that is inimical to them.
I have two or three minutes left. The following is for illustrative purposes, and my experiences are necessarily anecdotal. I do not have a command of statistics and I am not a professor of sociology, but I have worked with kids.
A 16 year-old Muslim boy was expelled from school for carrying a knife. His parents were worried. I found a room for him to sit his GCSEs and he did rather well. However, he went on carrying a knife and selling drugs and was imprisoned. We had a great fear that he might be radicalised while in prison.
In a girls’ school for which I have responsibility in east London—it is just half a mile from another girls’ school from which three girls went off to Syria—we worry about how to implement a Prevent programme that balances compassion, care and vigilance without it being a police-state type of authoritarian programme.
Louis, a young man they tried to kill on the streets not far from where I was living, is now rehabilitating young black offenders himself in an institution to do that. He is a wonderful young man who has learned from experience and wants to do better for his contemporaries and younger people.
Another young man had an opportunity to go to Oxford. Boy oh boy, getting black people into Oxford and Cambridge is still the worst thing in the world. However, when he became the first black president of the junior common room and got his splendid degree in PPE, he went on to serve in public life. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and I have taken an interest in this young man and we believe that he could become Prime Minister—and why not?
I was arguing with the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University and asking why a young black woman could not get into Cambridge even though she had all the necessary qualifications. There were admissions tutors in colleges who swore that they were egalitarian but whose entry procedures seemed to prohibit a fair way of looking at people like her. She was not admitted but she achieved a first-class honours degree. We got her into a commercial law firm and the next barrier will be whether she can become a partner when the time is right. Getting women partners is one thing; black women partners is another. Young black people have problems beyond other people’s problems. However, I must not dilate.
The note I have made from what I have heard today is that listening to young people is a primordial responsibility which lies upon us all—not in a patronising or paternalistic way, but from wanting to hear the wisdom they have, the ordinary things that would make them happier than they are, and to see and welcome the great things that some of them are doing despite all the obstacles. I am pleased to have taken part in this debate and, once more, I thank noble Lords for making it possible.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, on securing this important debate. Many questions have been raised by noble Lords and I shall endeavour to answer as many as I can. It always seems to fall to me to cover questions for 10 different government departments.
I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, that we are adamant that all young people deserve and have the right to world-class education regardless of their background or where they live. We have shown that giving high-performance school leaders and teachers freedom and autonomy can deliver this through free schools and academies. Eighty-six per cent of schools inspected in England are rated good or outstanding and 1.9 million more children are now in those schools. This represents 84%, compared to 66% in 2010. Multi-academy trusts illustrate how good practice is no longer limited to individual schools. Regardless of geography or the level of diversity in their intake, many consistently achieve exceptional results. To answer the question asked by my noble friend Lady Bottomley, more than 500,000 children who were previously in failing local authority schools are now in good or outstanding schools.
To address the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about careers guidance, our careers strategy commits investment of more than £70 million each year until 2020. It ensures that all schools and colleges will have a dedicated careers adviser to support and encourage young people to find the right path for them, be that into work, continuing academic study or a vocational qualification. I agree completely with him that this is an extremely important priority.
The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, asked about youth employment. We recognise that the academic path is not suitable for everyone. We will be investing more than £0.5 billion per year to deliver a world-leading technical education system. The new T-levels will have real labour market value, credibility with employers and help young people to achieve their potential. We have recently announced that T-levels will contribute to UCAS points to underline their value. The number of 16 and 17 year-olds in education or work-based learning is at the highest level since consistent records began, at 90.5%. For those aged 16 to 24, only 10.9% are not in education or employment, the lowest figure on record.
I take on board the comments of several noble Lords. Some of this work may not be initially of the highest quality, but I my first job was a zero-hours contract at 20 pence an hour and I was laid off when it rained. However, it was a start.
That would need a longer answer.
Research has shown that children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural and social well-being have, on average, higher levels of academic achievement. We are prioritising resources in 12 opportunity areas. We are bringing together local and national partners to improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged. Through the work of this Government, 18 year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are over 50% more likely to enter full-time higher education in 2018 than they were in 2009.
