Tackling youth unemployment is a priority for this Government. We are determined that young people should not slip into a life on benefits. The Department for Work and Pensions provides a broad range of additional support for young people over and above the standard Jobcentre Plus offer, and that support is tailored to their needs.
I thank the Minister for that answer. There have been nearly 4,000 new apprenticeship starts since 2010 in my constituency, where the economy is strong and growing. Does she agree that this Government’s efforts to increase both the number and the quality of apprenticeships is critical to improving Britain’s competitiveness in the world and to getting Britain back to work with more jobs and improving pay?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Interestingly, notwithstanding the Government’s well-known track record on apprenticeships and the number of people across the country who have benefited from our apprenticeship scheme, the subject was discussed at the G20 last week, and other countries are now looking at our scheme to see the positive benefits it has had on our young people.
The Minister might be aware of the Change100 scheme run by Leonard Cheshire Disability, which delivers paid work experience placements for young disabled graduates at major employers. Does she agree that such initiatives have an important role to play in helping to ensure that we reduce the disability employment gap?
I am fully aware of the excellent work that Leonard Cheshire Disability, along with many other organisations, does to help young disabled people take up employment. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), has discussed with many organisations, including the Shaw Trust and Whizz-Kidz, how they plan to do more in that area. It is right that we should all do more to support young disabled people to secure employment.
I have been approached by several young people in my constituency who have learning and reading difficulties, and they tell me that they find the process of applying for benefit, and the form-filling involved in seeking jobs, very complex. What specific actions is the Department taking to assist young people in these challenges?
My hon. Friend is right. For a start, all young people are screened at the beginning of their claim process to identify any barriers and the kind of support they need. Importantly, we provide options other than online and paper-based ones, such as telephone support or face-to-face interviews. If he would like me to look at any specific cases, I will be happy to discuss them with him.
Does the Minister agree that what all our young people deserve is high-quality training and high-quality apprenticeships? Is she aware that young people suffering from autism face a particular struggle in getting into the labour market and staying there, even though they might be very talented indeed? What is she doing to help them?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very valid point, and he is right that this is about supporting individuals. The Government have a raft of measures, schemes and initiatives to support young people. For those who face certain challenges, such as autism, we are working with employers to help them provide those young people with opportunities for sustained employment. We have many programmes, such as Access to Work, which specifically support individuals who face challenges in the workplace. We are developing our relationships with employers so that more and more of them are coming on board to support young people in having fulfilling careers.
Last week I visited the Newport and District Group Training Association in my constituency, which provides higher national diplomas and higher national certificates, which bridge the gap between school and the workplace. I was told that what they want more than anything is a UK Government who are committed to those qualifications and to funding them. Is that a guarantee the Minister can give?
This Government are absolutely committed to supporting young people. Bridging the gap between school and the world of work can be challenging. Our policies and measures across Government—not just in the Department for Work and Pensions, but in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education—fully support that transition. Importantly, the DWP is about to roll out a Jobcentre Plus programme in schools, and we are also doing much more with employers to support the transition into the world of work.