HC Deb 02 November 1989 vol 159 cc455-6
5. Mr. Beggs

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the future of community workshops in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Needham

New arrangements for the funding and delivery of the youth training programme are being introduced in the year commencing April 1990 which are designed to enhance the quality of training and the cost-effectiveness of the programme. Community workshops will be included within the programme, provided that they meet the standards and criteria for which the arrangements provide.

Mr. Beggs

Will the Minister acknowledge the excellence of training provided in many workshops in Northern Ireland? Will he accept that that training has helped many young people to gain qualifications and, ultimately, employment? Will he acknowledge that considerable alarm is felt by those who manage the workshops as a result of the haste with which the changes in block funding are being introduced? I appeal to the Minister to consider deferring for one year the implementation of his Department's proposals on block funding to enable his officials to do their homework properly and to enable those who manage the workshops to plan and arrange for a successful transition.

Mr. Needham

I acknowledge that many of the workshops have done good work in training young people in Northern Ireland. It is because we want to ensure that that quality is provided in all workshops that we have introduced the proposals. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have appointed management consultants to help the workshops and the providers of training through this period and I am perfectly happy to talk to those involved in the workshops about the proposals. Nevertheless, it is important that we introduce into the workshops a system puts more emphasis on qualifications, that we incorporate a bigger competitive element than we have at present and, most importantly, that we achieve greater involvement of employers. I do not want to go back on the time scale that I have set, but I am, of course, happy to talk to the providers.

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