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Job Club Programme

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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asked the Paymaster General if he will make a statement on the job club programme.

Job clubs are a very effective means of helping longer term unemployed people back to work. Sixty per cent. of those who leave job clubs go into jobs, and 13 per cent. find places on the community programme, a training course or the enterprise allowance scheme. In order to build on this success we have recently expanded the number of job clubs to 1,000 and are opening a further 300 by September. This will enable around 175,000 people to enter job clubs this year.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and note, as usual, the sneering comments from the Opposition Front Bench. Will my hon. Friend accept from me that the job clubs in Christchurch and Ferndown in my constituency already fulfil a valuable role in bringing together people who want to find work and employers who are looking for staff? Will he please be encouraged to continue with the scheme and let the Government give it every possible consideration and support?

My hon. Friend is right. Job clubs are an excellent concept. The progress being made in Christchurch and Ferndown by the job clubs there augurs well for the future. I wish that Opposition Members had visited their local job clubs to see the good work that is being done. Perhaps they are at the job clubs already, because I suggest that after 11 June many will be using job clubs for real.

Will the Minister explain why the Manpower Services Commission has been paying £37,000 a year to a luxury hotel in Bradford to house two temporary job clubs, when last week the MSC announced that it was going to withdraw a smaller amount of money from Fashion Services for the Disabled, which allows disabled people to play a more active part in the community, and that in December this year it will withdraw an even smaller amount of money from the Bradford Playspace scheme, which provides poor children with holidays that they would not otherwise receive and some activity for 40,000 poor children in Bradford? Will the Minister ask the chairman of the MSC to reverse those heartless decisions?

I cannot comment on the project that the hon. Gentleman is talking about. Job clubs are a very effective concept. The total cost of a job club is about £23,000 per annum and, given the success rate of getting people into jobs, it is extremely good value for money.

I confirm every word that my hon. Friend the Minister has said about the efficacy of job clubs. The one in my constituency, which we are very glad to have, has an immensely positive attitude. It is extremely well run and the atmosphere is very good. Many people go on to immediate employment, or very shortly thereafter get jobs.

I am grateful to have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman). I have not visited the Lancaster job club, but I have seen 15 or 20 on my visits round the country. They are an excellent concept, and one finds that the individuals are motivated to look for work.

The Minister is right that job clubs are popular, because they assist a very small minority of people and give them intensive help in obtaining a job. Does he not understand that, as the numbers of job clubs grow, the percentage of those getting jobs will fall, because the problem is not that people do not know how to look for jobs, but that there are not enough jobs available? Under this Government, since 1979 1·6 million jobs have been destroyed in the British economy. Is it not time for the Department of Employment to concentrate on developing jobs and solving unemployment, rather than developing schemes and ways of fiddling figures to create a camouflage over the jobs problem?

The hon. Lady talks about small numbers. I repeat that this year about 175,000 people will pass through job clubs. There is no indication that the numbers of those who go into employment are reducing. The 60 per cent. figure is a national average, and some job clubs have figures well above that.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have visited the Orpington job club and found it to be of inestimable value to the local unemployed, ending their sense of isolation and giving them practical help in the process of getting fresh jobs?

Once again, I appreciate my hon. Friend's support in talking about his experience of the job club in his area.