The assumption is that more frequent reporting will improve accuracy, but that is far from the case. It does not take account of annual reconciliation, disputes about holidays or sickness, seasonal working or long periods of not working for freelancers, particularly writers and actors. We have the best actors in the world, but it is important that they do not all come from Eton. Equity recently conducted a survey of its members and found that 20% had claimed some form of benefit in the previous 12 months and more than half of them had claimed tax credits. When asked about their earnings, 25% of Equity members said that they earned between £5,000 and £10,000 from their self-employed work in the previous 12 months,

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1924

and just over 23% earned between £10,000 and £20,000. Equity has said that when you factor in net profit figures, it is clear that many will hit the problem of the minimum income floor. I hope I will be forgiven for repeating what I said at Second Reading, which is that is that a minimum income floor is set for the self-employed who are deemed to be earning the national minimum wage—recently changed to the national living wage—whether or not they earn it.

You could argue that at least this is equal misery for all under the new system, but it is worse for those self-employed people with fluctuating earnings. If earnings in any month from April 2016 onwards are high enough to disentitle the claimant from universal credit, the surplus earnings regulations will apply to bring the surplus earnings in that month into account as earnings for universal credit purposes in each of the next five months. To summarise, actors will be worse off because of the application of the minimum income floor. That is why I ask in Amendment 61 for more flexibility to be applied to certain work groups because of their fluctuating earnings. It may seem an obscure amendment because it refers to the Welfare Reform Act 2012. However, the purpose is the same as it was when we discussed the self-employed during the debates on that Act. There is no evidence that a flexible approach has been adopted since the Act, and I do not believe it is impossible to prescribe the modifications that I have asked for.

To be self-employed, activity needs to be undertaken on a commercial basis, with a view to making a profit, and, as I said earlier, it must be organised and regular. With effect from April 2016, a self-employed claimant must register as self-employed with HMRC for self-assessment and provide their unique taxpayer reference with their working tax credit claim. It remains uncertain how HMRC will determine whether an activity is undertaken on a commercial basis; whether there will be different interpretations of whether someone is employed or self-employed for tax and tax credit purposes; and how claimants and prospective claimants will be helped to ensure that they claim on the correct basis to avoid unwittingly incurring an overpayment. HMRC is still developing its guidance, apparently.

The Minister’s letter to Peers of 25 November 2015 says that the same tests for determining the commerciality of a trade will be applied to tax credits as to income tax. However, the Minister goes on to say that if HMRC decides that the test is not met for tax credit purposes, the income from the activity will still be subject to income tax. It would be interesting to know on what basis that income would be taxed; if it were taxed as profits of a trade, it would be an indication that the tests of commerciality are not the same.

The minimum income floor will be particularly problematic—a word that I cannot say—for seasonal trades and trades that take more than 12 months to move into profit; newly established businesses taking on their first employee; businesses experiencing a downturn, a bad debt or the bankruptcy of a key customer; businesses depending on the weather; and businesses that incur large expenses in certain months. I have already mentioned entertainers and those in other unpredictable trades, but there are also bed and breakfast owners in the winter season; arable farmers

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1925

who earn all their profit at or around harvest time; and livestock farmers, who face the cost of rearing and getting their livestock to market.

The fundamental objection to the monthly minimum income floor is that it opens up a gap in the treatment of employed as opposed to self-employed claimants. For example, a livestock farmer who has had his universal credit restricted by the minimum income floor in the seven months of the year when he makes little or no profit, and who receives no universal credit at all in the five months in which his business becomes profitable, will be entitled to considerably less universal credit over the course of the year than an employed claimant who may earn the same over the whole year but whose earnings are spread evenly over 12 months. It is wholly wrong that the amount of welfare support that a worker receives should depend so much on cash flow rather than earnings. The position is made worse by carrying forward surplus income and expenditure with a view to total annual profits being assessed over the course of the year, as the minimum income floor will continue to be applied on a monthly basis.

Many self-employed claimants will be disadvantaged by the minimum income floor even when their annual profits exceed it. Given that the intention of universal credit is to assist claimants at the point when they most need help, it seems perverse to restrict entitlement when cash flow is at its lowest and to exclude from entitlement when profit from that expenditure is finally received.

For claimants whose income and expenditure arise unevenly, would the Minister consider accepting Amendment 61 so that they may opt for appropriate and tailored conditionality instead of the minimum income floor? This would limit the risk to the DWP while addressing an otherwise unfair anomaly. Assuming that a statistical framework is already in place for self-employed and the minimum income floor, why should it not be made publicly available and sector-specific so that we can see who is most disadvantaged?

8.45 pm

In discussions during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act, I seem to remember making a plea that the exemption period of one year for a start-up, while welcome, would not be sufficient for most businesses. The Prince’s Trust indicated that one year is simply too short a time to assess the profitability of a business. The Government’s response is to demand monthly returns for working tax credit and quarterly returns for income tax. I am rather fearful of asking government for any improvements if it risks the retaliatory response that the self-employed will in future have to report on a daily basis.

The Child Poverty Action Group has also raised concerns about the minimum income floor and its alignment to the national living wage. It says:

“The median weekly income of self-employed workers is £207, yet the minimum income floor is currently £234.50 and will rise to £252 a week”.

It goes on to say:

“A self-employed worker with two children earning £207 a week already losing out on universal credit … combined with a

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1926

reduction in the work allowance and the cut to the first child element this family will lose £1,252 next year if they are renting and £2,102 if they are non-renters”.

In conclusion, there is a need for more publicly available information about the self-employed, the wide diversity of groups and the impact of the minimum income floor. There is also a need for flexible alternatives to the minimum income floor; I suggest some tailored conditionality. The requirement for monthly returns is bureaucratic, inefficient and will not lead to desired outcomes. There must be a more efficient system; for example, averaging profits over a period that is appropriate to businesses, which should be a minimum of one year. I hope the Minister will acknowledge that the self-employed do not fit into the social security system easily, even though there may be periods of their lives when they desperately need help.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton (CB): My Lords, before I speak to Amendment 67 I apologise to the Minister for not being here at Second Reading. Unfortunately, it clashed with the hearing of the Select Committee on the Equality Act on disability provisions and I was very torn as where to go, so I ask him to forgive me for not being there at that time.

I am delighted that Amendment 67 has the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, and my noble friends Lord Low of Dalston and Lady Hollins. Amendment 67 would require the Secretary of State to report each year on the Government’s progress in meeting their commitments to halving the disability employment gap. My amendment is designed to ensure that this commitment has the prominence it needs if it is to come to fruition.

I was delighted and honoured to receive many invitations last month to speak on the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. One of the key objectives that drove our campaign at the time was to end discrimination faced by disabled people in the workplace. The Disability Discrimination Act made it unlawful to discriminate against disabled employees, which was a good start, but we all know that legislation alone cannot provide all the solutions—and it did not.

One need only glance at the statistics to see that disabled people are still facing significant challenges which prevent them pursuing interesting careers. At present, the employment rate for disabled people is 47.6%; for non-disabled people, it is 80.5%—a gap of over 30%, and it has been stuck at that level for more than a decade. The Government identified this gap as one of their election priorities and committed to halving it by the end of the term. That was a very bold commitment but one that I praised enormously.

The Minister for Disabled People in another place has put his weight behind the Disability Confident campaign to raise employers’ awareness of disabled people’s potential, in the hope that they will get the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers. It is a laudable aim but not quite as new as it purports to be. The Business Disability Forum has been promoting a similar campaign in great detail for years upon years. Nor is this a solution to the gap. It helps, of course, but it will not achieve the objective on its own. As many organisations working in the field have found, awareness-raising is important but it goes only so far—and not that far, I am afraid.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1927

The disability employment gap illustrates the systemic and deep-seated inequality that disabled people in the workplace face. It is constantly there, whether the economy is booming or in recession. That is why the Government need to step up their oversight and target action where it is needed. It is not enough simply to count the employment numbers. It is the employment gap that needs to be measured in more detail. The Minister for Disabled People in the other place said that measuring progress towards full employment will include some—I repeat: some—reporting of the gap. That is of course welcome but, if change is to be driven across government, we need to have a proper reporting mechanism enshrined in law to incentivise all departments to scrutinise what goes on beyond the headline figure. Reporting against specific groups of disabled people will give the Government a greater understanding of how to tackle the complex reef of barriers to work. These are deeply ingrained at every stage of the path to employment, including further and higher education and apprenticeships, which I shall come to later.

Support for disabled people in other areas is crucial to their ability to work. It also needs factoring in when addressing the employment gap, as I shall briefly illustrate. In a recent research study carried out by the charity Scope, 79% of disabled users of social care said that support services are vital to help them to work, seek work, volunteer and study. The research further showed that fewer than half of disabled people now receive the support they need to live independently and access jobs.

Inadequate support for independent living is another massive barrier to the employment of disabled people. Without assistance to get out of bed, wash, dress, have breakfast and leave the house, it is nigh-on impossible to find and retain a job. The lack of work income has an impact on the independence of disabled people, and in the end creates a vicious circle. Therefore, reporting on the gap would help the Government to get a more accurate picture of what is behind these figures. It would enable them to plan a well-co-ordinated cross-departmental response to the long-term chronic unemployment cycle in which disabled people are caught.

In the recent spending review it was announced that more than £115 million would be invested in the joint health and work unit. A requirement to report annually to departments on progress towards halving the disability employment gap, in the detail set out in my amendment, would support the unit and provide a cross-departmental employment focus.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to my amendment. I hope he will appreciate that it is an enabling amendment that is intended to be helpful and to ensure that the Government continue to support disabled people in playing an active role in our country’s growing economy. It is time to move on from awareness raising.

