HC Deb 21 June 1990 vol 174 cc1105-6
9. Mr. Ron Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he next intends to meet representatives of the Northern Ireland Association of Community Workshops to discuss provision of community workshops.

Mr. Needham

I shall meet representatives of the community workshop network at a conference in mid-October.

Mr. Davies

Is the Minister aware that there is growing concern among community workshop managers that the Government foresee a diminishing role for them in the provision of youth training? Does the Minister agree that there is an increasing need for a more varied and higher-quality provision of youth training? When he next meets representatives of the association, will he take the opportunity to give them a categorical assurance of his commitment to them, and of their positive role in providing training?

Mr. Needham

I do not have to wait to meet the association; I can give the hon. Gentleman and the community workshop managers that assurance now. Community workshops in Northern Ireland do a very good job, but they have been expensive providers. They have not provided some of the qualifications that we would have looked for in training throughout Northern Ireland and some workshops are more expensive than others. We are looking for value for money, and increased, wider training. To that end, we shall support the workshops in evey way possible. I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker

I refer to the corporate plan, as proposed by the Minister in the new document. Will he please let us know where the community workshops figure in that plan and whether it will be open for discussion with the community workshops involved?

Mr. Needham

Anything that we do with community workshops will be open to discussion. They provide training for a little over 2,000 people out of a total of 9,000 on the youth training programme. The key factor is to make certain that when youngsters leave, they have the skills and qualifications that will lead to employment, and we are working together to ensure that community workshops throughout Northern Ireland provide them as effectively and professionally as possible.

Mr. Jim Marshall

The Minister must be aware that morale among community workshop managers is low at the moment, and that there is increasing concern about the application of the new block funding scheme. Will he give an undertaking that, if it becomes apparent during this financial year that the new financial scheme is acting to the disadvantage of community workshops, he will review the scheme at the end of the financial year?

Mr. Needham

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's understanding of the workshops and his intervention, but I have to say to him that I do not accept that the morale of managers is as he says it is. Nor do I accept that the vast majority of them are not playing the best part that they can to work the new scheme, which will lead to increasing qualifications and skills, and therefore to increased employment. Of course, we shall consider with the managers the level of support that we are giving them, but they will have to ensure that they get as many of their youngsters as possible out into the private sector to be trained and thus earning fees for themselves. That will increase the amount of experience gained by young people, which they need to get jobs.