Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 160 - 178)




  160. Leigh Lewis, Chief Executive of the Employment Service, for whom I have enormous regard, rather took us aback by saying that the rapid turnover in personal advisers was one of the problems of success. People were moving on rapidly to other jobs. There may be an element of that but was I right to greet that with huge scepticism?
  (Mr Convery) No; that is what I have described. It is success. People are performing well in their jobs. The only way the Employment Service knows to reward success is to move them out of the job they are doing well and give them some other job.

Mr Allan

  161. I want to pick up on the GP analogy. I wondered whether the problem was not so much with the GP, the personal adviser, as the fact that there are not the specialists to refer them to. I wondered how well you thought that was working because some feedback I have had is that it is okay picking up the problems but once you have picked them up if drugs rehab or alcohol rehab or whatever is required, a huge supply does not exist out there anyway.
  (Mr Convery) There is a double difficulty. First is the supply of those agencies. In some areas it is limited but in other areas it is plentiful. There is no shortage of non-government organisations out there doing spectacularly good jobs. The difficulty they face is that the contractual engagement with the New Deal is not one they can often afford. I have often come across instances where the Employment Service is referring people to drug agencies without sending any additional money or anything which will enable that agency to do the job. Sometimes that means that within that agency they feel a moral obligation to help out the New Deal, possibly at the expense of other clients. The other problem is that because New Deal does have a very rigid design framework to it, it is not often possible for those specialists to have the time necessary in order to, say in the case of drug rehabilitation, take six, nine, 12 months to very seriously get someone off a significant drug dependency up to job readiness, to acquire a vocational qualification and then to start dipping their toe back in the labour market. The design just does not allow them to engage.
  (Mr Adebowale) There are examples. We have shown both Tessa Jowell and David Blunkett examples of programmes which would actually and do work in progressing particularly young people towards job readiness. In a sense there is no need to re-invent the wheel. The problem is that not enough attention is being paid to the ability of the voluntary sector to deliver these programmes. To be blunt, there has just not been enough investment in these programmes and in the way of working. In Scotland they have something called the New Futures Fund which is actually run by Scottish Enterprise, which is run very well in that it allows the voluntary sector to develop an ongoing, long-term relationship with Scottish Enterprise and to work through outcomes and to enter jointly the risk of working with highly disadvantaged young people. It is a partnership rather than you will deliver this many outcomes for this many people, regardless of their presenting issue which is how New Deal tends to work in England. That is a real problem. I know this is primarily about New Deal but there is a danger that exactly the same issue around working with specialist services—and I do believe there are lots of specialist services out there perfectly capable of doing this work—will re-occur in the rollout of the Connexions programme. There is a danger in New Deal that while it will succeed in terms of the state of targets, it will create a real underclass of young people who never get access to New Deal because there is no pre-New Deal programme, there is nothing leading them into New Deal and there is nothing the Government provides, no Government agency available, to cater for young people who are homeless, who have drug or alcohol problems and have mental health problems. There is nothing other than what is provided by the voluntary sector.