Baroness Doocey (LD): My Lords, I rise to support Amendment 67 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, and in particular to support the right of disabled people to access employment. As the noble Baroness has just said, it is quite shameful that almost half the working age population of disabled people is without a job.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1928

The Bill includes little detail on how the Government plan to halve the disability employment gap. Perhaps the Minister could kindly tell the House what practical and measurable steps they are taking to achieve the target and how they plan to involve disabled people themselves in formulating the plans.

Disabled people clearly know from personal experience the barriers they face to finding and staying in work; despite the best intentions of successive Governments, disabled people face major discrimination when trying to get work. Employer attitudes are a particular problem, not because employers do not care but because they often see disabled people as “risky hires”.

One of my friends, who has an excellent degree, exceptional IT skills and is very personable, has spent 10 years trying to get work without success. The fact that he is blind has been a major problem, largely because employers have absolutely no idea what specialist equipment is available that would allow him to play a full part in the workplace. He tells stories of explaining to employers that he can type because there is a special programme. It is not that employers do not care; they do not know. It is therefore essential to find ways to educate employers about the specialist employment support that is available to disabled people. Although I am sure that the large employers understand what systems are available, I have spoken to about 50 SMEs and the vast majority have little or no idea of how disabled people operate and the huge contribution they could make to their business.

In the latest spending review the Government announced plans for a new work and health programme to provide specialist support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities and those who have been unemployed for more than two years. Can the Minister confirm that the programme will be similar to the Work Choice model and say whether it will respond directly to the specific barriers to work that disabled people experience?

Access to Work is a vital scheme that enables many disabled people to stay and progress in work. The Government also announced in the spending review a real-terms increase in spending on Access to Work. This is extremely welcome, but it can only make a difference if employers and disabled people know that it exists. This is not the case all the time. The investment also comes with a great opportunity to improve Access to Work itself. Will the Minister, for example, consider an approach which delivers Access to Work through a single personal budget for employment support that is available both before and during employment? Disabled people tell me that this could make a huge difference, because it would guarantee prospective employers that any adjustments a disabled person needed would follow the person and would already be in place. It would take away the concern that they would not be able to provide what was needed.

If reporting requirements are included in the Bill, it will provide a departmental and cross-government focus on these laudable goals and ensure that achieving them is embedded in the organisational culture. It will also ensure that successive Governments remain committed to delivering the changes in policy, practice and, more particularly, public attitudes that mean that disabled people can find the employment they want and so desperately need.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1929

9 pm

Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab): My Lords, Amendment 64 concerns those people who are kept out of the workforce as a result of their caring role. Every year, 2.1 million people take on an unpaid caring role and nearly 2.1 million people find their caring role comes to an end. While not of all of those whose caring role finishes have given up work to care or may be of working age, a considerable number of them are in that situation. Indeed, Carers UK research shows that 2.3 million people have given up work at some point to care, unpaid, for loved ones.

People give up work to become a carer for all kinds of reasons. It may be simply through personal choice or because there are some unreliable services out there that provide substitute care. Others feel forced to leave through a lack of carer-friendly employment practices such as flexible working and paid care leave.

The Government do not currently collect information about the number of working-age carers who remain out of work after their caring role ends. However, evidence from Carers UK’s Caring and Family Finances inquiry indicated that former carers who are of working age remain significantly less likely to be in work than non-carers of working age.

Leaving work to care puts pressure on the day-to-day finances of carers and their families, but it can also have far-reaching consequences for their long-term financial independence as they struggle to return to work after a caring role. Former carers out of work report high reductions in their income as a result of the legacy of caring, with over 80% saying that their income was more than £10,000 a year less than it would have been if they had not been carers.

The end of caring responsibilities can cause complete disruption to family finances, but the wider economic impact is also vast. Research from Age UK and Carers UK indicates that £5.3 billion has been wiped from the economy in lost earnings because of people who have dropped out of the workforce due to caring. Providing the right amount of support to enable carers to return to work is essential, not only for their health, well-being and finances but for the wider economy.

Our ageing population and the fact that more people are living with long-term conditions means that the demand for care will rise. Measures therefore need to be in place for those who choose to give up work to be able to return. A requirement to report on the support available to former carers and the number of former carers in employment would ensure that this often-hidden group would be given the tailored support they need. Does the Minister acknowledge that more needs to be done to help former carers back into employment and will he undertake a review of the support currently available to former carers? Does he agree that helping former carers back to work benefits both the carer’s own personal health and finances and the economy as a whole?

Baroness Hollins: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 67, in support of my noble friend Lady Campbell. Given the Government’s ambitious commitment to halve the disability employment gap, it seems logical and common sense to require the Secretary of State to report on progress, but such a

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1930

report would need to be broken down by disability or impairment. For example, the Spinal Injuries Association draws attention to a number of issues that prevent people with new spinal cord injuries returning to work. I shall mention just two of those. The first is the need to have the right care and support package in place that is flexible enough to enable a person to work. The second is the need for accessible transport to and from work.

The employment rate for people with learning disabilities, mental illness and autism remains stubbornly low, which highlights the very real structural and attitudinal barriers that exist for them. Worryingly, the Health & Social Care Information Centre reports that the percentage of people with learning disabilities in paid work has dropped from 7.1% to 6% in the past few years. To be frank, the current government employment schemes have failed people with learning disabilities. The National Development Team for Inclusion has done some thorough research into the cost-effectiveness of employment support for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. It shows that much of the current public spending in this area is being wasted, as it goes on non-evidence-based models that are more expensive and have poorer outcomes than the approaches that do work. If scaled up, effective interventions could be expected to support up to three times as many people in retaining paid work. This would save considerable sums in traditional care services.

A major obstacle for people with learning disabilities to getting into work is the lack of aspiration, for themselves if they have grown up not having any expectation of working, and of their families, their supporters and the professionals who advise them. The two approaches found by the NDTi to be effective were individual placement support and supported employment. I declare an interest here as I have published a book for employers which tells the story of Gary Butler and his work at St George’s, University of London, where he is employed to teach medical students how to communicate with people with learning disabilities. It is interesting because it is a job which only those with learning disabilities can do. The normal image of work that is suitable for such people is traditionally along the lines of collecting trolleys at Sainsbury’s and so on, but there are jobs which are particularly suited to people’s own needs and interests. St George’s has been employing two people with learning disabilities as trainers for 23 years. It is something that I initiated after having seen a similar kind of scheme in Boston.

With the right support, people with learning disabilities and those with mental illness make valued employees who are more likely to stay in work with lower sickness rates than non-disabled people, and there is research evidence for this. I hope that the Minister will recognise the value of a detailed report so as to understand any remaining barriers to halving the disability employment gap and, as my noble friend said, to get behind the figures.

Baroness Drake (Lab): My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 64A. On 25 November, the Chancellor stated that he was determined that the economic recovery would be,

“for all, felt in all parts of our nation”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 25/11/15; col. 1358.]

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1931

Increasing employment is a key indicator of the benefits of economic recovery, but there is much debate about whether the increase has been at the cost of job quality, weak pay growth and productivity performance, and rising and deepening job insecurity for a significant number of workers. Understanding the reality and extent of these concerns is important to understanding progress to full employment. Level of employment is a necessary but not sufficient indicator of whether the recovery is benefiting all parts of the nation and providing opportunity for all, which the Chancellor aspires to.

The plethora of amendments to the Clause 1 obligation to report on progress to full employment reveals that many noble Lords share that concern, if for slightly different reasons. Amendment 64A requires the report to address additionally what is happening within the labour market, in particular but not exclusively in terms of changing employment practices and types of employment, as well as on self-employment, non-guaranteed hours of work, quantitative and qualitative underemployment—that is, people working fewer hours than they want, or at a lower level of skill than they are capable of—and younger workers.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills reports that, since 2008, the UK labour market has been more efficient than some other economies in keeping people at work, but that there have been significant changes in the nature of that employment and that those at the margin are impacted especially harshly. Labour productivity is struggling to recover. This results from factors such as the decline in youth employment, rising underemployment, a falling number of jobs in middle-skill occupations and a shift to a lower-wage, lower-skill economy. There are concentrations of unemployment and evidence of quantitative and qualitative underemployment. The commission found that nearly half of establishments reported that they had employees with skills more advanced than their job required, which accounts for 16% of the workforce and 4.3 million workers—indeed, more than are considered to have a skills gap.

If the commission is correct, when it comes to considering how full employment is interpreted, the available supply of labour will be much bigger than those officially classified as unemployed. Economic growth has increased employment but not always of the type and with the hours that people seek. If the Government want to achieve opportunity for all and lower welfare, the higher minimum wage cannot be a direct replacement for welfare. Arithmetic tells us that the £4 billion rise in pay it will produce will not compensate many whose benefits will fall as a result of the £12 billion cuts. The minimum wage targets the hourly pay of low earners and we hope that it will deliver increased productivity. Welfare supports low-income families. A goal to benefit all families needs the progress report to cover types of employment and practices.

The rise in self-employment—83% of net gains in employment between 2007 and 2014, rising to 4.5 million and 15% of workers—was accompanied by a 22% fall in self-employed average median income. The Resolution Foundation found that more than half of full-time, self-employed people are low paid, compared to around one in five employees. My noble friend Lady Donaghy

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1932

gave an excellent articulation of the problem and any repetition from me would merely detract from that clarity. To restate, increasing the minimum wage is a solution largely confined to those directly employed. The minimum wage does not apply to low earning, self-employed people. Whether self-employment falls with recovery is uncertain, but policies focused on increasing high-wage employment need to deliver for the self-employed too.

