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I accept that addition, although it is difficult for us to know whether a duty might then be placed on a young person to be in education and training for a two-year period, given that the longer they spend in a supported setting, the more they will use up that legal duty to be in education and training between 16 and 17. If the interventions work, it will be inevitable that after they successfully complete the process, those young people will be much more capable of engaging with society, including in the workplace, than they would otherwise have been. I ask the Minister to allow for the possibility that, for a small number of people, the process of being in support will be longer than many of us would like because of their acute needs. When we come to later clauses about how the attendance panels will operate, I hope that we will think about how their responsibilities can be influenced or expanded to ensure that they have that as part of their available armoury.
The Minister also sought to give assurances on the categories of people who might have reasonable excuse for not being in education or training because of their personal circumstances. There is an open field here, and I understand why the Government would do want to start citing examples of people who would be exempt—the list of exempt people could become quite large. I flag up, however, that at least in my mind there is still uncertainty about whether we are talking about a large number of young people who could potentially be exempt. That could include categories of young parents and people with mental health and drug and alcohol problems, who are sadly a much larger number of young people than we would like, and who are therefore a greater challenge than we might think.
I draw attention to the Minister’s comments about the discretion of local authorities in relation to attendance notices. He is right to say that they “may” issue the attendance notice rather than being obliged to do so, but that also raises the issue of an inconsistent approach across the country between some local authorities and panels that take a sympathetic approach, and others that do not. Given that we are talking about compulsion, that could raise various concerns across the country about individuals being dealt with in different ways.
I am mildly encouraged by the Minister’s comments, but I have experience from past Bills of being mildly encouraged without long-term benefit. The Minister’s comments are helpful, but we will want to pick at these issues on many further occasions during the proceedings. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.