HL Deb 11 March 1996 vol 570 cc47-9WA
Lord Holme of Cheltenham

asked Her Majesty's Government:

  1. (i) How the 1996–7 budget for Northern Ireland Action for Community Employment (ACE) Schemes will compare with the budget for these schemes in this financial year;
  2. (ii) How they expect these changes in funding to be spread throughout the ACE schemes in Northern Ireland;
  3. (iii) Whether they expect any ACE schemes to reduce the number of community workers they employ as a result of these changes;
  4. (iv) If they do expect employment changes, whether the Training and Employment Agency will offer any advice as to exactly where employment changes should be made; and
  5. (v) Whether they believe the work of these schemes will be adversely affected by forthcoming budget changes.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Training and Employment Agency under its chief executive, Mr. Ian Walters. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Holme of Cheltenham from the Chief Executive of the Training and Employment Agency, Mr. Ian Walters, dated 11th March 1996:

Baroness Denton has asked me as Chief Executive of the Training and Employment Agency to reply to your recent question about the Action for Community Employment (ACE) programme.

  1. (i) The budget for ACE in the forthcoming financial year will be £39.8 million, a reduction of £12.5 million on the current year's provision. This represents a reduction of 25 per cent. in the resources available;
  2. (ii) and (iii) The budget allocated to ACE in 1996–97 requires a reduction of 25 per cent. in occupied places, which was applied evenly across all ACE schemes with a consequent reduction in the number of community workers they employ as a result. However the level of reduction in some schemes is likely to be ameliorated by the transitional package mentioned in answer (iv);
  3. (iv) In response to the many representations received on ACE, Baroness Denton announced on 19th February a package of support worth £2 million to help ACE schemes during 1996–97. The assistance will allow schemes which provide services to the needy more time to plan alternative arrangements. It will also help schemes which are losing core posts to phase them out rather than withdraw immediately. A copy of the Minister's statement is attached;
  4. (v) It is inevitable that the work of organisations using ACE will be affected by the reduction. This agency is very sensitive to the situation and will continue to do everything possible to minimise the impact.

I hope you find this helpful.

Baroness Denton Announces Programme to Ease ACE Changes

The Economy Minister, Baroness Denton, today announced a £2 million package of transitional help to allow ACE schemes more time to manage the reduction of activities.

The Minister said that she had considered very carefully the many representations she had received. Whilst confirming that the policy of enhancing the skills of the long term unemployed to take advantage of the new job opportunities in the Province would remain T&EA's priority, she recognised that in developing over 15 years, ACE had taken on many activities of community benefit.

Baroness Denton said: "It was never our intention to remove suddenly, services which provided essential support to the needy in the Province, the elderly, the disabled and the ill. The Agency will therefore look sympathetically at requirements from schemes in these areas to allow them time to plan alternative arrangements. It is probable that merging and sharing resources may well be the answer.

Additionally short term funding will be available for those schemes which are losing core posts to phase them out over the year.

In order to make this possible I have authorised an additional £2 million for the T&EA on top of the £40 million already allocated to ACE to provide 7,200 places for the long term unemployed."

The Minister also confirmed that no cuts would be greater than the 25 per cent. previously announced: queries on this should be resolved with local T&EA offices who will also resolve the detailed use of the transitional funds." (19th February 1996)