The labour market has witnessed the rise of other precarious forms of employment, such as a sustained increase in the use of fixed-period contracts, casual employment, short-term arrangements and non-guaranteed hours. Recent ONS updates on the use of non-guaranteed hours contracts—zero hours for short—reveal around 1.5 million such contracts where work was carried out in the survey period, which is an increase of 6%. But in addition to the 1.5 million, there were 1.9 million contracts where no work was carried out, which is up from 1.3 million. This is not a small business phenomenon, as nearly half of businesses with employment of 250 or more make use of non-guaranteed hours contracts, compared with 10% of businesses with less than 20.

The key observation is that the increased use of non-guaranteed hours contracts over a period of stronger employment recovery suggests that they are becoming a permanent feature. The Resolution Foundation comments that,

“it is clear that this form of working is not fading away as our employment recovery gains ground … some people value the flexibility offered by ZHCs, for many they bring deep insecurity … for those affected—particularly in low-paying sectors … the danger is that job insecurity is becoming deeper”.

The Clause 1 report needs to inform us whether such contracts are becoming a standard form of employment in low-paid sectors, such as hospitality, care and retail, and how the Government will respond.

9.15 pm

The Government aspire to a higher-wage economy but, given the extent of polarisation in the labour market, with the growth of both low and high-skilled jobs and the decline of middle-skilled jobs, this is uncertain. What is certain is that a route out of in-work poverty is job progression or upskilling, but how will that be achieved in industries characterised by sustained insecure and low-paid jobs?

The Commission for Employment and Skills observed that chief among those affected by tough labour market conditions are young people. Their participation has diverged markedly from the rest of the workforce. Between 2007 and 2013, 1.2 million over-50s found work, while 400,000 fewer younger people were employed. Yet we know that for young people sustained unemployment can have a scarring effect, lowering their future earnings and employment outcomes.

I am sure the Minister will assert that there are indications that the quality of labour market participation is improving, but whether those improvements are sustained, whether economic recovery benefits all parts of our nation and what that means for the definition of and progress towards full employment—in terms of the available supply of labour—should all be considered against the evidence over the course of the Parliament. That is the purpose of Amendment 64A.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1933

Baroness Manzoor: My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 65. I recognise that my proposed new clause may be imperfectly drafted, as the word “disabled” should perhaps have been defined. As this is a probing amendment, I hope the Committee will make allowances.

My amendment is pretty self-explanatory, in that it requires the Secretary of State to,

“lay a report before Parliament annually on the progress which has been made towards halving the disability employment gap”.

It also requires that,

“the report must set out how the Secretary of State has interpreted ‘disability employment gap’ for these purposes”.

I would like the report to include,

“an assessment of the sectors in which disabled people have primarily secured jobs … an assessment of the type and level of jobs primarily secured by disabled people, and … an assessment of the progression of disabled people within the job market”.

My amendment will help to improve the transparency of employment outcomes for disabled people and allow monitoring of the Government’s target.

I am, however, rather concerned because we have asked the Minister for reviews of sanctions, conditionality criteria and so on. From my perspective, we have not had an answer that might have given us some hope. However, I hope the Minister will give this measure careful consideration because, across the Committee, I see there is some support for it.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I shall speak briefly in support of Amendment 64 in the name of my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley, an indefatigable champion of the rights of carers. I also express my support for other amendments, particularly those concerning the disability employment gap, on which we heard very eloquent arguments from the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton.

It is very welcome that the constraints on labour market participation created by the care of children are much better recognised now than they were in the past, but we still have a long way to go with regard to carers, who are an increasingly important part of the labour force. I hope that the carer strategy the Government are working on will address the need for policies that make it easier to combine paid work and care, such as the statutory paid care leave for just a few days a year which many other countries provide. I have argued for this very important policy in relation to a number of Bills going through your Lordships’ House. We are becoming a laggard compared with other countries. We can learn a lot from them.

As care is such an important part of the economy, the amendment underlines the case for reporting on the position of carers and former carers in the labour market as part of any duty to report on employment trends. I suggest that it might go a bit further, so that any such report includes information on those who combine paid work and care and those who have had to give up paid work to care, as well as former carers.

Baroness Grey-Thompson (CB): My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 67 in the name of my noble friend Lady Campbell of Surbiton. I wholeheartedly support the Government’s laudable aim to halve the employment gap. Leonard Cheshire has called it the most ambitious and exciting commitment to disabled

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1934

people in the last decade. However—I am sure that the Minister was expecting a “however” from me—without reporting it becomes just awareness. Awareness will not do it. There has been awareness-raising for as long as I can remember. There is a moment of “wake up”, when people realise they should be slightly more open to disabled people, but then they forget what they are meant to do. Charities such as Scope, Mind and Mencap, to name a few, have had amazing public campaigns to raise awareness. There is a host of such organisations. Disability Confident is a bit of a step forward, but the shift in attitude is minute. We know that because the employment gap still exists.

It is important to look at the reality of how this changes for specific impairment groups. We are not one homogeneous group. We are not “the disabled”; we are disabled people. Different solutions will be required for different people: two wheelchair users do not require the same solutions, let alone the difference between me as a wheelchair user and somebody with a learning disability. We can all be treated and discriminated against in very different ways. With changes to things such as disabled students’ awards and Access to Work, which is too complicated and inflexible—it takes too long to apply to get support—and the other changes that have come in, a number of people have written to me to say that their access to work has been cut with extremely short notice. They have gone from full-time support to suddenly having 12 hours a week. They are then pushed out of work. Instead of helping them it is making their lives far more complicated.

Disabled people are tired of awareness; we are tired of waiting. Disabled people just need a bit of help. The biggest change will come if we move away from awareness. If the Government are really serious about closing the employment gap, the tone must come from this Chamber and the other place with them accepting the amendment.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I rise briefly to support Amendment 65 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, and Amendment 67 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, which would legislate for a disability employment gap reporting obligation.

If we are to take the Government at their word—that the measures in the Bill reducing benefits for the disabled are about incentivising work, rather than simply cutting the cost of the benefit budget—I freely applaud the intention, if not necessarily the execution. The disability employment gap is, of course, a sad indictment of a society that has for perhaps too long been willing to ignore the aspirations of the disabled to engage fully in society through work. As the Government’s own impact assessment found, 61% of those in the work-related activity group want the opportunity to earn a living. It is quite right that the Government have committed to this laudable aim of halving the disability employment gap. We all applaud that.

There are, of course, measures within the present Bill that the Government claim will contribute towards reducing the employment gap by incentivising paid employment; the WRAG cut is the obvious example. However, as was evidenced in this Chamber last week,

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1935

there are quite a few people with a great deal of experience in this area who have grave concerns about the effectiveness of the measures. This kind of carrot-and-stick approach cannot be a substitute for the proper strategic, joined-up thinking across the departments that will be required if we are to help disabled people overcome the considerable challenges they face in entering or re-entering the workplace.

I acknowledge that the Government are making good progress on this issue on some fronts. For example, I welcome the announcement in the spending review of the new work and health programme. However, a proper reporting obligation will bring much needed clarity and transparency to the issue of disability employment, as well as allowing the Government to think more strategically about how best to allocate resources in an effort to close the gap. This obligation is made even more essential, given the seriousness of the implications of measures like the ESA WRAG cut for those who currently rely on such benefits. If the WRAG cut does not facilitate increased numbers of disabled people moving into work—or, even worse, makes it harder for them to find employment, as a number of charitable bodies have suggested—we need to know about it. These amendments would cost the Government almost nothing, but would give them a sound platform going forward as they seek to fulfil this excellent pledge to close the disability employment gap. I therefore hope that they will support some form of these amendments as we go forward.

Lord Suri (Con): My Lords, it is a pleasure to be able to support Amendment 67, which is crucial. At present, the disability employment gap means that disabled people are over 20% less likely than their counterparts to be in full-time employment. Employment has many benefits other than the obvious one of economic advantage. The recognition of your employment acts as an important societal signal, improving your reputation among your peers. Furthermore, in what the Prime Minister has termed the “global race”, the cost to the country of having unutilised human capital is immense. Quite simply, high levels of unemployment for the disabled are not something we can afford.

The new clause which Amendment 67 would introduce would nudge the Secretary of State into dealing properly with this issue, and laying out a clear strategy to close the disability employment gap. The current Secretary of State has made significant strides towards helping the disabled into work. It would also allow Members of Parliament and Peers to scrutinise the work done in this field separate from any other scrutiny of employment statistics which goes on. Some might argue that this is not required or that it is impracticable to have a separate report for disabled people but, as the amendment says, these people are,

“marginalised from the labour force and require a specific focus”.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, before I get to Amendment 62, I will comment on the range of amendments which other noble Lords have spoken to. Each of these has the aspiration of getting appropriate reporting requirements from the Government, particularly to address the challenge of closing the disability employment gap. We heard from the right reverend

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1936

Prelate the Bishop of St Albans about the importance of reporting, particularly in the context of something such as the ESA WRAG. If that is going to challenge closing the employment gap then reporting is needed to make sure it is better addressed. He said that we have ignored for too long the aspiration of disabled people to work.

9.30 pm

The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, supports the ambition of halving the disability employment gap, stressed the importance of reporting to help achieve that and thought that Access to Work was too inflexible as a programme. The noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, stressed the importance of making sure that the various sectors of the economy accessed by disabled people—the types of jobs—are effectively reported on as well, not just the crude aggregates. My noble friend Lady Drake made a not dissimilar point in terms of looking not just at aggregates but at job quality, job security, underemployment and upskilling, and asked why we have this growth of zero-hours contracts when the economy is growing. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, said that if we are committed to halving the disability employment gap, it is logical that we report on progress, and spoke about programmes involving individual placement and support. The noble Lord, Lord Suri, said that we cannot afford not to address this issue through reporting.