I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, about the opportunities for young black people. We have succeeded in narrowing the attainment gap by 10% through the pupil premium, spending more than £13 billion since 2011. It is now in the interests of good and outstanding schools actively to recruit pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We also recognise the specific challenges for children with special educational needs and disabilities. We have transformed the support available for young people and their families. We have invested £390 million since 2014 to support local areas in implementing reforms and we continue to fund parent-carer forums.
The noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Haskel, asked about apprenticeships. We have reformed the system in the most fundamental way since the war but we accept that it is still evolving. We are working closely with employers and have already made changes in response to feedback. I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is listening to these specific points. He indicates that he is and I thank him. We will increase the amount of funds that levy-paying employers can transfer to other employers from 10% to 25% from April next year and will reduce the amount that smaller employers pay for training from 10% to 5% next year. By 2020, we will be investing nearly £2.5 billion in apprenticeships per year to increase the number of high-quality opportunities.
The noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Storey, asked about exclusions. I share their concern about this issue. When I ran my own academy trust, I required any head teacher to ring me personally when a permanent exclusion was under consideration and I always told them that I regarded it as a professional failure on their part. We are working with Edward Timpson, and I am meeting him next week as a prelude, we hope, to his report going out early next year. Last week I met a director of children’s services in Leeds who told me about an innovative idea of providing funding to a mainstream school where a child is at risk of exclusion to enable that child to spend some time in specialist provision, while leaving accountability for that child’s educational outcome with the school at which he or she is registered. I believe that such innovations can better align the interests of the system, which does not happen sufficiently at the moment. We are delivering a manifesto commitment to review why children identified as in need of help and protection have such poor outcomes and make an assessment to improve them.
A child’s home learning environment is one of the biggest influences on their vocabulary, but socioeconomic factors can affect the quality of those environments. We are committed to supporting parents to improve the quality and quantity of adult-child interactions, unlocking the power of learning in the home. Some 92% of three year-olds and 95% of four year-olds now access 15 hours of free early education per week. The early years pupil premium provides more than £300 per eligible child to support better outcomes for disadvantaged three and four year-olds. The Secretary of State has set out his ambition to halve by 2028 the number of children finishing their reception year without the communication and reading skills they need.
One in four adults and one in 10 children will experience mental illness, which is why we are working with colleagues across government to improve mental health and well-being in young people. Our Green Paper, Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, sets out ambitious proposals and confirms our commitment to providing support to schools. That includes the implementation of a trained designated senior lead in all schools and funding for new mental health support teams. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned looked-after children specifically. We recently revised our statutory guidance to place greater emphasis on children’s mental health needs. Virtual mental health leads were among a number of recommendations made by the DfE and DHSC working group on the mental health of children in care.
Every child’s experience at school should be a happy one. However, at times, young people face the challenges of bullying and harassment, which is never acceptable. My department remains committed to keeping all children safe, which is why we further strengthened the statutory guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education. We have also produced guidance for schools and teachers on how to prevent bullying and support those who experience it. My noble friends Lady Bottomley and Lord Chadlington and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, are right about the huge changes and pressures faced by children in today’s society, particularly through electronic and social media.
Today, bullying can come in many forms, not just in a classroom or social atmosphere but from a much wider group of peers. We have seen a rise in young people reaching out for help with their mental health, but we must ask ourselves why we are seeing such a rise in those asking for help. I for one do not believe that it is down to just exam stress, a troubled home life or “regular” peer pressure. In many cases, the potential dangers of social media become realities. We need to encourage our young people to take time away from screens. The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, referred to happiness levels in children—an area that deserves much more focus.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and my noble friend Lord Norton stressed the importance of citizenship. I agree entirely. Findings have shown that participation in extra-curricular activities promotes positive well-being among young people. For example, schools with cadet forces see improvements in attendance, behaviour and attainment. We are on track to achieve our target of 500 cadet units in schools by April 2020, developing qualities such as respect, self-confidence, teamwork and resilience in young people. Since the National Citizen Service was launched in 2011, nearly 500,000 young people have taken part in this life-changing opportunity. We continue to support the NCS and are investing £80 million through the Youth Investment Fund to increase opportunities for young people to develop skills and participate in their communities. My noble friend Lord Norton asked whether I agreed with his prognosis on the teaching of citizenship. I do not agree entirely. Of course an A-level in citizenship or history is helpful, but other qualifications could equally suffice.
