Local Government APPG with Chris Grayling MP on the Work Programme

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Andy Sawford, Heather Wheeler MP and Chris Grayling MP

Earlier today, LGiU convened the Local Government All Party Parliamentary Group for a discussion on the Work Programme. Chris Grayling, Minister of State in the Department for Work and Pensions gave a canter through the key elements to the Government’s plans for welfare reform and the implications for local government.

1. Planned change for people on incapacity benefits – which is currently around 1.6 million people. Mr Grayling said “The goal is to identify those people we can get back into the work place now and in due course”.

2. The launch of the Work Programme – Mr Grayling said “you can’t just people back into the labour force and expect them to get a job. They need specialised and personalised support.

We’ve designed the Work Programme so that there is a link up with local authorities. It’s a ‘black box’ approach.  Providers have complete freedom to design programmes that are responsive to communities.  We only pay the providers if they are successful – they don’t see any money from us until someone has been in employment for six months.

We want local designs to emerge to local needs because specialists employment providers and local authorities know better than Whitehall what is needed.

The Minister then likened this initiative to “a giant employment dating service” – it’s all about finding the right opportunity for the right individual”.

3. The arrival from 2013 of the universal credit –  “It’s an extraordinary and intolerable situation where people feel they are better of on benefits”, said Mr Grayling. “What we have designed wll totally transform the way we distribute benefits. It will create a situation where all the support that state provides to a person is wrapped into a single payment structure and is tapered away as a person moves back into work.

This will mean that you are always better off than if you hadn’t done that bit of work – work has to pay otherwise why would I. This shows that this is also very much a motivational issue – especially among younger people who are out of school and not in work”.

4. Cap benefits available to individuals “In the short term there is a housing benefit cap”, said Mr Grayling.  “The limits we’ve placed on housing benefit receipts now, they are the right thing to do not simply because it tends the complete anomaly where households are getting 10s of thousands of pounds for people to live in an area or houses that they couldn’t possible afford to live in if they were in work.   This traps people in a lifetime on benefits.  This means some people are going to have to move house.  Or landlords are going to have to adapt their rent levels.

The Minister then summed up by saying that the welfare reforms aim are about trying to transform the welfare state from a place where people want to stay, to a ladder that people want to climb”.

Further notes

– The Work Programme is a two year process. DWP will be publishing at the end of 12 months, what happened to the first three months of people on the programme  and then do that quarterly from there on. So by next spring we should have a good idea of how successful this is being.

– There are currently 550 voluntary organisations involved in the work programme.