HC Deb 07 February 2001 vol 362 cc594-5W
Mr. Rooney

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment under what circumstances asylum seekers are able to access Programme Centre facilities. [149213]

Ms Jowell

Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service Agency under its Chief Executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Leigh Lewis to Mr. Terry Rooney, dated 7 February 2001: As the Employment Service is an Executive Agency, the Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning the circumstances under which Asylum Seekers are able to access Programme Centre facilities. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency. In answer to your specific question, access to Programme Centre facilities depends on the date which individuals applied for political asylum. Following the Introduction of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the eligibility criteria for Asylum Seekers who wish to participate in Programme Centre provision have changed. For those people who applied for asylum prior to 3 April 2000, non-EEA Overseas Nationals who are subject to employment restrictions and/or a time limit on their stay in the UK are not eligible to join Programme Centres with the following exceptions: Refugees with indefinite, limited or exceptional leave to stay in the UK; and Asylum Seekers who have applied for political asylum and who are awaiting a decision to stay in the UK, but have been given permission to work and train in this country by the Home Office. Both Refugees and Asylum Seekers must then satisfy the usual eligibility conditions that apply to citizens in the UK. For those people who applied for political asylum after 3 April 2000, Asylum Seekers cannot participate in Programme Centre provision until their application has been processed by the National Asylum Seekers Support (NASS). If the Asylum Seeker is then granted either Refugee Status, or exceptional leave to remain in the UK, they can make a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance and, subject to meeting the normal eligibility conditions, access Programme Centre facilities. The usual eligibility conditions for access to Programme Centre provision are that participants should be aged 25 or over, unemployed for over 26 weeks, and continuously in receipt (either directly or indirectly) of Jobseeker's Allowance or most other Social Security benefits for those of working age. However, some people who are judged to be at a particular disadvantage in the labour market can have access to Programme Centre provision from day one of unemployment and this flexibility already covers most Asylum Seekers. From 1 April this year this flexibility will be further extended so that all Asylum Seekers aged 25 or over who are entitled to claim Jobseeker's Allowance will be eligible for immediate access to Programme Centre provision. For those aged 18–24 similar provision will be available through the New Deal. I hope this is helpful.