[Frank Cook in the Chair] — Antisocial Behaviour

– in Westminster Hall at 12:00 am on 28th June 2006.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Steve McCabe.]

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry 9:30 am, 28th June 2006

I thank Mr. Speaker for granting this debate on the important issue of antisocial behaviour, which continues to affect the lives of many of our constituents up and down the country. The Government are to be congratulated on making it clear from the start, in 1997, that antisocial behaviour would be tackled with the utmost determination. My concern—

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Lady, but I gave a commitment before the start of proceedings that I would alert hon. Members to the fact that Mr. Speaker has given a dispensation for male Members to remove their outer garments while sitting in this Chamber during this term of Parliament. That dispensation will be annulled once we return to the original Chamber for these proceedings after the summer recess. Those who wish to divest themselves of their outer garments may do so now. I apologise again to the hon. Lady. Perhaps she should start her speech again.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

Thank you very much, Mr. Cook. I am pleased to see evidence of the relentless progress of modernisation.

My concern is to examine how we can take preventive action to tackle the root causes and how to use antisocial behaviour orders most effectively. We need not only to be tough on antisocial behaviour but to address its causes.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his lecture in Bristol last Friday, rightly emphasised the importance of putting rehabilitation at the heart of the law and order system. He said that offenders should be

"given not just a sentence but an appropriate process for sorting their life out".

The earlier that process begins, the better. It is much better to prevent someone from entering the criminal justice system in the first place.

Effective intervention at an early stage to change the behavioural patterns of some of our young people and prevent their behaviour from escalating into a life of crime is essential. An integrated approach to the problem—a mix of care and control, carrot and stick—to improve the outcomes for both the young person and the community in which they live is necessary. Before I was elected as an MP in 1992, I worked as a social worker with children and families. Agencies have always taken that dual approach to the behaviour of dysfunctional families. There have always been, and there always will be, debates about how much care and how much control there should be, but both are essential.

I fully support antisocial behaviour orders as a method of controlling persistent antisocial behaviour, which can have a devastating effect on the lives of communities and put young people themselves at risk. As my hon. Friend the Minister will be aware, most ASBOs—54 per cent.—are applied for and issued on criminal conviction. At that point, a pattern of criminal behaviour has often been well established. Criminal behaviour such as taking and driving cars and burglary is almost always accompanied by antisocial behaviour, so applying for and issuing ASBOs at that point is the right course of action.

Today, however, I shall concentrate on stand-alone ASBOs—the other 46 per cent. Those applications are made specifically to deal with antisocial behaviour, although the offenders may already have previous criminal convictions. With proper intervention accompanying the control offered through an ASBO, there is an opportunity to prevent young people from embarking on a life of crime.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

The hon. Lady raises an issue that is important to all MPs, so I congratulate her on securing the debate. She has talked about identifying the causes of antisocial behaviour and about early intervention and prevention so that the kids do not go down the line of hard criminal activity. Alcohol is a major cause of antisocial behaviour on the streets and bad behaviour in children. Police can use the under-age drinking laws introduced in 1997 to take the alcohol from the children, but those laws also allow the police to involve the parents at that stage, so that they know what behaviour the children are getting involved in and can intervene if possible. We know that some kids do not have two parents, and that is a problem. Would the hon. Lady encourage police forces not only to take the alcohol from the children but always to bring the parents in, make it uncomfortable for them and ensure that they know about their responsibility to take early action so that their children do not get into the criminal justice section in the first place?

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

I entirely agree. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the earliest possible intervention. Of course, if the first agency to become involved in cases of alcohol misuse is the police, it is important that they then involve other agencies to stop that alcohol misuse from becoming a persistent problem.

If we go beyond the informal intervention that the hon. Gentleman was talking about, I would argue that intervention should also be by the use of individual support orders—ISOs—which are designed to tackle the underlying causes of a young person's antisocial behaviour before they begin to offend or to offend persistently. ISOs have the authority of the court, agencies have to provide the intervention detailed in the order, and the young person is aware that there are penalties for non-co-operation, unlike with the informal acceptable behaviour contracts.

ISOs were created under section 322 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for 10 to 17-year-olds who are subject to ASBOs. They are civil orders and became available on 1 May 2004. They can be attached only to stand-alone ASBOs, not to ASBOs that are applied for and issued on criminal conviction. ISOs are intended to supplement the prohibitions of ASBOs with targeted positive requirements. For example, the order can require counselling for substance misuse or behavioural problems. Orders may last up to six months and can require a young person to attend up to two sessions a week. Breach of the order without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

I must declare an interest as a member of the supplemental list of Coalville magistrates court. I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. Is she a little disappointed by the number of individual support orders that have been used since May 2004, given that courts have a duty to use them in appropriate cases if they believe that they will head off further antisocial behaviour? That might be related to training, and I am pleased that the Judicial Studies Board is reviewing the training of magistrates to ensure that they are aware of their powers. When I was on the bench, people used to criticise the magistrates, and would ask why they did not do x, y and z. The training was not always up to date. Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that, and does she hope to see the wider use of ISOs as the months and years roll by?

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

I entirely agree that for the take-up of ISOs to improve we must make all agencies aware at a local level of their value, but we must also, when a civil ASBO is applied for, encourage magistrates to consider carefully whether an ISO should also be attached. I hope that the Minister will encourage that when he responds, and will suggest how he will make magistrates more aware of the orders and how that will be incorporated in their training.

The making of an ISO is mandatory when the court considers that the criteria for doing so are met. The criteria are that an ISO would be desirable in the interests of preventing further antisocial behaviour, that the defendant is not already subject to an ISO and that arrangements to implement ISOs are available in the local area. There is no formal procedure for applying for an ISO. The court can decide to impose one, or the complainant might request one in conjunction with an ASBO. It is disappointing that of the 789 stand-alone ASBOs issued on application between May 2004 and the end of September 2005, only 31 had an ISO attached—that is only 4 per cent. Given that the ISO is a constructive measure, imposing on a young person positive conditions that tackle the underlying causes of their antisocial behaviour, it is difficult to see how the conditions for making an ISO were met in only 31 of the 789 cases. I will be interested to hear the Minister's views on why ISOs are not being applied for more frequently, when the making of an order is mandatory.

When talking to people about this, I have received the impression that there is some confusion about the criteria for an ISO. Some believe that it cannot be applied for if a young person is already the subject of another order, which might explain the low numbers. Many of those subject to an application for a stand-alone ASBO might already have existing orders, such as a referral order, as a result of criminal convictions. Will the Minister confirm that the existence of another order does not mean that an ISO cannot be made?

