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Primarolo targets post-16 barriers to learning

Review focuses on financial support for 16-19 year olds

Dawn Primarolo, Labour MP for Bristol South and Paymaster General, has led a Government review that renews efforts to break down barriers to learning for 16-19 year olds.

Speaking after its publication, Dawn said: "I know from my constituency postbag that there are young people who want to continue their education or training but find the financial support system does not work for them. Labour is committed to increasing the proportion of young people who remain in education and training post-16 so that we can ensure that 19 year olds are ready for higher education or skilled employment. This report sets out the next steps we are going to take towards achieving this goal".

A complex system of financial support for people in this age group has been identified as a major barrier to learning. The report, entitled Supporting young people to achieve, looks at how this can be improved to help ensure the Government's skills objectives are met.

Dawn continued: "Employment in the UK is currently at record levels and the employment rate is higher than in any other G7 country. Even with this success, skills gaps in the UK remain stubbornly persistent, especially at the intermediate level".

The report describes short and long-term steps the Government is taking to ensure opportunities for all young people. These include:

  • Building on the success of Education Maintenance Allowances, the report sets out a long-term vision for a radically simplified financial support system for 16-19 year olds.
  • Introducing a National Minimum Wage for 16 and 17 year olds at £3 per hour from October 2004 with apprentices exempted.
  • Working to achieve minimum pay levels for apprentices in England at £70-80 a week.
  • Removing the distinction between education and unwaged training in Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support.
  • Looking at further ways to encourage employers to support time off for training for young people.
  • Extending financial support for 19 year olds to finish their courses.
  • Delivering improved information about financial support for 16-19s, including looking at the co-location of Jobcentre Plus advisers and Connexions Personal Advisers.
  • Reviewing guidance on Jobseeker's Allowance severe hardship and estrangement which will be rolled out with training from spring 2005.
  • Examining the role of discretionary funds to identify how they can be used to overcome barriers to participation, especially for those young people not in employment, education or training.

[5 April 2004]

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