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Social Security Benefits: Languages

Volume 458: debated on Monday 19 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many claimants of (a) jobseeker's allowance and (b) other income-related benefits took up the offer of free English provision in each year since 1997; how many places for English provision were available in each year; and what the budget was for the provision of free English lessons in each year; (124086)

(2) if he will place in the Library the guidelines given to jobcentres for improving the take-up of English courses.

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 19 March 2007:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions asking about: the number of claimants of Jobseeker's Allowance and other income-related benefits who took up the offer of free English provision in each year from 1997; how many places for English provision were available in each year; and what budget was provided for the provision of free English lessons in each year; and whether a copy of Jobcentre Plus guidelines to advisers will be placed in the Library. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

I am unable to answer your specific questions as we do not routinely collect data about Jobcentre Plus funding provision at the level requested. Within Jobcentre Plus language support forms one component of the basic skills provision available to help people improve their literacy, numeracy and language skills through employment programmes such as the New Deal.

In addition to the provision available through the New Deal, many benefit customers access freely available provision provided and funded by other organisations such as the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), local authorities and community-based organisations.

The Jobcentre Plus guidelines for advisers are being updated in the light of the Minister of State's recent announcement about measures to help break down language barriers that are preventing unemployed people from finding work and a copy will be placed in the Library when they are completed.