It is interesting to examine where ISOs have been issued and how they have been used. In great swathes of the country, including major cities such as Bristol and Birmingham, no ISOs have been attached to ASBOs. Of the 146 stand-alone ASBOs issued in Greater Manchester to children aged between 10 and 17 between May 2004 and September 2005, only four ISOs were attached. In London there have been only four: two in Camden, one in Newham and one in Southwark. The area that has issued the largest number of ISOs is Great Yarmouth, where there have been six.

Examining one of the case studies from Great Yarmouth gives some idea of the positive value of ISOs. It involved five unruly boys from two families, who constantly disrupted neighbours by screaming, shouting and playing football on the balconies of their flats. They shouted at neighbours when challenged and banged sticks on neighbours' windows and doors. Residents endured that for a year, and the boys were eventually given ASBOs with ISOs attached. The local council's housing department, the police and Norfolk youth offending team, which devised and administered the ISO, worked together. The order was successful and consisted of four two-hour sessions with the group of boys, held over the course of a month. The aims were to develop listening skills and victim empathy to help the boys understand the impact of their constant shouting and banging on them, their immediate family and their neighbours. The sessions also included social skills games, and discussions on leisure time activities and contact with youth groups. The Norfolk team was pleased with the result, and the situation has improved. Some of the boys took up recreational activities and found new ways to be active and entertain themselves. I am sure that, having heard that case study, hon. Members can understand the implication for resources.

I am not alone in being perturbed at the low take-up of ISOs. Both the social exclusion unit and the Home Affairs Committee have expressed concern, and many other organisations have called for ISOs to be used more readily. In November last year the social exclusion unit produced a report entitled "Transitions: Young Adults with Complex Needs", which stated that

"the use of ISOs has been severely limited" despite the fact that courts are obliged to grant one

"if they take the view that it would help prevent further anti-social behaviour."

The next section of the report is worth quoting in full, as it raises the idea of making ISOs automatic in order to overcome that poor take-up.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

Are there not three other reasons for the low take-up? One is the that the length of ISOs is capped at six months, and some aspects of diversionary training and support need longer. Secondly, local authority social services departments do not always provide sufficient resources to contribute towards the funding. Thirdly, there is the attitude of the middle-market tabloids towards anger management or communication skills courses, which are dismissed as soft options and as the creation of social workers, without any understanding of their potential. Does my hon. Friend agree with those points?

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

I very much agree with my hon. Friend, and in particular with his point about tabloids not understanding the value of anger management courses and counselling in overcoming dysfunctional behaviour patterns that affect the person concerned and everybody with whom they come in contact. In fact, I sometimes think when I read the papers that anger is held up as something to be admired, rather than something that in many ways is a negative quality if used inappropriately.

The next section of the report says:

"More needs to be done to publicise and use ISOs as a means of addressing the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour, and consideration needs to be given to making the attachment of ISOs to ASBOs more automatic for young people. They are not a 'soft option'—they sit alongside an ASBO and help to make sure that it works. Compelling the individual who is subject to an ASBO to attend services that can address the underlying causes of their anti-social behaviour will give the ASBO more of a chance of succeeding and provide a more sustainable solution to the anti-social behaviour.

An additional benefit of making sure that ASBOs are more often associated with preventative work would be to engage more local voluntary and community sector bodies in helping to support the drive against anti-social behaviour."

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have been listening to the hon. Lady with considerable interest. I congratulate her not only on securing this debate but on the manner in which she is presenting her arguments. Does she agree that it is important not only to get volunteers to assist in the retraining—if that is the word—of people who are offending in the ways that she described but to have an audit afterwards to ensure that they have not regressed to the same bad old ways? She gave the example of the children on the balcony. I wonder whether six months later she would receive the same complaints again if she were the MP for the area.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

I entirely agree that it is important to evaluate the outcomes of ISOs. I hope that the Minister will touch on that in his reply. It is important to know that legislation is successful in its intention, otherwise why bother?

The Home Affairs Committee report on antisocial behaviour published in April 2005 welcomed the introduction of ISOs and said that they usefully complemented the aims of ASBOs in preventing antisocial behaviour. The Committee was disappointed that take-up was not matching expectations.

Many organisations said that ISOs were potentially of great benefit. For example, the Magistrates Association said that they should be granted as a matter of course if magistrates are satisfied that they will help prevent repetition of the behaviour. The Local Government Association "warmly welcomed" them, arguing that the approach

"fits firmly with the LGA vision to reducing anti-social behaviour."

The Committee expressed disappointment that social services departments and other key players such as local education authorities, the child and adolescent mental heath services and youth services were often not fully committed to antisocial behaviour strategies. It stated:

"Given the concerns expressed by the ADSS"— the Association of Directors of Social Services

"amongst others that the Government's ASB strategy is too punitive, we are somewhat disappointed that social services are not making greater efforts to...support measures such as ISOs and Parenting Orders."

I hope that the directors of the new children's services that are being set up by local authorities will have a more positive approach.

Funding is a key issue. There was no initial funding for ISOs, and many organisations, including the Home Affairs Committee, complained that lack of cash was a barrier to take-up. A ring-fenced £500,000 was eventually made available in June 2005, more than a year after ISOs were introduced. I understand that the take-up was poor, but that could have been for a variety of reasons. The money came late, and often it takes time for knowledge about funding streams to spread. The ISO is new and we must remember that the use of ASBOs was slow to begin with, but has sped up in the past two years as their value has become fully appreciated.

In view of the criticisms of funding that the ring-fenced money for ISOs addressed, I am disappointed that it has proved short-lived and that the funding arrangements have changed. Funding for this financial year, and from now on, will be available through the £45 million uplift given to the Youth Justice Board as part of its prevention budget. That means that it now comes from a general pot of cash. Youth offending teams have been asked to submit plans to the Youth Justice Board for how they will spend their allocations from the preventive money.

I believe that the latest funding arrangements for ISOs will not help to increase their use. Because the money is not ring-fenced, ISO money will be in competition with other preventive work, much of which is informal and does not have the force of a court order behind it.

Given, I believe, that youth offending teams have not fully appreciated the value of ISOs as a preventive measure, it is likely that they will not see it as one of their preventive tools and will prefer to use the money on other projects. That seems to be borne out by the fact that of the 156 YOTs in the country only six have applied for specific money to resource ISOs.

If, for example, a court decided that it was appropriate to have an ISO that involved one-to-one counselling sessions with a trained therapist on an aspect of a young person's behaviour, and funds had not been set aside, the resources would have to come from another part of the budget. That might not be a serious barrier to an ISO, if it cost about £1,500 to £2,500, especially at the beginning of a financial year. However, it might become a barrier as funds are used for other purposes.

