Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
WEDNESDAY 15 MAY 2002
260. What a surprise.
(Mr Lauener) There is clearly some interest in this.
Mr Goodman: There is certainly.
261. We are all on red alert.
(Mr Lauener) It is slightly off the brief of today's
262. You mentioned sixth forms first.
(Mr Lauener) Yes.
263. Could you do a note?
(Mr Lauener) If it would help the Committee I would
be very happy to provide a note explaining the way the transfer
264. Supposed to work.
(Mr Lauener) I can send you some information.
Mr Mitchell: Yes, please.
265. In overall terms how satisfied are you
with the co-ordination of the Employment Strategy of the Department
for Work and Pensions?
(Mr Lauener) The comments I made earlier in reply
to the question from Mr Purnell I think illustrate that I think
we have made good progress. We have got good working relationships.
There are a number of areas in which the strategies in practice
intercept. I have talked about the Basic Skills Strategy where
quite a lot of detailed planning is being done to get a good crossover
between basic skills and employability. Two others that I would
highlight are the Childcare Strategy where there is an obvious
crossover in the provision of childcare places and ensuring that
helps people with children to get good quality affordable childcare
so they can get jobs more easily and another one is on the Sector
Skills Councils where we work very closely with the DWP and I
think they have developed a strong sectoral approach which has
been taken forward within New Deal. Again, I mentioned this in
the memorandum as the "Ambition" programme. I think
it has been an example of good departmental co-operation so that
there is a good measure of joined-upness about the thinking in
the two Departments.
266. Could you tell us also how the local Learning
and Skills Councils work together with Jobcentre Plus at local
level? Do you have any systems to monitor actual performance?
(Mr Lauener) Again, my memorandum highlights the importance,
it highlights also the fact that there is a place for someone
from Jobcentre Plus on all the local councils. I think that is
extremely important to ensure they are listening to the debate
and have the opportunity to make an input while the strategy is
being debated. I talked also about an example of having people
in Jobcentre Plus in the context of basic skills that understand
the way the basic skills network works so they can advise the
client advisers and so on, so it is practical things like that.
What we have not done is set in place a detailed monitoring mechanism
for that. I think we would talk directly to colleagues in Jobcentre
Plus to get their own impression about the way that is working.
They have got contacts right throughout their organisation. If
we felt there were any problems emerging from that then we would
want to maybe take things forward and conduct a more systematic
review of it. While we have put in place the arrangements and
think we have got examples of things working well, and we are
getting reasonable feedback, we are inclined to let that system
267. Is there not a danger that it is easy to
talk in submission papers about good liaison but what you have
to look at are performance indicators at a local level?
(Mr Lauener) The other thing we do look at of course
are the key performance indicators in terms of our learning targets.
Again, to use the basic skills example, the key target there is
750,000 by 2004, 750,000 people improving their basic skills.
We are in discussion with Jobcentre Plus about the number that
might come from that through the Jobcentre Plus route. That interlocking
set of targets is a very good way of putting a hard edged measure
to the need for good liaison.
268. The Government's White Paper on its employment
strategy pointed out that some 40 per cent of people of working
age who receive benefits have problems with literacy and numeracy.
You have a strategy to deal with this, of course. Again, how closely
are you meshing in with the Department for Work and Pensions?
(Mr Lauener) I think very closely through mechanisms
that I have identified. We identified from the start that getting
a way into Jobcentre Plus at the point that the client adviser
is talking to the person looking for a job is absolutely key and
that is the bit we have tried to work hardest on, to make sure
that people are being identified and then there is understanding
about where it can happen.
269. Finally, one group I am particularly interested
in is a group who are greatly disadvantaged which is those who
are ex-offenders, those who are on probation and in aftercare.
I know how difficult it is to get that group back into the job
market. You have taken over personally the prison education service.
Can you tell us a bit about the progress there? Can you tell us
about the progress in terms of your links with Jobcentre Plus?
(Mr Lauener) Okay. The Prisoners' Learning and Skills
Unit is, as you say, part of the Department, it is within Lifelong
Learning where I work as well. It was set up to bring about a
partnership between the Prison Service and the Department. There
was a feeling that education within the Prison Service had become
a bit isolated from mainstream thinking about learning and skills
and was too much seen as the poor relation within the Prison Service.
We have now had just over a year and there has been a lot of progress
in building relationships and building networks, putting in place
a set of targets and then beginning to improve the provision in
prisons. This is against the background of a period where there
is a quite significant increase in funding. I think there was
a 15 per cent real terms increase in funding set aside between
2001-02 and 2003-04 so that is a recognition of the importance
of this. In terms of the actual provision one of the things that
the Unit did was agree with the Prison Service targets for over
23,000 prisoners to achieve basic skills qualifications last year.
