HC Deb 13 January 1981 vol 996 cc843-4
6. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the present methods of educating the mentally disadvantaged young people between 16 and 19 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the future plans of his Department in this connection.

Mr. Macfarlane

In discharging their responsibilities towards this group of young people authorities use a variety of methods, depending on their particular circumstances and the individual needs and circumstances of the young people. Authorities are generally meeting the demand and should continue to examine ways of increasing the scale and variety of their provision in the light of the recommendations of the Warnock report.

Mr. Wainwright

In spite of what the Minister says, is it not true that thousands of these children throughout the country are not getting the kind of education that they should? Will he bear in mind that parents of children attending the Storm House School at Wath-upon-Dearne have formed a committee because they are concerned that there will be no further education for their children when they reach the age of 16? Will he show compassion? Does not society have a duty towards those children.

Mr. Macfarlane

Our compassion is shown by the reference in the Queen's Speech to the fact that later this year we intend to legislate for special education provision. If the hon. Gentleman knows of cases, he will no doubt write to my Department and inform us of the precise nature of each problem. If he thinks that he can highlight them in his own constituency, it might be found that the situation also applies elsewhere. Each case is investigated by my Department when an hon. Member draws it to our attention. We look closely at each case.

Mr. Foster

Is not the Secretary of State losing a golden opportunity to improve the educational content of the youth opportunities programme?

Mr. Macfarlane

The hon. Gentleman will have to take up this matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. The Manpower Services Commission, which operates the youth opportunities programme, is very much an agency of the Department of Employment. At the same time, I take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said. The legislation that will come about later this year should go some way towards meeting the anxieties.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Under-Secretary take cognisance of the fact that he is living in a hypocritical situation, bearing in mind that organisations like the Spastics Society are in a parlous financial state? Is is not wrong to make provision in terms of the Warnock report when specialised teachers are losing their jobs?

Mr. Macfarlane

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt apprise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland or my right hon. and learned Friend if he feels that he can identify cases. It should be understood that local education authorities have the same duty towards handicapped young people as they have towards all those over compulsory school age and under 19.