Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am fully aware of the programmes that were developed in the US in the 1960s and, indeed, of some of those developed in the 1980s. However, some programmes in the United States were later criticised because they were designed primarily to give manual jobs to young people during the summer and did not include the type of interpersonal and other skills development that we would want to see.

Therefore, our focus has been on combining finding activities for young people and developing their skills. As I said, the Connexions service, and the Careers Service where Connexions has not yet rolled out, will provide advice and guidance. We shall be looking to develop summer activities for 16 year-olds. Approximately £13 million will fund about 16,000 young people in 2002. The Home Office summer programmes and the Youth Justice Board programmes will also be running. In addition, Millennium Volunteers, with an annual budget of £15 million, is seeking to sign up 100,000 people by December 2003. The Higher Education Active

5 Feb 2002 : Column 499

Community Fund has £27 million to support 14,000 higher education students and will run until August 2004.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, can the Minister indicate what is happening in areas such as Burnley, Bradford and Oldham and whether the community is participating in the framework in devising programmes which are geared in particular at the employment of young people in those areas?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, indeed, the purpose of many of those programmes is to enable communities which are most in need to provide such activities. The Bridging the Gap report highlighted that as a critical point in determining the futures of young people. We know that those who drift into economic inactivity at the age of 16 are more likely to be unemployed by the age of 21. That is one of the driving forces in developing those schemes.

Lord Patel of Blackburn: My Lords, does the Minister agree that an empty mind is a dangerous mind and that the root cause of riots in Leeds, Bradford, Oldham and Burnley was unemployment and lack of activity? If so, what method of communication do Her Majesty's Government propose to ensure that the benefit of schemes reaches under-privileged young adults?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the primary method is the use of the Connexions service, which is being set up. Noble Lords will be aware that the service is currently being established in the 47 learning and skills council areas. The service will work with 13 to 19 year-olds, and a prime motivation behind it is to ensure that all such opportunities are related to young people. But, of course, we are also keen that the youth service works with young people, and we are providing an additional £30 million to the Transforming Youth Work Development Fund for work of that kind.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, will the Minister accept from me, as someone who in the past has worked on housing estates in Southwark, Lambeth and Camden, a warm welcome for the investment that the Government are making in this area? Does she agree that this is a way in which to introduce greater social cohesion? Does she also agree that people at university are encouraged to consider entering teaching, social work and other professions by learning about the conditions of people who perhaps have a very different experience from their own?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for those comments. I believe that it is important that government learn from the experience. For that reason, an expert task force will be brought together. It will include specialists from local areas who have practical experience and are able to work with us to develop the programmes to greater effect.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I imagine that the noble Baroness is familiar with the findings of the

5 Feb 2002 : Column 500

summer schemes which have been in place for younger children. Those schemes show that children approach secondary school with a great deal more confidence and a higher expectation to do well. Can she tell me whether similar findings have emerged from the very innovative schemes that have just started in terms of, for example, take-up of further education and attitudes towards criminal behaviour?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, indeed, such evidence is beginning to mount in relation to both the areas to which the noble Baroness referred. The draft evaluation report from the Connexions summer activity scheme said that 75 per cent of the participants agreed that the programme had influenced their plans for the future and that the greatest influence was an encouragement to return to further education. Equally, with regard to the Youth Justice Board "Splash" programme, 102 such programmes took place in the year 2000. They involved 20,000 young people who had come "off the streets", as it were, and participated over the five weeks of the summer. We know that the total crime rate fell by 6 per cent against a national average of 3.8 per cent; that criminal damage fell by 14.2 per cent compared with a national rise of 8 per cent; and that domestic burglary fell by 26.6 per cent compared with a national rise of 8 per cent.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether such programmes will be accessible to those with disabilities and special educational needs? Will children in care be able to take part in the programmes?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as always the noble Baroness raises an important point. My understanding is that they will. I shall refer that point back to the department to ensure that that is fully taken on board.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, can the Minister clarify some of the figures that she has mentioned? First, she spoke of £20 million and then of £30 million for young people. She has also floated the figures of £15 million and £27 million. Can she tell the House how much money is available for this project?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am advised by my noble friend behind me to say "Lots". If I have confused the House, I apologise. The figure of £20 million specifically refers to activities that take place in the summer. I gave more blanket figures, as the noble Baroness has, quite rightly, pointed out concerning the different programmes that are under way. The £20 million is certainly committed.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the task force report into the services available in Burnley last June and has she seen the section of that report that was drafted and prepared by the young people on the task force? I commend the report to her. I would appreciate her assuring the House that her officials will consider some of the

5 Feb 2002 : Column 501

recommendations put forward by the young people in relation to what they consider is necessary to engage them during summer breaks.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that nothing is more important than the experience of the young people themselves. They know exactly what they would like and they know what is missing. A crucial part of any development is that they should be involved. I shall refer back the comments made by my noble friend.

Economic Growth

2.52 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to sustain economic growth to meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer's forecast as set out in page 3 of the Pre-Budget Report.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the frameworks for fiscal and monetary policy, which have been in place since 1997, and the Government's tough decisions in reducing the public debt to a sustainable level have ensured that the United Kingdom has the best possible chance of sustaining healthy economic growth in a climate of global weakness.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, with the reduced growth rate in the last quarter of last year of 0.2 per cent—1.9 per cent on an annual basis—and with the prospects for growth this year being as bleak as they are, how can the Government seriously consider raising taxation, which will depress growth still further? Is there a new wealth-creating agenda, as described by the Chancellor in The Times this morning?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord refers to The Times. I do not know whether he heard the Chancellor speaking on the "Today" programme this morning. We have only the preliminary estimate for GDP growth for 2001, which is 2.4 per cent. That is slightly above the figure expected in the Pre-Budget Report. The report expects growth in 2002 to be between 2 and 2.5 per cent. The premise of the noble Lord's question is not accurate.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, the Minister speaks of a provisional estimate of 2.4 per cent for GDP last year. Is he at all concerned that last year the British economy suffered the steepest fall in manufacturing output since the depth of the recession in 1991, combined with the fastest growth in personal borrowing since the peak of the Lawson boom in 1990?

5 Feb 2002 : Column 502

How long can that situation be sustained? Surely consumer credit is far too easy and the squeeze on industry is far too tight.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page