Of course, nobody is happy about applying for orders that carry no resources, and indeed take from existing ones, be it those of the YOTs, the children's service or the local primary care trust. Indeed, that argument, between local and national Government, is well-worn and has gone on down the years.

Furthermore, housing associations and other social landlords can apply for stand-alone ASBOs, to which courts can attach an ISO. It is likely that those applications will increase from social landlords under pressure from tenants to deal with antisocial neighbours and behaviour on their estates. If one of the criteria for granting an ISO is that the magistrate be satisfied that arrangements for implementing the order are available locally, how can he or she be satisfied if specific money has not been set aside and there is no transparency in the availability of that money?

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

This will be my final intervention.

My hon. Friend mentioned housing associations and registered social landlords. She might be interested to know that a very successful positive futures programme has been developed in North-West Leicestershire on the Agar Nook estate, a housing association area, and on the Greenhill estate, formerly a local authority area. Could courts not be obliged to divert young people in front of them on to those programmes, which are not always used by those young people who are at the greatest risk of antisocial behaviour? That is the problem. We need to make the two work together more closely.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. One of the barriers to that is that the housing associations do not have specific resources and rely on those provided by other agencies. That is one of my arguments for how valuable ISOs are, because they mean that the other agencies have to provide the resources to support good projects such as those that he mentioned. Ring-fenced money nationally would have made that simpler, in the absence of ring-fenced money locally. I understand the arguments about local flexibility, but I am not very sympathetic when local flexibility creates a barrier to the implementation of excellent policies such as ISOs.

In each area of the country, there is a minority of young people who are the cause of most of the problems for themselves and others. Significant improvements could be brought about by changing the behaviour of that small number. That is where properly funded ISOs could play a far greater role. The impact of antisocial behaviour should not be underestimated. I receive many complaints from constituents, and only yesterday received an e-mail that said:

"How sad is it that our twins now ask us on a regular basis if 'the yobs' came last night. In actual fact they know that they have been on many occasions due to the large amount of beer bottles and cans that they see littering the area in a morning and are on some occasions woken up by the noise from the gangs of youths.

I know I speak on behalf of all the local residents when I say that we approach the Summer months with some considerable degree of trepidation (although the issues are by no means confined to the Summer months), knowing that to some degree or other we are going to experience this anti-social behaviour.

Our quality of life has been significantly eroded by what we are experiencing."

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

I am sure that, having read out that e-mail, the hon. Lady will none the less accept that the vast majority of children in our constituencies are good kids, honourable and dignified children, with a great future, and the picture is spoiled by a small minority of yobs.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

Of course the hon. Gentleman is right. It is also true that the small minority of youngsters who cause the problems are also at risk of being drawn into drugs and crime by other young people who prey on those more vulnerable than themselves. When we talk about antisocial behaviour, we should not forget that it is often caused by some young people against other young people. We should be aware that the problem is not an age thing. All of us who bring up children worry about who they will meet outside when they get to a certain age and start to be more independent. That is one of the reasons we want to make the community as safe as possible for everybody.

The children's charity Barnardo's has written to me to say it believes that the guidance for magistrates should be strengthened, with a presumption that an ISO should always be made. Barnardo's says that courts should have to state specifically why an ISO would not be applicable. That is an attractive proposition. The charity also wants a legal requirement that any application for an ASBO on a child should be preceded by an assessment of their circumstances and needs that would be conducted by either a YOT or the relevant children's services department. Barnardo's has said:

"Of course we would rather see preventative measures used where possible to ensure that children do not go through a court process. However currently this is not always possible, and where supportive measures are available, such as the ISO, we would like to see them used."

The Government are already doing much to support and protect the most vulnerable families. I recently visited the new children's centre in Adswood and Bridgehall in my constituency and was impressed by the huge range of interventions that are being made by all agencies to improve the life chances of children in one of the most deprived areas in Stockport. For those young people in the area who have not received such early interventions and are at risk of becoming the prison population of the future, it is even more essential that preventive measures such as ISOs are used to their fullest potential.

I would therefore urge my hon. Friend the Minister to do all in his power to encourage the use of ISOs, including reviewing guidance to magistrates and local authorities and, if necessary, sending a special letter to the YOTs to remind them of the value of ISOs. I would also like consideration to be given to making the ordering of an ISO automatic, which is an idea that Barnardo's and the social exclusion unit have floated in the past. I would like close monitoring of the new funding arrangements to evaluate their effectiveness in encouraging a better take-up of ISOs. In particular, there should be evaluation of the difference in use in areas with and without specifically earmarked funds for ISOs in their current business plans.

If the take-up of ISOs is still disappointing next year, I would like the Minister to consider making some ring-fenced money available nationally. This is an excellent initiative and policy widely welcomed by a range of organisations that have both community safety and the interests of children at their heart. Let us work together to do all we can to support it.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 10:00 am, 28th June 2006

I congratulate Ann Coffey on securing this morning's debate. I shall be speaking as one of my party's spokespersons on home affairs, but I also speak as a neighbouring Member of Parliament to the hon. Lady and a fellow Stockport borough MP.

I also compliment the hon. Lady on what we probably all thought was the thoughtful and considered approach she took in the speech while outlining her concerns. I do not think she will find much substantive difference between us as I support her general contention. I sympathise with her concerns over the issue for various reasons.

First, I am all too aware that in the hon. Lady's constituency and in mine issues relating to antisocial behaviour are a key quality-of-life factor and local people care passionately about them throughout the borough of Stockport, which in addition to the her constituency includes both the Cheadle and the Hazel Grove constituencies and, indeed, part of the Denton and Reddish constituency. It is true to say that although the borough itself is a relatively safe place in which to live and work, we still have some way to go before any of us can be totally satisfied that we have the problems fully under control.

Secondly, I sympathise with the hon. Lady because, in her efforts to find and promote better ways of dealing with antisocial behaviour and people who participate in those activities, she has tacitly recognised the limitation of many Government policies in that area. Although ASBOs, around which so much Government policy and rhetoric seem to be based, have their place, it is clear that there is a problem with the huge failure rate—just under 50 per cent.—and continuing public concerns that they are at best a limited weapon in the fight against the nuisance of antisocial behaviour.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that dealing with antisocial behaviour both starts and ends with the parents?

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and agree with that comment. We all need to do what we can to support parents to take more responsibility for and interest in the activities of the children when the children are not at home.

