HC Deb 05 March 1997 vol 291 cc659-60W
Mr. Mallon

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he plans to take to protect the continuing services of(a) youth clubs, (b) pre-school playgroups, (c) organisations working with the elderly, (d) environmental groups, (e) disabled organisations and (f) other voluntary or community groups, affected by the reduction in the number of ACE employees. [17706]

Mr. Ancram

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 from Ian Walters to Mr. Seamus Mallon, dated 5 March 1997: The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has asked me, as Chief Executive of the Training and Employment Agency, to reply to your question about continuing services to groups in the community affected by the reduction in the Action for Community Employment (ACE) scheme. The essential purpose of ACE is to enable long-term unemployed participants to compete more effectively for available permanent jobs. The community benefit of ACE to a secondary aim. However, Baroness Denton wishes to minimise the effect of the reductions on the community and has asked the Agency to give priority to protecting services to needy and vulnerable people. Accordingly, we wrote on 7 February to ACE projects giving guidance on preserving priority services to the elderly, under 5's, the disabled and ill. Services to youth clubs and environmental groups are not included as priorities. The management committees of ACE schemes have been asked to take particular care when reducing places to try and ensure that needy people are not suddenly deprived of essential services on which they have come to depend. The Agency is also encouraging ACE schemes, wherever possible, to work with neighbouring schemes to preserve services. I can assure you that the Agency will continue to work with schemes to minimise the impact of the reduction.