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Employment: DWP Commissioning Strategy

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 28 February 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell) has made the following Statement.

We have made clear progress over the past decade in tackling poverty and promoting social justice. But we need to do more. We are determined that we will continue to tackle child poverty and to drive for an 80 per cent employment rate. We have become more ambitious about who we believe can work.

We will be focusing efforts on helping people on employment and support allowance to look at what they can do, not what they cannot. We will also be expecting single parents to look for work when their youngest child is seven rather than 16. Achieving fair life chances for all will mean opening up second chances, through opportunities to learn, develop new skills, enter employment and make progress at work.

The employability market is large and diverse. Every year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spends nearly £1 billion on partnerships with the private, public and voluntary sectors. In England, the European Social Fund (ESF) finances further provision commissioned by DWP. We need to spend that money cost-effectively to get the best result for every customer and to increase the number of people going into sustained work. To achieve this, we need to achieve a step change in the performance of employment provision.

That is why I am pleased to announce to the House the publication today of a Command Paper entitled DWP Commissioning Strategy.

The commissioning strategy’s new approach to sourcing, procuring and managing employability provision will harness the innovation and expertise of the private, third and public sectors to support people into work. This strategy implements a key part of the radical vision outlined by David Freud in his report Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity, published in March 2007.

The commissioning strategy is a major milestone in our welfare reform programme and provides a comprehensive and compelling vision of the way we will work with providers. It aligns clearly with the ambitions of other developments, such as the Leitch review of skills, the report of the National Employment Panel’s Business Commission on Race Equality in the Workplace and the joint Communities and Local Government/Department for Work and Pensions paper on area-based strategies to reduce worklessness in England.

We are creating a market for the long term—we are committed to this and want to help to develop a critical mass of providers who will work with us in delivering personalised services for each individual that focus on work or work-related activity for those clients who will benefit. The strategy takes us away from a mindset of top-down control and devolves initiative and innovation to the front line. Furthermore, it sets out the high value we place on developing long-term relationships with partners who demonstrate that they share our commitment, including those commitments in the public sector statutory duties, to promote equality through all we do.

We have consulted extensively with existing and potential providers, other parts of government, representative groups, employer organisations and other stakeholders, as well as reviewing the responses to the consultation exercise. We have also sought to learn from best practice internationally: from the United States, Australia and the Netherlands. However, our ambition is to make our employability provision even more advanced and effective in its conception and delivery. We want our welfare provision to be a world leader in increasing skills and in tackling worklessness.