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Workless Households

Volume 613: debated on Monday 11 July 2016

In Rhyl and district, the number of people requiring support through the Work programme for the long-term unemployed has dropped from 400 to 150 over the past 18 months. That is good news, but jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance claimant rates in parts of Rhyl remain concerning, and the Work programme delivery company has recently closed its principal office in the town. Can the Minister assure me that the new Work and Health programme will take particular account of individuals who are less receptive to intervention and who need more intensive input?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The new Work and Health programme is being designed precisely to help those people who face multiple and complex barriers to getting into work. Beyond that, our upcoming Green Paper will look at the additional ways in which we can reduce the disability employment gap in the longer term. Of course, GPs play a key role in supporting those people, and I look forward to meeting my hon. Friend and his GP colleagues to discuss these important issues further.

Given that the Work programmes have been cut by 87% and that the Secretary of State now knows who the next Prime Minister will be, will he confirm today that he will lobby her to increase the funding for the system that the Green Paper will produce? Will he also confirm the timetable for its roll-out?

I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that the next Prime Minister of this country absolutely shares my passion and commitment to a one nation vision of our society, to breaking down barriers and disadvantage and to ending inequalities. We await the specific decisions that the new Prime Minister will take on the important issues we are discussing today.

Building on the point about the significantly reduced amount of funding available for the Work and Health programme, what assurances will the Secretary of State be able to give us if, in the light of Brexit, we see a significant increase in the number of people looking for work generally? How on earth will a reduced programme be able to serve everybody?

The important point to make to my hon. Friend is that the Work and Health programme is just one part of a wider package of initiatives that we are taking forward to close the disability employment gap and to provide better support for people with long-term health conditions. I shall not repeat what I said in response to earlier questions, but the Green Paper that we are publishing later this year will outline the full range of reform options that we are interested in taking forward.