I shall take this opportunity to clear up an urban myth that has been cultivated in certain places, namely that the Liberal Democrats have never supported and still do not support ASBOs in principle. As I have said, they have their place and the hon. Member for Stockport will be aware that if we did not support them the local Liberal Democrat-controlled council in her area would not have issued more than 40 in recent times.

We have argued consistently as a party that ASBOs should always be used selectively and in conjunction with other methods of intervention to tackle the causes of the offenders' behaviour. I fully support the hon. Lady's position and support orders and the theory and rationale behind them. My party and I have been arguing for some years that Government policy has not adequately addressed the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour and that it has not dealt with the long-term issues. That is precisely why we have advocated, and indeed used, alternatives to stand-alone ASBOs, in particular acceptable behaviour contracts, commonly known as ABCs.

The hon. Lady will know that her local council has issued well over 100 ABCs, and in Stockport and beyond they are proven to have a higher success rate than ASBOs. I believe this success is down to the fact that they address, or at least attempt to address, the causes of antisocial behaviour. They are a more genuine attempt at rehabilitation than ASBOs and that is why they are more effective in dealing with offenders' patterns of behaviour.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that ABCs are usually a contract with young people who do not have such an extensive history of antisocial behaviour, while ASBOs tend to be served on people after intervention with an ABC has been attempted? It is not a question of either/or but of having them all as tools that can be used to intervene at every level. ABCs are a good way of dealing with things, but, sometimes, with a small minority of young people they are not successful.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Yes indeed. It is important that the full range of these measures is utilised as and when appropriate. My point is simply that all these measures have a place, including ISOs, which I support. I am also talking about the attitude that prevails in certain councils—happily, not the one encompassed by my constituency and that of the hon. Lady—where there is almost an instinctive reaction to reach for ASBOs as the first measure to introduce in these situations. That probably is not terribly helpful.

It is in that respect that I believe Stockport has succeeded—at least partially—in tackling these issues. Indeed, the key reason that our local council has not applied for funding for ISOs is because it never issues an ASBO without also putting in place measures to deal with the underlying causes of an offender's behaviour. I would, however, welcome the opportunity to join the hon. Lady in a campaign to try to ensure extra funding for Stockport's community safety unit so that it can put into practice an even more comprehensive package of measures to intervene with offenders, particularly young people, to deal with the root causes of these problems.

I appreciate that this debate has not been called solely for us to discuss local, Stockport issues although I could happily do that for the remainder of the time available.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

Before the hon. Gentleman finishes talking about Stockport, I have to say that I do not want to get into a discussion about whose responsibility it is, but I could equally argue that one of the issues locally may be that there needs to be increased awareness of the value of ISOs. Stockport made the decision about the resources it could allocate to them. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the YOT in Stockport does an excellent job. I should also like to congratulate Steve Brown, the community safety officer, on his very good work.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Indeed, I would be pleased to pass on the hon. Lady's congratulations to my constituent for his good work in Stockport and I accept her points entirely.

It is both interesting and sobering to note that only around 30 ISOs have been issued nationwide so far, despite being launched with the usual Government fanfare. The hon. Lady has probed the reasons why take-up has been relatively poor and she is right to do so. All the evidence I have seen, though, points to the fact that for ISOs to be more widely used, they should be applied to all types of ASBOs. Again, we are in substantive agreement there.

Early intervention is absolutely crucial and I support efforts being made to that end. In addition to early intervention, it must be clear to all agencies involved in the process that ISOs are an option that should be seriously considered and I would welcome any ministerial assurances this morning that magistrates, police, local authorities and social services are all aware of the possibility of putting orders like this in place.

However, we should not confine ourselves either to ASBOs or ISOs. Schemes associated with mentoring, involving members of the wider community in some sentencing, and more effective ways to combat bullying and truancy are all vital if we are serious about making a difference to our communities

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

Will the hon. Gentleman add to that list the need to provide facilities for young people of all age groups? Borough and local councils have a responsibility to ensure that there is a decent range of facilities for youngsters to enjoy so that they do not have to gather in massive groups on street corners at night, as happens in Canvey Island in my constituency.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's point. In fact, I shall move on to that issue swiftly.

If we are serious about dealing with antisocial behaviour and social exclusion, it is vital to tackle all the issues I have mentioned. By offering a less prescriptive minimum curriculum entitlement, as my party has suggested, schools could develop more imaginative programmes for young people, who would then remain within the school system, rather than being excluded from it and thus being tempted by antisocial and, in some cases, criminal activities.

For too long, youth services in local authorities have been treated as Cinderella services. We are now reaping the results of that neglect. We need to work more closely with young people to develop the right services for them and not concentrate solely on excluding them, as the Government sometimes appear to do.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

Is the hon. Gentleman, like me, pleased that, as part of the youth matters agenda, money is being made available to each local authority in the land—including, I think, £500,000 to Stockport—over the next two years so that projects are developed that young people want? That work will be very much from a young person's perspective; young people will be asked what projects they want to develop. It will help to provide an alternative for young people who say that there is nothing to do.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The hon. Lady again makes a reasonable point. She will know, as a fellow MP for the area, that Stockport borough council welcomes any extra grant it can get its hands on, and I am sure that it will put the money to good use.

If we are serious about reducing the fear of crime in our communities, we need a greater commitment to visible policing and more police officers on the beat. The hon. Lady will be all too aware of the funding crisis afflicting Greater Manchester police. According to the chief constable, we face the prospect of losing front-line officers. Our local situation highlights the fact that all the legislation in the world, including positive schemes such as the one we are talking about, is meaningless without the officers to enforce the laws.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

It is important also to put on the record the fact that the overall strength of the police force in Greater Manchester has increased and an increasing number of community support officers are being employed. Brinnington is about to have four extra community support officers. I would not like the hon. Gentleman to give the impression that police officers are being taken off the streets when in fact the overall strength of the police force is being increased. Community support officers have been widely welcomed because they provide visible policing.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I again welcome the hon. Lady's intervention. She made her point in her usual effective way, but I note that she did not contradict my point that the chief constable of Greater Manchester police says that he faces the prospect of having to cut front-line services.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

I would like to confirm the hon. Lady's point. I had grave reservations about CSOs when they were introduced, but I accept entirely that I have been proved wrong. I am delighted with the effectiveness of those officers in my community. I am also delighted with the neighbourhood policing moves and the fact that we now see policemen back on bicycles. That is fantastic. However, I am still deeply concerned about the fall in the number of special constables. The Government should take more action to recruit more specials. The numbers have been halved over the past few years. We should make a particular effort in that respect, too. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention and I agree with his point. I have not referred to PCSOs, but as the subject has been raised I will say that I recognise their valuable role. It is only one part of the core debate, but I say to the Minister that in the eyes of the community at large there is a credibility issue about PCSOs compared with straightforward police constables whom people know and recognise in the traditional sense. The Government need to do a little more—