My noble friends Lady Pitkeathley and Lady Lister focused on carers, and said that the report must include people who have been kept out of the workplace because of their caring responsibilities and wish to return to it. That issue has probably been too long overlooked. The noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, focused on the issue of employer attitudes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, as ever, gave a very authoritative view of what is needed. She identified that there is still systematic and deep-rooted discrimination; that we need to change employer attitudes and reporting each year will be important to seek to address that; that this will need a cross-government approach; and that it is time to move away from awareness-raising.

My noble friend Lady Donaghy focused extensively, and with great authority, on the self-employed, making the point that the tax credits system is not effectively geared to deal with self-employed people who do not readily fit the procedures. She was less than pleased with the concept of monthly returns, suggesting that they were bureaucratic. My noble friend touches on hugely important issues, given the growing importance of self-employment to our economy.

As I said, we have Amendment 62 in this group, which offers a definition of full employment as 80% of the working population. As a number of the other amendments do, it also calls for the report on full employment to specify what progress has been made towards halving the disability employment gap. In this latter regard it covers the same ground as amendments in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Manzoor and Lady Campbell, and others, which reasonably require more ongoing details—for example, of the type of jobs that disabled people are able to secure and what steps are required when progress is insufficient. We have no difficulty in being able to support those.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1937

We welcome the Government’s commitment to report on progress made towards full employment, as we do their stated aim of halving the disability employment gap. We note that the definition of full employment is to be left to the Secretary of State to interpret at each annual report, and so could be a movable feast. As we did in the other place, we offer 80% for the definition, and hope that Ministers in your Lordships’ House will be a little more forthcoming on how they would approach that measurement. Perhaps we can at least have some indication of how the Government propose to construct their definition. Will it be a single measure regardless of the components of the data? What about the progress, for example, of former carers—the subject of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley? We know, for example, from the ONS that there are some three-quarters of a million contracts with no guaranteed term—more than 100,000 up on a year ago—and that 1.5 million contracts do not guarantee a minimum number of hours. My noble friend Lady Drake touched upon these issues as well. In 2014, just under one in 10, or 3 million people, wanted to work more hours. They are the underemployed. How will these issues be included in the reporting?

My noble friends Lady Donaghy and Lady Drake raised various matters about the self-employed. Perhaps the Minister can say something about how the reporting is going to cover their situations. These are very relevant issues and I support their amendments. We know that the rise in total employment since 2008 has predominantly been through self-employment, a point which I think my noble friend Lady Drake raised. In 2014, there were 4.6 million people who were self-employed in their main job—15% of those in work. There were also almost a third of a million employees who had a second job in which they were self-employed.

Let us compare the second quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2008. Unemployment among the self-employed rose by 732,000 but the number of employees rose by 339,000. As the inflow rate has stayed fairly steady, the increase seems attributable to a decline in the off-flow rate, rather than a great flood of entrepreneurial activity. Although it is mainly men who are self-employed, the most common roles being in construction, taxi driving and management consultancy, the number of women in self-employment is increasing at a faster rate than for men. According to the ONS, the average income for the self-employed has actually fallen by 22% over the period since 2008-09, which again was a point that I think my noble friend Lady Drake referred to. The purpose of touching upon these issues is to emphasise that employment policy is not just about counting aggregates but should be about the quality of jobs—“decent work” is a term that is growing in use. We hear that what gets measured and reported on will get the attention of government, so how wide will their attention span be on this issue?

We have long since signed up to the importance of work and supporting those who can get back into work. We adhere to the Waddell and Burton doctrine about work—good work—being good for one’s health. But the proposition about work being the best route out of poverty is, as we have discussed on a number of recent occasions, coming under strain. It certainly will

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1938

without in-work benefit support from government. However, 80% of the active population is an ambitious target to have for full employment. It was one adopted by the previous Labour Government and noted at the time by the noble Lord, Lord Freud, as ambitious, although good progress was made before the banking crisis of 2008. We know that the Minister is wary of targets, but on what will the Government base their judgment of full employment?

My right honourable friend Stephen Timms MP picked up on the suggestion that the Government would prefer a formulation to the effect that the target employment rate should be the highest in the G7. I cannot imagine that this would satisfy a purist such as the Minister, but he may wish to comment. Of course the UK, at 73%, is currently somewhere in the middle: I believe it is behind Germany and Japan but ahead of the US and France.

Reaching or making progress towards full employment must inevitably entail the Government beginning to deliver on their commitment to close the disability employment gap. The employment gap between disabled people and the rest of the working-age population stands at an alarming 33%. It has been remarkably stubborn around that level for a number of years and, as we have heard, that statistic masks a range of different outcomes, as we discussed when debating the ESA changes and the review produced by the noble Lord, Lord Low, and his colleagues. The employment rate for those with learning disabilities is just about 8%, and for those with autism about 15%.

The consensus is, I think, that if progress is to be made on this gap it will require a radical reform of the employment support being delivered to disabled people. It also needs a change in public and employer perceptions. Debate in another place referred to the failure of the Work Programme, and the highly regarded Work Choice looked as though it lacked sufficient focus.

In the other place, the Minister said that it was necessary to report on closing the gap because it is inextricably linked to reporting on full employment. The difficulty with that position is that there will be a range of issues which impact on attaining full employment. Even if the Minister does not accept our 80% this evening, could he outline how he sees the target rate being constructed and the extent to which it will address a range of issues which noble Lords, in their amendments, have identified this evening?

Lord Freud: My Lords, I start by addressing the amendments relating to self-employment, Amendments 61 and 66, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy. Amendment 61 relates to self-employment and the minimum income floor, and how it works within universal credit. Universal credit is there to support those on low incomes and ensure that work always pays. It supports self-employment where it is a realistic route to financial self-sufficiency, alongside other support available to help businesses.

However, the welfare system is not there to prop up unproductive or loss-making businesses. The minimum income floor is there to incentivise individuals to increase their earnings from their self-employment. Those subject to the minimum income floor are exempt

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1939

from having to search for or carry out any other work, allowing them to concentrate on making a success of their business and maximising their returns up to and beyond the level of the minimum income floor. I should just point out that the changes to the national living wage mean that the pay of the competitor to the self-employed will go up, so in relative terms they have an opportunity also to increase their pay. The other thing that the minimum income floor does is address a loop-hole in the tax credits system whereby individuals can report little or zero income but still receive full financial support, which is neither a desirable or sustainable situation to maintain.

Amendment 61 seeks to allow for flexibility in the application of the MIF. This power already exists and provides a number of significant easements on when the MIF is first applied and the level it is set at. The most significant example of this is our exemption from the MIF, for up to 12 months, of claimants who are within one year of starting out in self-employment and are taking active steps to increase their earnings. Monthly reporting allows universal credit to be adjusted on a monthly basis, which ensures that claimants whose income from self-employment falls do not have to wait several months for an increase in their universal credit. Following a report from SSAC, we have put in big disregards on the surplus earnings on a monthly basis. This approach eradicates the overpayment and underpayment issue generated by the current system, which is done on assumed average earnings.

The noble Baroness was quite right that we need to make this work for particular groups. She picked out Equity, with which we do have regular meetings, to make sure that we understand not so much its concerns as the reality of the working lives of people within Equity and adjust to them. We are testing how to provide support for the self-employed and to help them increase their earnings, employing some specialised work coaches in a trial. We will test all this out as we roll out. The noble Baroness is, of course, well ahead of the game. The number who are self-employed among universal credit claimants is currently low. We need to monitor how all this works, including the implementation of the minimum income floor, as we roll out universal credit with more self-employed in it.

9.45 pm

I turn to a series of amendments to provide for the annual report on full employment to include specific data on various groups. I must point out that we have not built into universal credit the requirement to capture specific new management information associated with the amendments under our current plans. In my view, seeking to do so now would not represent value for money, given the relatively short timescale for which we want to report the information. More importantly, I think, it could disrupt the universal credit implementation timeline.

Amendment 66, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, would extend the reporting duty to include information about the self-employed. The UK labour market is one of the most diverse in the world, with self-employment accounting for more than a quarter of the growth in employment since 2010. As we want to do all we can to encourage entrepreneurs, the

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1940

Government have launched two reviews to consider how we can better support self-employment. In addition, the new enterprise allowance provides a weekly allowance during the first six months to all JSA and ESA claimants, income support lone parents and some universal credit claimants from day one of their claim to help them build their business.

The amendment would require the annual report on progress towards full employment to include information on the number of people who are self-employed. As noble Lords will be aware, these figures are published every month by the ONS as part of labour market data. We do not feel, therefore, that we need to monitor specifically the share of self-employed jobs.

I turn to the other amendments in the group. I think that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, misspoke he said Amendment 62—he meant Amendment 63. I am sure that everyone else in the Chamber understood exactly what he was referring to. He said that full employment should mean 80% of the working-age population. I of course blushed with pleasure when he mentioned my piece in 2007 on reducing dependency, which set out the challenges that the country needed to face if it was to be serious about full employment. As he rightly said, I wrote about it in the context of the then Labour Government’s aspiration to achieve employment of 80% of the working-age population.

Quite a lot has changed in that 80% figure. The first reason we have to adjust is that the ONS definition of the population has moved as a result of equalisation of pension age at 65 for both men and women, which means that the 80% aspiration has moved down to 78% mechanically. There is another, slightly less mechanical change, which is the make-up of the population moving towards older people and young people entering the labour market later because their participation in education has been increasing. The combined effect of those changes, I have estimated—I had a feeling that the noble Lord might want a very detailed analysis—probably pulls the 80% figure to nearer 75%.

