Oral Answers to Questions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 13th September 2021

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Work and Pensions
Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell (Sedgefield) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. What recent assessment she has made of the progress of the kickstart scheme. (903371)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
- Hansard - -

Kickstart provides exciting opportunities for young people most at risk of long-term unemployment and with the greatest barriers to progress. Young people are commencing roles daily and thousands are starting each week. New Department for Work and Pensions data released to Parliament today confirms that as of 8 September, we have reached more than 69,000 starts, pleasingly, with more than 188,000 roles remaining to refer work coaches to young people.

Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While kickstart has been well received by many, there have been frustrations for some. My constituent, Francesca Harding, who runs Butterwick Kennels in Sedgefield, has been particularly disappointed by the performance of Adecco as a gateway provider and the working relationship with Jobcentre Plus. The rules around advertising positions, citing potential age discrimination and all of that, have frustrated the process of getting young people in. It concerns me whether that is a local misunderstanding or whether we need to look at the rules to get even more young people engaged in these schemes.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

DWP has worked closely with Adecco Working Ventures to help support young people via kickstart. As a gateway-plus, it plays an important role in allowing sole traders and other small employers to access the scheme. Employers in gateways can promote involvement, including advertising any approved roles, once they have a grant agreement in place. However, referrals of young people to kickstart jobs must be made by work coaches to ensure that candidates are eligible and suitable, but I am happy to look at the case.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My constituent Deb Barrow runs a recruitment agency, and she focuses on employing local young people. Unfortunately, the system of kickstart has let her and the local young people of Gower down. It takes, from the point that she gets the job given to her, nearly four to five months for that person to be recruited. That job has by then gone.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I am sorry to hear about the hon. Lady’s challenges in Gower. We have got 69,000 young people into work, and it is not as simple as getting any young person into any job. We have to work with local people to get the right roles and the right opportunities, so that we get the right outcomes, and I am delighted that her local employer is taking part.

Jake Berry Portrait Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On Friday, in the youth hub in Darwen and Blackburn, we launched the first kickstart programme in that sort of venue. We look forward to sharing our experience with the Department, because as you know, Mr Speaker, where Lancashire leads, many others will follow.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I am delighted about that additional youth hub. We have around 150 youth hubs open. Most of them are now physical, with a few working virtually. The hub will really make the difference in that community, and I was delighted to join the opening. It will make that change locally for young people.

Karl Turner Portrait Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. If she will reverse her Department’s planned removal of the £20 uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit. [R] (903372)

--- Later in debate ---
John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

9. What support her Department provides to older jobseekers looking to reskill or change careers. (903379)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
- Hansard - -

The Department’s focus on 50 PLUS: Choices, alongside our plan for jobs, provides funding to ensure that more people of all ages get tailored support. That includes programmes such as the job finding support service, job entry targeted support and the restart scheme, to help them find work. That is in addition to the Department’s train and progress and sector-based work academy programmes, to help people gain confidence, skills and job-specific qualifications, and to progress into employment.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Bosworth and the east midlands have a fine tradition of automotive logistics. One of the biggest problems is that that is the area changing most rapidly in keeping up to date with skills, which puts pressures on employers to have those skills. What are the Government doing to ensure we are equipped to move into the green era and deal with the automotive nature of the logistics sector, as we go forward over the next 10 years?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

A green recovery presents a significant opportunity for UK workers of all ages to benefit from increasing employment opportunities, including those clean growth sectors. The DWP is supporting people into green jobs as the sector grows, through work coach interventions that will ensure that jobseekers are able to develop skills to match the changing needs of the local labour market and their own aspirations.

John Howell Portrait John Howell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One thing that concerns me is how we can boost the technical skills that older people learn. What is the Department doing in that respect?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I am pleased to share with my hon. Friend and the House the fact that in May, a littler earlier in the year, I launched a key partnership with Google offering free IT training for jobseekers. That opportunity gives 9,000 jobseekers the chance to obtain a Google career certificate, which is a level 3 qualification and recognised by the industry. As of 3 September, our jobcentres have referred more than 3,800 people to that life-changing employment scheme.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Disabled people face huge challenges when changing careers, partly due to the fact that they often wait for three months to be approved for access to work, even before they receive their first payment. Will the Minister meet me, the Hull-based charity Choices and Rights Disability Coalition, and Disability Rights UK to discuss how together we can look at improving access to work?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I understand that we are working towards 20 days and a transitional programme, but the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work is keen to meet the hon. Lady and ensure that she understands that fully. This is a priority for us.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

For years I have tried to point out that one reason for HGV driver shortages is that people cannot afford the cost of £3,000 to £4,000 to do the training and sit the tests. Is it time for the Government to consider some sort of grant scheme, so that people get their training paid for them, leading to a welfare saving in the long run? It is win-win, so when will the Government step up and do it?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the Department has been working on that challenge for some time. On 4 October a new sector-based work academy will commence on that in Truro, in the midlands a pilot scheme has been working directly with Eddie Stobart, and our flexible support fund helps people to go into that sector. Cross-Government work is going on, and we are key to that. We have the people who are keen to be part of this issue, and the programmes to match.

