HL Deb 20 April 1993 vol 544 cc1366-8

2.47 p.m.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to improve the records for the youth training service.

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

My Lords, the Employment Department keeps under constant review the records required to administer youth training. If practical improvements are identified then they are introduced.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply which I heard with pleasure. Does he recall saying in a number of answers that the information was not available? In the light of those answers, may I ask him what records the Department of Employment possesses on youth training? How are they compiled, and by whom; and what types of information are discoverable from them?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the answer to the noble Earl's first question is yes. The answer to his next question is as follows. We collect a wide range of information on youth training and the characteristics of those in training. In deciding what information should be collected a balance has to be struck between ensuring that we get what is necessary for the management of YT and accountability to Parliament alongside the need to ensure that an unnecessary administrative burden is not placed on employers and training providers.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, did the noble Viscount hear Bill Jordan, of the engineering workers' union, say on the radio yesterday that the slight recovery in manufacturing industry was already being characterised by our running out of skilled labour, a situation which many of us forecast would come about? Does the Minister agree that much greater attention to skills training at all levels, but particularly for 16 to 18 year-olds, and full information about what is going on become urgently necessary if the recovery is real, as we all hope it is?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said. I did not hear the words of Bill Jordan that she mentioned. What this indicates is the great need for youngsters to apply themselves to youth training. After all, they have the opportunity, if they do not wish to remain at school, to take up youth training. Youth training is now becoming one of the acknowledged forms of entrance to some sectors of the workforce.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what information is collected about young people who are unemployed and for whom a youth training place is not yet available? What steps are taken to ensure that they are properly looked after? What arrangements are made in relation to special hardship allowances to cover the situation where they have no income at all? What information is available on this group of people?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the Government believe it wrong in principle for school-leavers to be offered benefit-supported unemployment as an option. Therefore, as I said in the first instance, we would encourage all those people to offer themselves for a place on youth training. We have set TECs the target of ensuring that no young person guaranteed a place on YT has to wait more than eight weeks.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I would like to ask my noble friend the Minister about statistics. I believe that in March 1993 statistics showed that there were 5,500 young people in youth training. Barnardo's has just produced a report called Youth Aid which shows those figures to be grossly wrong. I understand that the real difficulty lies in the fact that there are a certain number of youths who are not eligible to claim benefit. Is my noble friend aware that those are not shown in the statistics?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the figures are these. In March there were fewer than 5,500 young people in England who had been waiting for more than eight weeks for a place on youth training. That figure is considerably lower than the one for February. Only 3,300 young people had not previously had the offer of a place. My noble friend quotes from a report from the organisation Coalition on Young People and Social Security, which I believe to be very confused and misleading. The report is highly selective in the figures it uses. The figures include many who are in full-time education. The figures which I have given to my noble friend are the right ones; those quoted in the report are grossly misleading.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, can the Minister say what is the average, as opposed to the intended, duration of the length of a YT placement? Can he also say how many young people close to the age of 18 years have been refused a place?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, those who are subject to the guarantee—those between the ages of 16 and 18—are guaranteed a place on youth training. That does not mean that when one course finishes one is not entitled to join another. I can understand that people who leave youth training towards their 18th birthday want to put themselves on to the labour market when they have gained a qualification. They may not want to go into further youth training.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, can the Minister say how many young people are on youth training schemes and what percentage of them gain a recognisable qualification at the end of their term?

Viscount Ullswater

Yes, my Lords. At the end of January 1993, around 300,000 were currently in training in Great Britain. Fifty-three per cent. of all those who complete their training gain a qualification. Perhaps I may add that 75 per cent. of those who complete their training either go into jobs, further education or some further training.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, referring to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, does the Minister agree that a necessary part of youth training is apprenticeships, particularly since we are looking for skilled personnel at the end of the training? Can the Minister say how many apprenticeships there are in existence at the moment—for instance, in engineering?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I do not have that figure. To a certain extent the youth training guarantee has taken the place of apprenticeships, although apprenticeships may still be awarded by some industries and companies. Youth training has taken their place.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the Minister said that the Government collect various forms of information. Can he tell us what those forms of information are? Therefore, when he tells his noble friend Lady Faithfull that her figures are wrong, can he tell the House how he knows?

Viscount Ullswater

Yes, my Lords. The main sources of data on the YT are the following: the certificates issued when young people leave the programme; the YT follow-up survey which is published and a copy placed in the Library; the operating agreement, a copy of which is also in the Library; TEC invoices, which obviously come to our department because they are required for the payment of training delivered; and the careers service monitoring return. Those give us the information that we need.

Earl Russell

My Lords, am I right in hearing a silence and that there is no information on waiting lists for youth training?

Viscount Ullswater

No, my Lords, the noble Earl is wrong. I indicated that the careers service monitoring return indicates information, in agreement with the TECs, that we collect on waiting times.

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