  162. I want to turn to the issue of New Deal and ethnic minorities specifically. Could you briefly list for us the key barriers you think exist in the context of young people from ethnic minorities in terms of getting work and especially through the New Deal and indicate as well whether you think there is more that the Employment Service could do in terms of getting work as a whole. A lot of the issues are not things which are specific to New Deal, but about working with employers and so on. The key issues you think exist as barriers and key lessons which you wish the Employment Service would learn in terms of overcoming those barriers.
  (Mr Butt) One of the main barriers is confidence in the actual labour market rather than getting the job you are actually interested in. Quite often the question young black and ethnic minority people put to me when I go on visits, and I go to different districts like Liverpool, is whether the actual provision is out there to meet their aspirations. If they want to be a rocket scientist and they are born in Toxteth, can we provide that gateway for them? How do you on the one hand cajole that young person and say you can get them there, but on the other hand be realistic and say it is going to be a very long trip, they have another 10 or 15 years ahead before they make it there. The whole thing around employer discrimination is the huge, huge barrier. The policy action team on jobs, for example, did say that there should be a sustained campaign on racial equality which as of yet has not been demonstrated by the Government. I know, for example, the London Development Agency is going to have a mayoral campaign for fair recruitment in the labour market and work with employers both small and large, tackling the many barriers which disadvantaged groups face. Mr Adebowale touched on the diverse provision out there and it is true to say that the black and ethnic minority voluntary sector has not really had a fair deal in getting provision. There has not really been the investment there as well. A lot of innovative work does happen at grassroots level in the voluntary and community sectors, but yet again the black and ethnic minority voluntary community sectors are often marginalised in the process. Those who are in a position to tender for New Deal or obtain some New Deal provision often stay out of it because they do not want to be caught up in the bureaucracy of it and they do not want to lose the niche position they have with local communities. I can cite many examples. For examples, Leap in North West London, which has brought the Stride programme over from America, will not go anywhere near the Employment Service or touch New Deal because it has very clear targets, it does meet them and it has better job retention rates than New Deal. If that sort of investment is going on, why can we not have a clear partnership arrangement with that. In Glasgow, for example, with the Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance they have a number of innovative employment projects, as does Skillset using positive action, as does CEED in Bristol using positive action. Work is going on around us which has better retention rates for black and ethnic minority communities but we are not really picking that up through the Employment Service in some sort of partnership arrangement. I agree that we do need to have some sort of pre-New Deal and maybe that is where some sort of ES co-financing arrangements can come in to enable that to happen. We need to break the bond between the Regional Development Agencies, RDAs, and the Learning and Skills Councils. They will really take on board much of the ESF and will leave the Employment Service in a very fragile position whereas they could do with much of that additional resource to tackle some of the soft skills which young black and ethnic minority people face such as team building and active job search. Possibly another solution we can look at is a much more dynamic way for mentoring and buddying as well for young black and ethnic minority people, also possibly utilising annual performance agreements a lot more before the Employment Service is target driven. Maybe if you went to somebody in the cities where New Deal is not performing particularly well and set some hard targets for district managers to perform and put their head on the block we would get better job outcomes. Developing specialisms in Employment Service staff where good practice is occurring. Why do you not develop a pool of expertise then they can start networking units of delivery in their region and spread that good management practice, district by district, region by region and hopefully through to national level. We need to create that sort of information and disseminate it. Quite often many district managers, regional managers have their heart in the right place but at the end of the day they are there to deliver a job and they have not been delivering it. We have been campaigning for many years and put many recommendations but very few have been taken aside. It is only now, coming onto the stage of the next election, that everyone is starting to worry because the job outcome still has not improved. One more issue we need to look at is about data collection at a regional level between the national training organisations in terms of their workforce development plans, so that we can analyse sector by sector exactly where there are gaps in terms of skills base, also the RDAs and their skills strategies and LSC Skills as well and the Employment Service. Why can we not have a much more coordinated approach to the labour market programme delivery, so you have good data collection, you know exactly who is performing, what skills gaps are out there, and what sort of financial packages you need to put together in the provision to meet the client group to which you are supposed to be delivering?

