HC Deb 19 December 1988 vol 144 cc1-3
1. Mr. Macdonald

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make it his policy to give income support to 16 to 18-year-olds for whom the Government have not found a YTS place.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

No, Sir.

Mr. Macdonald

Has the Minister considered the case of my constituent, Mr. Calum Morrison, the details of which I sent to him on Friday? My constituent will be leaving school at Christmas and will have to wait seven months before an appropriate YTS place becomes available. Does the Minister appreciate that there are a number of young people in my constituency in exactly the same circumstances? Will he therefore agree to restore eligibility for income support to youngsters who are willing to work and train, but for whom no work and training is available? Does he agree with Prince Edward that the denial of income support in those circumstances is a blow that could wreck a young man's life?

Mr. Scott

The facts are slightly different from those presented by the hon. Gentleman. The young man concerned was offered a similar training scheme with the construction industry training board to start in January. However, it was located in Inverness and, for his own reasons, he decided that he would prefer to wait for a local course. It remains an option for the young man to remain in school until the end of the academic year. There are two schools which could offer him full courses during that time and he could then move straight on to his youth training scheme.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not stop the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) at the time, but I remind him that we do not use the names of members of the royal family to support our arguments.

Mr. McCrindle

Although I generally endorse the Government's policy of weaning young people away from state benefits, does my hon. Friend recognise that a place has not yet been found on a YTS for some 16 to 18-year-olds who are both unemployed and homeless? Will he tell me whether consideration is being given to flexibility in the operation of that rule? Is this not an ideal example of targeting benefits where the need is greatest?

Mr. Scott

First, the number of places available exceeds the number of people wishing to take them up in every region of the country. Secondly, vulnerable groups are of course able to receive income support and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State retains a power to pay that benefit where, otherwise, exceptional hardship might be caused.

Ms. Mowlam

The Minister has just said that there is an excess of places in specific regions. Statistically, that may be the case, but is he aware that the difficulties of a youngster in travelling from Redcar to Hartlepool, and the costs incurred, are similar to those faced by the youngster in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) in travelling from the Western Isles to Inverness? It is ludicrous for the Minister to suggest that young people can make such journeys without any financial assistance.

Mr. Scott

Unless the young person is particularly vulnerable and falls within those groups, or is likely to suffer exceptional hardship, I take the view that it is better for him to obtain a YTS place, even if that involves some travel, rather than start life on benefit.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) has implied that there are young people who cannot get youth training schemes and therefore they cannot get other benefits. They may be required to live on their own. They therefore have no income support. Will my hon. Friend make it clear that any young person can, if he so wishes, get a youth training scheme and, if he does so, will then qualify for the other benefit?

Mr. Scott

I confirm exactly what my hon. Friend has said.