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Employment Programmes

Volume 495: debated on Monday 29 June 2009

11. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of her Department’s programmes aimed at assisting people into work; and if she will make a statement. (282357)

Over the past decade, the new deals and employment zones have led to a major transformation in employment support for long-term jobseekers, helping more than 2 million people to move into work. Our active labour market policies have helped to reduce the number of lone parents on income support by more than 290,000 since 1997, and the number on incapacity benefits by 160,000 from its peak in 2003. Our benefit reforms and the success of our employment programmes mean that the numbers of people on benefit are not escalating as they did in the last recession.

Although I appreciate all the efforts that the Government have made on the issue, the Minister will appreciate that in certain parts of the country, such as Tyneside, there are areas where persistent and stubborn unemployment is far greater than in other parts of the country. Will he tell us what he intends to do to try to solve that ingrained problem?

My hon. Friend makes sure that I do not forget the particular problems that his constituents face in Jarrow, and those faced in the area around his constituency. Through the working neighbourhoods fund, and particularly through the future jobs fund, I hope he will be able to engage with us and continue to act as a strong advocate for his area. I hope he will ensure that we take advantage of the £1 billion future jobs fund, which Labour Members are supporting, to make sure that we get as much activity going as possible, and get real work—real sustainable jobs—in his area.

The Minister will have seen, I hope with alarm, reports in The Observer newspaper suggesting that there is widespread fraud among those in the private sector who are supposed to be assisting people into work. He will perhaps know from constituents, as I do, of job creation schemes that are frankly job substitution schemes. What action is he taking to root out that fraud wherever he finds it? Will he ensure that we think very carefully before there is any further privatisation of that service?

Naturally, we take any incident of fraud extremely seriously. We have robust systems in place to discover incidents of fraud, as has happened in the majority of cases that are being reported. One provider was highlighted by The Observer yesterday, and I am aware of another. To my knowledge, there is no evidence of any systematic fraud on the part of those providers. Indeed, the private sector providers have got 250,000 people into work. Those are individuals with whom Jobcentre Plus has been working for a considerable period and has not managed to get into work, but thanks to payment by results, we are getting good results from the private sector providers.