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Work Programme (Data-sharing)

Volume 550: debated on Monday 10 September 2012

12. If he will make it his policy that Work programme providers should be allowed to share comprehensive data with local authorities on their own performance. (119825)

From June 2012, providers have been able to share management information on referrals, attachments, job entries, and specified information on job outcomes with local authorities that have signed confidentiality agreements.

The Government’s own Cabinet Office says that publishing data about our public services makes them better, yet the Work programme has been shrouded in secrecy. Will the new Minister let the light shine in?

The hon. Gentleman should listen to the answer before asking the supplementary. I made it very clear that since June 2012 information has been shared with local authorities that are prepared to sign the confidentiality agreement. We are very keen to ensure the integrity of official statistics. The information is there to be shared and I look forward to local authorities’ working with contractors to use that information to develop effective schemes at a local level.

When the Minister gets this autumn’s official data on job outcomes and sustainment payments under the Work programme, will he have another look at the funding model for local training providers? He may be aware that, a few months ago, I raised with his predecessor the plight of a small provider in my constituency, and I was not exactly thanked for doing so. Is he aware that another provider in my constituency has now gone out of work in addition to two others? Will he promise to keep the matter under constant review?

The Minister’s predecessor made sure that nobody could find out what was really happening on the Work programme, and he has had his reward.

I warmly welcome the new Minister to his position. He can now make a clean breast of all this. I hope that he will heed the CBI’s call, made in July—after the announcement to which he has just referred—for Work programme providers to be allowed to tell local authorities everything about how they are doing. The CBI is right: the Work programme will not fulfil its potential unless that happens.

First, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his congratulations; he and I have worked together from different sides of the Dispatch Box before, during his previous incarnation at the Treasury.

We have said that we will publish information. The first official statistics on Work outcomes will be published in November this year. We are keen to see providers, local authorities and other partners working closely together and using the available data to develop the right response. We are seeing success stories—such as in Barking recently, where there has been that local collaboration.

The Secretary of State should pipe down. [Interruption.] The shadow Secretary of State should pipe down.

I say to the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) that there are success stories. We will publish the full data in November and he should wait for that.

I am grateful for what the Minister has said. I hope that he will pay very careful attention to what the CBI has called for. I am delighted to hear that we finally have a date for the publication of the first Work programme job outcome data, almost 18 months after the programme started. Will he, unlike his predecessor, accept that needless secrecy holds back public services such as the Work programme?

The right hon. Gentleman should remember that this is a two-year programme. Payments are made after six months of sustained work activity based on work outcomes. We need to build up the evidence to see how effective the Work programme is. I am confident that the statistics to be published later this year will demonstrate its effectiveness. It is a vital part of the work that we need to do make sure that we get more people into employment.