§ Mr. Corbett
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for the Glenthorne Youth Treatment Centre; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Hutton
The Glenthorne Youth Treatment Centre in Birmingham has made an important and valued contribution to the treatment and care of some of the most difficult and disturbed young people with whom the child care system has had to deal, and has been influential in the lives of many young people.
When the Centre opened in 1978, except for St. Charles the other Youth Treatment Centre in Essex, which has since closed, there were no comparable facilities for accommodating and treating such difficult and disturbed young people. Since then, however, local authorities have developed their own secure accommodation and have become skilled and experienced in dealing with many young people needing secure care. The Department of Health has undertaken a major building and refurbishment programme in recent years to strengthen the range and geographical spread of local authority accommodation by providing an additional 170 places for young people. There will be funding in the coming year to continue this programme of upgrading and refurbishment.
From April 2000, the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales will become responsible for commissioning and purchasing places in the secure juvenile estate for remanded and sentenced young people. The Board has decided that it does not wish to use the Glenthorne Centre for this purpose. As up to half the young people accommodated in the Centre at any one time are placed there by the Prison Service it would be extremely difficult to continue to run the Centre as a viable unit without these placements. There are also good child care practice issues to be considered. Because of the growth in experience and provision in the wider child care field, these young people can now be cared for in a number of appropriate locations and need not be labelled as "the worst in the country" by virtue of being placed in only one facility. For these reasons, I therefore intend to consult the staff and their representatives about the future of the unit, including its possible closure. The consultation period will last three months, at the end of which I will make my final decision on the future of the Centre.