HL Deb 13 July 1976 vol 373 cc144-6

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how soon after leaving school do school-leavers qualify for social security benefits, and what has been the cost of social security benefits in the last year in this respect until they find employment.


My Lords, supplementary benefit is payable to an unemployed school-leaver in his own right provided he is aged 16 or over. Unemployment benefit, or sickness benefit, is not payable until the contribution conditions have been satisfied. I regret that it is not possible to estimate the total cost of social security provision for the group referred to in the Question, since a separate record is not kept of the number of claims to benefit made by school-leavers nor of the amounts of benefit paid to them.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply and the trouble he has taken to give me as many details as he can, may I ask him whether Her Majesty's Government have considered the advantages of the apprenticeship system for these school-leavers? It is an old, historical form of further education in which I was involved for a year at Toynbee Hall when I came down from Oxford. It is most beneficial for the young and it might fill a present need when they are obviously having great difficulty in finding employment on leaving school.


My Lords, the supplementary question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, is a little outside the main Question and I am not in a position to give her an answer on this matter. It is an interesting point and I should like to look into it and perhaps communicate with her direct.


My Lords, in answer to the Question, I think the noble Lord said that benefit could not be paid until the contribution conditions are satisfied. Can he explain to the House what he means by that? Anyone in a form of employment is covered by a contribution not only by the employer but also by himself. I presume there is a reason why the noble Lord made that statement in regard to this particular Question.


My Lords, before a person can draw unemployment benefit he or she must have a certain number of stamps on the insurance card. The basis for this is Class I contributions, where one pays contributions if one earns a minimum of £13 and a maximum of £95 and one must have 25 stamps on the card. The assumption as to 25 stamps arises from the earnings being £13 a week. If a young man were able to earn, say, £30 a week, he would get one stamp for every £13 he earns, so it would be possible for him to draw benefit by virtue of having enough stamps on the cards in less than the 25 weeks. I hope that is clear, my Lords.


My Lords, arising out of that reply, is it possible for the noble Lord to give us the number of eligible unemployed school-leavers?


My Lords, on the 11th August of last year there were 158,200 young people registered as unemployed; on the 13th May of this year the number was 37,800.


My Lords, would my noble friend agree that although the supplementary question by the noble Baroness may be a little wide of the mark, it has an important bearing upon the position of these school-leavers and the question of additional training for apprenticeship schemes or something of that sort? Would he also agree to look at it with his other noble friends in order to try to give some information as to how successful are the present schemes in attempting to get more school-leavers trained in apprenticeships or City and Guilds or the national type of develop ment within industry, instead of having them roaming the streets?


My Lords, I will look into the matter. It involves another Department of Government and not the DHSS, but I will inquire into the matter and write to my noble friend.