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Under this Government, unemployment has fallen by more than 650,000 and the unemployment rate has been cut from 8% to 5.6% of the labour force.
Last month’s figures showed that the number of people in Kingswood claiming jobseeker’s allowance had fallen by 23% since July 2014. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that shows that the Government’s welfare reforms are helping people back into work, and that the Conservatives are now the true workers’ party thanks to our long-term economic plan?
My hon. Friend is, of course, right. People should remember what we inherited, which was a collapsing economy and huge levels of unemployment. Under this Government, some 1,000 more people are in work each day and employment is up by more than 350,000 to more than 31 million. Really importantly, 14.5 million women are in work, which is a record high that the last Labour Government never, ever achieved.
May I thank the Secretary of State for all his work in reducing unemployment in my constituency? South East Cornwall is a beautiful area, attracting many tourists, especially during the summer. What action have the Government taken to assist those coming out of seasonal work, to help stop them becoming unemployed again?
My hon. Friend does a huge amount of work in her constituency to help people in those kinds of jobs and represents them very well here. Jobcentres in her area are tasked with and focused on helping people who do periodic work, which is the nature of a lot of the employment there, and they are trained to do that. As universal credit arrives next year, my hon. Friend will find that a huge number of her constituents will benefit, because instead of losing their way by having to come off jobseeker’s allowance and on to tax credits, they will stay on universal credit and with the jobcentre. That will help those who have work that is not always permanent.
Does my right hon. Friend welcome the fact that the number of people in Morecambe and Lunesdale claiming jobseeker’s allowance for 12 months or more fell by more than 30% over the past 12 months? Is not it a key part of any long-term economic plan to help the long-term unemployed back into the dignity of work?
My hon. Friend has been assiduous in his work with the jobcentre and those who have been unemployed. Across the country, long-term unemployment is down by more than a fifth, falling to about 165,000 over the past year, and the number of people unemployed for more than 24 months is falling. The latest figures are down by a fifth, which is a remarkable position, given what we took over from the last Government.
As the hon. Lady should know, we offer support and help to those who attend jobcentres. If they do not speak English correctly, we send them on and support them through language courses. That process helps them obtain jobs and improve their circumstances.
Obviously, this is a matter for my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but what I will say is that we have been in constant discussions and negotiations with politicians in Northern Ireland about implementing welfare reform. Even though there was agreement, they have now decided not to agree. I simply say to all involved that they now need to start thinking about how they can address the issue; otherwise, they will not benefit the people they serve who will lose out because they will lose money.
My constituent, Mr Colin Fraser, has degenerative Parkinson’s disease. He came to see me at my constituency surgery just over a week ago in a very shaken and devastated state after having had the mobility component of his personal independent payment reviewed. According to the Department’s own guidelines—[Interruption.] This is an important issue. The guidelines state that cases involving claimants with severe neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease, dementia and Parkinson’s should be “paper based” and not subject to interview. My constituent was subjected to very intimidating behaviour and I would like the Secretary of State to look very carefully at his case and, in a wider context, how people are dealt with in such situations.
We do conduct reviews and I would be very happy to review that particular case, if the hon. Lady wants to take it up with me. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Justin Tomlinson has already met Parkinson’s UK to discuss how we can improve and modify the system so that it helps people much better. We are always looking for ways to improve it, and I and my right hon. Friend would be very happy to speak to the hon. Lady about this particular case.
I know that the Secretary of State and his team are absolutely committed to helping 1 million people with disabilities back into work. Last week, I met representatives of an access-to-work contractor, Pluss, which is very active in Gloucester. It told me some remarkable stories of people being helped into jobs. Does my right hon. Friend agree that specialist providers have a real role to play in helping his Department to achieve this important goal?
Yes. That is one of the objectives of this Government. We have made huge strides in getting more people with disabilities back into work—I think the figure is now over 220,000, which I believe is the highest figure since records began, in proportionate terms—but the most important point is that we are looking to get that up to the level of normal, non-disabled people who are back in work. Those with disabilities have every right and every reason to expect exactly the same support into work that everybody else gets.
Unemployment went up last month. The Government’s commission on employment and skills pointed out earlier this year that although we currently have German levels of adult unemployment, we have eurozone levels of youth unemployment, which went up in July and in August. Does the Secretary of State accept that much more needs to be done to give young people the chance of a decent start?
Of course we are focused on youth unemployment, but it has actually been falling from what we inherited. It has fallen by more than 200,000 since we took over, and the claimant count has fallen every month in the past three and a half years. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the figures going up, and in a sense I am not surprised, because they cover the period leading up to the last election. Given what the Opposition were saying, and looking at the polls that some businesses carried out, it is no surprise to me that they might have held back. If he looks at the vacancies, he will see that there are 735,000 vacancies in the jobcentres every week, which is more than he managed.