  163. May I ask about the DfEE's Ethnic Minority Strategy for New Deal? Has it been implemented well? Has it made much difference and in particular on the key indicator are we now any closer to achieving parity in New Deal outcomes between ethnic minority participants and others? Which direction is it going in and how effective is that strategy?
  (Mr Butt) If you go to any New Deal partnership or anyone who has seen the ethnic minority strategy they will sing its praises. A lot of research went into it and we did a lot of work to make it really accessible to those who did not have much knowledge about it. We do not really think it is being used widely and we do not think there is much follow-through in terms of regional support on a regional basis or even a delivery basis for that to happen. Obviously job outcomes have not improved much but some good practice is occurring. Partnerships at the moment are required to produce six-monthly reviews on the progress of implementing the ethnic minority strategy, particularly around the toolkit as well, "closing the gap". We have not really seen any feedback yet, but that will come in time. If the ethnic minority strategy is going to have any real impact we have to take it at senior level, possibly recruiting more black district managers but setting more targets as well for district managers and regional managers to implement part of the strategy and the subsequent toolkit. The biggest thing is around tackling employer discrimination. Whilst we fudge around other issues, job outcomes still are not improving and until we have ministerial clout, supported by real resources at a national level, pumped through to a regional level with the RDAs and the Chambers of Commerce, and other employer-led bodies, then we are not going to see much difference.
  (Mr Convery) It has been disappointing that the trend level of job entry for people from black and ethnic minority communities has not changed since New Deal launched to the most recent data. It is still consistently for black Caribbean and black African young people 30 to 40 per cent off parity with white young people's job outcomes. That has been pretty steady right throughout the lifetime of New Deal. Having said that, I do not think New Deal on its own is going to reverse what are essentially deep inherent discriminatory trends in the labour market. Mr Butt is right to list a whole range of organisations and agencies because they all have to be doing something in a pretty consistent and coherent kind of way. I would not criticise New Deal for having failed to shift these deep discriminatory trends significantly.
  (Mr Adebowale) It is very difficult to know where to start in terms of role models. Take my sector, registered social landlords. There are 2,500 of them in the country, they have been around since 1933 in their current form. There are currently two black chief executives of mainstream registered social landlords. Is that an accident? I doubt it. There are whole sectors of employment where black and minority ethnic people of whatever age simply do not exist and it is going to be a real problem for the country because of the demographics. That is why the figures have remained significantly steady. There are some employers who have recognised this, not just because they are altruistic but because actually they see there are real management and bottom line consequences. For instance the BBC recognised that the black and minority ethnic young people were just switching off. Why watch a programme which has nothing to do with you whatsoever? These large employers need to be taken up as examples, we need to look at how they influence their supply chain, because the BBC has a huge supply chain of medium and small-sized businesses. We need to look at how those influences work, and I would say, at the risk of repeating what has been said, that the lack of an overall Government race strategy which is promoted bravely and rigorously does damage to New Deal. It is worrying that when I go to the New Deal Task Force, the same figures are repeated over and over again and everybody round that table knows that employment practices within many of our largest blue chip companies leave a lot to be desired in terms of their equality practices.

Mr Twigg

  164. I should like to broaden the discussion we have just been having to the question of disadvantaged young people as a whole. Each of you has to an extent already answered the question I am going to put but it is good to put it in this way. We have addressed the question of disadvantaged young people who are entirely outside the system, but it has been suggested to us that there is also an increasing number of young people within New Deal who have multiple problems and a statistic of over 20 per cent of current participants who are re-entrants who failed to get permanent employment the first time. Is it true to say that the numbers are increasing and in designing New Deal II what should be done to assist? How can we ensure that the programme is more geared, yes to the needs of those who are outside the system altogether, but also to those within the system who seem to be being failed by it so far?
  (Mr Convery) The first thing is that we know very little about the people who are being recycled, who are failing in their first run through. We also know very little about people who are dropping out, people who have gone to unknown destinations, who are disproportionately drawn from more disadvantaged groups. We know that because the research shows that disproportionately the unknown destination leavers were early entrants because they qualified on the early entry disadvantage criteria. It is something in the range of nearly one third of all leavers currently going to unknown destinations, although I always put this into context. Under the last Government they would have been described as a positive outcome because they are a sign-off. Any sign-off was a positive outcome then. It certainly is a credit to Government now that they regard it as a group we need to understand more. However we do not understand and know very much about them. We do not understand very much about the reasons why people are being recycled other than that the period from the end of follow-through to the requalification for New Deal is actually very short; it is eight weeks in effect. I think that there is something about follow-through which lacks the pace and purpose that really should be there. There is a feeling that follow-through is there for people who have somehow failed, they did not perform their option well, they did not get a job out of it and there is a remedial character to their period on follow-through. They are starting their second time around in New Deal always marked as failures. We have to understand the characteristics of those young people, the system they have gone through that has failed them.