A child’s early emotional and social development, educational attainment and, later, employability can all be put at risk by problems such as homelessness, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell. In particular, the Homelessness Reduction Act is the most ambitious legislative reform in this area in decades. We have allocated £1.2 billion through to 2020 to reduce homelessness. I will have to write to the noble Lord on the progress of H-CLIC.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, asked about child poverty and workless households. We repealed the income-based measures set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010 and replaced them with new statutory measures of parental worklessness and educational attainment—the two areas that we know can make the biggest difference. Children living in workless households are five times more likely to be in poverty than those where all adults work. Our welfare reforms are making good progress to prevent this happening. There are now 630,000 fewer children living in workless households than in 2010. There are also 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty on a before housing cost basis than in 2010.
Children in care deserve a stable home environment. Some 61% of children enter care as a result of abuse or neglect. That is why the Children and Social Work Act 2017 sets out corporate parenting principles. Local authorities need to take this into account as they take on the role of parent to looked-after children, extending to those leaving care. The Autumn Budget announced an additional £410 million in 2019-20 for local authorities to invest in adult and children’s social services. This is on top of the £200 billion going forward to 2020 made available in the 2015 spending review.
I share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, over mental health. We recognise that mental health needs can have a significant impact on young people, in particular looked-after and previously looked-after children. This is why we have recently revised statutory guidance for designated teachers, placing greater emphasis on children’s mental health needs. The Government have made £1.4 billion available to transform and improve access to children and young people’s mental health services from 2015-16 to 2020-21. We have set an ambition for at least 70,000 additional children and young people each year to access high-quality NHS mental health care by 2021.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, raised the issue of youth offenders. We know that children who offend are some of the most vulnerable in society and we are committed to preventing children entering the youth justice system. Education should be at the heart of youth custody. We are investing more than £2 million over the next two years to increase the range of educational, vocational and enrichment activities, including sports and physical activity. As part of the agreed funding of the youth justice reform programme, we are making £0.8 million available in 2018-19 and £1.8 million in 2019-20 to increase the range of educational and enrichment activities in the youth custody system.
The Government have also announced a £200 million youth endowment fund to build the evidence base for action. This fund will support young people most at risk of serious violence, underpinning our commitment to address the recent increase in knife and gun crime. We will be launching a consultation later this month on new school security guidance. This will include references to knife crime.
Some young people are at risk from extremism and radicalisation, be this through online channels or grooming by members of terrorist or extremist groups. We are working with schools to tackle extremism and radicalisation through our Prevent initiative and a strengthening of the Ofsted inspection framework. We want all young people to understand the shared values that underpin our society, and in particular the values of respect for and tolerance of those from different backgrounds.
The noble Lords, Lord Griffiths and Lord Brooke, raised obesity. We are making progress on this since the publication of our childhood obesity plan in 2016, including the reformulation of products that our children eat and drink, for example through the soft drinks levy. The next stage will include restricting promotion deals on fatty and sugary products and ending the sale of energy drinks to children.
The noble Lords, Lord Haskel and Lord Sawyer, asked about zero-hours contracts. There are 780,000 people on zero-hours contracts. This is down from 883,000 in the same period of 2017. This is a small proportion of the workforce—about 2.4%—because this is the kind of contract that suits that small proportion, giving them the flexibility they desire so that they can, for instance, study alongside working. Noble Lords will also be aware that we have very much tightened up on such things as unpaid internships, which are absolute exploitation.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and my noble friend Lord Chadlington raised the important issue of youth gambling. There are strict controls to prevent underage gambling in licensed premises or online. GambleAware is working to provide resources for teachers and to support parents to have conversations. The Government published a review of gambling machines and social responsibility in May of this year. Key measures included reducing the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals from £20 to £2, a major responsible gambling advertising campaign and a plan of action by the Gambling Commission to strengthen player protections online.
I am running out of time so I shall finish by saying that the Motion asks that we take note of the challenges facing young people. I firmly believe that a good education is vital to help them meet these challenges, and we are steadily improving the education system to ensure that this happens. Children represent the future of our country: few endeavours are more important.
My Lords, I thank everyone enormously. It was a very rich and wide-ranging debate from which I think we have all learned a little. Challenges can be things that we learn from and learn to move forward from. For too many children and young people they are limiting, and stop them being able to live full and contributing lives in the way they want to. I look forward to working with noble Lords across the Floor on just that.