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I will give way to the hon. Lady for the last time, as I am close to finishing what I have to say.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

It may be more of an internal issue within the police force, as I know that some police officers did not welcome PCSOs. It was very much a professional matter. From the community's point of view, it is difficult to see the difference on the street between a police officer and a community police officer, because they are both in uniform. One has to look very carefully to see whether someone is a community police officer or a police officer.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I again welcome the hon. Lady's intervention, but in my constituency residents seem to have no problem distinguishing between traditional police constables and PCSOs, as they wear distinctive badges on their uniforms. The frequent cry of some local residents is, "Well, we might see those"—PCSOs—"but we never see proper policemen." As I am sure other hon. Members do, I try to explain that PCSOs are proper and legitimate officers making a valuable contribution.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

I would be very happy if the PCSOs whom the hon. Gentleman's constituents do not welcome were transferred to my constituency, where people do welcome them.

Photo of Mark Hunter Mark Hunter Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The hon. Lady makes her final intervention in a humorous fashion. I must make it absolutely clear that my constituents did not say that they saw them very often; nor do they ever see them on bicycles.

I reiterate my support for the hon. Lady's cause. She displays a more thoughtful approach on these issues than some of her colleagues in the Government. All the evidence points to early intervention and support as key factors in ending the destructive patterns of behaviour in young people. ISOs can play an important role in that respect and I wholeheartedly welcome moves to extend their use.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:17 am, 28th June 2006

On the whole, this has been a pretty consensual debate, with only one or two little controversial elements, which put this Chamber in an excitable mood.

I congratulate Ann Coffey on initiating the debate on the subject of ISOs, which we all agree are a very good idea. She wants the Government to take up initiatives to ensure that ISOs are effective, which is particularly important. I wait with considerable interest to see how the Minister responds in that respect.

The hon. Member for Stockport mentioned the Prime Minister's Bristol speech. Once again, it was a fine example of good intentions, but delivery is all-important and this debate is about the delivery of ISOs. They are a very good idea, but how can we make them work?

As we heard, ISOs were introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. They allow positive conditions to be attached to ASBOs for 10 to 17-year-olds for up to six months, and they are designed to help to address the underlying causes of unacceptable and damaging behaviour by imposing preventive conditions on troubled young people.

As my hon. Friend Bob Spink said, we are talking about a minority of young people. Years ago, I worked with the BBC in Northern Ireland during the troubles and it struck me then that only about 4 to 5 per cent. caused the troubles. The vast majority of people wanted a quiet life, which demonstrates what a thin veneer society can be. It needs just a few troublemakers—whether those involved in gangsterism or terrorism in Northern Ireland, or children causing a noise on an estate, as the hon. Member for Stockport described—to ruin the lives of many.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

At this stage, I would like to make a general point. We are talking about ISOs this morning, but, in talking about antisocial behaviour, which we have been doing in a general sense, we should try not to demonise young people and remember that more than half of all ASBOs have been granted to adults. They are responsible for antisocial behaviour as well.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister makes an important and interesting point that I hope people will note. It is indeed not just young people who are involved, but older people too. Again, however, it is a minority of adults and younger people who do not wish to ensure that society remains calm and do not have the respect for others that we expect. The other point, which my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point made, is that parents also have a responsibility, and we should never forget that. He made that point in a number of telling interventions.

The principle behind ISOs is valuable. We should be tackling the root causes of disorderly behaviour, not just the symptoms. Both sides of the debate will agree with that principle, and we have heard that today. With that in mind, I would like to be able to say that the Government have made good use of ISOs since their introduction. However, as we have heard, that has not been the case.

As the hon. Member for Stockport said, only 31 ISOs have been issued since May 2004. That point was also made by David Taylor. Over the same period, 789 ASBOs were issued to persons aged between 10 and 17. That means that ISOs were issued in only 4 per cent. of cases, which is a startlingly low take-up.

We have again heard some reasons for that, and the hon. Member for Stockport made some good suggestions on how to deal with the problem. I note, too, that she has been consistent on the issue, which she raised during Home Office questions last month. Following the somewhat lacklustre response from the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, she said:

"It is disappointing...that so few applications have been made for stand-alone civil antisocial behaviour orders with individual support orders attached."—[Hansard, 15 May 2006; Vol. 446, c. 688.]

Today, she has repeated that view, which gets to the heart of the matter. Until now, the take-up rate has been too low and too slow.

Under the guidance that the Youth Justice Board has produced since May 2004, a magistrates court making a stand-alone ASBO is obliged to impose an ISO where three conditions are met. The first is that doing so is

"desirable in the interests of preventing any repetition of the kind of behaviour which led to the making of the anti-social behaviour order".

The second is purely technical, but the third, which is quite interesting, is

"that the court has been notified by the Secretary of State that arrangements for implementing individual support orders are available in the area".

In other words, it is up to the Government to give the support that the courts need to make a difference.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department of Trade and Industry

I really cannot have the Government being blamed for that. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, all the YOTs in the country were asked to bid for the prevention money. What they bid for was down to them. Although I have issues with the Government for not ring-fencing the money, I do not argue that it was not made available. I query the use to which some of the YOTs have put that money.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

The hon. Lady makes an important and interesting point. I would say that the amount of money available was finite, but it is like the lottery—people often complain that they have not had lottery money in their area, but it turns out that they never applied for it, so that has to be done first.

One cannot help wondering whether it is the lack of support from the Government that is responsible for the low take-up of ISOs. I take the hon. Lady's point: the number of ASBOs has increased over recent years, so why have we not seen an increase in the number of ISOs? I know that the Minister will address that point when he replies.

The issue has not merely come out of the blue. A report was issued in November last year by the social exclusion unit that warned that although ASBOs are common, little use is being made of ISOs, which are intended to address the causes of poor behaviour. I do not want to pick on the poor Minister, but what has his Department been doing since the social exclusion unit made its report?

It is not all doom and gloom. The Home Office recently increased the funding available in 2005-06 to the Youth Justice Board to fund ISOs. That is a welcome step. There will also be a new training programme for magistrates this year—about time, too—which will include the important issue of ISOs. That, too, is a step in the right direction.

