Skip to main content

Work Programme Contracts

Volume 550: debated on Monday 10 September 2012

20. What discussions he has had with companies that manage contracts under the Work programme on collaborating to reduce unemployment in the area in which they work; and if he will make a statement. (119833)

Like my predecessor, I intend to use every opportunity to meet providers to discuss all aspects of the Work programme. I will do so later this week. Effective partnership working is key to the successful delivery of the Work programme, and it is in providers’ interests to engage with a range of local partners including local authorities, employers and voluntary organisations.

I thank the Minister and welcome him to his post. On Monday I chaired a meeting in Slough of the local authority, the local college and local businesses as part of a campaign that we have run together to try to tackle unemployment locally. All the partners there were concerned about the lack of collaboration with Work programme providers and the lack of information and working together from them. Those findings are echoed in the recent Manchester Business School study, which stated that although centralisation has cut the cost of procurement, it can also undermine the very local engagement that underpins service innovation. What is he going to do to tackle that?

As the hon. Lady will know, in contrast to schemes produced by the previous Government, Work programme providers are incentivised to perform well to get people into work. They are paid by results, so they need to be as effective as possible in working with local partners to get the right outcomes. For example, I know that the contract that covers her constituency includes close work with further education colleges to improve outcomes for participants in the scheme.

May I welcome my hon. Friend to his post and congratulate the Government on the progress made under the Work programme? In my area, significant numbers of participants have now been in work for more than six months. Does he agree that one of the best ways of reducing unemployment further is to improve labour mobility at the lower end of the income scale?

My hon. Friend is right. There is a range of interventions that we can make to help people get back into work, and mobility is one. Welfare reform and universal credit are another, because they will ensure that people are better off working than not working. We want to see which levers and which policies work, to get as many people as possible into employment.

As the Minister indicated, some information about the Work programme will now be made available to local authorities on a confidential basis, but there is no accountability without transparency. When will he see the light and allow all of us who have an interest in ensuring that people can get work through the Work programme to have access to information about its performance?

I remind the hon. Lady that, as I said earlier, information is already shared with local authorities on a confidential basis. [Interruption.] We need to maintain the confidentiality of the data to ensure the integrity of national statistics. [Laughter.] The Opposition may treat national statistics cavalierly, but it is absolutely right that we protect the data to get the best information out there. There are no constraints on employers, local authorities or Work programme providers working together to share information, to get the most effective possible scheme in place.