Figures on training shortfall 'suppressed'

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Indy Politics
THE Government was yesterday accused of suppressing information on the number of school-leavers failing to win a place on the Youth Training programme, and therefore denied social security benefits, writes Barrie Clement.

Labour Party leaders say that 55,000 youngsters are without work or training because of government cuts, more than 11,000 of them without any source of income.

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment, said that the Labour figures were 'absolute fantasy'. They were obtained from a survey of careers services, which were unreliable because they were based simply on youngsters who said they might want a place on YT. Some of them went into work, others into further education, government officials said.

However, the Government has recognised there is a problem by introducing a new monitoring system, operated through the local Training and Enterprise Councils which are contracted to deliver the programme. Mrs Shephard said that she took the situation 'very seriously' and would personally take charge of a fortnightly reporting system.

Tony Blair, Labour's employment spokesman, said the study of 90 careers services in England clearly showed that school-leavers were having to wait up to nine months for a place on YT. More than a third of the 50,000 waiting had been doing so for more than eight weeks.

He said: 'The guarantee of a YT place for all unemployed youngsters is simply not being met. Our survey shows that almost 40 per cent of those waiting are 1991 school-leavers, and one-third have been waiting for over eight weeks with some young people having to wait up to nine months for a training place.'

Mr Blair said: 'This is now a scandal of unacceptable proportions . . . we are creating a generation of young people without hope, opportunity or future and the price will be paid by us all.'

Figures for waiting lists were given to the Government in March as part of a national survey by the Department of Employment, Mr Blair added, but Mrs Shephard had told the Commons on Tuesday that she did not have the information.