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit on supporting people into work. (903374)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
- Hansard - -

Throughout the pandemic our jobcentres have remained open to support the most vulnerable claimants, as well as those who have been impacted. No assessment has been made of the temporary measure due to the pandemic. Our plan for jobs continues to ensure that people receive tailored Jobcentre Plus support to help them find the work they need and, crucially, to develop their skills.

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for her response. I pay tribute to the local team in Barrow and South Lakes for their hard work in helping people into jobs, and giving them the skills and experiences they need to get into the job market. Indeed, I am looking forward to opening Barrow youth hub on 30 September. That said, many of my constituents are concerned about the changes to universal credit and the potential cliff edge. Will the Minister explain what mitigations are in place to protect those who have concerns about their future?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

Youth hubs are crucial; we have heard about one in Darwen and one in Barrow. My hon. Friend will be aware that the DWP is focused on the multibillion-pound intervention that is our plan for jobs, which, crucially, will support people of all ages, with support for new skills and help to increase their hours, understand what their barriers are, and find that crucial new work. That includes youth hubs. My goal is to have 150 open by the end of the year, and the crucial new one in his constituency is part of that.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. How many people in Wales in receipt of universal credit are in work. (903376)

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19. What specialist support her Department is providing to young jobseekers at the start of their careers. (903390)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
- Hansard - -

Through the enhanced Department for Work and Pensions youth offer, we are providing targeted interventions to help young people to gain new skills, build confidence and move into work. Our work coaches are working in partnership to deliver through our new youth hubs, helping young people to access opportunities, including kickstart roles, sector-based work academy programmes, traineeships and apprenticeships.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Jobcentre staff across the country are doing a fantastic job, not least in the Rochdale youth hub, which serves my Heywood and Middleton constituency, but as my hon. Friend will know, getting young people into work is a cross-Government effort. What steps are being taken to work with the Department for Education to ensure that young people have the skills necessary to take on these high-quality jobs?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

We are absolutely working across Government; we also have our enhanced DWP youth offer, which is a programme of 13 weeks of intensive support to address key barriers and drive positive outcomes, including kickstart. I know that, as we speak, job offers are being made in my hon. Friend’s constituency and in his jobcentre. Crucially, we have also recruited 150 youth employability coaches who specialise in supporting young people with significant complex needs, to help them into work.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22. How many people have been auto-enrolled in workplace pensions in Crawley constituency since 2012. (903393)

--- Later in debate ---
Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T7. Despite the Government’s best efforts, many freelance and self-employed people in my constituency and throughout the country had a very tough time during the covid restrictions. Within the remit of her own departmental responsibilities, but also in her discussions in the Cabinet, what is my right hon. Friend doing to encourage people to take that extra risk in pursuing a future means of access to work by becoming self-employed? (903401)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we are currently working across Government to understand local labour market needs and opportunities, and to understand how best to support those who wish to enter self-employment and be self-supporting and, above all, self-starting. We have learned from the new enterprise allowance and we also understand the impacts of covid, and we are working on all that right now.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many pensioners will be relying on pension credit to get by after the Tories’ brutal triple lock betrayal. Will the Secretary of State follow Scotland’s lead and commit herself to introducing a proper take-up strategy for reserved benefits, including pension credit, and will she consider the automation of payments to ensure that more people receive the support to which they are entitled?

--- Later in debate ---
Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T2. When a domestic abuse survivor decides to leave an abuser, having a safe, affordable place to escape to is key. Otherwise, they face the risk of homelessness. The benefits system should be there to protect women and children who need to escape, but unfortunately it can often act as a barrier—for example, when a survivor leaves a working household that is not subject to the benefit cap and then becomes a lone parent in an out-of-work household that is subject to the cap. Will the Secretary of State commit today to exempting domestic abuse survivors from the benefit cap so that they can have the best possible chance of accessing a safe and affordable home? (903396)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady for making that point. The benefit cap is there to provide a strong work incentive, to be fair for those people who are hard-working and tax-paying, and to encourage people to move into work where possible. I understand the point she makes regarding the impact of a partner and their work history in this situation, and I am happy to discuss that with her. I have been talking to other Members on this issue. Exemptions will of course apply to the most vulnerable claimants, and we take this area very seriously.

Jake Berry Portrait Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have heard a lot from those on the Treasury Bench about how much money will be spent on the plan for jobs and the kickstart programme. Can the Secretary of State set out how she will measure success in this programme, and will she commit to coming to the House regularly to update us on progress?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I am absolutely delighted about the impact of the kickstart programme. I went to an event at the Emirates this week where there were 1,400 people coming to find jobs that simply were not there before the start of the pandemic. It is absolutely right that we focus on the outcomes for young people. We have more than 288,000 roles out there for young people, and there are 69,000 people in those roles. That is success. There are traineeships and apprenticeships, and work through youth hubs, and we will find a path for them.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I gently say that Members should be addressing the Chair and looking this way?