The manifesto commitment uses as the comparator the highest employment rate of the big seven industrialised countries. As things stand, ironically, that would mean raising our employment rate to around 75%—more or less the same figure. I am using the UK stated rates, not the international comparison rates. From today, it is moving from 73.7%, in the latest reported figures, to 75%, which is roughly a million people. That would represent our highest employment rate—actually, we currently have our highest employment rate—but the target also means that, if the other competitive countries move up further, that pulls our target up with it. On balance, achieving the target would put us pretty close to something as challenging as I wrote about way back in 2007.

The first part of Amendment 63, along with Amendments 65 and 67, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Manzoor and Lady Hollins, and the noble Lord, Lord Low, would require a separate annual report on the progress being made towards halving the disability employment gap. The latter amendments would also require some specific information, such as the employment

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1941

rates of different groups of disabled people. However, as progress against the disability employment gap commitment is a key factor of our overall commitment to full employment, these amendments are not necessary, as that progress will be reported in the annual report on full employment in any case.

The point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, on how we need to bring together employment, health and social care to support disabled people into work is one that we accept. One of the things that we are proposing, which the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, has called for, is a radical reform of how we provide this support, which is what we intend to do with a White Paper in 2016 which will set out our proposals in this area.

On the access to work issue, the spending review announced a real-terms increase in funding, which will allow it to expand sustainably. That is in response to a query from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson.

A similar request was made in Amendment 64 on carers. This Government recognise the vital role that carers provide; many carers are also in work. The current Family Resources Survey data show that in 2013-14 around half of all carers were in some kind of work, with 34% working full time. The ONS already publishes information on the number of people who are outside the labour market and looking after family or home, but the reality is that it would be very difficult to track all former carers who have returned to employment following the end of their caring role, because some will not claim benefits as they will be able to move back into work without the help of Jobcentre Plus. Those who start looking for work and initially claim benefits can get access to a range of support through the Jobcentre Plus network. Work coaches can tailor appropriate help drawn from a menu of provision to prepare people for a return to work, but when they successfully move into work they do not have to tell Jobcentre Plus the reason why they have ended their claim.

The noble Baroness, Lady Drake, proposed Amendment 64A, which would require the report to include information on the self-employed, which I have already discussed, NEETs and underemployed groups. In discussing some of the trends, she made the point that self-employment makes up most of the total employment growth since 2007—that is a slightly statistical quirk, since it happened because the number of employees fell sharply in the recession, as it always does. All the losses in employee numbers have since been regained and figures are up by 1.5 million since 2010.

Baroness Drake: The Minister is taking us through a series of reasons why he cannot give the granularity in the report that people seek. Given that the Chancellor said that it was his aspiration to have a higher-wage, low-welfare economy that benefits all, unless Parliament has some granularity in the metrics for assessing that progress, it sounds as though the Chancellor is setting his own aspiration and his own marking system. Everyone agrees that there has been a material change in the nature of employment over the last 10 years, which influences what people can earn and how they can

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1942

participate in the labour force. If one aspires to a low-welfare economy that benefits all, we need to understand these trends and what is happening to people with disabilities, the self-employed, carers, people on zero-hours contracts and so on. The Minister seems to be listing why that cannot be provided.

Lord Freud: As the noble Baroness knows perfectly well, so I do not have to tell her, a lot of these issues are quite contentious and there is a lot of analysis going on, some of which takes many years to complete and to come to fruition. Our problem is that this commitment runs through the rest of this Government to 2020, and putting in some of the management information requirements that these amendments in practice look for is expensive and risks delaying universal credit, because we are on a tight timetable. I know noble Lords have a primary interest in seeing us move with as much speed as we safely can. We would probably not be provided with adequate information anyway, given the length of time it takes to get it into shape, to take us out to the 2020 deadline. I hope that has cleanly summarised why we are not objecting with horror to the prospect. We looked at it very deeply, but we have to use the information that is available and the extra information we are gathering to get this report to work.

Baroness Drake: I am not trying to put an argument for deferring universal credit, and I understand some of the difficulties, but at the very least the Government should be able to commit to giving us an interim report on the progress they are making on these issues, so we can begin to understand the likely developments and how successful the Chancellor’s aspirations are.

Lord Freud: The whole point of our clause is that we will set out our proposals on how we intend to report on employment. Clearly, a lot of the thoughts expressed here and the specific requests and reasoning are pretty valuable to us as we develop how best we can do a good report on what is happening to our progress to full employment.

Our latest figures on NEETs are rather encouraging and show that around 14% of 16 to 24 year-olds are NEETs, which is the lowest figure on record. It is a constantly changing group, and many people leave the labour market for short periods between jobs, so it does not tell us, of itself, where we stand in relation to full employment. Zero hours—which I almost thought I would not talk about, because we always have a little snip at each other about it—is only 2% of the market and we have outlawed exclusivity clauses in those contracts. Over the past year, part-time work has been driven entirely by people choosing to work part-time, which might not have been the case in the depth of the recession. Again, it is a constantly changing group.

On some of the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, I sometimes feel I am living in a parallel universe. Employment growth has been dominated by full-time and permanent employment. It has risen in all regions since 2010. Underemployment is on the turn and going the right way. Wages are now growing quite a lot faster than inflation and temporary work in the UK is among the lowest, so the trends are a lot more encouraging than they have been.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1943

Given these arguments, and given that statistics on these issues are already widely available, I do not believe that specifying them in the report is necessary. However, I understand that full employment is not just about a particular percentage of working-age adults in work, and, as I have said, we will give further consideration to how this annual report can best reflect the diversity of labour. I apologise for the length of my response. I urge noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.

10 pm

Baroness Donaghy: I thank the Minister for his response, which I will read carefully in Hansard. I thank noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. In view of the time, I shall be brief. The point of this group of amendments to this important part of the Bill was to indicate that some of us do not think there is sufficient focus on these areas when the issue of social security comes into consideration. These are not add-ons. Like the Minister, we sometimes think we live in a parallel universe. It is not a question of propping up failing businesses; it is a question of some seasonal and fluctuating businesses wanting their annual income to be taken into consideration, so there is some fairness when they claim for social security. The Minister says that there is some flexibility already and the powers already exist, but I have to say there is very little evidence for that, apart from the grand announcement that those in the first year of business will be exempt.

Yes, the number of self-employed on universal credit is low, but if you see an articulated lorry thundering down the middle of the road towards you, you probably have an idea that you might get run over if you stay in the same place. All I am trying to say is that the establishment of a minimum income floor will cause trouble with universal credit in future—and it would be well to heed that warning. In view of the time, though, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 61 withdrawn.

Amendments 62 and 62A not moved.

Amendment 62B

Moved by Baroness Sherlock

62B: After Clause 15, insert the following new Clause—

“Disability living allowance (mobility component) for young children

In section 73 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (the mobility component), for subsection (1) substitute—

“(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, a person shall be entitled to the mobility component of a disability living allowance for any period and throughout which—

(a) he or she, from birth and on account of a condition, must always be accompanied by bulky medical equipment which cannot be carried around with him or her without great difficulty; or

(b) he or she, from birth and on account of a condition, must always be kept near a motor vehicle so that, if necessary, treatment for that condition can be given in the vehicle or the child can be taken quickly in the vehicle to a place where such treatment can be given; or

(c) he or she is over the age of five and is suffering from physical disablement such that he or she is either unable to walk or virtually unable to do so; or

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1944

(d) he or she is over the age of five and falls within subsection (2) below; or

(e) he or she is over the age of five and falls within subsection (3) below; or

(f) he or she is over the age of five and is able to walk but is so severely disabled physically or mentally that, disregarding any ability he or she may have to use routes which are familiar to him or her on his or her own, he or she cannot take advantage of the faculty out of doors without guidance or supervision from another person most of the time.””

Baroness Sherlock: My Lords, I seek clarification on an issue that was raised with me by a charity called Together for Short Lives, which represents parents and children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions. The amendment is brief but the issue is this: I understand that children under three are not eligible for the higher-rate mobility component of DLA. I believe that the rationale is that children under three are generally not independently mobile, although anyone who has babysat a toddler might disagree. The assumption is that under-threes will have to be carried in arms, lifted into prams and buggies and from them into cars and car seats anyway, whether or not they have a disability.

For most children and their parents that is true, but Together for Short Lives points out that there are small numbers of children who need help and should have access to the mobility component of DLA. That is because there is a small group of children who depend on ventilators for survival, who may have one or more shunts and IV lines for feeding or drug administration, or other technologies that are life-sustaining. The children are in effect constantly attached to life-sustaining equipment that is often bulky or heavy. The child has to be placed in a wheelchair or medical buggy capable of carrying the equipment, monitors and so on, so that the lines and tubes can be securely attached to the child. Parents therefore need specially adapted or broad-based vehicles capable of carrying these small children, linked together with their decidedly not small equipment, securely. The children cannot easily be lifted in and out of cars like most children of their age.

I want to put to the Minister the case for why this small group of children needs the mobility allowance. Some of the children always have to be placed in a medical buggy or wheelchair when not in bed because they need postural support. These are heavy items. In addition to the life-sustaining equipment attached to them, most of these children require a variety of equipment to go with them wherever they are. This could include a spare ventilator and battery, monitors, oxygen supply, a mask, emergency tracheotomy kits and feeding kits. That is on top of the usual paraphernalia that all parents of children under three find that they need to carry with them at all times. The children cannot travel on public transport, because buses will not take oxygen bottles, and there is the inevitable risk of infection.

