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Jobseekers (Barriers to Work)

Volume 552: debated on Monday 5 November 2012

5. What recent assessment he has made of the barriers that prevent jobseekers getting back into work. (126302)

Jobseekers can face a number of barriers to work, about which my hon. Friend has spoken to me on a number of occasions. Those include a lack of work experience, a lack of essential computer skills, an incomplete education, which leaves them ill qualified, or coming from a family where worklessness is entrenched across generations. We are taking cross-Government action to tackle all those barriers, and reforming the benefit system so that it more closely resembles life in work, rather than people having to face those huge barriers.

Since 2011, the Department has through procurement encouraged its private suppliers to hire apprentices, and 2,000 apprenticeships have been created as a result. Will the Secretary of State share his success with other Departments, so that we can roll out this programme across Whitehall and remove barriers to work?

I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on the huge work that he has done in encouraging apprenticeship starts. I know that he is particularly keen on that and I take a real steer from him. I also remind him and the House that, since we brought in our changes, over the past two academic years more than 950,000 apprenticeships have been offered by over 100,000 different employers. On top of that, the youth contract offers 160,000 wage incentives for those who wish to start apprenticeships. Therefore, the scheme has been a major success for this Government. The coalition has done far more than the previous Government.

Will the Secretary of State concede that the greatest barrier to returning to work is the lack of jobs locally and that that is particularly the case for people with long-term sickness and disability?

The hon. Gentleman is right—those people face particular difficulties. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), referred to those earlier. Our job is to ensure that we help all those people to overcome those difficulties. Organisations such as Work Choice and Remploy, which are helping to get people back to work, are hugely important. We are making big strides in that regard. The simple answer is that still not enough people with disabilities are back in work, although the situation is improving. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. We all want to ensure that disabled people join mainstream work and get a full life out of it.

In welcoming my right hon. Friend's last answer, may I particularly urge him to look at organisations such as the Shaw Trust when trying to assist disabled people into work, rather than having focus desks in jobcentres?

I absolutely agree. It is important to extend the net as widely as possible. My hon. Friend is a huge campaigner for public sector organisations and he is right about the Shaw Trust, which I have visited. It is a phenomenal organisation. We will use the trust and every other organisation we can. In fact we set up desks in jobcentres, which were manned by the Prince's Trust on behalf of all other charities, so that we could extend that net to enable anyone who needed it to get support, not just from the Government but from other organisations.

The unemployed former Remploy workers in my constituency have seen little or no help from the DWP or Remploy since they lost their jobs. What will the Secretary of State do about that?

I am very happy to take any particulars from the hon. Lady and to hear more detail from her, but the really successful part of Remploy is the part of the organisation that works to get people back to work. It has had a very successful record. We have put extra money into that organisation. We have made more money and more support available to try to get people who were working in the factories at Remploy back to work. However, I must say that during the period that the Government she supported were in office, next to no support was given to people who left Remploy when it closed up to 29 factories.