  165. Is anyone doing that work, is anyone doing that research?
  (Mr Convery) Not systematically. It is not part of the whole programme appraisal and evaluation. However, it is the sort of thing that a number of non-government organisations are interested in, ask the question repeatedly. It would be a complex and quite demanding piece of research to really understand those young people. I think it should be done.

  166. It would be most usefully done within the New Deal evaluation process itself rather than by the voluntary sector.
  (Mr Convery) It is not an either/or really. There are provider organisations which are working alongside the ES which have a fair bit to contribute to this, but it should be a mainstream part of evaluation. I think there are parts of the evaluation which are a complete waste of time to be candid. Resources should be placed into this area.


  167. Can you tell us which are a complete waste of time?
  (Mr Convery) I shall perhaps be diplomatic and write a list of the least useful research here. There are some areas of research which at first stab people thought would be of value and would be interesting. Juggernauts started. We saw the results and realised that there was not a great deal which helped either policy or performance from that research, but it got done.

Judy Mallaber

  168. Are you going to send that to us?
  (Mr Convery) Yes, I will.

  Chairman: We look forward to receiving that with great interest.

Mr Twigg

  169. On the voluntary sector option and the environment task force option it has been widely suggested that these have become a reservoir for those young people who are least employable. How far is that fair and what would your evaluation of those options be and in particular what can we do to improve the status and success of those options?
  (Mr Adebowale) It is quite fair. Part of the problem is that the option which was promoted as the most successful was getting a job in the non-subsidised sectors and that is a real shame and says something about how the voluntary sector is seen. The voluntary sector option is not seen as valuable, neither is the environment option. It is not seen as valuable. One of the things which has been raised and was raised in the disadvantaged report is the idea of merging options. At the end of the day a job is a job. We require a high level of skill to work in key areas of Centrepoint's business and that goes for many other voluntary organisations, so why should that be an option which is seen as any less valuable than the non-subsidised employment? We do have to do some work there, because it does not really matter whether a young person is disadvantaged or not, they want to be seen, they want their careers and jobs to be seen as as valuable as anyone else's. If someone slides them into an option that everybody has ignored or not actually given much status, then you can expect the results to be poor.
  (Mr Convery) There is one clear thing which relegates the voluntary sector option or ETF away from regular jobs and it is that one is a job and the other is not. I feel I have been saying this for several years: it is a very powerful message when you say, "Here are two options: one where you get your benefit plus £15.34 a week, another where you get a regular wage for doing a regular job with a real employer". What I think is to the credit of non-government organisations and local authorities is that in a number of parts of the country where imaginative financing has been put together, and this Committee has visited these areas, Sheffield, Manchester, Glasgow, in the non-profit community sector real employment has been created paying real wages, underlining the legitimacy of that work and genuinely taking those young people out of welfare and into work, pulling them out of all the complex benefit and poverty traps which are related to that transition from being dependent on benefits as compared with going into work. In Mark II New Deal the strongest message one could give to Ministers is not to create that artificial divide between real jobs and not so real jobs.

Mr Pearson

  170. The message I am getting from you is that what you are saying is that the voluntary sector can be employers as well.
  (Mr Convery) Yes.

  171. It is a massive sector which can provide good quality jobs. It does not just have to provide support for people on benefit plus £15. There is a whole range of commercial companies run by the voluntary sector and maybe as a Government we ought to be looking at putting in more resource in terms of building their capacity to offer those genuine employment prospects. Would that be a fair summary?
  (Mr Convery) Absolutely.
  (Mr Adebowale) New Deal II will look at a greater use of what is known as intermediaries to encourage that kind of intervention. The voluntary sector is a £15 billion industry. It may not be seen as such.

