Work Programme (Wales)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:19 pm on 1st May 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 4:19 pm, 1st May 2014

We can look at it that way. We know that we are getting 20-odd per cent. into work. We can put either a negative slant on it, as the hon. Gentleman does, or a positive slant on it, as I would. These are people who are very long-term unemployed. Some of them could have been unemployed for 10 years. The journey that they are embarking on is massive. Some of the people are not measured on getting a job. It is about their journey to getting closer to getting a job, and what a journey some of the people I read about have gone on! They have had severe depression and anxiety and have not worked for 10 years. They have lost their confidence and self-esteem. Then I see that at the end of the day they have got a job. That is incredible not only for them, but for their families and communities. For some people, I am afraid to say, that journey will be longer. We hoped that it would be shorter, but what they have done in the two years is significant. That is why there is Help to Work afterwards, to say, “How can we help you even more?” We are starting to get to know these people now and know what their issues and concerns are. Do they need more numeracy skills; do they need more literacy skills; or is it about confidence and health issues? How do we deal with those and take people forward?

I see that time is tight and I want to talk about what we have specifically been doing in Wales and how we have got continuous improvement. We have set up a best practice group. What is working? How do we take that forward? How do we align things? How do we ensure that people are doing the best in their area? Let me mention some of the things. A Welsh provider, Rehab JobFit, has created an additional specialist fund of £160,000 to better support claimants with more complex needs, increasing the use of the specialist provision within its supply chain. It is also rolling out a programme of pre-employment training that will be helpful in supporting some of its hardest-to-help claimants in north Wales. Working Links has taken on new specialist consultants, who are working with employers to promote the benefits of taking on Work programme claimants. That has increased job opportunities and allowed the building of strong and meaningful relationships with employers in getting the right people into work. Yes, we are monitoring them very closely. Yes, we are saying, “What is working in other parts of the country? How can you do the same thing?” Fundamentally, what was hampering the Work programme in Wales was the inability to get on to the skills funding. What we are doing now is aligning things. Our DWP team are working with the Welsh Office to understand what is additionality, how people there can do what the UK is doing and how it will not impinge on their funding. I think that that is key.

When we are talking about youth employment, I have to say that I cannot agree with what Stephen Timms said. We see that the claimant count for young unemployed people has gone down for 22 months in a row and that youth unemployment has gone down for seven consecutive months. When we see the figures, we see that his portrayal of them is incorrect, because now there are fewer young people unemployed than there were at the time of the general election. I hope that I have answered some of the points that were made. I will now give the floor to the Chair of the Select Committee, who has done such a tremendous job.