My Lords, we are already making additional entry to employment places available in England where there is evidence of demand from young people. This will be supported through the £655 million extra funding secured in the Budget to ensure that demand for education and training is met.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply and welcome the emergency funding that the Secretary of State has recently announced. However, is the Minister aware that a number of young people were turned away from these courses before that emergency funding was announced? What will the Government do to bring them back into the fold, as it is important that they have these entry to employment courses? Since no one knows how long the credit crunch and inflated demand will go on, is she confident that the budget for next year and the year after will be big enough?
My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an extremely important question. The additional funding made available in the recent Budget announcement will be about creating an extended September guarantee, which will make available to all young people the opportunity of education or training from September. Of course, the noble Baroness highlights the many young people who want to access these programmes before September. The Learning and Skills Council and others are working hard to see how we can build flexibility into the system so that that can happen.
My Lords, I am sorry but I cannot say what the cost per student is, but I will be happy to write to her with that information and put a copy in the Library. We know that 54 per cent of those who take part in these entry to employment schemes—some of the most disadvantaged and disengaged young people—go on to have a positive outcome, going into further education, an apprenticeship, work with training or, indeed, a job. We can see from that there are some very good results coming from these entry to employment programmes.
My Lords, given the point that the Minister has just made, does she accept that, since the recession has eliminated jobs that some of these young people with no or very low qualifications might have gone into, there is an opportunity for the authorities to provide these young people with proper education and training to get into employment? Would she not welcome this? Is it not therefore important that there is flexibility on the part of the Learning and Skills Council?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. This chimes well with our aspiration—in fact, our commitment—to raise the participation age so that all young people have the opportunity to access education, an apprenticeship or work with training as an integral part. It is vital that, as the economy strengthens in the coming months, we ensure that we support young people, because they are one of the most important sections of our society. We need to equip them with the skills to be a part of our recovery.
My Lords, the number of young people who are NEET has remained reasonably stable in the past couple of years, although obviously, with the challenging economic climate, keeping that number of young people engaged in positive activities is a real challenge. That is why it is so important that we use all our resources—including the September guarantee and the additional investment of £655 million that was announced earlier this year—to ensure that young people are positively engaged.