I worry that there is broader story behind all this. There is little point in having such measures if they are not taken up and used by the courts and the authorities on the ground. We have had not only an avalanche of law and order legislation since 1997, but countless headline-grabbing initiatives and quick fixes. The Government propose gimmicks and then abandon them with alarming regularity. ISOs are pretty good; I hope they will not abandon them. Cash point fines for yobs and night courts are two prominent examples of gimmicks that were brought in and then abandoned. ISOs are worth while. They are worth pursuing, and I hope that the Government will do that.

If the Home Office carries on with quick gimmicks, we will run the danger that measures such as ISOs, which try to address the real causes, will get lost in the storm. It is not only me who believes that; I am afraid that the former Home Secretary seems to believe it too.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

I have listened carefully to the debate and I note that one area has not yet been fully addressed. May I encourage my hon. Friend and the Minister to comment on it?

When the terms of ISOs and ASBOs are breached, that needs to be taken extremely seriously by the courts, otherwise those instruments will fall into disrepute and become ineffective very quickly. Are the Government interested in issuing clearer instructions to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts Service so that breaches of ISOs and ASBOs are taken extremely seriously?

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point that chimes with my intervention on the hon. Member for Stockport, when I said that it is important that we monitor the effectiveness of ISOs. We do not want a great deal of resources to be put into the training, or re-training, of offenders only to find that within six months or a year they have relaxed back into the same bad old ways.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I was going to make this point in my remarks, but given the question asked by Bob Spink, it is opportune to do so now: 58 per cent. of ASBOs are not breached, which means that 42 per cent. are. Of that 42 per cent. of people who breach their ASBO on one or more occasion, 55 per cent. received immediate custody on the first or a later occasion, and of the young people, 46 per cent. received immediate custody. Those are important figures, because they show that there is a criminal sanction for people who break an ASBO and that that is treated severely by the courts.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

I thank the Minister for that helpful intervention, which shows not only that our courts exercise their authority, but that there is good monitoring of people's behaviour so that the breaking of ASBOs is noted. In some instances—not in the example of ASBOs, but in others—courts have a power, but do not know when an offence is committed. The Minister's point is reassuring and I am grateful to him for making it.

To conclude, underlying problems—family breakdown, hard drug use, binge drinking, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy—cannot be addressed with top-down national initiatives. If I may quote the leader of my party, we need "patient, personal support" to get at the causes of disorder and antisocial behaviour.

ISOs offer a really good step in the right direction, and it is time for the Government to make proper use of them. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to my points and, perhaps even more importantly, those made by the hon. Member for Stockport.

N

"...... underlying problems—family breakdown, hard drug use, binge drinking, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy—cannot be addressed with top-down national initiatives. If I may quote the leader of my party, we need "patient, personal support" to get at the causes of disorder and antisocial behaviour."

Yes, but there will only ever be "top-down national initiatives" if the neighbourhood figures are suppressed!

Submitted by Nick Gulliford

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 10:31 am, 28th June 2006

I thank all the hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Ann Coffey on her speech, which a number of us have said was a thoughtful, measured contribution to an important subject, about which I know she feels passionate. She has spent much of her time in Parliament contributing to the debate on what to do about antisocial behaviour, calling for tough enforcement of the law alongside measures that support young people and communities. I congratulate her not only on her work in her constituency but on her contribution to the national debate.

Antisocial behaviour is a major issue for the Government and in many of our communities. It is clear that where the law is enforced effectively alongside neighbourhood policing, including police community support officers working with residents' associations and local voluntary organisations, and where people work together and stand together, joining in to try to make a difference, real progress is made in communities up and down the country. That is one of the most important messages to be taken from the debate. The tools and the laws are there, and they should be used to make a difference in our communities. People should not abandon hope; they should be optimistic and challenge what is going on, and things can improve.

I do not want to get into party political banter, but there are record numbers of police officers on the street, and police community support officers have been extremely effective in contributing to efforts to tackle antisocial behaviour. Bob Spink raised the matter of specials. Only last week I was at an awards ceremony giving awards to special constables who had made a particular contribution in their communities. Again, that demonstrates the fact that the Government have tried to ensure that the valuable role of specials is recognised. We have also ensured that the number of specials recorded on the books is that of active specials. In some cases that has meant that the number of specials has gone down, but the number who are actually active and on the streets has increased. That has happened in my area and, I am sure, in many others. Specials do a fantastic job.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

I am reassured to some extent by what the Minister has said about specials. However, the fact is that the number of specials has halved in the past eight years or so. Will the Government have a campaign to increase their number back to the number that were in place when they took power in 1997?

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We run recruitment campaigns for specials all the time—there are poster campaigns and adverts all over the place because we are trying to increase their numbers. However, we are determined to have active specials on the books, instead of there being just a number on paper, because specials make a great contribution to policing in our communities.

Individual support orders were introduced under section 322 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and have been available since May 2004. They are civil orders that can be attached to antisocial behaviour orders made against young people aged between 10 and 17. They can last for up to six months and they impose positive conditions on young people. They are designed to tackle the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour.

ISOs are available for stand-alone ASBOs, which are made only in magistrates courts. Legislation sets out that when a magistrates court makes an ASBO against a young person, the court must also make an ISO if it considers that an ISO would help to prevent further antisocial behaviour. ISOs are not available for orders on conviction if it is expected that sentencing will address the underlying causes of the criminal offence. If a court declines to make an ISO, it must give reasons why it considers that it is inappropriate to do so. That point was made by my hon. Friend David Taylor, and perhaps when he reads my response, he will be reassured.

ISOs contain positive requirements that are tailor-made to suit the individual needs of each young person. They are based on a needs assessment of the young person in question. Examples of such requirements include treatment for alcohol and substance misuse, attendance at counselling sessions for anger management, and extra support in school. ISOs are not mandatory, although we want to see many more being used by the courts. To clarify an point of confusion, an ISO can be made even if another order is in place.

I should like to mention an example from Norfolk that shows the value of ISOs—I believe in using practical examples to show how policies can make a difference. The example shows how an ISO has been used to turn around the behaviour of a group of boys who had brought misery to residents for more than a year. The police and the housing office worked together closely on the case and discovered a pattern of nuisance, largely based on the playing of rowdy games on a shared landing between two flats. PCSOs and the estate manager mediated between the families and their neighbours. When mediation failed, joint visits were made to warn the families of their continued antisocial behaviour. The boys were given formal warnings that spelled out the consequences of their actions in terms of potential ASBOs and possible loss of their parents' tenancy. When all the warnings had failed, a multi-agency team obtained an interim ASBO against the five boys to put an immediate stop to the nuisance. Evidence provided by the PCSOs and by the estate manager was used at the hearing, and interim orders were granted.

