HL Deb 15 December 1980 vol 415 cc869-71
Baroness Elliot of Harwood

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 what has been the success rate of young people leaving the Youth Opportunities Programme in subsequently obtaining full-time employment.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (The Earl of Gowrie)

My Lords, I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that information is not available on all young people leaving the Youth Opportunities Programme and obtaining full-time employment. However, the most recent survey, held in September 1980, indicates that 56 per cent. of the young people who had entered the work experience elements of the Youth Opportunities Programme in September and October 1979 went straight into full-time jobs immediately on leaving their scheme and 9 per cent. in addition went into full-time education or training. At the time of the survey, an additional 3 per cent. also joined full-time employment.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for his Answer, I should like to congratulate the Government on this scheme. It seems to me to be an admirable one, and I hope they will not find it necessary to cut it in any way. I am sure that it is an insurance for the future, and I hope the Government will encourage all areas to embark upon the scheme.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am clearly grateful to my noble friend for her remarks. Far from cutting down, as the noble Baroness may be aware, we have very substantially increased our provision for the scheme in this year, in a way that effectively amounts to a new deal for the young unemployed.

Baroness David

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether the figures for those getting jobs are broken up according to the sort of service that they have done in the youth opportunities scheme? I am thinking particularly of whether people who have done community service jobs under the scheme are getting work afterwards and whether ex-offenders are getting jobs.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, without notice, I cannot give the noble Baroness information about offenders. But on the substantive part of her question, the vast majority are getting full-time employment in the areas of employment in which they have received their training.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, would the Minister not be willing to extend the scheme still further?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, we have extended the scheme until it covers an undertaking to every young person, man and woman, in the country. Further than that really does not exist.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Youth Opportunities Programme is really one of the brightest jewels in the present Government's crown? I think it is true to say that it was a ruby jewel in the last Administration and has now become a sapphire in this administration. None the less, it is a jewel of importance. But is he aware of local experiments, such as Project '79, the Norwich Community Services Agency, sponsored by the Norwich diocesan youth service and industrial mission, in which half the youngsters are individually placed in establishments serving the community and half of them are doing the painting and decorating, environmental and carpentery tasks, which really seem to be meeting needs? They are working, as the Minister may be aware, under supervisors who themselves have been unemployed until this project. Will the Minister consider monitoring some of these highly successful small groups, which, by coincidence, I was visiting in my own diocese last week? Also, will the Minister look at the fact that whereas other grants and benefits and pensions may well be at the point of increase, the modest present grant of £23.50 a week to each project worker is, I believe, not being increased? Can the Minister look into that and perhaps make a comment on it; and would he also like to know that these results are encouraging us in East Anglia?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am grateful for this blessing of the schemes that we have been extending and preparing. On the subject of the grant, I recognise that the freezing of the grant at pre-existing levels is a blow to some young people. I would only add that we have succeeded so greatly, as my earlier answers indicated, in extending the scheme that we felt that was a necessary sacrifice which had to be made. Also our schemes of this kind are directed particularly at 16 and 17 year-olds, where it is not such an unreasonable level of provision. Otherwise, I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his remarks.

Lord Alexander of Potterhill

My Lords, having regard to the fact that we lag so seriously behind almost every other European country in this respect, will the noble Lord the Minister tell the House whether Her Majesty's Government propose to undertake a serious examination of the problem of the education and training of the 16 to 19 age groups, and if so when?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, we undertook such an examination about the transition from school to work in this country at the moment of coming into office, and some of the results of that examination will shortly be available. We are, as the debate in your Lordships' House last week in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, will indicate, also asking the MSC to look at the whole range of training provision in this country; and we hope that that review will be ready in the summer.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, will my noble friend assure the House that, whereas the MSC must take a very leading and important part, there is also a very vital part to be played by the voluntary organisations? Can he perhaps tell us what proportion of the 440,000 young people, which is the target for the programme, might be made up from voluntary organisations such as that mentioned earlier by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, as I said to the House in that same debate last week, providing the money for these schemes is only half the battle. One has also to find the sponsors, the employers and voluntary organisations ready and prepared to do their bit. I cannot break down the exact proportion for my noble friend, but I can say that the MSC is confident that it will be able to find the sponsorship to meet this very ambitious target; and that will, of course, involve the voluntary organisations very heavily.

Lord Sandford

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on these results, and ask my noble friend whether he is aware that Task Force, one of these voluntary organisations, of which I happen to be chairman, has in the past achieved even better results in managing to place about 70 per cent. of the young people in permanent employment before they have ended their time on the special programme? Is he also aware that, if these programmes are to be increased—and it is welcome news that they are—and at the same time job vacancies continue to fall, it will be extremely difficult to improve on these achievements and it is more than likely that they will fall in percentage terms? Has the noble Earl any particular measures in mind to meet this situation?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, obviously the levels of youth employment will depend very strongly on the overall improvement in the economy. What we are doing is to provide a transition period of work experience with a stronger training element for those who on leaving school are particularly caught by the present recession. We are covering two years in these provisions, and we would hope for a pretty substantive overall improvement in the economic situation by the end of 1982.

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Soames)

My Lords, I think perhaps we should move on to the next Question.

Back to