Judy Mallaber

  172. In practical terms, would it be a question having to be worked out at local level? I chaired a meeting with the Employment Minister and a number of the environmental groups quite some time ago and they were quite frustrated because they wanted to see that New Deal option being a positive future for the environmental organisations and bringing in people with a genuine interest in the environment as their first starter. Instead of this, it was being put as this dross end of the market. Does that have to be dealt with by local programmes or is there something which could be put in at a national level to make that change in New Deal Mark II?
  (Mr Convery) At a national level, avoiding the presumption that voluntary sector employment starts off as a benefit plus formula, which smart people in smart places can just about squeeze into regular employment, the presumption is that that work in the social economy sector sits alongside work in the full profit sector and they are pretty much of equal virtue.

Mr Pearson

  173. When Centrepoint last gave evidence to the Committee in early 1998 it was highly critical of the Employment Service. Have you changed your mind?
  (Mr Adebowale) We are still concerned about the bureaucracy, we are still concerned about the reality of putting in place all the recommendations of the disadvantaged young people report. We are still concerned about issues of discrimination. We recognise these are massive tasks for the Employment Service to deal with, particularly as the issues around discrimination are very real. We are concerned about the training and effectiveness of the personal advisers. Finally, we think a lot of the New Deal service could be done with and by the voluntary sector and that certainly has not happened to Centrepoint yet. A lot of work has been done. What I would say is that we recognise that the Employment Service has attacked New Deal with enthusiasm and vigour. There have been a lot of changes in the way the Employment Service relates to young people in particular but there is still some way to go if I am going to be able to withdraw every criticism that remains.

  174. I think you all sit on the New Deal Advisory Task Force.
  (Mr Adebowale) Yes.

  175. What advice have you given which has been taken on board by Government and what advice have you given which has been ignored and you think should be taken on board?
  (Mr Adebowale) My colleagues are on the advisory group; I am actually on the Task Force. It is an interesting question because I was involved in the drawing up of the set of recommendations which were specifically aimed at disadvantaged young people. The report was accepted; not all the recommendations have been implemented effectively. I suppose that would be the good test. I do not think all my recommendations have been implemented fully as yet. There are reasons for that but not all of them have. I pay particular attention to the issues relating to homeless people, disadvantaged people, but just as much young people from black and ethnic minority communities. The two are often the same. I remain concerned about how little progress we are making in that regard.
  (Mr Convery) I do not think during this Parliament the advice of the Task Force's many advisory groups has resulted in the programme itself changing. We have not been fixing the car as it drives down the road. What we have ended up doing is helping shape a vision of what New Deal would look like in the next Parliament, where there would be less emphasis on crude job entry, where there may be more emphasis on geographical areas of highest unemployment and greatest needs and a much, much more effective read-across to all the other area-based initiatives, other types of funds which are in place, where there will be a much, much more flexible programme, where individual packages of help are tailored and delivered for the individual, as is being trialled now with the personal job account in the employment zones, an emphasis on much higher levels of performance from contracted organisations, having much better understanding of employer requirements and making them match with employers and just the understanding that New Deal should change, it should be almost an organic programme rather than something which is fixed in stone and that one can learn from a process of continuous improvement and innovation. Even the programme which starts, let us say, a few months into the next Parliament itself learns from what has been achieved well and by the end of that Parliament it will be a slightly different programme to when it started off.
  (Mr Adebowale) I should be very, very worried if the New Deal II did not put the disadvantaged first because it is quite possible we could enter into a new round of New Deal and still not have the target and the focus of the programme on the most disadvantaged. If it does not do that we shall have missed a lot of learning. That has to be number one.

