HC Deb 24 April 1996 vol 276 cc434-6
14. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proposals she has to improve job training for those with special needs. [25092]

Mr. Paice

The Government continue to provide a wide range of job training for people with special needs. They will benefit from proposals for national traineeships and new entry arrangements for young people—and from the pre-vocational and basic skills pilots in the training for work programme.

Mr. French

Will my hon. Friend accept an invitation to visit Bridge Training in Gloucester? Is he aware that, if he does so, he will find an organisation deeply dedicated to the training of special needs, with experience and understanding developed over many years, which is increasingly asked to enter into contracts that do not fully meet the requirements of special needs applicants—that is, contracts that do not take account of the fact that special needs requirements take longer to fulfil and people with special needs take longer to reach a position from which they can enter employment than others? While I recognise that the training budget is adequate overall, will my hon. Friend try to ensure that organisations such as Bridge are not put in the position of having either to cut their training programme or to operate at a loss?

Mr. Paice

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for ensuring that I was not left out of the battery of invitations that have been issued around the House this afternoon. I shall of course consider his kind offer.

I am sure that the House is aware that training contracts are a matter for individual training and enterprise councils to negotiate with training providers. As a result of the lessons that we have learnt, we have provided much greater flexibility for TECs in contracts covering special needs. We have increased the weighting in terms of payments for trainees with special needs in order to try to recognise that there are clear cost differences when dealing with special needs trainees and those who do not have such needs.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Does the Minister acknowledge that training opportunities designed specifically for deaf people have been cut drastically? While we wish the greatest number of people to enjoy training opportunities in mainstream provision, a significant number of deaf people are unable to do so. What more will the Minister do for them?

Mr. Paice

I have received no representations on the specific issue of deaf people. I am aware that there are special requirements for people with a number of different disabilities and special needs and that we must be precise about our language. That is why we have made further changes to our programmes, including ring-fencing a large number of TECs this year to ensure that they devote the resources that we are making available to them to trainees with special needs. They must identify those needs in their areas and then ensure that there are sufficient contracts available to meet those needs.