As well as being susceptible to infection, the children are often prone to medical crises, such as fitting, and their parents need to be able to get them to hospital immediately for life-saving treatment 24/7. If they do not have a car, the children may not be assessed as safe

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1945

to live at home and will need to remain in hospital or a hospice. As well as being heart-breaking for families and their children, that could, of course, cost rather more than the higher-rate mobility allowance of £57.45 per week.

What would this all cost? As a result of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, disability living allowance has been replaced by PIP for people aged over 16, but DLA is still given to under-16s. This amendment seeks to open up access to the higher-rate mobility component of DLA for under-threes who require life-sustaining equipment as described above. I am told that there are nearly 49,000 children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, but only a very small proportion are under-threes who require life-sustaining equipment.

To establish how many might need this component of DLA, Together for Short Lives submitted a freedom of information request to the Department for Transport in 2014 to ask how many parents of children under three had asked for a blue badge because their child was dependent on heavy medical equipment or needed to be near a vehicle in case they need emergency medical treatment. It found that 1,530 children had blue badges. The wording of this amendment is aligned to the criteria for blue badges. If those figures are correct, the cost of giving all 1,530 children access to the higher-rate mobility component of DLA of £57.45 a week would be about £4.5 million. That is a small sum for DWP but would transform the lives of families with a child with a threatening or life-limiting condition.

What I have described feels to me like an anomaly—I cannot believe that the department intended this to happen. I hope that the Minister will give it a very careful response. I am sure that there cannot be anybody listening to this debate here or outside whose hearts would not go out to the children and families in these circumstances. I hope that the Minister agrees that I have made the case that babies and children under three who depend on big and heavy life-sustaining equipment to stay alive and/or have need for immediate access to transport for medical reasons should be regarded as having an additional mobility need and become eligible for the mobility element of DLA. I beg to move.

Lord Freud: I thank the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment and for providing that degree of clarity over its purpose. I must express my own empathy regarding the intention of what this amendment aims to achieve. There can be no doubt about the harrowing position of families with very young, severely disabled children. However, I find myself in the unusual situation of needing to reflect a position set out by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, some six years ago when he was the government Minister for Work and Pensions.

On that occasion, what was to become the Welfare Reform Act 2009 was being debated in Grand Committee. Noble Peers may recall that that Act introduced, by way of amendment in the other place, a new provision which now gives access to the higher rate mobility component of DLA to severely visually impaired people. In Committee a further amendment, in much the same terms or at least intended as the amendment we are discussing today, was introduced by the noble Baroness,

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1946

Lady Thomas, who is not in her place today. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, was sympathetic to the situation set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, but ultimately resisted the motion. He said that,

“in this difficult financial climate, we need to consider carefully the potential cost of any such change … This amendment would, of course, result in additional costs”.

He estimated costs at that time to be around £15 million a year and went on to say:

“This would obviously be a significant increase in what is, unfortunately, a difficult economic situation, and is simply not affordable in the current context”.—[Official Report, 25/6/09; col. GC 538.]

I have never been sadder to have to agree with the noble Lord and to resist an amendment.

On the techie side, the amendment confers entitlement to neither the higher or lower rate of the mobility component. That is because the distinction between the two rates has been lost. There would also be some unintended consequences of the amendment—most notably that it would remove entitlement from the 16,500 children and adults who currently receive the higher-rate mobility component as a consequence of a severe visual impairment. However, I think that that is just a matter of drafting and I would not want to dwell on that issue—we could always sort it out.

The primary reason for there being a lower age limit for entitlement is that, while many children can walk by the age of three, not all will do so, regardless of disability, and few will be able to walk for any considerable distance. Age three therefore provides a reasonable boundary line between what may be considered developmental delay and walking difficulties arising from a disability or long-term health condition.

I think we can all agree that the majority of very young children, whether disabled or not, will need a considerable degree of support and help from parents and carers. Most parents will also be reliant on a range of bulky and possibly heavy items, such as prams or buggies, and items of equipment for feeding and changing. Nevertheless, I recognise that some young children with particular conditions may be heavily reliant on additional therapeutic equipment, some of which can be bulky and heavy. However, such technologies are improving all the time and in some instances equipment is becoming lighter, smaller or in other ways more transportable.

Despite the mobility component being unavailable to children solely on the basis of a need for such equipment, there already exists a range of provisions, financial and in kind, which can help support such children and their parents. For example, the care component of DLA places no restriction on how it can be used, and any entitlement to DLA can bring with it access to the disability premiums in the income-related benefits or tax credits. Parents may also be able to receive a blue badge for free parking if their child is reliant on heavy equipment or needs to be near a vehicle for treatment.

That, in turn, leads me to question the provision in the amendment which focuses on children who need to be near a vehicle for treatment or where a vehicle is used to transport them for such treatment. I question

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1947

this for two reasons. The first is on the basis that the provision could help only those parents who already have use of a motor vehicle or who would gain access to one through the higher-rate mobility component of DLA. As I said earlier, the amendment is not clear in its intent regarding the rate at which children under three should become entitled, meaning that, by effect, it is also not clear whether such children would be given access to the Motability scheme and, in turn, a motor vehicle. Hence, the amendment as currently drafted would exclude families without access to a vehicle.

Secondly, I question this provision on a more practical basis. If a child requires emergency transportation along with bulky medical equipment, it is doubtful whether transportation by the parents would be a reasonable and practical expectation. Our emergency services, which are much better equipped in terms of medical training and suitable vehicles, are in place for exactly this kind of situation.

Finally, I must turn to the financial implications of the amendment, which are estimated to be still in the order of £15 million. Clearly, this amendment goes further than that debated previously and, in the time available, we have been unable to determine how many children could potentially be entitled on the basis of access to a nearby vehicle. However, patently that would add to what is already a significant extra cost burden and would further damage our capacity to stay within the welfare cap.

I am sympathetic to the broad intentions behind the amendment but, particularly now, the Government cannot accept it on the basis of the unfunded cost implications. Therefore, regrettably, I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, and I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Sherlock: My Lords, before I withdraw the amendment, which I will do, can the Minister tell me how many children his costings are based on?

Lord Freud: I thought that I knew the answer to that, but I am a bit uncertain. I hope that inspiration is striking.

Sorry, it is not 1,600; 18,500 children under the age of three are in receipt of DLA and 5,500 children impacted.

10.15 pm

Baroness Sherlock: I am grateful to the Minister for that. I am grateful also for his thoughtful reply. When he reads Hansard, and given all that he tells us of his view of the current economic situation and how it compares to when my noble friend Lord McKenzie was in office, he might like to reflect on whether his own assessment may be different from that. However, I can see that the two men are obviously of one mind. I ask the Minister to think very hard. My noble friend Lord McKenzie has put his name to this amendment and is very much supportive of it.

I wonder whether the Minister might also be willing for his department to meet somebody from Together for Short Lives, perhaps with me. I think that they

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1948

would like to be able to understand the basis of the arguments that he was making, not so much in terms of the money but in terms of other things.

Lord Freud: I would appreciate meeting them with the noble Baroness. I really regret what I have had to say.

Baroness Sherlock: I thank the Minister for that. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 62B withdrawn.

Amendments 62C to 64A not moved.

Clause 1 agreed.

Amendments 65 to 67 not moved.

Clause 2: Apprenticeships reporting obligation

Amendment 68

Tabled by Lord Young of Norwood Green

68: Clause 2, page 1, line 16, after “target,” insert—

“( ) information about the uptake of apprenticeships broken down by region, age, ethnicity, disability, sector, qualification and level,

( ) a report by the UK Commission on Employment and Skills on the quality of apprenticeships being provided,”

Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab): My Lords, before the noble Lord gets to his feet to move his amendment, I have had discussions with the Chief Whip and I am not terribly happy about us proceeding as late as we are. I do not think it is right or proper, particularly since a number of colleagues in your Lordships’ House are severely disabled and they are spending a lot of late hours working on this Bill. I am prepared for us to proceed with this group of amendments, but I hope that this debate can be relatively short, notwithstanding the importance of the issues. I hope colleagues will see sense in that; we should not be working as late as this on this sort of legislation.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): I say to the Opposition Chief Whip that the order of consideration was designed at the request of the Opposition, so that those who are severely disabled could participate in the debates in Committee at the beginning of business. I admit that, today, we have had other business to deal with. However, the truth is that we are still not at the point at which we were due to start business on the third day, which was Amendment 72. This House has a tradition that it tries to deliver the business. I understand that I need the support of the Opposition in doing that. I believe that we should complete one more group of amendments, which will take us past the normal hour for taxis but that is not unusual in this House. Given the unusual nature of the discussions that have taken place on this Bill, that is not an unreasonable thing to ask. I hope that the noble Lord—my “usual channels” partner—is prepared to accept my decision. We still have not reached the target we set ourselves when we discussed this matter earlier today.

Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab): My Lords, given the time, I shall endeavour to be succinct and to the point. Nevertheless, Amendment 68 is important as it seeks to ensure that we receive a proper report

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1949

from the Government on the various aspects of apprenticeships defined in it. I shall speak also to the other two amendments in the group.

The Government have set themselves an ambitious target of 3 million apprenticeships during the life of this Parliament. The challenge will be to ensure that they sustain quality as well as quantity. A recent report by Ofsted said that the expansion of apprenticeships has been a disaster, with too many poor-quality programmes that fail to give young people new skills or better chances of a job. The Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, accuses some employers of wasting public funds on low-quality schemes that undermine the value of apprenticeships. Indeed, a recent Channel 4 episode of “Dispatches” revealed exploitation of apprentices working for the retailer Next.

