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Special Needs

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th January 1998.

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Labour, Gillingham 12:00 am, 29th January 1998

What steps will be taken to ensure that young people with exceptional needs are able to enter the new deal early if they choose to do so. [24196]

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Employment and Equal Opportunities), Department for Education and Employment, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment)

We are committed to ensuring that the new deal meets the individual needs of all young people, including those with special needs, who will be offered the opportunity to join it early. That includes people with disabilities, those with literacy or numeracy problems, lone parents, ex-offenders and others at a particular disadvantage.

Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Labour, Gillingham

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. The scheme that is being developed to deliver the new deal in the Medway towns will ensure that those opportunities exist. Special advisers to the scheme through the gateways opportunity, including Members of Parliament who are members of the planning team, will experience some of those opportunities. That is why I cannot wait to join the Army in the woods for a 36-hour survival course to develop my motivation and team skills. Does my hon. Friend agree that the new deal has given opportunities at a local level—that is the important point—to build strong, wide-reaching partnerships involving the private and voluntary sectors, the Employment Service and the public sector to deliver the training and skills that our young people require for the 21st century?

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Employment and Equal Opportunities), Department for Education and Employment, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment)

After his magnificent result at the general election, my hon. Friend should be offering survival courses. He may receive applications from Conservative Members who are already panicking at the thought of the next election. I am delighted by the quality of partnership that is being developed for the new deal in the Medway towns. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his commitment, to Linda Russell, who has led the process for the Employment Service, and to all the businesses, TECs, local authorities and voluntary organisations that have responded so positively to the Government's challenge to give better support to unemployed people.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

The Minister was clearly the first person in the Labour party to benefit from the new deal. I am glad that he is being less aggressive in response to questions on the new deal. Members of Parliament have received letters from the Employment Service telling us what is happening. We are grateful for that, but we are panic-stricken because the Employment Service is dismantling itself before the new deal has come in. It will be needed to help the most difficult cases to come off the unemployment register. Will the Minister please look again at the cuts to the Employment Service currently being announced?

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Employment and Equal Opportunities), Department for Education and Employment, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment)

The hon. Gentleman is part of the old deal. Unemployment is 28 per cent. lower than a year ago. It must be sensible to scale back certain provision against that background. Funding per person is largely unchanged. The hon. Gentleman must acknowledge that there is a sensible case for what we are doing given that job clubs are only being used to 87 per cent. of capacity. However, where local partnerships think it appropriate, more job club places can be provided. Employment Service district managers are consulting Members of Parliament and locally. It would be preferable for Members to respond constructively rather than using the opportunity for opportunistic political point scoring.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Office)

Does the Minister recognise the concerns expressed by many in our ethnic minority communities, which traditionally suffer disproportionately high unemployment, that their young people will have difficulty gaining access to the high-quality employment option under the new deal? Does he recognise that such concerns are often fuelled by scepticism as a result of poor experiences on schemes under the previous Administration? Does he have any plans to deal with such issues?

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Employment and Equal Opportunities), Department for Education and Employment, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to the grievous reality of unemployment among members of ethnic minorities—particularly young people. Unemployment among people from ethnic minorities is running at twice that among white people—15 per cent. as against about 7 per cent. Unemployment is higher among young people across the range of ethnic minorities. For young black people, unemployment is running at 34 per cent. The most chilling statistic is that, among black men in London aged between 16 and 24, unemployment is 45 per cent. The previous Government left behind a shameful situation.

We are involving ethnic minority organisations at every point in the new deal. We have introduced ethnic monitoring to examine what barriers to success there may be for young people from ethnic minorities. We are, of course, monitoring very closely the outcome so that we can respond sensitively and urgently to this very important challenge.