Multiple Disadvantages

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 23rd April 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Conservative, Pudsey 2:30 pm, 23rd April 2012

What steps his Department is taking to support families and individuals facing multiple disadvantages.

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys

What steps his Department is taking to support families and individuals facing multiple disadvantages.

Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Conservative, Rossendale and Darwen

What steps his Department is taking to support families and individuals facing multiple disadvantages.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood

What steps his Department is taking to support families and individuals facing multiple disadvantages.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Department’s reforms of the welfare system are to support people with difficulties entering the world of work. We have considered this matter extensively and are introducing support that is tailored to the needs of individuals to get them closer to employment and to tackle the entrenched worklessness at the heart of that. That includes £200 million of European social fund support for families with multiple problems. Local authorities play a critical role in the delivery of that support and we urge them to consider it to be as important as we do.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Conservative, Pudsey

I welcome the fact that about half the organisations involved in the delivery of this scheme are voluntary. Does my right hon. Friend agree that local charities are often best placed to provide the tailored and personalised support that such families need?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

It is true that voluntary sector organisations tend to deal with the whole person, rather than, like Government Departments and even sometimes local authorities, considering specific issues while forgetting that many of them knock on to each other. Such organisations have an important role to play. We should not ignore the fact that local authorities and Government Departments have to get their act together and make sure that when dealing with families with multiple problems, they talk to each other—always, there is a tendency for them not to do so. The good authorities hub up all the services around the family, which is at the centre, so Health, Work and Pensions, Education and all the Departments involved start to co-ordinate their activity, rather than spend all that money and get nowhere.

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys

One of my wards, Claremont, is, according to the latest DCLG statistics, the fifth most deprived ward in the country, and I see daily the hurdles that families have to overcome to deal with some of the entrenched problems they face. I realise that no single agency can solve them, nor indeed can any single Government Department. Will the Secretary of State explain what he is doing with other Departments to ensure that all troubled families get a whole-of-Government approach, rather than a series of unconnected initiative-itises?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend raises a good point. That is why the Prime Minister asked specifically that Louise Casey operate and head up a unit, reporting to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, which is looking at the 120,000 worst affected, most difficult families. The idea, as I said earlier, is that, working with her, local authorities nominate the families. She wants them to hub up services to make sure that the pooled amount of money they get is spent on life-changing actions, not the tokenistic box-ticking that too often takes place.

Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Conservative, Rossendale and Darwen

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to escape the silo mentality in Government Departments and local authorities is to champion the voluntary sector in helping to support families in areas of multiple deprivation, such as those in my constituency? Home-Start is a fantastic charity that does such work in my area. Will he support it?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Indeed I do. Home-Start is a remarkable charity and I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will give it their full support. It is worth bearing in mind that the families it deals with are very much in that category of worst and most troubled, with children growing up with parents who often have multiple issues themselves—sometimes serious drug addictions—and sometimes the money given to the families does not get down to where it benefits the children. It is worth reminding the House that 1.8 million children live in workless households, which gives them a difficult start in life.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood

Some of the families and individuals facing multiple disadvantages are also family carers and young carers. What reassurance can the Secretary of State give the House that the Government will recognise those who have a caring role when introducing this fantastic support package?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

That is very much part of what we are trying to do and we will certainly recognise such roles. After all, we recognise fully that the effort given beyond the state multiplies many times the amount given by the state. Without that support—that voluntary and family work with people with difficulties—it would be almost impossible for the state to operate.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in paying tribute to Lord Ashley, who was passionately committed to people with disabilities and pursued that work both in this House and in the other place? As a further tribute, will he ensure that, in his Department, the needs of people with hearing impairments are met as they should be able to expect?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Indeed I will. The right hon. Gentleman reminds us that we should all pay tribute to a brilliant campaigner, if I dare say, and supporter of people with disabilities. All of us in this House and the other place know the effectiveness of his campaigns and stand in awe of someone who dedicated his life as he did to supporting vulnerable people.

Photo of Michael McCann Michael McCann Labour, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

Yesterday, I was contacted by my constituent Edward Connolly. Edward and his wife have four children under 10, and Edward is recovering from prostate cancer. He works 16 hours a week and his employer cannot give him any more hours. He cannot access the Work programme, and he is losing £250 a month in tax credits. Can the Secretary of State tell me how he proposes to protect the Connolly family from the multiple disadvantages that have been introduced by this Government?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

If the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me directly about that, I am very happy to speak to the individual concerned and his family. Clearly, we want to do the best by them. That is the whole point of universal credit, which will benefit him enormously at 16 hours, and other hours too, whereas the present system, as the hon. Gentleman knows, targets only specific hours, rather than all the hours that people work. I am happy to deal with that case directly.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe Labour, Bradford South

May I add my condolences to the family of Lord Ashley, who was a tremendous worker in both Houses? The Minister is right: it is difficult to deal with families with multiple disadvantages. The difficulty is that that group is growing wider now because of people losing disability or other benefits. How will the Minister make sure that we maintain an up-to-date list of the families who have problems—a list that is going to grow?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. This is one of the big issues that we have to deal with. The reason why Louise Casey was asked to do this work was so that she, working with the local authorities, could start to map out where the most difficult families are in their areas. The key thing—I come back to this—is that it is ultimately local authorities that will and should know where these families are. There are some good examples. In Westminster the council has already hubbed up the issue and got organisations working with it; other local authorities are not so good. I am not here to name and blame, but I want local authorities to act with Louise Casey and the team to make sure we map those families, as the hon. Gentleman so rightly asks us to do.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

The Secretary of State refers to Louise Casey, but my understanding is that Emma Harrison was paid £8.6 million in dividends last year from her company, A4e, which was appointed by the Prime Minister to head up that programme, but she has now resigned. Can the Secretary of State list her main achievements?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Nice try, but the hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. Emma Harrison had nothing to do with the programme. Louise Casey has always been heading it up. I understand why he wants to elide the issues, but it is not true. Emma Harrison heads an organisation and was asked to give some advice, I understand, to 10 Downing street on other issue to do with families, but she has not controlled this issue at all. I hope the hon. Gentleman will try again some other time.