Guidance lays down councils’ role in community

Local government has been placed
firmly centre stage in promoting community cohesion in draft guidance aiming to
build on lessons learned from last year’s riots in Burnley, Oldham and Bradford.

The guidance, out for consultation until 14
August, has been published by the Local Government Association, the Home
Office, Commission for Racial Equality, and the  Department of Transport. It urges councils to elect a councillor
and appoint a senior officer to champion cohesion, to involve all key local
agencies from the voluntary, community, private and public sectors, and to make
community cohesion a regular item at cabinet and partnership meetings. The Home
Office has also announced the membership of a community cohesion panel led by
Ted Cantle, author of the Cantle report into last summer’s riots. The panel
will advise ministers and officials on the development of community cohesion
policy across government.

Extra plans for disabled children

The care and education needs of disabled
children up to two years old are the target of new initiatives from the
Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills.

Draft guidance from the DoH puts forward a
package of measures, including early diagnosis, accurate and timely information
for parents, joined up assessments, family-held records and appointing key

Called Together from the Start, it is
intended as a practical guide to encourage multi-agency working in the delivery
of services. Some 3 per cent of children up to the age of two are disabled.

Meanwhile, the DfES has announced a £1m pilot
programme to help disabled children in the same age group. It is designed to
offer both children and their parents practical support, including early
identification and support to help language development.

The DfES has also launched guidance on
developing early intervention and support services, designed to help local
education authorities provide support following very early identification of

– Draft guidance at www.doh.gov.uk  and Developing Early Intervention/Support Services for Deaf
Children and their Families
at www.dfes.gov.uk

portfolio integrated

The ministerial reshuffle following the
resignation of Stephen Byers has brought together responsibilities for social
exclusion and local government in one government department.

Regional and local government and the government’s
cross-cutting agenda for neighbourhood renewal and social inclusion will be
handled by deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Byers’ Department for Transport, Local
Government and the Regions has been broken up to create a separate Department of

At the Home Office, Beverley Hughes has been
promoted to become minister responsible for citizenship, immigration and social
cohesion, while Lord Falconer and Hilary Benn respectively took ministerial and
junior ministerial responsibility for criminal justice issues.

At the Department for Education and Skills
David Miliband, former head of the number 10 policy unit, has taken over from
Stephen Timms as school standards minister.

Survey points the finger

A new survey provides fresh evidence that young
people excluded from school are committing more crime than pupils attending

The Mori survey, commissioned by the Youth
Justice Board, also shows that excluded pupils commit more serious crimes, on
average, than those still in school. It confirms a pattern which has not
changed significantly since 1999, the latest survey showing reported levels of
offending running at 26 per cent for those in school and 64 per cent for those

Most common among the offences committed by
excluded offenders was handling stolen goods (60 per cent), whereas the most
common among offenders in school was fare-dodging (46 per cent). Five per cent
of school offenders and 25 per cent of excluded offenders had committed mobile
phone theft.

More punitive policies have been adopted by the
courts, youth offending teams and the police, according to the report, such as
forcing the perpetrator to apologise to the victim and pay compensation.  

– See www.youth-justiceboard.gov.uk/policy/reference.html

new partnership

Formally launching the  Home Office’s Active Community Unit, home
secretary David Blunkett said that the government would establish a new
partnership with the voluntary sector and communities to promote civil society,
fight crime, and challenge racism. The ACU, whose director Helen Edwards was
formerly chief executive of offender rehabilitation charity Nacro, will be the
route through which voluntary and community groups will be able to engage with
Whitehall departments. Blunkett also released the results of a citizenship
survey showing that four in 10 people in England formally volunteer in their
communities. Details of a £4.5m a year fund allocated to over 100 community
groups in deprived areas were announced.

Government moves on school drug

The government is looking at new measures to
tackle drug dealing near schools. The plans are among a package of proposals to
help schools deal with the growing problem of drug use among children.

Launching the initiative, education minister
Ivan Lewis said: “We have to send out a clear message that drugs, drug takers
and drug dealers have absolutely no place in school as well as ensuring that
young people are fully educated about the effects of their use.”

Among the measures are:

– “Zero tolerance” for those caught supplying
drugs within school gates.

– All new teachers to receive training in drugs
education by September.

– Ofsted to assess standards of drugs education
in schools.

– Practical guidance and a new website for

– A new look at how “shock tactics” can be used
to steer young people away from drugs.

– Alcohol education to be given a higher

urge shift
in drug policy

An influential parliamentary committee has
called for a refocusing of drugs policy on to the 250,000 “problematic users”
whose habits cause most damage to themselves and others.

In its new report, The Government’s Drugs
Policy: Is It Working?
, the House of Commons home affairs select committee
recommends a trial programme of carefully supervised heroin prescription to
addicts and piloting safe injecting rooms.

Committee chairperson Chris Mullin urged the
government to face facts and accept that the large numbers of young people taking
drugs justified a change in policy.

The committee favours:

– Substantial increase in funding for treatment
of heroin addicts, with methadone treatment and complementary therapies
available to all those who need them.

– Better training for GPs in treating substance

– Downgrading of classifications for cannabis
and ecstasy to class C and class B respectively.

– Creation of a new offence of “supply for
gain” to distinguish between social supply and dealing.

“As far as users are concerned, our priorities
should be realistic education, readily available treatment and harm reduction,”
Mullin said.

“Above all, we need to focus on that relatively
small minority of drug users who are making a misery of their own lives and
those of others.

“The criminal law should be reserved primarily
for dealers,” he added.

– For report see www.publications.parliament.uk

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