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Clause 2

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 4:45 pm, 5th February 2008

We certainly want to see that sort of activity continue. I am not sure there is anything in the Bill that would stop it, but I am certainly happy to reflect on the points the hon. Gentleman has made, and if I need to come back to him I certainly will.

Let me move on to the point surrounding enforcement. Clause 39 makes it clear that before commencing any sort of enforcement the local authority must ensure that appropriate support has been made available and that the young person has been given the opportunity to take advantage of services to support participation. Clearly, that would be very significant in the case of young carers and young parents. Clause 42 provides further safeguards to ensure that a young person with unmet needs does not enter the enforcement process inappropriately by establishing attendance panels, which will hear appeals against attendance notices and will be able to confirm or dismiss them and make recommendations to the local authority. We will specify in regulations the make-up of the panel and how it is to carry out its functions, but in general we expect it to consider the specific circumstances of the young person, the support and provision they have been offered, and whether they have any unmet support needs that mean they cannot be expected to participate at that time. I am confident that knowledge of those safeguards, through attendance panels and elsewhere, will deter local authorities from inappropriate enforcement action, particularly where those sorts of vulnerable young people are concerned.

Participating helps young people to move on to successful and fulfilling lives and has wide benefits for both the individual and society. It is critical that young parents and carers have the same opportunity to succeed as other young people. I reject the amendments on the grounds that these groups of young people will be given every kind of support to participate and will be treated the same as all other young people of their age. It cannot be acceptable for any young person to be  deemed too hard to engage; we must raise our expectations for and with the young people and raise their expectations of themselves.

In the light of my reasoning and because it is not necessary to legislate here—the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton himself said that legislation is by its very nature inflexible—I urge him to withdraw his amendment and opt for the flexibility of not legislating and instead going for the mechanisms that I have set out.