HL Deb 06 July 1992 vol 538 cc983-6

3.7 p.m.

Lord Newall asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether interim funding arrangements for London Youth Service headquarters organisations can be extended for a further period.

The Minister of State, Department of Education (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, the present scheme of interim funding is due to end in March 1993 and there is no commitment to extend it. Nevertheless, the Government have indicated that they are willing to consider an extension, on a reduced and tapering basis, in partnership with the London Boroughs Grants Unit.

Lord Newall

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which is somewhat satisfactory. Is she aware that some of the 30 headquarters organisations will have to close if more money is not made available? Does she agree that that would bring about the closure of more clubs and would have the detrimental effect of putting more young people on the streets?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I understand the uncertainty being experienced by those organisations. However, it has to be said that when the interim arrangement was set up it was intended that it should be finite. It was understood that it would end in 1993. The discussions taking place at the moment and the work being done by the grants unit relate to permanent arrangements for funding into the future. The possibility of the department entering into a partnership with them is also being considered.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I am chairman of the Attlee Foundation which provides a playground in the East End of London for able bodied and disabled young people? The help given by the London Youth Service is most excellent. Not only the Attlee Foundation but other clubs receive that help. Will the Government make certain of as much money as possible being permanently available for this organisation?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the Government have set in place post-ILEA an arrangement to tide over all those organisations and support the excellent work that they do, as the noble Lord said. It is important that the funding arrangement for the future is put on a more firm footing. It will be for the London boroughs to decide, either as individual boroughs or in concert with the London Boroughs Grants Unit, how that arrangement should go forward.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the Minister prepared to accept that these youth organisations, like many others, have suffered dramatically from the increase in youth unemployment as well as other effects of the recession? Can she give an assurance that their situation will not be allowed to deteriorate and that acknowledgment will be made of the very useful work that they have so successfully undertaken?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point. There is certainly a great deal going on and it is an uncertain time for young people. A great deal is being done to support these organisations. In addition to the grants which are the subject of this Question, my department also funds the National Voluntary Youth Organisations as an umbrella organisation to support the voluntary sector. We also support the Regional Youth Work Unit which offers support to young people.

The Earl of Stockton

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her original Answer. I am concerned at the speed of the wind-down of funding in the future. As chairman of a training and enterprise council for central London, I am aware of the important role played by those clubs in preparing young people who then become the responsibility of the training and enterprise councils in the youth training scheme. Will she reconsider and extend the funding beyond the date originally specified?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, in response to my noble friend, a draft report is being prepared. It will be presented to Ministers very soon and we shall give it serious consideration.

Baroness David

My Lords, the Minister has stated that there will be more funding from the DES. However, it will not be as much as it has been over the past three years. Crime is high in London, particularly involving the 15 to 25 age group. Is it not vitally important to spend money sensibly on the youth service and to help the voluntary organisations?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, first, the Department of Education and Science is no more. We are now the Department for Education. Secondly, the subject that the noble Baroness raises is very much a matter for the London boroughs and for the grants unit to consider. I have given no commitment during the course of the Question to extra funding beyond 1993. I have said that there is a draft report. I understand that it will come to Ministers shortly: we shall give it serious consideration.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, does the Minister agree that there are serious problems associated with the leisure activities of young people. Joy riding is not due entirely to a lack of leisure activities. Does my noble friend not agree, however, that clubs which provide good outside leisure activities, counselling and friendship go a long way towards dealing with juvenile crime, delinquency and joy riding, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, said.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I do not disagree with some of what my noble friend said. However, I believe that if we get the dimensions of education right—in addition to academic I refer to spiritual, moral, cultural and social dimensions—young people may be able to fall back on their own resources to make their recreation and become more fulfilled.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, that will not help the present 16 to 18 year-olds with whom such clubs are concerned. They have already left school. However much the schools improve, those young people have missed such improvements. Does the noble Baroness agree that they need the attention of the Government now?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness. That is absolutely true. That is why we have supported those organisations post-ILEA for the past two years and the coming year. That is why we shall give serious consideration to the draft report which is about to come to us.

Lord Elton

My Lords, does my noble friend recognise that the Question illustrates a difficulty in Greater London and reflects the same difficulty nationally, which is heightened by the recession? While charitable funds and trusts willingly support bodies which are funded from other sources for their core activities, money from such sources is not available for core funding those nationally needed bodies. The Government should look again at a policy which is slowly turning off the tap and strangling a small but valuable golden goose.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, my noble friend refers to the rest of the country. Of course, the rest of the country's youth movements are funded through local authorities. It is money from the Government to local authorities that is used predominantly there. After the abolition of ILEA the Government stepped in with an interim arrangement. We are now asking the London boroughs through the grants unit to come together and to take on the responsibility for determining priorities for youth in London.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, is the Minister aware that London boroughs and the London Boroughs Grants Unit are under enormous pressure? There are special problems in London. Is she aware that the consequence of the Government's proposed policy will be that many voluntary organisations, which London boroughs will not be able to support since they will barely be able to maintain their own activities, will collapse through lack of funding? The result will surely be more juvenile crime and more problems for young people.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the London boroughs are free to make their own determinations and to spend their money in a way which they determine at local level. On priorities for youth in London, such spending will be a matter for London boroughs just as it is for local authorities in the country. Some local authorities determine their priorities and make a better job of it than others.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the issue is very special? There was centralised funding in London. It is now intended, I believe rightly, that it should go to the boroughs. It is an important matter. For instance, the Association of London Youth Clubs is likely to have to close. In such an important matter, do not the Government, in the last resort, have a national responsibility, whether it is exercised through local authorities or centrally?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, of the group of bodies that are funded, some will be specifically in London, some will be London boroughs and some will have a national connotation. We are not talking only about funding going back to individual boroughs but the London boroughs themselves together with a central grants unit considering funding. I have stated repeatedly in answer to the Question that there is a draft report. My department will consider it seriously when it is presented to us.

Earl Russell

My Lords, if the noble Baroness states that these are matters for local authorities, will she ask her right honourable friends to adjust standard spending assessments to make it easier for those responsibilities to be discharged?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, standard spending assessments are adjusted to the needs of individual authorities. They include the needs of young people.