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Vocational Training

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) whether an applicant's age is taken into consideration in determining eligibility for re-training programmes funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement; (254288)

(2) whether eligibility for (a) the Rapid Response Service and (b) any other re-training courses for the unemployed funded by his Department are determined wholly or partially by reference to the postcode area of the applicant; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what criteria have to be met for an unemployed person who does not qualify for the Rapid Response Scheme to be eligible for a Government-funded re-training course; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 4 February 2009]: Work-focused training is available to everyone who participates in the New Deal regardless of age or post code.

Jobseeker's allowance customers aged 18 to 24 are currently required to participate in the New Deal for Young People when they have been continuously claiming jobseeker's allowance for six months. jobseeker's allowance customers aged 25 or over are currently required to participate in the New Deal 25 Plus when they have been continuously claiming jobseeker's allowance for 18 months, or have been claiming jobseeker's allowance for 18 out of the previous 21 months if there has been a break in their claim.

Voluntary New Deal programmes are available to customers across benefit groups. Access to New Deal 50 Plus is restricted to benefit recipients aged 50 or over. The New Deal for Lone Parents, New Deal for Partners and New Deal for Disabled People each have their own specific qualifying criteria in order to target particular customer groups.

The work-based training courses currently available via the New Deal are decided by each Jobcentre Plus district to meet the needs of local labour markets and so provision will vary throughout Great Britain.

The introduction of the Flexible New Deal later this year will establish a new, unified approach for all jobseekers, whatever their age, skills or barriers to work. The Flexible New Deal will deliver work-focused support, tailored to each individual's needs and local labour market requirements.

Jobcentre Plus offers the Rapid Response Service to all employers who notify more than 20 redundancies and can also offer its support to employers who make fewer than 20 redundancies. The service is not limited to specific postcode areas.

An unemployed person's eligibility for re-training courses is not determined by postcode area. However, there is some specific provision that is targeted at deprived areas. The Working Neighbourhoods Fund, for example, tackles worklessness in specific deprived areas in England. The City Strategy Pathfinders align a range of funding, including the Working Neighbourhoods Fund and the Disadvantaged Areas Fund, to tackle worklessness and social exclusion in some of the country's most disadvantaged locations.