No one will be enjoying this knockabout as to who has been stopping who by blocking reform over the years. The public instinctively know what is right, and we know what is right, too. Does the Minister agree that the time has come for reform, because if we wait for agreement, we will wait for ever? Surely, we should get the job done, put in place a limit of £10,000 per annum, and get some legislation on to the statute book?
I am writing in response to correspondence about the Health and Social Care Bill.
On Saturday 17th March, I was greeted by a small but nonetheless impressively vocal group of protesters outside my Cheddar Surgery. The next day, Sunday, at my suggestion and their request I met with Martin Morss, recently retired Medical Director of one of the largest acute NHS Trusts, who had addressed a meeting in Wells the previous week. Read the rest of this entry »
I welcome this consultation as an opportunity to tighten up on irresponsible sales. Does the Secretary of State agree with landlords such as Juliet Watchman of The Bell Inn in Shepton Mallet, who makes the point that if she behaved as local supermarkets did and sold lager for 34 pence per pint and cider at 48 pence per pint—pocket-money prices—or sold to those who are already heavily under the influence of alcohol, she would have her licence revoked by the local authority, and that this is a massive opportunity for landlords, the police and hospitals to contribute to the consultation?
It is very kind of the Minister to give way. I am on record as being a little more resistant to nuclear power, mainly because of my concerns about the waste. I think that a number of community benefits could be put in place by companies such as EDF. They would be of much more significance to the community. Undergrounding or putting cables under the sea might be examples of that. I accept completely that I am not going to be able to stop Hinkley all on my own, but that is my point.
I wish to place on record that both Somerset county council and Sedgemoor district council believe that the consultation was deeply inadequate. There were more than 4,000 responses to the consultation from members of the local community—constituents of mine and of the right hon. Gentleman—which is far more responses than National Grid has received in any past consultation.
Is it not also the case that Steve Holliday, the chief executive of the National Grid, said in June 2009 that putting cables under the sea was a “no brainer”?
Is the Minister also cognisant of the fact that people who have mental health problems when they are very young almost invariably go on to have significant mental health problems later on in life? That is at enormous cost to society and, eventually, to the state through the health services and every other way.
I have so much to say, but I will make just a few points. I want to clarify one or two things and draw the Minister’s attention to a number of issues. Will he explain, for example, the grounds on which the Government feel able to intervene when a local authority does not provide sufficient services for young people? As he probably knows, I represent a rural constituency in Somerset. I have already mentioned the difficulties with transport. There is very little transport after 6 pm and a reducing service before 6 pm. In fact, I have just received a text from my son, saying that he is stranded at school because there is no bus, which is absolutely no good as I am here. The difficulties for young people to move from one community to another are immense. It is almost impossible for them to access services in a town nearby, even if it is only three or four miles away.
The coalition’s stated No.1 social policy goal is to increase social mobility. One of the things that I want us to consider is the difference between targeting youth services, which is probably well intentioned but tends to make us think of young people in silos, and using an open-access provision. One of the advantages of youth clubs and youth services is that they give young people another chance to achieve in a different forum from their school, football club or wherever. They provide young people with another chance to max out on their potential.
If I consider my experience of youth work, I can see that there are people who might have been attracted into low-level crime, slightly antisocial behaviour or something a little more serious. There are young people who are absent from school with illness, who are truanting or who get caught up in alcohol and drug abuse. One of my particular concerns is the increasing number of young people who suffer from some sort of mental health problem that exhibits itself in the form of an eating disorder, self-harm and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide.
I am deeply concerned that young people in my constituency are unable to access child and adolescent mental health services. Just last week, a young person spoke to me about the fact that she had reported how she felt at school. The school was not allowed to give
her any counselling, even though the person to whom she would have spoken is actually involved in the youth service and is trained to give such advice, so she had to be referred to CAMHS, which said that a representative would phone her on a certain day. They did not phone. They then sent her a text message, saying that she had been referred as an emergency, but as she had not been available to take the call—she had removed herself from her class to take that phone call—she was shovelled off the list. They sent her a text message, saying that they assumed that she was no longer a priority case because she had not been there to take the call that had never come.
