Work programme participants are some of the hardest to help and can experience multiple barriers to finding work. There are two providers in Scotland: Ingeus has supported 21.2% of all claimants into a job outcome; and Working Links has supported 20.4% of claimants into a job outcome.
The Work programme has performed worse in Scotland than in any English region. In the meantime, successful local projects such as the Engine Shed in my constituency have had to close. Does the Minister agree that powers over this should be devolved as quickly as possible—and not just to the Scottish Parliament, but to local authorities?
I certainly agree that the Engine Shed was a great project. I have made it clear to the Deputy First Minister that if proposals are brought forward after the election for the devolution of the Work programme, separate from other items to be devolved, I would have an open mind about that.
Thanks to this Government, those helped into employment though the Work programme do not have to pay income tax on the first £10,000 they earn. Does the Minister agree that that represents progress towards economic growth in Scotland and opportunities for its young people?
By any measure the Work programme has been a failure. It has wasted public money and let down the people depending on it. When will the Government listen to not only the Smith commission, but the dozens of civil society organisations in Scotland that have called for employment support to be devolved so that we can develop an integrated system in Scotland that actually works?
I do not think that the 32,620 people who have found work through the Work programme would agree with the hon. Lady’s assessment. It is now time for her party to come forward with its proposals for an alternative to the Work programme, rather than just criticising the Government and calling for more powers. This Government have given a commitment to effect a transition to such a programme, but first we need to know what it will be.
I fully acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has been a fervent campaigner on this issue—and, indeed, on employment—in his constituency, but I am sure that he welcomes the fact that over the past five years, under this Government, the number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants in his constituency has gone down by 842—some 27%.
I absolutely dispute the claim that the Work programme has failed them. The Work programme looks to help the most vulnerable people into work, and people have moved into work over the past five years in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, where the JSA claimant count has come down by 1,403—some 39%. I am sure that even he welcomes that.