Wales 'worst' for job scheme figures according to MP committee

The Welsh Affairs Select Committee says Wales' figures are the worst in the UK

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Only one in nine people in Wales have found long-term employment under the UK government's flagship welfare-to-work scheme, a group of MPs has claimed.

The Welsh Affairs Select Committee says Wales' figures are the worst in the UK.

It also claims the Welsh government has prevented participants from accessing other publicly-funded training courses, hampering the programme's performance.

The Welsh government said European rules meant it could not support people on the Work Programme.

Both governments have schemes to try and help people find or get back into work.

Analysis

The clear message from this report by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee is that the Welsh and UK governments are not working together to get people into work.

Back in February the Welsh Secretary David Jones and First Minister Carwyn Jones urged their two governments to unite to tackle high youth unemployment at a jobs summit in Newport.

Nine months on and the evidence unearthed by the committee of MPs suggests that is not happening.

Tory MP Guto Bebb suggests the Labour Welsh government is deliberately frustrating the UK government's Work Programme for political reasons in favour of its own Jobs Growth Wales scheme.

But the Welsh government says it is prepared to work constructively with the UK government - a message first delivered by Carwyn Jones in February of this year.

In Wales, the Jobs Growth Wales is aimed at unemployed people aged 16 to 24, with a job for six months paid at the national minimum wage or above, for a minimum of 25 hours per week.

Meanwhile the UK government's Work Programme is designed to provide support and "work experience and training for up to two years to help people find and stay in work".

Launched in June 2011, the Work Programme replaced a number of previous welfare-to-work programmes.

But the Welsh Affairs Committee have criticised what it sees as "artificial barriers" between the two programmes.

Conservative MP, David Davies, the committee's chair, said: "The key issue here seems to be that there is a lack of flexibility in and between the various programmes set up to get people into work, and that this lack of flexibility appears to be more marked in Wales.

"It is obviously a matter of concern to us that the success rates in Wales are the lowest in Great Britain."

He added: "The last thing we need in this situation is bureaucracy getting in the way of people simply being able to do what is most effective.

'Work constructively'

"The fact that different programmes are funded differently or run by different organisations should not be 'visible' or create barriers at the point of delivery."

Geraint Davies, Labour MP for Swansea West, told BBC Radio Wales the committee found the Welfare to Work programme was not effective, while the Welsh government's Jobs Growth Wales was twice as effective.

However, he said people in the Welfare to Work Programme could not leave it to join Jobs Growth Wales, and called for the UK and Welsh governments to resolve the issue.

The committee claims:

  • The Work Programme's "success in assisting the most challenging claimants is yet to be proven"
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should undertake a review
  • The DWP and Welsh government must resolve issues by February 2014
  • The DWP "must enable participants to exit the Work Programme if required in order to access Jobs Growth Wales"

The Welsh government's deputy minister for skills and technology, Ken Skates, said: "We are prepared to work constructively with the UK government to help people in Wales who are seeking work.

"That said, European Social Fund (ESF) funded projects in Wales are not intended to top-up the UK government's Work Programme.

"We have to ensure that we meet the European Commission demand that ESF funding is not used to duplicate or substitute the activities of the UK's own core programmes.

"That's why we are currently unable to support individuals who are contracted onto the Work Programme."

UK employment minister Esther McVey said: "There has been a really big improvement in performance from when the Work Programme began in 2011 and we are committed to making sure providers in Wales continue to improve the service they give to jobseekers.

"Providers get paid on the results they achieve, so it's in everyone's interest to help as many people into work as possible."

She said she would be meeting with Ken Skates soon and said she wanted the UK and Welsh government's "to work together to ensure jobseekers in Wales have access to the same range of help available to those in England".

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