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Work Programme (Over 50s)

Volume 594: debated on Monday 9 March 2015

12. What proportion of people over the age of 50 who have been referred to the Work programme have found work as a result. (907918)

The objective of the Work programme is to move more people into sustainable employment, and so the available data relate to people’s job outcomes, not starts, which means they have been in work for three or six months. To September 2014, there were 300,410 referrals of people aged 50 and over, resulting in 42,750 job outcomes.

The Work programme is failing older people, with the figures the Minister has just given meaning that only 13% of people aged 55 to 59 have found a lasting job as a result of the programme. What would she say to the constituents I meet, who are desperate to work and doing all that is asked of them yet feel badly let down by her Government?

The Work programme is the largest programme of its kind, helping people into work on an unparalleled scale. It is superseding all the expected levels and targets; it is better than anything that has gone before it.

With the Banbury and Bicester job clubs, we seek to help people who are out of work to get back into the world of work, irrespective of age. Am I not right in thinking that 50,000 over-50s who are in work now were not in work last year? So 50,000 over-50s have found work in just the past year, and it is right that we should not write anyone off simply because of their age.

My right hon. Friend is correct about that. We are seeing what extra support we can give to the over-50s, which is why, with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Pensions, we have brought together the “Fuller Working Lives” document. It is also why we are looking at: how we can do extra IT; how we can do extra CVs and résumés; and how we can have older worker champions going into business to really sell the benefits of older employees, because it is key that they should be there to share their experience.

Can the Minister explain why the Work programme works less well for women over 50 than for any other group in the community? According to her Department’s own figures, just over one in 10 women over 50 actually finds work as a result of the Work programme.

I am not really sure where the hon. Lady has got her figures from. I have the figures in front of me and the one in 10 would refer to the number of employment and support allowance new claimants who found lasting work—that compares to a figure of one in 25 when they first joined and is well above the expected average, which would have been about one in 14. But we must remember that these people are some of the most difficult and hardest to help into work, which is why we have put this in place to support them. [Laughter.]

When the Minister joins me on Wednesday in my constituency for her meeting with employers at my jobs fair, she will learn that many of them have started and wish to continue apprenticeships for the over-50s. Does she see a role for the Government in extending the programme to over-50s, with sufficient demand?

I do indeed, and what my hon. Friend is doing there is incredible, supporting people of all ages through job fairs. As there were peals of laughter from Opposition Members, they obviously do not understand how the Work programme works and who goes on it, because it is there specifically to help those who are the hardest to help into work and to give them extra help and support.