Minor breaches during the Christmas period were reported by witnesses between the interim and the full hearings, which strengthened the case for the ASBOs at the full hearing. Witnesses who were previously fearful of giving evidence were willing to testify at the full hearing when the ASBOs were granted. Importantly, an ISO was attached to each ASBO to tackle some of the underlying causes of the behaviour. If that can be done in one area, it can be done in many other areas too.

The main benefit of the ASBOs was the relief brought to the neighbours, who felt that they had been supported through the process by the police and the housing office. The ISO that was devised and facilitated by the north Norfolk youth offending team consisted of sessions aimed at helping the boys to develop an understanding of how their antisocial behaviour—their constant shouting and banging—impacted on themselves as a group, on their immediate family, and on their neighbours. The advantage of the ISO was that it gave the boys an opportunity to understand the effects of their rowdy behaviour on themselves and on others. As a result of the order and the interventions of the youth worker, the boys took up recreational activities and found constructive ways to spend their spare time.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am interested in that example. I believe that it is the same as the one given by the hon. Member for Stockport, but fair enough. I do not know when those events happened, but I am curious to know whether three months, six months or a year on, the boys have relapsed, or is the situation still okay? Does the Minister know?

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

So far as we are aware, things are still okay. I repeated the example that my hon. Friend gave to emphasise that if it is possible for Norfolk YOT to do something, it is perfectly possible for other YOTs throughout the country to do exactly the same thing. We use such examples as a good practice guide to show people what they can do and what they can use. I shall certainly be talking to my local YOT about it. It is something that I have become more aware of, and sometimes it is a matter of raising awareness and informing people of what is possible. What the example shows is that if all the agencies take action and work together, the community rediscovers a sense of purpose, a sense of hope and a belief that something can be done—and in fact, something is done. The message must be to work together and stand together. We do not have to put up with such behaviour and we can make a difference. Overall, the intervention package was a great success for that community and for the families themselves. It is an excellent example of the effective use not only of ISOs, but of all the tools available to tackle antisocial behaviour.

As we are focusing mainly on young people, let me reiterate an important point, which is that other young people also want something to be done about antisocial behaviour by groups of young people who are causing problems. When I meet young people, they tell me that they do not want to feel threatened on their street, that they do not want yobs—or whatever we want to call them—hanging around, threatening them and making them feel unsafe. Young people demand that something is done about the problem as well. It is not just old fogeys in council offices or in Parliament who want something done. The majority of decent young people in our communities also want something to be done, and they often contribute to the solution by coming up with examples of what the council should do to help—perhaps by providing services, additional drop-in facilities, and so on. They suggest the sorts of things that could be done to tackle antisocial behaviour. We should involve young people in the solution and not just brand them as the problem. As the hon. Members for Castle Point and for Cheadle (Mark Hunter) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport said, it is only a minority who are causing the problem. It is up to us to deal with it through effective use of the laws that we have.

As has been mentioned, 31 ISOs were made between their introduction in May 2004 and the end of September 2005. We analysed the cohort of potential recipients, and although we accept that interventions might already be in place for many young people, the figures remain much lower than we would have expected. The low take-up by antisocial behaviour practitioners is disappointing. I am therefore grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport for highlighting the issue and providing the opportunity of this debate, which I hope will challenge people to make more use of ISOs.

We carried out investigations of local areas for blockages in the system but they proved inconclusive. They suggested that a more strategic approach was needed to unpick and resolve a range of minor problems. We therefore identified four areas where we would expect higher use of ISOs, based on the current use of stand-alone ASBOs for juveniles. Those areas are Manchester, Lancashire, Leeds and London. YOT and court representatives from those areas have been engaged in round table discussions over the past three months with the Home Office, the Youth Justice Board and Her Majesty's Courts Service, which is part of the Department for Constitutional Affairs, to establish where the problems lie and what needs to be done to overcome them. As my hon. Friends the Members for Stockport and for North-West Leicestershire said, part of the solution must and will include training for magistrates, and that is in process.

When we first examined the reasons for low take-up, we were told that YOTs' reluctance to use ISOs stemmed from their misgivings about the affordability of the programme. We responded promptly to those concerns by giving £500,000 to the Youth Justice Board in June 2005; the Youth Justice Board then wrote to all YOT managers to notify them about the extra funding and a subsequent letter was sent from Rod Morgan, chairman of the Youth Justice Board. Unfortunately, that has failed to generate many more ISO applications. Of the £500,000 made available, only £62,000 was spent. When funding is made available, it is not always used, but given how worthwhile the orders are, we expected greater take-up. The Youth Justice Board analysed the small number of applications that it received and found that in 29 out of the 31 recorded cases the risk of the young people reoffending was reduced. That is evidence of the value of the orders.

We know that YOTs have concerns about future funding and we have responded to make the longer-term position more secure by including it in the Youth Justice Board's £45 million uplift for preventive measures. Seven YOTs have included specific ISO intervention schemes in their plans for the use of that prevention budget for the period up to March 2008. All YOTs are required to support ISO intervention, whether or not there is a specific scheme. Such support might be delivered through another programme funded by an allocation from that budget, such as youth inclusion programmes or youth inclusion and support panels, or through an existing programme.

It is clear that money is available to maintain and increase the ISO programme. We will review and monitor the programme where necessary; it will be an ongoing process. We agreed with the Youth Justice Board and the Department for Constitutional Affairs a joint action plan to boost take-up with a strong focus on communication. Many hon. Members made that point during the debate. That joint action plan is based on providing information and encouragement to sentencers, court staff, YOT managers and antisocial behaviour practitioners. We publicised ISOs in relevant publications, on websites and at events and conferences. For example, we ensured that the TOGETHER ActionLine promotes ISOs when giving advice about ASBOs and updates its website with appropriate prompts to ISOs from the ASBO pages.

The Youth Justice Board website also carries information on ISOs for practitioners. In addition to the joint Home Office, Youth Justice Board and Association of Chief Police Officers guidance to YOTs on their role in dealing with antisocial behaviour, the forthcoming "Bigger, Better, Bolder" guidance on ASBOs contains advice on issuing ISOs and promotes a success story.

Our aim is to guide YOTs to ask for and provide ISOs, and to request the courts to order them in appropriate cases. Again, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport that we intend to write to all YOTs to inform them of our desire for progress. Other Members raised the importance of pressuring YOTs to look at why the measure is not being used as much as it should be. I assure my hon. Friend that a letter will go out to all YOTs, including those in Stockport.

The practitioners in the areas visited when research on low take-up was conducted spoke enthusiastically about ISOs. In Manchester, YOTs, courts and antisocial behaviour practitioners have set an example to others by working in partnership. They promote good communication between themselves, and the YOT has even been proactive in preparing a leaflet for its local courts to advise them on their ISO procedures.

