HC Deb 07 May 1998 vol 311 cc850-1
5. Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre)

If he will make a statement on his proposals to address the needs of care leavers for access to further and higher education. [40037]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Dr. Kim Howells)

We have set out comprehensive plans to widen participation in further and higher education, and care leavers will benefit from those, as well as from our drive to raise standards.

Mr. Dawson

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. Does he agree that the fact that no more than 1 per cent. of young people who leave care go into higher education is a disgrace that should shame us all and make us determined to take action? Will he discuss with ministerial colleagues the importance of amending section 24 of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that local authorities have a duty to provide financial assistance to young people who leave care, up to their 25th birthday?

Dr. Howells

My hon. Friend raises an extremely important subject. The House should know, if it does not already, that 75 per cent. of care leavers have no academic qualifications of any kind, 50 per cent. of young people leaving care after reaching their 16th birthday are unemployed, and no less than 23 per cent. of adult prisoners and 38 per cent. of young prisoners have been in care. Those are extremely shocking figures. We need to examine urgently ways to ensure that education, employment and training are provided much more effectively.

We have set up a social exclusion unit and a national forum, which includes representatives of leading statutory and voluntary agencies, to examine possible initiatives such as the issuing of statutory guidance to authorities and schools, providing better information on and setting targets for educational outcomes, promoting advocacy schemes and focusing the work of careers services more sharply to consider the futures and careers of those very unfortunate young people.

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