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Vocational Training: Disabled

Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what her latest assessment is of the adequacy of skills training on offer to claimants of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance; and for what reason claimants of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance are not able to access Train to Gain if they have more than four GCSEs or NVQ Level 2. (315694)

It is the role of Jobcentre Plus to work with all customers and help them overcome any barrier to getting into work. Where this involves meeting a skills need, a customer, including one in receipt of either incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance, can be referred to a range of training provision provided by either Jobcentre Plus or the Learning and Skills Council.

There is a wide range of training provision on offer throughout the country for all customers, including those in receipt of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance. Customer training needs are assessed on an individual basis and customers are then referred to provision that not only meets their needs but also the needs of local employers. The adequacy of skills training is therefore not assessed on a national basis but is driven by the local labour market and an assessment of the individual's needs.

The primary national return to work programme for people claiming incapacity benefits or employment and support allowance is Pathways to Work. In Pathways to Work areas, private and voluntary sector providers are contracted to tailor provision to meet the needs of the customer. It is their responsibility to ensure that any training is adequate and appropriate.

Last October we announced a review of Pathways to Work. The White Paper, ‘Building Britain's Recovery: Achieving Full Employment’, published in December, set out our underpinning principles for reform and confirms that we will bring forward proposals in the spring.

Train to Gain is not routinely offered to those on benefits. It is a programme aimed specifically at employers, giving them better access to a range of training opportunities for improving the skills of their employees and the productivity of their business.

Over the last few years, to boost demand and respond to the downturn the Government introduced a number of temporary funding flexibilities for qualifications delivered as part of Train to Gain. Until August 2010, this includes providing full funding in respect of full level 2 qualifications (5 A*-C GCSEs or the vocational equivalent) where the employee already holds a qualification at that level.

The National Skills Strategy Skills for Growth (November 2009), set out the Government's intention to focus their substantial investment through Train to Gain on areas of high growth and ensure a greater level of co-funding by employers. The emphasis will therefore be on fully supporting employers to upskill their employees, with employers contributing the costs where their staff need to reskill.