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Disadvantaged

Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will take steps to assist small and medium-sized enterprises which work to improve the life prospects of disadvantaged young people over the age of 18. (263017)

I have been asked to reply.

We recognise that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the third sector have a particular role as providers of learning to disadvantaged people, including disadvantaged young people.

DIUS is currently developing a Department wide Third Sector Strategy which will address how we work with the third sector across the range of our policies and programmes. We aim to ensure we make best use of the potential of the third sector to contribute to meeting our skills agenda through its ability to engage with disadvantaged groups.

To help ensure that the skills of people in the third sector are developed, DIUS, in conjunction with Office of the Third Sector, has supported the establishment of “Skills—Third Sector”, a new sector skills body. Skills—Third Sector will work with employers in the sector to identify and meet learning needs of the sector and work to increase take-up of training.

DIUS is already supporting small and medium employers to meet the training needs of their staff in a range of ways:

In the White Paper “New Opportunities—Fair Chances for the Future” the Government have outlined a commitment to ensure young people who are persistent NEETs (not in education, employment or training) have the right support and incentives to move off benefits, or out of inactivity, into education, training or work. Part of our offer includes initiatives we are supporting through small and medium employers, such as local employment partnerships and apprenticeships, which we have reformed and expanded.

DIUS published “Skills for Life: Changing Lives” this month, which sets out our refreshed strategy for helping people at disadvantage through lack of basic skills. This strategy will ensure that SME employers and employees can access Skills for Life courses at all levels up to and including Level 2, and drive improvements in provision.

Train to Gain is the Government’s flagship service for employers, including SMEs. Train to Gain provides learning opportunities for all employees, including those disadvantaged in the workplace. Train to Gain is available to employees and volunteers in the third sector. The new package announced for SMEs in October 2008 includes additional flexibilities for SMEs including bite size learning and funding for learners who already have qualifications. From December 2008 the new flexibilities for SMEs were available to all paid employees in third sector SMEs.