Mr Allan

  176. Mr Convery, last time you appeared before the sub-committee you argued in favour of a single working Age Agency, you argued for something which dealt with people in the labour market as a single agency, Benefits Agency and Employment Service together. May I ask whether the Working Age Agency as has been proposed is what you had in mind? Is that an effective Government response to what you propose and do you or any of the others think the Working Age Agency will improve matters?
  (Mr Convery) As described by the Prime Minister last year, yes, that is very much the agency I had in mind. With one exception. What I had in mind then and still have in mind is an agency which not only delivers benefits and keeps people in touch with the labour market, all people of working age irrespective of the type of benefit they are on if they wish to have labour market attachment, but also an agency which is just much more in touch with the whole of the labour market, which does not have this 20 per cent market share as the Employment Service has—in some parts of the country far less than 20 per cent; there are huge regional variations—an agency which is not seen to be brokering vacancies at the bottom end of the labour market. That is a further step which I think Government would have to take. Whether the new agency lives up to every wish that I can have, it is hard to say. Very few of us have a very clear idea about what that agency is going to look like. My anxiety is that, the Prime Minister effectively having committed its launch to June or July of this year, it is going to happen far faster than is advisable, it will end up a very incremental roll-out and the danger is that we might lose the best of the Benefits Agency, with their attention to detail, getting the benefit calculations right, understanding people's needs, and the best of the Employment Service which is a strong focus on the labour market and understanding jobs. If they do not get the best of both agencies through implementing it too rapidly, we might not have the best agency which is fit for this purpose.
  (Mr Adebowale) We do not know enough about how it is going to work. It is a massive risk. It is a massive opportunity to change but if it fails the very people we are seeking to help will lose faith in it completely. I wonder whether changing agencies and creating a new agency will actually deal with the things which need to be dealt with. What needs to happen is that there needs to be marketing outreach which simplifies the programme, addresses the issues we have discussed. There needs to be an emphasis on basic life skills, on a pre-New Deal programme which addresses the most disadvantaged. We need to address the issue of homelessness and its attendant miseries. I have to say that I am not convinced from what I have seen of the Working Age Agency that it has set out with that kind of vision in mind. I am not just talking about young people here, I am talking about across the board. If you think that the purpose of all this is to get the most disadvantaged into work, if you do that the other things will follow. I do worry about the headline statements about what the Working Age Agency is going to do and how it is going to do it and there is a danger that we shall rebrand what is already there and the very people we need to engage and have engaged or are engaging through New Deal will lose confidence.

  177. The other aspect which is being massively reorganised at the moment is the Learning and Skills Council, the £6 billion for education and training prioritised on young people, the same sort of client group. Could you briefly say whether you think the Learning and Skills Council at a national level, then local level, is going to work? Are you in particular as people involved with New Deal talking to the Learning and Skills Council sufficiently to be able to dovetail your joint efforts?
  (Mr Convery) I have recently been appointed onto one of the local Learning and Skills Councils and onto the National Committee for Adult Learners. I have taken a very close interest in the establishment of the LSC over the last year and a half. I do have some very grave anxieties about the pace of implementation and the ability to get a live system running by the end of March. I am not going to say more than that. If everything goes well, in the first six to nine months the new LSC will be mainly pre-occupied with bedding in its new systems, getting the new funding formula working, maintaining its suppliers, particularly where suppliers are facing sharp changes in volumes, prices they are going to be getting, handling the ESF co-financing arrangements which are scheduled for September of next year but which I suspect are not going to be delivered in quite as comprehensive a fashion as was originally intended by Ministers. Just keeping a steady ship going will be the absolute preoccupation of the LSC in the first six to nine months. As we go into the next Parliament some time in the middle of this year into next year, it will be in year two of the LSC's development that we shall be able to talk much more effectively about getting the right mesh between Mark II New Deal, the more vocationally relevant learning that the LSC will be spearheading and the more effective operations of the Employment Service functions within the new agency. It will be a year or so into the next Parliament before we really start to see that working well.
  (Mr Adebowale) I suppose I would say, bluntly if I may, I take a very on the ground view of these things. When Centrepoint and organisations like Centrepoint are fully aware of the impact of the LSC, Connexions and indeed New Deal Mark II on our clients and can see, because they have reached out to us and are actually asking us, how it is going to work, then I can say with confidence that these changes will have an effect. Right now I cannot say that because I have no idea how the LSC is going to have any impact whatsoever on the one in seven of Centrepoint's young people who have left school and are having difficulty admitting to us that they cannot read and have difficulty writing and have basic problems with getting jobs. When I see a path into the LSC, which allows me to deliver services to those young people, then I shall be able to say with some confidence that these changes are credible. Until then, they are just changes.