Practitioners attending the respect academies currently in progress are also very positive, although, unfortunately, we continue to experience difficulties in shifting negative perceptions in some quarters. We still hear anecdotally that sentencers have insufficient knowledge of ISOs. I hope that my hon. Friend's debate helps to raise the profile of ISOs so that we can start to address the issue.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that in some cases there was confusion about how ISOs were supposed to be used when they were introduced. Now the YOTs, ASB practitioners and courts have all the necessary guidance and funding in place to make them work. There is no reason for not using them where they are needed.

In other areas, however, blockages remain and, despite the best efforts of the Youth Justice Board to inform local YOTs, there is a continuing misconception that ISOs are centrally underfunded. We intend to maintain a strong momentum in delivering the positive messages to practitioners on ISOs to step up their use. Every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate said how important they think the use of ISOs is. I hope that message is heard loud and clear throughout the country.

We are in a position to take stock of the information gleaned from the nationwide meetings and some of the useful discussions with practitioners at the respect academies, and we are considering further proposals for the future. We must ensure that young people get all the support they need to tackle their antisocial behaviour. The Government want tough enforcement of the law and appropriate action taken against people who are causing problems, but alongside that we want the necessary support.

Again, we always get into the debate about either/or, but in a modern social policy there should be both. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport is one of the toughest proponents of enforcing the law on the streets, but she also recognises the need for support alongside that tough approach. In my own communities, people want a tough approach, but they want young people to be supported too. The Government are very keen to do that.

We are continuing to have meetings at official level between the Home Office, the Youth Justice Board and the Department for Constitutional Affairs to consider short, medium and long-term actions. In the longer term, that includes considering the prospect of making legislative changes to strengthen the use of ISOs. In the medium term, we need the best efforts of the Youth Justice Board to monitor and provide guidance on their use, and we are discussing with it how best to do that. Of course, we would rather not be having this dialogue at all. We are looking at legislative change, but no decision has been made about that yet.

As I said earlier, all YOTs in England and Wales have recently received additional funding until March 2008 to establish or enhance local prevention programmes. We know that many YOTs linked new and existing prevention services directly to ISOs. The delivery of 110 youth inclusion programmes, 220 youth inclusion and support panels, and expenditure of £9.5 million on parenting initiatives with that funding is designed to tackle the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour.

The hon. Member for Castle Point will be pleased to note the parenting initiatives, which will try to make some parents more responsible for the actions of their children. As we know, the vast majority of parents are responsible. We have a problem with a minority and we need, where possible, to see these parenting initiatives alongside greater use of parenting orders.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point

The Minister has been more than generous in giving way. I am sure that he will accept that alcohol is a key driver in antisocial behaviour among young people, and he knows that the police are using their powers under the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997 in every constituency virtually every day of the week.

Where the police are falling down is the fact that they are not following the law through to its conclusion. The law gives them not just the ability but the duty to involve the parents on every occasion when the alcohol is removed from the young person. Officers should not simply take the alcohol and pour it down the drain, but ensure that the young person's parents are involved and informed so that they can intervene at an early stage. Will the Minister consider giving further instructions to the Association of Chief Police Officers and other bodies to ensure that the police understand their duty in that respect?

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We are working closely with the police and with trading standards departments to tackle the problem of under-age drinking. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures, he will see a huge increase in the number of test purchases made through trading standards to tackle the problem. There has also been a big increase in work with schools to try to educate on alcohol. Of course there is a problem, but the Government are taking major steps to tackle it. Discussions on what more we can do are ongoing and will continue over the next few months.

The funding provided by the Youth Justice Board has generated local partnership funding in excess of £30 million. All YOTs are required to support interventions using ISOs whether or not there is a specific scheme in operation. Such support may be delivered through a programme funded by an allocation from the prevention budget or through an existing programme.

As an example, youth inclusion and support panels aim to prevent the committing of offending and antisocial behaviour by children referred to them. Such panels are made up of representatives from a variety of organisations, which can include YOTs, the police, social services, housing services, probation, education, Connexions, the voluntary sector, antisocial behaviour units and the fire service. That is not an exhaustive list—it can be tailored to local circumstances. The panels meet regularly to consider referrals made to them and devise an integrated support plan, which I shall explain.

Each young person referred to a YISP is given a comprehensive assessment, which highlights such things as risk factors, a history of offending and antisocial behaviour, and protective measures that need to be maintained or built upon. From the information gained, an integrated support plan is tailored to, and agreed by, the young person in question and their family.

Inclusion and support panels seek to ensure that children have access to mainstream services, identify the extent of key worker involvement and direct service delivery needed, and inform the extent to which the panel will have a commissioning role. Panels regularly review each inclusion and support programme, which is expected to last between three and six months, to ensure its effectiveness. Any involvement with a YISP is voluntary and therefore requires the written consent of both a young person and their parents, which again shows the crucial role that parents can play. If parents evade their responsibility, we need to take measures to ensure that they do not continue to do so.

The respect drive is a cross-Government strategy to tackle bad behaviour and nurture good, helping to create a modern culture of respect. It builds on strong progress in tackling antisocial behaviour, but goes further and deeper to prevent the next generation from becoming involved in such behaviour. It does so through action on poor parenting, problem families and bad behaviour in schools.

An action plan was published in January 2006, setting out a comprehensive programme to promote positive behaviour and bear down uncompromisingly on antisocial behaviour, tackling its causes and strengthening the local accountability of public services. Programmes will be targeted in the most deprived areas to ensure that help goes where antisocial behaviour and lack of respect are experienced most.

The key priorities are a new approach to tackling problem families, a wide-ranging programme to address poor parenting, strengthening communities through more responsive public services, improving behaviour and attendance in schools, and constructive activities for young people. Significant progress has already been made since January; the pace of delivery is being maintained across those Departments responsible.

As hon. Members will know, the respect agenda is an important part of the Government's drive to tackle antisocial behaviour. We all know that such behaviour is a problem and that tackling it is about not just passing laws, but changing the culture and attitudes. The Government are working hard to deal with the problem.

ISOs are playing their part in the wider battle to combat antisocial behaviour and promote positive behaviour. They have proven potential to help young people to turn around their lives and move away from antisocial behaviour and offending. I share the enthusiasm for ISOs of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, and I hope that she and other hon. Members will encourage local agencies to make more use of such a highly effective intervention tool.

In the few seconds remaining, I say to hon. Members—

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

Order. We must redirect our attention to the next debate.