HL Deb 12 December 1991 vol 533 cc872-4

3.26 p.m.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their reasons for believing that a youth training place is guaranteed to every 16 and 17 year-old who registers for one.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Viscount Ullswater)

My Lords, the Government are fully committed to the YT guarantee. It is top priority for the Training and Enterprise Councils. It is the job of the TECs, supported by local careers service, to find the placements needed among the business community. TECs will have the resources they need, and all the help which Government can provide in other ways will be at their disposal.

Earl Russell

My Lords, with respect, my Question was what are the Government's reasons for believing that their guarantee is effective? The Minister has not given me any reasons. May I take it that he does not have any?

Viscount Ullswater

No, my Lords. That would be an entirely wrong assumption. If anyone thinks that a programme which is delivering more than 270,000 training places in England and Wales at the moment is not the delivery of a guarantee, I should like to know what is.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, is the Minister aware that according to recent figures, the number of young people claiming and receiving bridging allowances has gone up considerably in the past year? For example, in the South-East the increase has been of the order of 129 per cent., and in the Midlands 50 per cent. over the same period for the previous year. That is an indication that these young people are not getting places because that is what the bridging allowance is for. The allowance is only payable for eight weeks. What happens to those young people after eight weeks?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, of course we accept that it is clear that there are certain times—and this is one of them—when it may be difficult to accommodate everybody who wants a YT place. However, in recent months we have been in close touch with each TEC about the position in its area, and we have always said that no TEC would be prevented by lack of resources from meeting the guarantee. The noble Baroness draws attention to the bridging allowance. She says, quite rightly, it is only for a limited space of time. Any individual who experiences undue difficulty in securing a YT place, should immediately contact their local TEC. That is required by contract to investigate the circumstances as a matter of top priority.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the places are there? The trouble is that a number of young people drop out because the training offered is not the training they want. A boy who wants to be a bricklayer came to see me the other day. He had been told that he could only be a plasterer. I think the reason why a number of young people drop out is because there is no course that they particularly want.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, there is a certain amount of mis-match. That is inevitable in such a huge programme. Whereas all efforts are made to provide the programmes that young people want, it is inevitable that on occasions there will not be the opportunities for them to take on the courses that they want. That accentuates the fact that there may be a waiting list for those who decide to wait for a place to become bricklayer if they are only offered a place as a plasterer at the moment.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in my own county there are plenty of opportunities and places for 16 and 17 year-olds who want placement? Can the Minister say what pressure is being brought to bear on the 5 per cent. of youngsters who are reluctant to apply for a place?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, it is a voluntary programme. We very much encourage young people to take on YT training because that will give them a qualification which they may well need before entering into a job. Entry into jobs through YT is one of its great successes.

Lord Parry

My Lords, does the Minister accept this? It would balance the books a little if we were also to inquire about all those young people who would dearly like to take up TEC place and who find themselves under such pressure because of the huge unemployment in areas such as my own in West Wales that they have to leave their home district and cannot take advantage of programmes anywhere?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the noble Lord would appear to indicate that there are no options available to young people.

Lord Parry

Exactly, my Lords.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the option he does not include is they could remain at school and learn further from school before they try to enter the world of work.

Lord Parry

My Lords, I will not enter into debate with the noble Viscount except to say that if a young person's family does not support him, then the pressures on him are absolute and he has no option but to leave school and go elsewhere to try and find support.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the family is supported by child benefit and therefore there is no requirement for him to leave home.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, does the noble Viscount agree that TECs are increasingly reporting difficulty in finding placements for young people because employers are not taking them on? Several large companies have withdrawn from the TEC schemes. Can the Minister say what is going to happen to young people who cannot, however willing, find a placement and find themselves with no money?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the Government stand behind their guarantee that they will make certain that all young people who register and wish to take up a place will be offered a place. Certainly we understand that there are problems in finding a number of places in each TEC area or in a number of TEC areas. My noble friend has indicated that there is no problem in Cleveland. We look at each TEC area very carefully with the department to make certain that all the options are canvassed in order to secure the places for these young people.

Forward to