Opposition Day — [7th Allotted Day]
Theresa May (Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women, Work & Pensions; Maidenhead, Conservative)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for referring to the experience that he quoted. Experience is patchy across the country and there are many areas where— [Interruption.] Ministers on the Front Bench sneer at that, but they should not do so. In some areas people have had to find charitable support because their claims are taking so long to get through Jobcentre Plus. What is happening is not something to be sneered at; it is seriously affecting people at some jobcentres. Such delays are one of the issues with Jobcentre Plus. Giving people the fast, targeted and relevant support that they need is vital, yet all too often the processes can be slow, cumbersome and generic. We should be able to provide a smarter and more efficient service.
As I said a few minutes ago, I am sure that everybody in the House will join me in saying that Jobcentre Plus staff are doing the best that they can in incredibly difficult circumstances; any steps that the Government take to streamline the processes that those staff deal with every day will be welcome. Creating a jobcentre system that is fit for purpose is an essential weapon in the battle to tackle unemployment.
What of the services that the Government offer the unemployed? They launched the new deal, their flagship programme, in a blaze of glory, but it can be described at best as a damp squib and at worst as a damning indictment of the Government's failure properly to grasp the challenge of unemployment. In 2008, fewer than 30 per cent. of the new deal participants found a job. One third of participants on the new deal for young people had been on the programme at least once before, and that figure rises to 40 per cent. for the new deal 25-plus. There can be no denying that the new deal is an abject failure. Half of all young jobseekers who leave the new deal for young people end up back on benefits within the year. I hope that when he responds, the Secretary of State will accept the failings of the new deal system—