HC Deb 02 December 1986 vol 106 cc749-50
1. Mrs. Golding

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to open up educational opportunities to the unemployed.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold

): The development of educational opportunities for unemployed adults in England and Wales is being encouraged by my Department and the Welsh Office through the Replan programme, which began in 1984.

Mrs. Golding

Will the Minister say how many of the 3 million unemployed over 18 years old are receiving any form of education?

Mrs. Rumbold

That is rather a difficult question, but I can certainly undertake to let the hon. Lady have a written reply.

Mr. Squire

Does my hon. Friend agree that many unemployed people are gaining useful knowledge in our adult education colleges, and will she continue to bear them in mind, because the level of funding that they enjoy is but a tiny fraction of the overall education budget?

Mrs. Rumbold

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Although the funding has not been substantial, it has been effective, and the programme undertaken by the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education and the Further Education Unit for Unemployed Adults in colleges of further education has been most successful. It has been providing good opportunities for people to learn about leisure and to receive pre-vocational education to equip them for the future.

Mr. Sheerman

That is a dismal response by the Minster. The potential for educating and training unemployed people is enormous. Could the Minister not talk to the Secretary of State for Employment, Lord Young of Graffham, because it seems that it is possible to have a Government programme that allows training for unemployed people if they come off the dole queue, but very little or no training or education without people's benefits being taken away. We want people to be allowed to have education and training while retaining their benefits. Why can we not have genuine education for unemployed people?

Mrs. Rumbold

There is genuine education under the Replan scheme. The Restart scheme about which the hon. Gentleman spoke is being carried out with some help from us, but the main opportunities that we provide are taken up under the Replan scheme, which is funded not only through NIACE and the Further Education Unit but through the education support grants which local authorities are helping to fund. They are doing excellent work in providing training and vocational training for the unemployed and are giving them opportunities to use their time in leisure and recreation pursuits while they seek new employment.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

In the context of the unemployed, does not the Open University play a good role? Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the extra funding that has been given to that most excellent avenue of opportunity?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend is right. The Open University has undertaken to provide a special project for the unemployed.