The youth opportunities programme is designed to equip young people for employment. The training content is currently being improved so that participants are better fitted for a wider range of job opportunities.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is unhelpful, to say the least, that many of the public service unions are refusing to accept youth opportunities candidates into the public service? Is he making any progress in persuading the unions to accept such candidates? In le long run the scheme might bring into the public service for permanent employment many young people who, having had experience in the service, might wish to join it.
I agree with my hon. Friend. It would be far more profitable for the public service unions and for young school leavers if the unions took a more positive attitude towards the youth opportunities programme.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the growing discontent among trainees on the youth opportunities programme with the level of the allowance that is paid to them, which has remained the same for over 18 months? It is an allowance that compares unfavourably with the amount that is made available to those who are unemployed. What action does he propose taking to increase the allowance?
At least 10,000 young people are entering the scheme every week. The growing discontent to which the hon. Gentleman refers cannot be as bad as all that. However, the difference between the allowance and unemployment benefit is £8·25. My right hon. Friend has been saying for some time that he is prepared to review the £23 allowance.