HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc414-5
13. Dr. Godman

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to meet the chairmen of the local enterprise companies in order to discuss the number of people suffering from mental handicaps who require training places and the number of employment training places available to such people in 1991–92.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Discussions with the chairmen of local enterprise companies about operational issues of the kind to which the hon. Gentleman refers are matters for Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. I am satisfied that the training resources available to Scottish Enterprise and the local enterprise companies are sufficient to cater for the employment training aim and guarantee groups. Those groups include mentally handicapped people.

Dr. Godman

Is there not one Scottish Office Minister or official with an abiding commitment to the needs of those fellow citizens who suffer from mental handicap of one kind or another? Surely the local enterprise companies should be told by the Minister and his officials that they have a responsibility to such citizens. Would it not be an honourable course of action for the LECs to ensure that two or three of every 10 training places go to people with mental handicaps? Why should such people always be at the end of the queue for training and employment?

Mr. Stewart

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern, but he is not up to date with the position. Last year employment training starts for people with disabilities, including the mentally handicapped, represented 6.2 per cent. of the total. This year from 1 April for the first time the disabled, including the mentally handicapped, will be part of the aim group for employment training, which effectively ensures them places in employment training. Indeed, we have relaxed the normal unemployment eligibility requirement. In effect, therefore, eligibility will depend on an individual's fitness for employment once trained and not on resources.

Mr. Worthington

Given the Minister's assurances, why are 500 handicapped people who previously received a service from the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped no longer receiving that service after the employment training changes? Why has the Scottish Association for Mental Health had a cut of 140 places, and why are four or five centres to close? If there is genuinely a guarantee to the aim and guarantee group, which includes the handicapped, why has Lothian Enterprise given an instruction to all training managers that no more handicapped people or others in that group are to be taken on until further notice?

Mr. Stewart

May I reassure the hon. Gentleman completely that the mentally handicapped are part of the disabled category and part of the aim group? Therefore, their eligibility depends on fitness for employment once trained and not on resources. However, I should say that the purpose of employment training is to provide training directly; it is not to provide rehabilitation, which is a social work function. As to the Scottish Association for Mental Health, I launched Tayside Enterprise earlier this week. I asked about places for the SAMH and was told that it had contracted for 2,024 training weeks in 1991 and that the figure for 1991–92 is 2,600 weeks. That is not a cut—it is an increase.

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