Work Programme (Wales)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:04 pm on 1st May 2014.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales) 4:04 pm, 1st May 2014

I, too, congratulate the Select Committee Chair on his excellent management of the inquiry and the report.

I want to mention briefly the poor level of performance by Working Links Wales and Rehab JobFit in Wales. We know that there are examples of subcontractors doing very good work, but overall it has been recognised that their performance does not compare well with other providers throughout the UK. In their response, the Government said that they will continue to take action where performance does not meet expectation.

What has the Minister been able to do so far and what does she intend to do about those two providers? What monitoring has been carried out—not just counting outcomes, but examining how they operate? The providers have bid for contracts and been awarded them, and the Government should hold them to account for the job of finding work. Considerable public money has been invested, and it should be looked at carefully. What is the providers’ percentage cut for management? What is their engagement with employers? Do they give the right incentives to employers to take part? Who provides training and is it sufficiently linked to the local job market?

Considerable money is at stake—nearly £14,000 for some employment and support allowance claimants—so there must be value for money. There have been instances of poor practice when people have been sent for interviews for unsuitable jobs, have travelled to turn up for non-existent jobs or have had to report repeatedly to centres away from the main areas where they could be looking for work. That happens in my constituency; people have to come to Llanelli when they live in Tumble and should be looking for work in somewhere like Cross Hands.

The report mentions evaluation of the impact of the Work programme. What progress has been made on that? It also mentions Andrew Sells reporting back in the spring on how to roll out good practice in respect of lone parents. What progress is being made on that?

I turn to the community work placement scheme, which is a continuation of the Work programme. I note that only two providers have bid for that in Wales and that they are the same two that are underperforming on the Work programme. Will the Minister look carefully at that and consider inviting further bids? The scheme involves £30 million of public funds.

On the potential overlap or conflict with Welsh Government programmes, we all understand why the Government do not want to double-fund people and pay out twice. This week, Ken Skates, the deputy Minister for Skills and Technology in the Welsh Government, made a clear statement detailing much of the work that has been going on between him and the Minister. I am glad that they are working together to try to sort the matter out.

As Guto Bebb highlighted, people coming out of prison are immediately put on the Work programme. There should be a mechanism to exit from that if it is more suitable for them to be on a Jobs Growth Wales scheme or another one. Funding should be managed so that there is no double-funding and that funding is shared if there is going to be more than one provider. I do not see why it is not practical to sort that out so that we do not end up paying twice, but we get the best outcome for the people concerned. I would like an update on progress from the Minister on holding people to account and ensuring that we get the very best value for money for people in Wales.