Poor-quality apprenticeships were particularly prevalent in retail, healthcare, customer service and administration according to the highly critical report from Ofsted. About 140,000 people started apprenticeships in business administration last year and 130,000 began healthcare apprenticeships. Standards were much higher in the motor vehicle, construction and engineering industries, where numbers were much smaller. So far, apprenticeships have not trained enough people for sectors with skills shortages, smaller businesses are not being involved and not enough advanced schemes leading to higher skills and wages are being created. Widespread concern has been expressed by business about the introduction and application of the proposed new training levy.

Amendment 68A, tabled by my noble friend Lady Nye, seeks to ensure accurate reporting of information in the areas of disability, gender and so on. It also contains an important point about the destination data for those completing apprenticeships.

Amendment 69 again draws to our attention the worrying situation for disabled people under the age of 25 seeking apprenticeships. We know that apprenticeships provide an excellent route into work for young people, including disabled people. However, too often apprenticeships are inaccessible to disabled people. The number of disabled apprenticeships has declined from 11.5% in 2007-08 to 8.7% in 2014-15. During the passage of the Bill, we would like to see further commitments from the Government to support more disabled people to participate in apprenticeships. This is why I welcome Amendment 69.

I have a few questions for the Minister which I am sure she will enjoy. What steps is she taking to ensure the quality of apprenticeships and to prevent the exploitation of young people, recognising the damage this can cause to the reputation of apprenticeships, and the waste of public funds? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that all schools give career advice on apprenticeships, bearing in mind the need to encourage young women, black and ethnic minority groups and disabled people to recognise the advantages of apprenticeships as a career option? Bearing in mind that only 5% of youngsters aged 16 currently go into an apprenticeship scheme, how will she ensure that young people are made aware of their right to receive proper training and education in a safe working environment?

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1950

What steps are the Government taking to expand the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in apprenticeship schemes, given that only some 25% of them currently take on apprentices? Do the Government plan to expand the use of group training associations and ATAs? What will be the nature of and timetable for the introduction of the new training level, which I presume will be accompanied by a statutory instrument and an impact assessment? I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed that. Finally, can the Minister comment on the future of UKCES, the United Kingdom skills body? I beg to move.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 69, tabled in my name, and to which I am delighted to see that my noble friends Lord Addington, Lord Low of Dalston and Lady Grey-Thompson have added their names in support. I also support Amendment 68, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Young, and Amendment 68A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Nye.

My amendment is intended to address the particular barriers faced by disabled people wishing to enter apprenticeships. It places a duty on the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report on the number of disabled people aged under 25 who are seeking apprenticeships in order to identify the barriers that prevent successful take-up. The amendment also requires the report to set out examples of good practice by employees and apprenticeship providers that remove such barriers.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to create 3 million apprenticeship opportunities over this Parliament. Apprenticeships provide an excellent opportunity for disabled students wanting to engage in vocational education alongside their non-disabled peers. For many disabled people, it will be the first time they experience mainstream employment and education. Apprenticeships introduce disabled people to the world of work in a supportive learning environment, which is much needed by young people who are facing additional barriers to entering the world of work. In addition, apprenticeships are crucial to the Government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap—a central plank of their incredibly ambitious aim to cut the welfare budget.

In 2014, Disability Rights UK with the support of Barclays published a guide called Into Apprenticeships. It demonstrated through case studies that apprenticeships provide opportunities for young disabled people to secure training for employment. Such schemes also help employers to become “disability confident”. Noble Lords will recognise that this is also the name of a current campaign being supported by the Minister for Disabled People in another place to encourage employers to remove those disabling barriers. This will boost employment outcomes for disabled people. However, as I said when speaking to my previous amendment, I am sure that the Minister appreciates that awareness and education alone will not shrink the significant employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people. There must also be regular reviews of progress. Existing barriers that prevent disabled people from accessing apprenticeship opportunities must be removed. This is echoed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in its recent report, Is Britain Fairer?

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1951

The requirement for non-specific industry qualifications to access apprenticeships is one of the greatest barriers. In Peter Little’s 2012 report, Creating an Inclusive Apprenticeship Offer, he says: “Apprentices with LDD”—learning difficulties and disabilities—

“are often disadvantaged due to the fact”,

that functional and GCSE,

“qualifications are assessed out of context. Thus an Apprentice working to the vocabulary and numeracy associated with a particular job may find it difficult to relate to a completely different set of language and numbers presented during assessment”.

There is substantive evidence that significant numbers of disabled people, especially people with learning disabilities, are prevented from gaining an apprenticeship certificate because they have not got GCSE maths and English. These requirements could so easily be replaced by the successful completion of work-related requirements such as the relevant industry-accepted vocational qualifications. The National Voice for Lifelong Learning, which has been working with the Government on apprenticeship placements, has said:

“Some learners are more than capable of achieving the competence and knowledge based elements of an apprenticeship but, due to their learning difficulty are unable to achieve English and maths at the required standard. Until there is a relaxing of this rule disabled learners will continue to be disadvantaged in work and training”.

10.30 pm

In evidence submitted by the Alliance for Inclusive Education to the Lords post-legislative committee on the Equality Act and disability, it gave an example of a horticultural college reluctant to,

“allow [horticulture] students on the course because of the functional skills aspect. To me, this seems to discriminate against students with LDD, especially one who is working on a level 2 standard in his vocational subject”.

In a progressive labour market, I believe such artificial barriers to apprenticeships miss out on talent and stigmatise certain groups of disabled people as unemployable. Recently, I was captivated by a TV series, “Kitchen Impossible with Michel Roux Jr”, in which a group of disabled people were recruited on an apprenticeship programme by one of the finest chefs in the country. At the end of the apprenticeships, four of the candidates entered the world of work. The programme did not in any way contrive to be something that it was not. It took place in a restaurant with paying customers. Of the experience, Michel Roux said:

“It wasn’t perfect, but they grew from that and that’s the thing, because they were given the chance and also because I was fairly strict on them and treated them like I would any other apprentice. It was a privilege to work with these guys ... it’s certainly opened up my eyes to disabled people”,

in the hospitality industry. Disabled people have so much potential. Most candidates did not have GCSE maths or English at the required grade.

The apprenticeship route provides a great opportunity for the Government to meet their objective of enabling more disabled people to secure long-term, paid employment. This aim can be achieved only if the Government have the appropriate information on the uptake of young disabled people’s participation in apprenticeships. The Government then will be able to

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1952

respond by removing the barriers that prevent those young people from accessing such an important route into education, training and employment.

This amendment is a cost-neutral initiative. It is an enabling amendment whereby the Government could genuinely make a difference to young disabled people’s apprenticeship experience and their chance of a job afterwards. I am sure that the Minister in the other place would see this amendment as giving added value and the information that he needs to bring disability confidence to apprenticeships as well as to work. I look forward to the Minister’s response to this amendment.

Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I support Amendment 69, to which my name is added. When I added my name, I received lots of really good examples of how apprenticeships can work for disabled people, especially when there was understanding of the needs of the disabled person and flexibility in some of the cases where it was required. As my noble friend Lady Campbell said, apprenticeships are really important. It is a massive opportunity for disabled people to develop their skills. But the barriers into apprenticeships can be very different from those into work, which is why this amendment is so important. One person who contacted me said that he wanted to offer an apprenticeship to a 19 year-old young man who has autism. The young man wanted a job and he was good with computers. He said that he wanted to get away from under his parents’ feet. He was offered an apprenticeship through a college. However, they then got stuck in the process of the assessments, which derailed everything. The college wanted to do the assessment in the college and not in the workplace, which made the young man feel very uncomfortable. He then went through this whole process of “dithering” and the young man pulled out because he could not get clear support for the opportunity he was going to be offered. It is a massive mistake and a real shame that young people are getting so close to being offered an apprenticeship but then feel that they cannot take it.

Another young man, who has a visual impairment, has lost out on two positions. He started working but lost out because his employers were unable to be flexible with the opportunity offered.

I have been sent many more good examples than bad examples; it is a shame that we are not using them. This amendment would provide an incredibly useful resource to help others and, if it is reported on in the right way, would help the Government achieve their aim of getting more disabled people into apprenticeships.

Baroness Nye (Lab): Before I speak to Amendment 68A, I apologise for not being able to take part at Second Reading. I also take this opportunity to declare an interest as a trustee of the Young Women’s Trust, to which I am grateful for the briefing it provided.

My amendment calls on the Government to include in the report the number of apprentices disaggregated by protected characteristics. As I support the other amendments in this group in the name of my noble friend and others, I shall concentrate on young women and apprenticeships.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1953

The Government’s target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 is to be welcomed because they can be an important route to skills development and work for all young people, but only if they are of high quality and reach those such as the under-25s who are in the most need. It is also welcome that the Government propose to report on progress each year, but it is important that the information contained in that report is useful and not just a pat on the back for numbers going through the system. The report should identify areas where more attention is needed and inform policy development, because evidence shows that apprenticeships are not working as well for young women as they are for young men.

The Young Women’s Trust aims to improve the lifelong opportunities for young women aged 16 to 30 with few or no qualifications, who might be unemployed or in precarious or insecure employment and who are on very low or no pay. Because of a lack of understanding, the Young Women’s Trust undertook a year-long inquiry into the problems of young women who are not in education, employment or training. It produced a report called Scarred for Life?, which was based on consultations with young women and other interested parties, as well as polling conducted by ComRes.

The polling showed that young women work in fewer sectors than men. Two-thirds of female apprentices work in just five sectors, while the same proportion of men work in more than 10. Female apprentices account for fewer than 2% of apprentices in construction, 4% per cent in engineering and still only 12% in IT and telecoms, but 93% of early-years childcare and beauty places are female. The IPPR has said that traditionally masculine areas may receive better-quality training and these sectors also lead to better employment and further education prospects. As young women are less likely to receive training as part of their apprenticeship, they are more likely to be out of work at the end. This is compounded by other research which shows that employment gains from further education are generally not as great for women as they are for men.

