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Employment and Support Allowance

Volume 573: debated on Monday 13 January 2014

8. What steps he is taking to increase the ability of employment and support allowance claimants in the work-related activity group to gain paid employment. (901900)

ESA claimants in the work-related activity group have access to a wide range of employment support, including the Work programme where claimants receive tailored support for two years, and a flexible menu of support through their Jobcentre Plus. Specialist support is also available through Work Choice.

The Minister will be aware that the Lichfield review analysing the system said that it was beset by delays beyond the stipulated regulatory period and that Work programme providers consistently reported that they had very little information about the people referred to the scheme. Can the Minister explain to the House what specific steps she has taken to address those concerns?

First, let us talk about the Work programme, which is the first time we have ever had a coherent way to address and support these people back into work. We know through industry statistics that over 440,000 people have got a job from that programme and that over 100,000 have found a long-term job. We are supporting people as best we can—the first time we have ever done this. We are taking specific steps, too: we are analysing everything, watching what works, conducting a best-practice group and implementing the findings. So this is new, it has started and we are getting it better.

Can the Minister confirm that the pilot is the first time that ESA has been looked at in a co-ordinated way to try and get people to fulfil their potential? Will she also confirm that it is innovative policies such as this that mean our unemployment is so much lower than that in countries such as France where the Labour party’s policies are being pursued to economic catastrophe?

My hon. Friend is right. Most of Europe is looking to us to see how we get people into work, whereas the Opposition are looking to France where the exact opposite is happening. This is a very complicated journey for people who are in the ESA group and for most of them it is about understanding their lifestyles and getting them closer to the workplace and then into a job.