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Workless Families

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 18 April 2017

On 4 April we published “Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families”, setting out this Government’s vision to improve outcomes for children who grow up in workless families and face multiple, associated disadvantages.

This Government are committed to creating a country that works for everyone. We want to create a fairer Britain where success is based on merit, not privilege, and where everyone has the chance to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

We have already made great steps in rebalancing society in favour of ordinary working people: the employment rate runs at a record high and unemployment is at the lowest rate for over a decade. There are now 590,000 fewer children in workless households compared to 2010.

However, despite this progress, for some families, worklessness, not employment, is the norm. In 2014-15 there were 1.8 million children in workless families across the United Kingdom, and in over eight out of 10 cases the child was in a long-term workless family. These families often face multiple disadvantages—for example, relationship distress is almost three times as prevalent in workless couple-parent families compared to when both parents are working.

New analysis shows what a profound impact worklessness and its associated multiple disadvantages can have on children’s emotional, behavioural and educational outcomes. Our ground-breaking research shows children in workless families are almost twice as likely to fail to reach the expected standard at all stages of their education. Evidence also shows how exposure to parental conflict can have long-term negative impacts on children’s early development. We must act now to break this cycle of disadvantage.

We are introducing four major new policies which will transform local services so that they can better support workless families:

The next phase of the Troubled Families programme, to place a greater emphasis on supporting parents with complex problems back into work;

A major programme to reduce stress and conflict in workless families;

Enhancing the role of Jobcentre Plus in working with local partners to tackle collectively the multiple disadvantages facing unemployed individuals in a better, more joined-up way; and

Greater support to help those with drug and alcohol dependencies into work, in response to recommendations from Dame Carol Black’s review of employment support for those with drug/alcohol dependencies.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government published the Troubled Families annual report on 4 April, which sets out more detail on the next phase of the programme and should be read in conjunction with “Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families”.

To track our collective progress in improving outcomes for disadvantaged families, we are introducing nine national indicators, as set out in our analysis and research pack. These will build on our two statutory indicators of parental worklessness and children’s educational attainment—for which the first annual report was published alongside “Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families”. I will lay this report formally in Parliament on 24 April.

We will break down our evidence to a local level, to enable local partners to understand and identify the needs of their community. We will continue to work with local agencies and partners on a range of tools, including our family evidence resource, to help them use our new evidence to commission and deliver effective interventions for workless families.

The analysis and evidence we have developed—in conjunction with leading academics and experts, as well as other Government Departments—takes us further than ever before in understanding the root causes of disadvantage.

The indicators and evidence base we are introducing form a framework for action—and in doing so, help to drive improvements in children and families’ lives, now and over time. By targeting services on the issues that prevent parents moving into work and cause instability in family life, Government, working with local authorities and other partners, can help workless families and their children overcome their problems and improve their lives.