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New Enterprise Allowance (Merseyside)

Volume 526: debated on Monday 28 March 2011

16. What progress his Department has made on delivering new enterprise allowance support in Merseyside. (49053)

I am pleased to inform my hon. Friend that the new enterprise allowance was launched in Merseyside on 31 January. We have a partner in place to deliver the mentoring support, which is being done through the local chambers of commerce, and we have appointed a provider for the NEA loans service. The early signs are promising: we have had nearly 400 referrals from Jobcentre Plus to the mentoring service, more than half of whom are now working with a business mentor, and some of the propositions for new businesses are close to fruition.

Certainly, in the 1980s and 1990s the enterprise allowance was a great success in north Wales and I look forward to a roll-out to our part of the world. If the enterprise allowance is rolled out throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, what proposals does his Department have to ensure that the universal credit will work in tandem with the enterprise allowance scheme in order to ensure that work pays, even for the self-employed?

It is important to say that we recognise the need to ensure that the universal credit works with self-employment. In the detailed design of the universal credit, we will ensure that it aligns with initiatives such as the new enterprise allowance, but more broadly we will make sure that self-employed people can also benefit from the support that the credit offers. They are a crucial part of our economic future.

How will my hon. Friend ensure that we harness the skills and expertise of business to help unemployed people get their own businesses up and running?

In the context of Merseyside, we have been very pleased by the co-operation and support that we have had from the chambers of commerce. They are actively recruiting more mentors among the local business community. The lessons we have derived from Merseyside will enable organisations in other parts of the country and Jobcentre Plus to follow best practice in getting the scheme up and running nationwide in the course of the year.