§ Mr. Foster
asked the Secretary of State for Employment, in view of his decision to reduce the money available to the Manpower Services Commission for special employment programmes, how he intends to improve the quality of the education and training content of the youth opportunities programme and the special temporary employment programme.
§ Mr. Jim Lester
More funds are being devoted in 1979-80 than in the previous year to the special programmes operated by the Manpower Services Commission. The programmes are designed to help unemployed people find permanent employment. In the case of the youth opportunities programme, more young people will be able to benefit this year than last, and I am informed by the MSC that it will continue to scrutinise scheme proposals to ensure that suitable opportunities for education and training are built in and to monitor schemes in operation to assess their quality. The special temporary employment programme will in future be concentrated on areas of greatest need, and I understand that the MSC is considering means of ensuring that schemes provide more effectively for the needs of the long.term unemployed.
§ Mr. Foster
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what guidance he has given to the Manpower Services Commission in saving £48 million from the special programmes division budget.
§ Mr. Jim Lester
The budget for the youth opportunities programme has been reduced by £25.2 million. The original target for 1979.80 was to have between 100,000 and 120,000 filled places at the peak of the year ending 31 March 1980. The aim will be to remain within the range of the above targets, though there will be a reduction in the numbers proposed of young people participating in the programme at its peak. Even so, more people will be able to benefit from the programme this year than last. Savings406W will be made by shifting provision marginally towards less expensive opportunities. There will also be a reduction in the length of time which young people remain in the programme. These changes, together with a current level of occupancy which is below that forecast, will enable the required savings to be achieved. The revised programme still envisages a substantial increase over last year's achievements.
The budget for the special temporary employment programme will be reduced by £422 million. The original programme was to have between 30,000 and 35,000 filled places by 31 March 1980 over Britain as a whole. The revised programme will aim to maintain a level of 12,000 to 14,000 filled places concentrated in the areas of greatest need. The programme will be restricted to special development areas, development areas and partnership, programme and other district authorities designated under the Inner Urban Areas Act. In addition, the criteria for entry to schemes will be tightened to ensure that a higher proportion of entrants are drawn from the long.term unemployed.
A reduction of £1 million has also been made to the budget for community industry. This will still allow the programme to expand from the current figure of 5,200 filled places to nearly 6,000 in the current year, though this is a reduction of about 1,000 on original proposals.
The effect of these changes will be to concentrate provision in areas of greatest need.