HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 cc1174-5
7. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek powers to make grants available to unemployed young people who wish to study at colleges of education while unemployed, and who are thereby denied any unemployment benefit they may have been receiving.

Mr. Dean

No, Sir. So far as social security is concerned, I do not think it would be right to make such payments regardless of the person's availability for work.

Mr. Cox

Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware of what a problem this is throughout the country. One shudders to think what the figure is now, but last January over 20,000 young people had been unemployed for more than three months. Is it not the duty of the Government, if they cannot give employment to young people, to give them the opportunity of doing something constructive? As a result of measures operated by his Department, however, the young people are, discouraged from doing so. The hon. Gentleman should give this matter far more consideration than he so far appears to have given it.

Mr. Dean

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said. If anyone undergoing a course can show that he is available for work and can take employment if employment is offered, his taking the course is not in itself a bar to the receipt of unemployment benefit. If the hon. Gentleman is talking about courses at training colleges, where there are grants available, that is a different matter.

Mr. O'Malley

At a time when large numbers of young people are unemployed and are likely to remain so as a result of deliberate Government policy, would it not be sensible to allow these young people to obtain skills for future employment so that they have a better chance of getting a job? Is it not the case that at least a number of young people—indeed, unemployed people generally—cannot get jobs because they have not the necessary skills? Cannot he do something about this?

Mr. Dean

If a young person who, because he is unemployed, takes up a course can show that he is still available for employment should employment be offered, he is not debarred from unemployment benefit. If any hon. Member has a particular case in which he feels that this system is not working properly, I will look at it.