  178. I got a very strong message from you there, that one thing we all have to avoid is that the preoccupation with reorganisation will actually deflect us from the job of getting more disadvantaged, whether ethnic minority or not, into jobs or improving their employability. As you sit now you rather fear the worst.
  (Mr Adebowale) It would be unfair to say, as a member of the Task Force, that the Task Force has not been focused on the needs of the most disadvantaged and indeed has not addressed them. One of the good things about the Task Force, indeed New Deal, is that they have brought to attention in a very clear way the issues of disadvantaged, be it by race or by lack of housing or drug, alcohol, what have you. My concern is that that has not necessarily been followed up with the resources and the structures which are needed to make the essential difference. I do not believe these are big things. They are not massive, huge shifts, but there is a fear somehow that if you give credibility to focusing resources on the most disadvantaged, people will either not take the programme seriously or these feckless sorts will somehow spend the money on something else or the very organisations which actually see these young people somehow are not competent to deal with the problem. That is a really dangerous fallacy and it has been embedded in our approach to New Deal. Nothing I have said to this Committee is new in terms of what Centrepoint was saying right at the beginning of the New Deal programme. There has been progress, we have been involved in making recommendations around this. What I want to see is change on the ground which allows us to have the resources and it is down to resources and commitment necessary to make the essential difference. It has not happened yet.
  (Mr Butt) May I support Mr Adebowale on that. Rather than focus on creating new bodies, new structures with glossy magazines and glossy brochures and political messages about how great everything is, why do we not focus on getting the job done in the first place, breeding good practice, spreading the expertise and then look to creating a much more dynamic structure which can deal with the plethora of issues which disadvantaged young people face in the labour market. That is something BTEG would rather favour, particularly with the new Working Age Agency and indeed with the new LSCs coming on board as well. Many of the issues around the contractual arrangements, some of the guidance, the funding processes and the equality agenda have been marginalised in terms of some of the specialist provision required to meet the needs of those discriminated and those disadvantaged in the labour market. What I can say is the fact that our director has been seconded to the DfEE to oversee the whole equal opportunities agenda in the new bodies we hope will have some meaningful impact. On that point, TECs were required to have equal opportunities strategies and at the end of each year produce their results by it. In the beginning not many were producing coherent strategies and the gaps were still there but they have picked up and gradually have had some success. Whilst they have reached that point, you have a new structure coming in which really is not taking the equality agenda seriously at all, so you have lost that sort of expertise, that sort of good practice which has been developing towards a new structure which will be more concerned about putting the right systems in place. That is a fundamental flaw in the Department which needs to be addressed. Rather like the New Deal Mark II, let us try to put some of the recommendations in Mr Adebowale's report of two or three years ago and our report back in February 1998 where we were talking about how to improve New Deal to those who really are disadvantaged, those who keep slipping through the net or coming back to New Deal again. At the end of the day that is what New Deal was designed to deliver and once we know what the research is showing in terms of what those coming back onto New Deal are saying, let us improve the provision, simplify the partnerships, bringing new people on board who can actually say the right things at the decision-making table.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for what has proved to be a fascinating evidence session and a lot of useful warnings and encouragements to us coming from the depth of your experience of involvement in the programme. The session is closed.

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