HC Deb 14 January 1999 vol 323 cc423-4
1. Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)

How many young unemployed people are taking part in the new deal in Birmingham and the west midlands. [64036]

The Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities (Mr. Andrew Smith)

At the end of November, there were just over 10,800 young people taking part in the new deal in the west midlands, 3,000 of them in the Birmingham area.

Mr. Corbett

Those young Brummies who have helped to make the dole queue the shortest for 19 years are delighted with the extra opportunities for training and jobs that the new deal is providing, and they do not understand why the Conservative party would deny them those opportunities. What further steps can the Minister take to assist people with disabilities to make maximum use of what the new deal has to offer?

Mr. Smith

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks about the new deal and its benefits for the young people of the west midlands and the rest of the country. A total of 52,500 young unemployed people are now in jobs thanks to the new deal, and of those, 5,500 are young people with disabilities. That is a great tribute to the work being done by all the partners in the new deal and our disability employment advisers. That help is in addition to the extra measures being taken through the new deal for disabled people.

The new deal is working for young people who are disabled and for the rest of unemployed young people in this country who, as my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, would have been denied those opportunities by the Conservative party.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

What proportion of those entering the scheme leave for other benefits or disappear from the scheme altogether?

Madam Speaker

Order. I remind questioners and the Minister that this is a limited question and it relates to the west midlands.

Mr. Smith

In the west midlands, as elsewhere, the number of those whose destination is unknown having benefited from the new deal is significantly lower than it was under the jobseeker's allowance regime introduced by the Conservative party. When we look at the cohorts of young people passing through the new deal, the number whose destination is unknown is as low as 12 per cent.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

I wonder whether Birmingham and the west midlands are experiencing the problem that exists in my constituency, which is that, although the new deal is working successfully, some young people face multiple obstacles to employment. They are people who were previously referred to as being unemployable. They may have had drugs problems, they may be alienated or have been involved in petty crime. We are finding that, for such people, the gateway period is not long enough to prepare them for work. Even if they take up an option—

Madam Speaker

Order. I must be firm about questions. This is Question Time and the hon. Gentleman must not set the scene in his own constituency. If he wants to do that, he can put a question on the Order Paper. Will he come to his question for the Minister in relation to the west midlands?

Mr. Blizzard

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Will the Minister consider extending the gateway period or offering more support for young people in Birmingham and the west midlands who are finding it difficult to succeed properly in the new deal?

Mr. Smith

It is important to stress that the most disadvantaged young people, including those who have had drug problems, ex-offenders and those with severe literacy and numeracy difficulties, are getting jobs through the new deal. They are being given the help that they need in the gateway period. Of course, although the new deal is working well, it can always be improved. We have a continuous improvement strategy under way and that includes a more intensive use of the gateway services such as that urged by my hon. Friend.

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