Work Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 26 January 2015.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales) 2:30, 26 January 2015

What assessment he has made of the views of Jobcentre Plus managers on the effectiveness of the Work programme.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

We have continued to drive improvements in providers’ results. Jobcentre Plus is integral to this, and we have implemented a closer working approach between jobcentres and providers. The evaluation indicates that the relationship between jobcentres and providers has strengthened over time—for instance, through the use of co-location and enhanced information sharing.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales)

The serious concerns of jobcentre managers expressed in a report published in December should come as no surprise to the Minister given the latest dismal figures showing that barely 7% of people on employment and support allowance have moved into sustained employment. What is the Minister going to do to tackle the problems that jobcentre managers identify, such as the lack of work placement opportunities, infrequent contact with participants, and lack of explanation to participants about why sanctions have been requested?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

First, I would like to remind everybody that the Work programme is the most successful scheme of its kind in getting people from long-term unemployment into work. Some 1.75 million people are now being helped and over 600,000 have got a job. In feedback, participants are saying that they are happy with the frequency of contact and think that that works with them and helps overcome the barriers to finding work. The number of people on ESA shows that it is actually performing well above what was expected. It was expected to apply to only one in 14 people and the figure is now one in 10. All the extra work that we have done on the communications between Jobcentre Plus and work providers is obviously showing results.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

What more can the Minister do to get a better relationship between jobcentres and Work programme providers so that they can provide a warm handover when claimants move into the Work programme and when they return from the programme at the end of their two-year period?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

My hon. Friend is right. This is all part of the Oakley review. It is about ensuring that communications are better, that that hand-holding is understood, that people get a copy of the claimant commitment, and that they can understand a good cause and work together. At the end of the day, we are trying to get some of the most vulnerable people, who have been unemployed for a long time, into work. What is needed is that communication and that support from Jobcentre Plus and prime contractors.

Photo of Frank Roy Frank Roy Labour, Motherwell and Wishaw

My constituent, John McArthur, was laid off at the end of a temporary job that paid the national minimum wage. The DWP later tried to force him to work for the same company, in the same job, for six months. He subsequently got accused and lost his benefit. How can that sanction possibly be justified?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

This was a complicated case. I will obviously meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss it. His constituent had been laid off and then, as we were trying to support him back into work, he did work experience. It was in a different part of the business, and it was how we could best enable him to move from long-term unemployment into employment. If the hon. Gentleman would like to meet me, I am more than happy to do that, but I have already looked into this case.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Work programme has helped hundreds of thousands of people out of the misery of long-term unemployment and into sustainable work?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

My hon. Friend raises yet another good point. Under Labour, the number of people living in households where nobody had ever worked doubled. We therefore needed not only to do a lot of work to bring us back to the regular standards of what we had before Labour came into office, but to build on that to get more people into work. That is exactly right. We have helped hundreds of thousands of those people who were left unemployed for a long time.