When young people get to the point that they are actually reporting that they feel dreadful—it often takes them a very long time to get to that point—my sense is that they need help right then. They do not need help in three weeks’ time or in six months’ time; they need help now. My strong sense is that the youth service is often another outlet for young people. There is someone whom they can talk to and trust—not one of their teachers or parents, or a member of the family, but someone who is independent and has specialist knowledge of how to deal with young people. I am concerned that young people in my part of the world do not have access to that expertise, except through the youth service.
The other benefit of the youth service comes from the fact that it is a universal service. Young people have the opportunity to meet people who are different from themselves. That can help to expand their ambitions, expectations and their ability to explore. Certainly, things such as careers advice can come from a trained youth worker who can direct young people to other places, expand their horizons and make the world a much bigger place. That happens in rural Somerset. A young person might not go to university because they cannot anticipate how they will be able to afford to pay their accommodation and living costs in a university town or city. The likelihood is that they might do exactly what their parents, other members of the family, or previous generations have done and not look outside at what they might potentially want to do.
I have been asked to draw the Minister’s attention to the Hughes report of July 2011. Importantly, the whole business of careers help, advice and guidance can be done on a face-to-face basis by those people in the youth services and the youth clubs who may be in a position of authority but who are incredibly accessible to young people. They can give young people a bit of a lift and a shove in the right direction to do something different and to expand their horizons.
I worry that specialist staff in areas such as Somerset feel under threat and are leaving because the services are being withdrawn or significantly reduced. They cannot be re-employed easily. They are well trained and have loads of experience. When the county council invites volunteer groups, such as Church groups or the young farmers’ club, to take on the services in a village, they will not have the ability to employ someone with the expertise of a youth worker because they will be deemed to be expensive, even if it is for one night a week. So I worry that we will lose those skills and that experience in places such as Somerset.
We should look at some of the barriers that young people feel exist when accessing services that are run by certain organisations, including religious organisations.
For some young people, there are some barriers to accessing any sort of service that has a faith heading. I must say that a strong exception to that is a service run by a Church-led organisation in one of the communities in my constituency. The service that is offered is absolutely superb and certainly not overtly religious in nature. There is little connection between the young people who use the service and the Church that runs it. So it is not always the case that there is a difficulty with religious organisations running youth services, but we must be very careful.
In summary, youth services are very important, particularly in rural areas. In places with no school sixth form and where a lot of people’s ambitions are limited by the situation in which they find themselves, I am very keen that we continue to provide youth services. We must always remember that for young people to blossom, we must help them to get past the survival basics and ensure that they have someone good, sound and solid to whom they can talk and with whom they can make friends, so that they can receive advice and help all the way through their youth.
Would the hon. Lady like to comment on the fact that a large number of schools are rural and very small? For example, I have a school in my constituency with 68 children. Surely, in that situation, if two families are not so well off, the school will quickly come to its 15% threshold. The pupil premium is directed precisely at those individual children suffering from deprivation, as opposed to thinking that it was fine to mash them in with everybody else if there were fewer than 15%. It only takes nine or 10 children—a few families with multiple children—for such a school to have a significant number of young people with difficulties, without being over the 15% threshold where something would step in under the old system.
I agree broadly with my hon. Friend, but in my constituency in rural Somerset, one difficulty is acute travel problems. The complete lack of transport services after 6 o’clock in the evening means that only children with parents who have access to a car can access youth services. Not every village has a youth service. I have 172 communities in my constituency, and there are probably youth services in nine or 10. I accept what my hon. Friend says, but it is almost intolerably difficult for young people to access services in rural communities if other services are not in place, and my county council is cutting everything.