The apprenticeship wage also deters women without parental support from applying. Young women say they understand the logic of earning less before being qualified but the pay is just too low to support themselves. Young women also receive less hourly pay on average than men; they could earn £2,000 less over the course of a year. Apprentice equal pay day was marked on 28 October—for the following 64 days, female apprentices would be working for free.

Young women also recognised that when apprenticeships worked well they were a good route into employment. However, they were concerned about how to meet their current needs while training. There is insufficient flexibility to balance apprenticeships and other responsibilities such as caring. They therefore have different priorities in considering apprenticeships.

Data from the Skills Funding Agency and BIS show that 90% of apprentices are aged over 25, with a greater proportion of women in that age group. It is therefore likely that they have been recruited from the existing workforce and that opportunities are not being provided to young people who are just starting out or who are NEET. These challenges prevent thousands

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1954

of young women making the most of their potential as well as meaning that the wider economy and companies miss out on a vital source of talent.

Destination data are especially important in measuring quality. Apprenticeships are worth while only if they develop skills in all young people and provide a good route into employment. Young women are three times more likely than young men to be out of work after completing an apprenticeship. University education has long been assessed against destination data. Similar measures should be applied to apprenticeships if the esteem in which they are held is to be raised.

If the figures in the Government’s proposed annual report were disaggregated, it would also give added impetus to employers to develop a diversity policy for their apprenticeship schemes; to monitor the protected characteristics of their intake; and to work with careers services, schools and others to attract a diverse workforce, which I believe would command support from all quarters. Without any measurement of the quality of the apprenticeships, the jobs that might or might not follow, or the impact on the reduction of low wages, they offer no real route out of poverty.

I will listen with interest to the Minister’s reply to the questions posed by my noble friend, but, given the lateness of the hour, I will not add to them.

Baroness Manzoor: My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 68. The only thing that I wanted to add—all other noble Lords have eloquently put forward the reasons why there should be reporting obligations relating to apprenticeships—is that I note that gender is missing from the amendment. It was an oversight, rather than because we did not care passionately about this particular issue. Once again, I am pleading with the Minister: we really need to be able to differentiate between the different groups to see where apprenticeships fall and who is getting what apprenticeship. The noble Baroness, Lady Nye, made a very important argument relating to young women, but the same applies to disability, race and so forth. There are variations that we need to bottom out so that employers can then have appropriate strategies in place to address the anomalies.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I will speak very briefly in support of my noble friend Lady Nye, who has made such a good case about gender. She made most of the points I want to make, but I have been sent information by City & Guilds, which has done research into careers advice, which shows how gender-biased careers advice is channelling young women into a very gender-biased labour market. So it is being reinforced. It is crucial that the apprenticeship system does not reinforce and aggregate that gender bias which we have heard about from my noble friend. As other noble Lords have said, it is about not just quantity but quality. From a gender perspective, quality is about the sectors within which young women and young men are being channelled.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, in the north-east I get to see apprentices in the car industry, the subsea industry, traditional industries such as stonemasonry, farming, and all kinds of sectors in

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1955

schools. It is brilliant to be able to see them face to face, to meet them and talk to them. There are brilliant apprenticeships and we need to grow them. Therefore, the 3 million target is fantastic, but I have to say that where the Bill refers to,

“information about the progress made in the reporting period towards the apprenticeships target”,

which is simply the figure of 3 million, that does not give the information about the types of apprenticeship that there are. In the light of the previous comments, I add that in two particular manufacturing industries I went to there were fantastic apprenticeships with brilliant young men, but no young women at all. I am told that there have not been any. We need this kind of information to ensure that apprenticeships are of the quality and standard needed. Because of the lateness of the hour, I will stop at that.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: My Lords, I will attempt to respond to various points, but again, due to the lateness of the hour, I will try to keep my remarks brief. Where I do not respond to points I will endeavour to get further information to noble Lords relatively quickly.

The Government are committed to reaching 3 million apprenticeship starts in England in 2020. Clause 2 will place a duty on the Secretary of State to report annually on progress towards meeting that target. The amendments that have been tabled would place additional reporting requirements on the Secretary of State to publish a range of information as part of the annual apprenticeship reporting requirement set out in the Bill.

10.45 pm

In relation to Amendments 68 and 68A, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Sherlock, Lady Manzoor, and Lady Nye, and the noble Lords, Lord McKenzie, and Lord Young, I can reassure noble Lords that the Government already report on apprenticeship figures by region, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sector, qualification and level as part of their quarterly statistical first release. We will continue to do this and I can assure the noble Baroness that we will report a breakdown of figures on age and disability. We also publish information on the courses in which apprentices are enrolled in each academic year as part of our national aims report and we will continue to do this as part of the annual reporting requirement set out in the Bill.

The Government do not provide information on other protected characteristics, as set out in the Equality Act 2010, such as sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, in order to lessen the burden on training providers, which we are keen to do. In addition, these characteristics do not determine funding. I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills measures the destinations of apprentices once they have completed an apprenticeship in a number of ways. This includes measuring longer-term wage and employment outcomes, short-term employment outcomes, self-reported impacts and the progression of advanced apprentices to higher education. We will continue to publish this information.

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1956

In relation to the first part of Amendment 69, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Campbell and Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lords, Lord Low and Lord Addington, where a young person has applied for a vacancy via the “find an apprenticeship” system and has self-reported their disability status, it is possible to count applications made. BIS is currently exploring whether it is then possible to track whether a young person has subsequently started an apprenticeship. However, it is not possible to count the number of applications made direct to employers. Therefore, on the basis that the information would be incomplete, we do not believe it is practicable to require the Secretary of State to report in this way.

I turn to apprenticeship quality and the second part of Amendment 68. I can reassure noble Lords that the Government are already committed to a range of measures to ensure the quality of apprenticeships. I know that this subject is very dear to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Young, and we have discussed it on several other occasions. We have already ensured that all apprenticeships are real paid jobs, have a minimum duration of a year, include substantial on and off-the-job training and include English and maths when not already achieved. In addition, as announced by the Chancellor in the spending review, the Government intend to establish a new institute for apprenticeships. This will support employer-led reforms to ensure quality. We anticipate that this will be active from 2017 onwards The noble Lord, Lord Young, asked about the role of UKCES. It has played a valuable role since its launch but the Government have decided to create the new body which I have just mentioned. We are therefore working with UKCES to explore the implications of the spending review and will make an announcement in due course. In answer to the noble Lord’s question about small business access to apprenticeships, small businesses are directly involved in all phases of trailblazers, such as the Test Factory for digital industries. We have made clear in the implementation plan and trailblazer guidance that standards must have wide support from employers across the sector.

In relation to careers advice, noble Lords will be aware that schools are legally required to secure independent careers guidance for 12 to 18 year-olds. This must be delivered in an impartial manner and include information about a range of options, including apprenticeships. Statutory guidance published in March 2015 is clear that schools should give employers, and other providers delivering apprenticeships, the opportunity to inform all pupils directly, on school premises, about what they offer. Finally, on timetables for the apprenticeship levy, more detail will be available in due course. I cannot say any more than that at this point. Ofsted and Ofqual will also continue to play an essential role in ensuring the quality of apprenticeships.

Finally, I turn to the latter part of Amendment 69. The Government believe that the overwhelming majority of young people with special educational needs and disabilities are capable of sustainable, paid employment with appropriate preparation and support, and we already know that thousands of disabled people have benefited from apprenticeships. In 2014-15, 44,090 of those starting an apprenticeship declared a disability

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1957

or learning difficulty; that is, 8.8% of total starts. I reassure noble Lords that we are committed to building on this success.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, mentioned, Peter Little OBE undertook a detailed review of the inclusiveness of apprenticeships for people with learning difficulties or disabilities, and since its publication we have done more to try to ensure that apprenticeships are accessible. For instance, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education has produced an employer toolkit and the Education and Training Foundation’s Excellence Gateway contains a section on special educational needs and disability with resources. In addition, apprentices can apply for Access to Work funding for adjustments to the workplace and training providers can use funding to support the apprentice’s learning. Reasonable adjustments are available for qualifications to ensure that an apprentice with a disability has the chance to show what he or she knows or can do. Appropriate adjustments will depend, among other things, on the individual, their disability, and the qualification, but may include extra time, a special room, assistive technology or the use of a scribe.

Turning to the third part of the amendment, I reassure noble Lords that the Skills Funding Agency has funded a number of case studies in recent years specifically looking at accessibility and best practice for apprentices with learning difficulties or disabilities, which are available for employers to access through the employer toolkit.

Again, I apologise for the quick run through. As I say, I will endeavour to get back to noble Lords on

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1958

other points that I have missed, but I hope that, on the basis of this explanation, noble Lords will consider not pressing their amendments.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for dealing with all those questions without hesitation, repetition or deviation. That was a brilliant effort. I would like a bit more detail on some points and welcome her further comments. I am sure that I am not the only person in that situation. Although she gave us lots of assurances, given the importance of these issues I only wish that schools were applying those assurances in practice in relation to both careers advice and access by employers. My experience is that many are not doing that despite the legal obligations. Given that we have seen a statistical decline in the number of apprenticeships for people with disabilities, it would be useful if we could meet the noble Baroness to go through some of these issues. Nevertheless, on the understanding that we will look carefully at the response to the questions in Hansard, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 68 withdrawn.

Amendments 68A and 69 not moved.

Clause 2 agreed.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 10.53 pm.