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Local Employment Partnerships

Volume 474: debated on Monday 31 March 2008

2. What progress has been made by local employment partnerships in assisting disadvantaged people into work; and if he will make a statement. (197191)

Local employment partnerships have started well. The initiative is growing rapidly; more than 600 employers have signed up and more than 200 have already recruited through their partnerships, helping more than 3,000 people into work so far.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware of a partnership programme in Glasgow, whereby John Wheatley college takes deprived adults from communities and trains them to work in the health service? That has come about because of an innovative and dynamic principal called Ian Graham, who has taken chances to do it. It looks as though the initiative will be a great success.

I am pleased to say that I have heard about the achievements of Mr. Graham and John Wheatley college. The March employment figures show how strong the UK labour market is. More people than ever are in work and the numbers on unemployment benefit are down into the 700,000s for the first time since 1975. Local employment partnerships such as the one in my hon. Friend’s area will help to ensure that the benefits of a strong labour market extend to disadvantaged jobseekers who have been out of work for a long time. I welcome the progress being made in her area.

Is the Minister aware that one of the partners—Carter and Carter, I believe—that had been due to deliver on the partnership scheme in North Yorkshire has gone into receivership? What are the implications for North Yorkshire, and who will now deliver on that partnership?

I am aware of the problems that have beset Carter and Carter Group plc. However, I can tell the hon. Lady that Newcastle college is taking over the contracts for which Carter and Carter was responsible. She can be reassured that there will be continuity of support for her constituents and others.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on what the Government have done to get disadvantaged people—particularly people with severe learning difficulties, who were totally ignored by the previous Administration—into work. However, getting people with such difficulties into work-based opportunities is still proving a tremendous challenge, for obvious reasons. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and representatives from my local employment partnership, the Shaw Trust and Mencap, to discuss what more can be done locally in Crosby to help such people?

Yes, I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and representatives of the organisations she mentions. Those organisations have done excellent work, not only in her constituency but elsewhere, under the auspices of the pathways to work programme and other initiatives that we have been supporting. We have been able to make good progress, but I look forward to discussing with her what is happening in her constituency.