HC Deb 02 November 1989 vol 159 cc459-60
10. Ms. Armstrong

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what has been the impact of the Social Security Order (1989) on the long-term unemployed.

Mr. Needham

It is too early to assess the impact.

Ms. Armstrong

I am sure that the Minister will know that the result of similar legislation in England has been difficult times and increased debt for the long-term unemployed. What will he do to ensure that the long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland do not suffer in a similar way?

Mr. Needham

What we are trying to do for the long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland is find jobs for them. There are three legs to the stool of our proposals. I consider it entirely right for us to suggest that people may have to change their aspirations to find work. We all agree, however, that long-term unemployment inevitably leads to disillusionment and demoralisation, and that it is important to ensure that people move as quickly as they can to be assessed and to go on to the job training programme, Restart or ACE—action for community employment. I believe that those measures form a worthwhile part of our package.

Mr. Colvin

How many of the long-term unemployed have been provided with work building the security fence around Short Brothers? Is my hon. Friend happy that the fence will provide the security that the company requires, following the break-ins earlier in the year?

Mr. Needham

I have no idea how many are thus employed, but I am certain that security outside is crucial to secure jobs inside.

Mr. Beggs

Does the Minister agree that the social security system should be in place to support families when the head of household is prepared to take low-paid employment? Will he undertake to review the regulations that deny benefit to a person who takes a low-paid and initially temporary post because those regulations currently require the post to be permanent for a family to continue to receive income support?

Mr. Needham

Family credit is a great help to the heads of families in such circumstances. Clearly, a temporary job must be treated in a way that goes along with the existing rules.

Rev. William McCrea

Will the Minister tell the House whether it is true that the Government are considering the reintroduction of the old unemployment relief scheme to help the long-term unemployed in the Province?

Mr. Needham

No, Sir.

Ms. Mowlam

The Minister has just told us that it is too early for him to assess the impact of the Social Security Order (1989). May I tell him that it is not too early for the long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland? They are already feeling the impact.

What measures will his Department use to assess the impact of the order? Surely he can let us know this afternoon how much money has been expended on loans since its introduction, compared with the amount spent on single payments before it was introduced.

Mr. Needham

As the hon. Lady is well aware, the order deals with effects on the long-term unemployed. The reason why it is too early to assess its impact is that we have no knowledge of it at present. Let me repeat, however, that it is vital that the unemployed get back into Restart, ACE or some other form of training. The order offers them a spur, which is crucial to stop the demoralisation that long-term unemployment brings.