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Deprived Areas

Volume 410: debated on Monday 18 August 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the support his Department gives to (a) areas suffering from high levels of unemployment and (b) areas suffering from low average wages. [129158]

The level of employment has reached record levels, up by over 1.5 million since 1997. The underlying trend remains upwards and recent unemployment figures are the best since the 1970s. The improvement in the labour market has been spread right across the country, and since 1997, unemployment rates have fallen fastest in the areas with the highest unemployment.

Jobcentre Plus provides everyone of working age with advice and guidance on the full range of support available to help them move into work, including programmes such as our New Deals. In areas of the country with higher levels of worklessness and concentrations of people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, we have introduced specialist programmes such as Action Teams for Jobs and Employment Zones. By the end of July 2003, they had been successful in helping more than 116,000 people into work. The Government have also introduced measures to help make work pay such as the national minimum wage and tax credits.

From April 2004, we are also introducing a programme of intensive support in neighbourhoods with very high concentrations of worklessness. Local worklessness pilots will operate in 12 of the most deprived neighbourhoods and will run for two years. The pilots will test a new approach to offering intensive support to local residents to help them overcome barriers to employment.