Jobs and Social Security

Part of Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 28th November 2012.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:19 pm, 28th November 2012

I beg to move,

That this House
notes that only just over two in every hundred people referred to the Work Programme in its first year have gone into work;
further notes that it has delivered a worse outcome than no programme at all;
recognises that long term unemployment is soaring and that the welfare bill is projected to be £20 billion higher than planned;
notes with concern that the Government is cutting £14 billion from tax credits and is taking £6.7 billion from disability benefits to pay for this cost of failures;
and calls on the Government to implement a bank bonus tax to fund a Real Jobs Guarantee for young people and commission a cumulative impact assessment of disability benefit changes.

Our debate takes place in the shadow of the Chancellor’s winter statement next week. It is clear that a winter of misery lies ahead. The Chancellor has already had to revise up the cost of welfare spending for this Parliament by an eye-watering £20 billion, and now, after yesterday’s brutal exposure of the Work programme, we know a great deal more about who is to blame.

We already knew that the Chancellor had done his level best to throttle the recovery. He has cut so far and so fast that we have now been landed with the longest double-dip recession since the war; and our economy is so fragile that the Governor of the Bank of England has warned that we might lapse into another recession this year; but what we did not know until yesterday was just how badly let down the Chancellor, the Cabinet and our constituents have been by the complete inability of the Department for Work and Pensions to get our country back to work. No wonder the Chancellor is tearing strips off the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in Cabinet.

All over Britain, businesses and families are busting a gut to do anything and everything to find work. Some 60% of jobs created since the election have either been part-time or self-employed, and, amidst all that strain and effort, we might have expected a little more support and a little more of a helping hand from the DWP. Yesterday, however, we discovered that it has done worse than nothing. Ministers swept into office promising the biggest-ever scheme to help people back to work, but yesterday we heard, not the hype, but the reality. It has been trying to hide these figures for more than a year, and yesterday we found out why: the Work programme has proved precisely as useful as doing absolutely nothing—in fact, worse than nothing.

When the DWP went out to market to ask contractors to come forward and help with the task, it said, in its documents, that it could expect about 5% of people on long-term benefits to make it into work under their own steam each year. That is why it set itself a target of outperforming doing nothing by 10%—not a high bar—but somehow it managed to set a target as low as possible and miss it. It is right, therefore, that the House highlights, not just this failure, but the soaring cost of failure, which our constituents will now have to help pay down.