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Personalised Support

Volume 474: debated on Monday 31 March 2008

Employment increased last month to a new record high of 29.46 million and claimant unemployment has fallen to its lowest since 1975. Our six different new deals have helped 1.85 million people into work. We are now merging the new deals for jobseekers into a single, flexible new deal to tailor the support to the needs of each person.

In my constituency, there are now 1.25 jobs for every person of employment age. That is a huge success, but there are still large numbers of people on incapacity benefit who have been out of work for many years, and many of those people have acute mental health problems. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have to do an awful lot more to help people with mental health problems to get back into training and, ultimately, back into the workplace?

Yes, that is absolutely right. We commissioned Dame Carol Black to consider that issue, and her report of last week gives us a good way of doing exactly that. We will continue to reform incapacity benefit, which we are committed to abolishing. In October, we will introduce the new employment and support allowance, which will be based on what people can do rather than what they cannot. That very much includes people with mental health problems. We are considering how we and the NHS can ensure that we give them the support to get them back into work.

On Friday, I visited the Pertemps agency in West Bromwich and was very impressed with the fact that it has got 910 people, many of them long-term unemployed, back to work since last April. It was obvious from my discussions that barriers to employment relate not only to skills, but to psychological, cultural and a range of other factors. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that when the Government look to get people into work, their approach takes all those factors into account?

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. That is exactly why we will involve the voluntary and private sectors in delivering personalised support to each of those individuals and will pay by result so that they have the freedom to decide how to get people back into work, but will be rewarded on the basis of how they do so.

The Secretary of State has said that the Government will reassess all existing incapacity benefit claimants between 2010 and 2013. How many extra pathways to work opportunities will there be over and above those already announced to help those who are reassessed, where that is appropriate?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are extending pathways to work to the whole country from this April. I believe that his party has exactly the same goal as us on incapacity benefit. The Conservatives have announced that they want to match our goal of getting 1 million people off incapacity benefit, and we welcome their support for our policy. I hope that he will now stop promising completely non-existent welfare reform savings.