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Employment and Support Allowance (Appeals)

Volume 547: debated on Monday 25 June 2012

1. How many people have found work following a refusal of an appeal for employment and support allowance. (113178)

The Department does not hold statistics specifically on destinations after appeals, but we carried out a detailed report, published earlier this year, on the destinations of people on jobseeker’s allowance, income support and ESA. Individuals found fit for work by the tribunal may claim jobseeker’s allowance. Jobcentre Plus will provide employment support, or the claimant can access support through the Work programme at a time that is right for them.

Our experience in Derbyshire is of people moving from the employment support allowance on to jobseeker’s allowance, and not into work. What is the Minister doing to move people off the employment support allowance and not on to another benefit, but into work?

Of course, the purpose of the Work programme is to provide specialist back-to-work support. Those moving off ESA have early access to the Work programme, and those still on it can volunteer for the programme at any time, if they are not mandated to it.

Given that there are now 400,000 more jobs in the economy, the bulk of which have been taken by people who, by and large, are not eligible for benefits, because they are workers from abroad, might not loss of entitlement to benefit—for good cause—spur some people to get jobs and thus result in more jobs going to British people?

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. I have made it clear that I would like employers in this country to offer opportunities to local workers, but those workers need to be there—they need to be keen, energetic and wanting that work. I hope and expect that our Work programme providers will provide that energisation.

The Minister will know that, as well as the people looking for work following a refusal of appeal, many people win their appeal. Having won an appeal, however, they then have another work capability assessment, but the information that led to their appeal being won is not made available to the people undertaking the second WCA. Will he look at this situation in order to prevent people from going through a cycle of assessment, followed by appeal, followed by assessment?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the system set up by the previous Labour Government set a prognosis time for an individual—an estimate of how long before they could return to work. It is that, rather than anything else, which guides the timetable for repeat assessments. I have taken steps to stretch that timetable post-appeal, but I do not want to leave people stranded on benefits for the rest of their lives if we can possibly help them find employment.

The Minister will be aware of the 1996 personal responsibility Act, passed by President Clinton, which limited an individual’s entitlement to out-of-work benefits to a period of five years over their lifetime, and which, according to American research, cut the welfare roll by 60%. Will he follow that model?

I studied that model carefully. One reason why we have adopted various programmes requiring people to undertake full-time work is to create a sense of urgency for them in finding employment. I am not convinced, however, that government is good enough at managing data to manage, for long periods—many decades—at a time, the kind of systems set up in the United States.

The Minister did not provide the data that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel) asked for. He holds the parliamentary record for the abuse of statistics, having been rebuked for three separate offences by the UK Statistics Authority. Will he now sort out the shambles in his Department, do what he promised in January and lift the Work programme data ban?

The right hon. Gentleman does talk a lot of nonsense sometimes. First, he cannot add up—I have not been rebuked three times by the Statistics Authority. Secondly, the Work programme is progressing well, and I will publish further data on it soon.

Until today, the Government have told us that benefit reform plus the Work programme would sort out the welfare system, but this morning the Prime Minister said that they will not be enough. Will Ministers now sort out this chaos? Would not lifting the ban on data be a good place to start?

Let me give the right hon. Gentleman one piece of data: 80,000 fewer people are on out-of-work benefits today than when his party was in power.