Costs could hamper bid to give offenders a better learning deal

10th April 2009 at 01:00

Politicians and the Youth Justice Board have accused the Government of being ill-prepared for reform that will give young offenders equal rights to education for the first time because of funding fears.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, being debated by MPs, will place a new duty on local authorities with detention centres or young offender institutions to secure and fund suitable education. The Local Government Association has warned that this could be costly, and the Youth Justice Board is "concerned" there won't be enough money.

In its submission to the House of Commons select committee on accountability, the board says it would welcome a funding review. The new Young People's Learning Agency, which will be created when the bill becomes law, will fund young offenders' education.

The bill also requires local authorities to recognise young offenders' special needs for the first time. At the moment, special needs statements don't apply when someone is in custody.

The Conservative MP John Hayes, the shadow minister for innovation, universities and skills, has said involving more agencies in educating young offenders will create a "system that is less cost-effective, more insensitive, less responsive to need, more bureaucratic and more opaque", as well as causing upheaval for young people passed between education authorities.

"We hope this will make it easier to hold councils to account for the quality of education provided," said Mike Thomas, chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers. "If other authorities are paying for it, then hopefully they will make sure it is good," he said.

The Government has told MPs that authorities with custody centres will get extra funding, but a spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the new education plans wouldn't be more expensive. There would be no funding review, she added.

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