That is the total number of qualifications, from 23,400 last year
to 36,000 in 2003-04. The proportion of that bit which is basic
skills will be rising over the period. We have developed new materials
which will be piloted in prisons, including an initiative to pilot
a payment system for prisoners taking the qualifications. Sometimes
you can be better off in prison going on the job related activity
rather than education. There have been a number of quite interesting
initiatives there. The targets are on course to be met and some
quite good progress is being made. There is quite an interesting
debate at the moment as to what is the right level of provision.
Many prisoners have got really extremely poor literacy and numeracy
skills so there is a bit of a debate about whether the provision
should be at level one, in other words what we are looking for
from an 11-year-old, or level two, up to about a 16-year-old.
270. Is the payment just related to participation
or is it related to actually taking the qualification?
(Mr Lauener) I think it is just related to participation.
It is just a pilot. It is an indication that there is quite a
lot of development going on within the Prison Service.
271. The target is to have childcare places
in most disadvantaged areas for every lone parent entering employment
by 2004. Can you start by telling us what progress you have made
towards meeting that target?
(Mr Lauener) That is quite correct, that is one of
the key childcare targets. I have got information on the overall
target but I guess you are less interested in that, that is the
target to allow an extra million children to benefit from childcare
272. I am thinking about employment. I am happy
for you to come back to us and give us that information. Again,
speaking as someone in one of the neighbourhood renewal areas
and Chair of an Early Years Development Partnership, I am acutely
aware that we are not. I think there are a couple of things that
I would like you to comment on. One is the fact that I would be
interested to know how satisfied you are with the provision of
information and assistance with access to childcare through the
Employment Service. When I have sat in on employment interviews
I find that lone parents are simply being given a list of child
minders to ring and frankly that is not going to work. I want
to know where your thinking is going and how we can be more proactive.
The second issue is the actual creation of the places both nationally
and looking at some of the regional distribution issues. I am
sure you are quite happy to accept that we are going backwards
on child minding quite fast and that seems to me to be a very
significant problem. The third issue, and I suspect you will perhaps
have to come back on this one, is on the Children's Information
Services which the Early Years Development Partnerships are providing,
and which could be very important indeed in helping lone parents
seeking access to childcare places. Can you give us chapter and
verse on the role of local authorities providing resources for
these services through their SSA
(Mr Lauener) I think I may have to take
that away and provide a note.
What I can say is that pretty good progress has been made in terms
of the overall provision of places against the national target
of a million extra places by 2004. The latest figures show that
we are over half way there and that is accelerating reasonably
and we do expect to reach that target. What I cannot do here today
is break that down into the most disadvantaged areas for lone
parents in the way that you have asked.
273. The thing which is very key for this purpose,
because we are not looking at childcare overall, is the successes
in the Childcare Strategy, and I do not doubt that we are making
very considerable progress overall in the Childcare Strategy,
matching the areas of greatest employment need for lone parents.
I think it is patchy and it would be helpful to see exactly what
information you do have so that we can then push a little bit
harder on what action we need to take to get those two sides of
the service matching.
(Mr Lauener) I have got the point and I will take
it away and provide a note on that.
274. Just for the record, can you define a childcare
(Mr Lauener) I sense from the way you have asked the
question that that is a very important point which I had better
not therefore hazard a guess at in a response to you here and
now. In providing a note I will provide a clear definition.
275. In employment terms we are talking about
a childcare provision which is going to match a lone parent's
employment experience which is that it has to be available from
eight o'clock in the morning, it has to potentially be available
until after six o'clock at night and it has to be affordable.
Whether that is after school for a school child or provision for
under-5s, it cannot just be the kind of place which is available
between nine and twelve at a nursery.
(Mr Lauener) Yes, I have got the point.
276. That is for clarification. It would be
(Mr Lauener) Clearly in the overall numbers we expect
many places are filled more than once in a day. I understand the
context of your question and I will cover the definition in the
further note that I will provide.
277. You said many places are filled more than
once in a day, does that mean that they count as double against
the target if the same place is used twice?
(Mr Lauener) The overall target for March 2004 is
to create 900,000 new childcare places for 1.6 million children.
Taking account of turnover that should allow a million extra children
278. I am picking up on your last answer.
(Mr Lauener) What it means is with 900,000 childcare
places that would provide for 1.6 million children.
279. My line of argument is there is an important
difference between providing a childcare place which is a good
thing in itself for children and parents and providing a childcare
place which enables a lone parent to go to work. It is that second
area that I am interested in.
(Mr Lauener) I have got the point. I understand the
point about the times for which it is provided. It is not a bad
thing if it is used more than once as long as it is allowing the
access to the labour market.
Mrs Humble: And some more information about
the recent announcement about providing childcare support in the
parent's own home which was excluded in the original legislation.
Chairman: Those were the preliminary questions.
Those were your starters for ten. I think you have helped us by
covering a lot of the co-ordination questions that we were going
13 Please refer to the supplementary memorandum submitted
by the Department for Education and Skills (ES 13A), Ev 135. Back
Standard Spending Assessment. Back
Please refer to the supplementary memorandum submitted by the
Department for Education and Skills (ES 13C), Ev 141. Back