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Work and Health Programme

Volume 609: debated on Monday 9 May 2016

Development of the Work and Health programme design is well under way, including engagement with a wide range of stakeholders. The Department has commenced the commercial process for the programme by releasing the prior information notice for potential providers on 28 April.

A constituent of mine was volunteering last year at Green Futures, a social enterprise. That was directly related to his degree subject. While he was applying for work, the jobcentre put him on the community work placement scheme, saying that a voluntary placement would be better for him if arranged through the jobcentre. A private company paid by the jobcentre then arranged a six-month unpaid placement at the very organisation he was already volunteering with. Does the Minister agree that this is an utter waste of taxpayers’ money? How can she guarantee that this sort of incompetence will not be repeated under the new scheme?

I would be very happy to look into that particular example. The hon. Lady has highlighted a practice that clearly needs to change. The Work and Health programme will be designed to support claimants with health conditions and disabilities who have been unemployed for at least two years, but, as I have said, I shall be very happy to look at the case that she has raised.

My right hon. Friend knows that one of the key challenges in supporting autistic people into work is ensuring that we identify what works. There are very few data on work outcomes for autistic adults. Can she assure me that the new Work and Health programme will record whether someone on the programme is on the autism spectrum, so that we can track whether the programme has been successful for this very important group?

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. I would like to assure her that, in designing the new provision, we are working at local level on harnessing expertise as well as engaging with a wide range of stakeholders. By doing that, we shall be taking on board important lessons from the overall Work programme and Work Choice as well as looking at how we can achieve sustained long-term employment outcomes.