Schedule 2 - CURFEW ORDERS AND SUPERVISION ORDERS

Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 15 Mai 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath 11:00, 15 Mai 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 204, in

schedule 2, page 50, leave out line 32.

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Ceidwadwyr, Beverley and Holderness

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 205, in

schedule 2, page 50, line 38, leave out subparagraph (4).

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

I can be brief. These are probing amendments. I simply wanted the Minister to explain the significance, as the Government see it, of the omission of the night restrictions provisions. We have two identical amendments that seek to probe whether we need to omit the night restrictions provisions through paragraph 4(3)(a) and paragraph 4(4). Their effect is identical and I do not need to say any more other than that I would be interested to hear the Minister's explanation.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We want to remove the night restriction requirement that can be attached as part of a supervision order. That provision has become superfluous with the development of curfew orders. We believe that curfew orders are a more effective means of monitoring a young person's behaviour in the community. They provide greater flexibility for the courts, because specific times can be set for the curfew, depending upon the young person's offending behaviour and circumstances. The night restriction operated only between 6 pm and 6 am. A curfew order can be set for any period and last between two and 12 hours a day. That allows the court to set the period of the curfew at times when the young person is more at risk of getting into trouble.

The night restriction requirement is only available for 30 days, whereas the changes that we are proposing on the curfew order will allow it to be available for six months for 10 to 17-year-old offenders. Therefore, the removal of the night restriction requirement will avoid confusion and encourage the courts, we believe, to use curfew orders in combination with other community sentences, such as the supervision order, as a more effective package of measures aimed at preventing further offending. I hope that that explanation is enough to satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

It certainly is and it was useful to have that on the record. I am grateful to the Minister and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I beg to move amendment No. 241, in

schedule 2, page 51, line 32, after 'authority', insert

'and the designated authority has concurred with the appropriateness of the requirement through its assessment of the needs of the child in accordance with the Children Act 1989'.

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Ceidwadwyr, Beverley and Holderness

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 242, in

schedule 2, page 51, line 35, after 'months', insert

'During the period specified it will be at the discretion of the designated authority in consultation with the Youth Offending Team and relevant partners to determine what the leave arrangements for contact between the offender and his or her family will be, and to determine the programme of rehabilitation for the offender to return home within the specified periods.'.

Amendment No. 243, in

schedule 2, page 51, line 35, at end insert—

'( ) The offender made subject to a foster parent residence requirement will be deemed to be a child looked after by the local authority in accordance with the Children Act 1989 for the duration of that requirement.'.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I will preface my remarks with a few general comments, although they will not take up too much time. On the whole, I am enthusiastic about the schedule. As the Minister knows, I am keen on community sentences and the requirements of supervision orders, because they attempt to change behaviour in the community.

The amendments deal with the intensive fostering proposals. The jury is out on the issue but the proposals may be one of the most enormous moves forward that this country could make. I say that because I recently visited Sweden and I was very impressed by the fact that children under 16 are not regarded as criminals but dealt with by the social services. It would be a great step forward if we were to take such an approach rather than putting young children in secure accommodation or even in prison. We all know that that is less than desirable, and this country has a big problem with children in adult prisons.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Yes, but I want to get on to the amendments. I was just setting the scene.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

I will not detain the hon. Lady long. I, too, have visited Sweden. Does she agree that it is noticeable that those who administer the system undertake intensive intervention with young people, particularly those addicted to drugs? Although it does not take place in the prison system, some of it is not only intensive but coercive. Sweden's social services have a vastly better reputation than those in this country when it comes to dealing effectively with young people.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I agree. We must move social services care on a great deal, and the proposals before us are potentially a big beginning. I have been criticising everything all morning, so I am hoping that people will not mind if I say that the proposals have huge potential.

None the less, there are reservations about the scheme. In some circumstances, it will be better to work with the child in the family setting. I was impressed by how much money there was in Sweden to support children in difficult family situations. There were many other measures, and we must study them if we are to change our emphasis and pursue rehabilitation.

As has been mentioned, there are major problems finding additional foster parents. There is a severe shortage of foster parents in my part of the world, and I am sure that everyone faces the same situation.

Training those foster parents will be vital. That is why, to tie in with what I said earlier, we would not slow things down by evaluating the pilot scheme. The issue is critical to how we proceed and to placing a greater emphasis on social services. We must get things right. We must constantly examine how the provisions are working.

The amendments were suggested by the Local Government Association. They are very sensible and are not intended to diminish the Bill in any way. Indeed, amendment No. 241 would add to the clause. The purpose is to ensure that the foster parent residence requirement does not undermine the fundamental principle that children should not be removed from their homes unless an assessment has determined that doing so would safeguard and promote their welfare. That is common sense. Indeed, the Bill makes it clear that removal would happen only under extreme circumstances, when the child would go to prison because of the offence, and the family home would not help to correct their behaviour. The amendment would pull in the local authorities to advise the courts to ensure that they got the decision right.

Amendment No. 242 is also from the Local Government Association. The intention is to tie the provisions together. It is argued that there needs to be a mechanism for the supervising authority to allow for home contact, both to support rehabilitation and to remain consistent with the Children Act 1989. Many people oppose the measure because, they say, it is draconian. I see it in the opposite light. It has huge potential. Although our treatment of children in prison is not necessarily consistent with the Human Rights Act 1998, it is important that this legislation should be fully compatible with the Children Act.

The process should extend to determining when rehabilitation is most likely to succeed on a full-time basis. That must be before the end of the requirement. Resettling is a difficult process. However, it is for a fixed period, so it must be carefully planned. The assessment would have to relate to the risk of reoffending.

The third amendment in the group is amendment No. 243. The offender made subject to a foster parent residence requirement would be deemed to be a child looked after by the local authority in accordance with the Children Act for the duration of the requirement. Notwithstanding that the requirement is, effectively, a criminal sentence, there should not be a change in the status of the child offender within the looked-after service, not least to ensure that the child offender's welfare is safeguarded in accordance with the Children Act at the same time as the offending behaviour is tackled. I hope that the Minister, if he does not accept the amendments, will take them in the spirit in which they are intended. I hope that the pilot scheme receives a good evaluation, and that there is a change in emphasis. This could be the beginning of a big change in the way in which we deal with children.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

I do not disagree as much with the Liberal Democrat amendments as I have on many occasions. I understand where the hon. Lady is coming from, particularly in amendment No. 243. I shall listen

with interest to the Minister's response to this group of amendments. I agree with the hon. Lady that the provisions can be very helpful. I was relieved that nobody moved the lead amendment in the previous group of amendments, which were an attempt by the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre to fillet the whole provision. That would have been very unwise.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The amendments would unnecessarily state in the legislation that the requirement operates within the legislative framework of the Children Act; that local authorities and relevant partners may determine contact arrangements between young offenders and their families during the programme of rehabilitation; and that the young person should be a looked-after child for the duration of the requirement. The fostering requirement interacts with the legislative framework of the 1989 Act in order to ensure the young person's welfare, and it operates within the existing principles and provisions established by the 1989 Act.

The imposition of the fostering requirement by the court would automatically lead to the young person's becoming a looked-after child within the meaning of the Children Act. The local authority where the young person resides would have responsibility for the fostering placement and the welfare of that young person as part of its obligations under the Children Act.

The measure is a child-focused intervention to deal with those persistent or serious young offenders whose home environment directly contributes to their offending behaviour. It would provide the courts with a specialised community-based response for such cases. Without such a measure, such young people are at risk of custody. I agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole that there is substantial potential in that area.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.