HC Deb 14 March 1978 vol 946 cc212-3
14. Mr. Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has to extend provisions for the 16-to-19-year age group during the current period of high unemployment.

Mr. Oakes

There is a strong education service involvement in both the work preparation and the work experience elements of the youth opportunities programme. The education service will be represented on the 28 area boards which will run the programme under the Manpower Services Commission's general direction and on the national Special Programmes Board. My right hon. Friend issued a statement on 28th February welcoming the programme.

Mr. Thorne

Is my hon. Friend persuading the Secretary of State to put up a fight in the Cabinet to apply more resources to education so that we can provide the courses and pay the 16-to-19 age group, whereby giving them the opportunity which they need rather than their having to draw unemployment benefit?

Mr. Oakes

The programme itself provides 9,000 additional places at an additional cost of £9.9 million in a full year. In conjunction With the Department of Health and Social Security, there is the provision of the 21 hours per week scheme whereby an unemployed youngster who is available for work can receive education up to 21 hours a week.

Mr. Haselhurst

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it will not be possible to produce a sensible plan to deal with the 16-to-19 year olds in an atmosphere of mounting unemployment until there is concerted action between the Department of Education and the Department of Employment?

Mr. Oakes

We liaise closely with the Department of Employment on these matters. As my right hon. Friend told the House earlier, we are looking into all educational maintenance grants. However, as she reminded us, it is an enormously costly business.