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Work programme (Disabled People)

Volume 594: debated on Monday 9 March 2015

The objective of the Work programme is to move 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. As of September 2014, there were 596,640 referrals for people with a disability indicator and 78,480 job outcomes paid.

What does the Minister have to say in response to the recent Mind report, which stated:

“Current government back-to-work schemes are failing people with mental health problems because they are not built on a proper understanding of why people have ended up out of work and what support they will need to move closer to work.”?

Mind also looked at the fact that all previous job schemes did not do enough for those with mental health conditions, who are the hardest to help and support. The Work programme tailors support to the individual, looking at an individual’s barriers into work. We have helped thousands of people with mental health conditions into work, instead of writing them off. There is more to do, so we are working and doing extra pilots to see how we can better engage with people with mental health conditions.

I was very grateful to the Secretary of State for visiting Crawley last month to see how successfully the Work programme was operating. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the staff of Royal British Legion Industries who deliver the Work programme in my constituency for paying great attention to getting disabled people and people with mental health conditions back into work?

Indeed I will join my hon. Friend in celebrating the work of the Royal British Legion and all the other charities and voluntary groups up and down the country as they try to ensure that there is a personalised plan and support for people looking for work. They do an invaluable job, and the people who go into such a field have a passion for getting people into work.

19. One of the greatest disabilities that stops young people getting a job is autism. Is the Minister aware that autism is predicted to cost this country £32 billion a year? Will she stop for a moment being the “hard-hearted Hannah” of the Front Bench and be a little more compassionate about disabled young people looking for work? (907925)

I understand a lot about autism and the extra support, help and work that we need to do. That is why the Secretary of State and I introduced the campaign, Disability Confident, which reaches out to employers and says, “Listen to the needs of the people and find out what we can do and how we can best work with these people.” I do hope that the hon. Gentleman’s comment was not sexist, as I have had very many such comments from the Opposition Benches.

One highlight from my first term in Parliament was meeting a gentleman who had spent 10 years out of work on disability benefits because of depression. Through the Work programme, he got a full-time job. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Work programme can give disabled people hope and opportunities for the future, whereas, in the past, they were left on benefits for life?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. What this is all about is understanding how we can help people, especially those with disabilities, and getting them into work. I am glad to say that, over the past year, employment for people with disabilities has risen by 141,000. Nearly half a million people with disabilities have set up their own business. That is what a Conservative Government and a coalition Government can do.

A moment ago, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson), I heard the Minister say that the Work programme was exceeding all its targets. Just 7% of those on employment and support allowance in the Work programme have got into jobs, compared with the tender document that said that, by year two, a 15% success rate would be achieved. The programme is not achieving even half that. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in a queue waiting for a work capability assessment with no idea when they will be reassessed. The Access to Work programme, which should help people get into work and get on at work, is supporting fewer people today than when Labour left office in 2010. It is no wonder that the bill for disability benefits is set to be as much as £10 billion higher, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. Is the Minister satisfied with that catalogue of failure and waste?

Once again, let me give the Opposition the latest and correct figures. One in 10 of ESA new claimants has found lasting work, which is above anything achieved in the past. What we expected was a level of one in 14, which was already there. Disability employment is up by 141,000 in the past year, and it now stands at more than 3.1 million. We are supporting disabled people into work and into education, and we are proud of our record.