Mims Davies debates involving the Department for Work and Pensions during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 13th September 2021
41 interactions (1,177 words)
Mon 28th June 2021
41 interactions (1,225 words)
Mon 17th May 2021
37 interactions (1,291 words)
Tue 13th April 2021
3 interactions (194 words)
Mon 8th March 2021
41 interactions (1,370 words)
Mon 25th January 2021
33 interactions (998 words)
Mon 11th January 2021
2 interactions (114 words)
Mon 30th November 2020
58 interactions (1,731 words)
Thu 19th November 2020
11 interactions (1,559 words)
Mon 2nd November 2020
3 interactions (249 words)
Mon 19th October 2020
35 interactions (1,261 words)
Mon 14th September 2020
63 interactions (2,051 words)
Mon 11th May 2020
24 interactions (683 words)
Mon 9th March 2020
17 interactions (463 words)
Mon 27th January 2020
15 interactions (374 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 13th September 2021

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell (Sedgefield) (Con)
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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)
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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
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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3. If she will reverse her Department’s planned removal of the £20 uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit. [R] (903372)

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John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con)
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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)
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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)
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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
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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
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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)
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7. How many people in Wales in receipt of universal credit are in work. (903376)

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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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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)
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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
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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
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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)
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22. How many people have been auto-enrolled in workplace pensions in Crawley constituency since 2012. (903393)

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Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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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)
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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)
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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?

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Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab)
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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
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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)
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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
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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
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May I gently say that Members should be addressing the Chair and looking this way?

Oral Answers to Questions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 28th June 2021

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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What steps she is taking to help people back into work through the provision of jobcentre services. (901870)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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We have recruited thousands of new work coaches and expanded our jobcentre network through our plan for jobs. That, alongside our successful vaccine roll-out, means that we are seeing more claimants face-to-face in a covid-secure way. We are also delivering additional provision, including job-finding support, job entry targeted support, our £2 billion kickstart scheme and our restart scheme. We have also opened new Department for Work and Pensions youth hubs, expanded the sector-based work academy programme and increased our flexible support fund. Thanks to our work coaches and the plan for jobs, they now have more tools than ever to support claimants back into work.

Gordon Henderson Portrait Gordon Henderson [V]
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I welcome the Minister’s response, but my two local jobcentres are seeing a number of people fail to turn up for their appointments with work coaches. That appears to be driven by the lack of sanctions because of the pandemic, so what is my hon. Friend doing to make it easier for jobcentres to use sanctions?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I am proud that our jobcentres have remained open throughout the pandemic to support the most vulnerable customers. Claimant commitments have continued to be tailored to individual circumstances by work coaches since July last year, meaning that sanctions remain at record low levels as we fully consider individual circumstances before deciding whether to apply a sanction.

Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham
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It is really important that young people who are looking for that first break into employment do not pay the heaviest price from the pandemic. That is why the youth hubs, including the one in Burnley, are so welcome. I thank all the local jobcentre staff for the work they have done to set that up. To encourage young people to go and use it, will the Minister confirm what support they will get when they go into the youth hub, and would she like to join me in visiting the one in Burnley, so that we can get as many people through the door as possible?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I have visited new youth hubs, both physically and virtually, including in Caterham, Rotherham, Liverpool and Winsford, and I would be delighted to join my hon. Friend and the team at Burnley. I know that they are working in partnership with the council, Calico, Burnley Together, the Prince’s Trust, Active Lancashire and Burnley football club. Our youth hubs tailor their support, alongside local partners, to the needs of the community, and that is why they are so important in helping our young people to thrive.

Theo Clarke Portrait Theo Clarke
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Last Friday, I was very pleased to see a young apprentice at a local Staffordshire engineering business whom I had met previously when she was studying at Stafford College. Will my hon. Friend explain what she is planning to do to help the jobcentre in Stafford and how the Government will provide more employment opportunities for young people in Staffordshire to help to level up the west midlands?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I know that my hon. Friend takes a strong interest in her Jobcentre Plus, as she updated me following her visit. I remind Members that since September 2020, our enhanced DWP youth offer has provided wraparound support for 18 to 24-year-old claimants, providing a 13-week tailored pre-employment course. I am pleased that Stafford JCP is hosting an interactive kickstart event tomorrow; our JCPs do that kind of event and engagement regularly.

Ben Bradley Portrait Ben Bradley [V]
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for all her team are doing to support people back into work. In conversations with my local jobcentre staff this week, they reported very positive progress. They asked what opportunities there might be to consider extending kickstart-style schemes or incentives, so they are able to help out-of-work adults as well as young people. I wonder if my hon. Friend could help me to answer their question.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I am proud that our plan for jobs supports people, at any age and at any career stage, who are looking for new opportunities through, for example, our sector-based work academy programmes, our enhanced “50 PLUS: Choices” offer, and the new DWP “Train and Progress”, through which people can train for longer into a growing sector using the flexibilities built in within universal credit.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for her earlier answers. Before this terrible pandemic hit, I had the opportunity to visit my local jobcentre in Clacton. Its staff are enthusiastic and devoted to their work, but that workload has increased dramatically as our hospitality and tourism sectors have been hit. These sectors are vital to the Clacton economy. Is the Minister taking account of our often overlooked and deprived coastal areas as the Government continue their important work of helping people affected by this terrible pandemic back into work?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Understanding the needs of every community is key—[Interruption.] I hear the Secretary of State mention Suffolk Coastal. The success of our jobcentres in understanding the local economy and getting local people back into work is key. Our JCPs change lives every day. One recent success story in Clacton was a customer who recently started a kickstart job in wildlife conservation—I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is joining him there at the moment—as a result of the five-week pre-employment course at the DWP.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab)
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Disabled people require support to get back into work. Disability is defined in the Equality Act 2010 as

“a physical or mental impairment”

that

“has a substantial and long-term adverse effect”

on their

“ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

Of the 2 million in the UK with long covid, three in 10 have experienced symptoms lasting longer than a year, including fatigue, difficulty concentrating and shortness of breath. This is resulting in widespread disadvantage and discrimination, and is erecting barriers to employment. Will the Minister commit to recognising long covid as a disability from the point of diagnosis to ensure that workers have support and protection against discrimination in the workplace?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We always tailor personalised support to individual circumstances. I am proud of what we have done throughout the pandemic, particularly at our JCPs, to keep them open and keep people feeling safe, and to support businesses and workers to feel safe. I recently joined a spot check at the Bootle HQ with the CEO of the Health and Safety Executive. We have done over a quarter of a million checks to make sure that people feel safe at work.

Beth Winter Portrait Beth Winter (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
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What recent assessment she has made of trends in the number of households subject to the benefit cap. (901837)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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The most recent publication shows the proportion of capped households remains low, at 2.9% of the overall housing benefit and universal credit case load as of February 2021.

Beth Winter Portrait Beth Winter [V]
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Today is a day of action for the “Right to Food” campaign, which I fully support. I can offer the Minister one possible policy to alleviate food poverty: drop the benefit cap. Food insecurity disproportionately affects families who are also most affected by the cap. The Child Poverty Action Group found that lifting the cap could take 150,000 children out of poverty. Will the Minister please explain her reasoning for not lifting it?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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The hon. Lady will be keen to know that, even in these current times, people moving out of the benefit cap and into work is going in the right direction. There are multiple vacancies in the hospitality, construction, care and logistics sectors. The benefits system provides a crucial safety net for people at their time of need and the benefit cap also provides a strong incentive for claimants to get into work and increase their hours so that the benefit cap does not apply.

Karen Buck Portrait Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab)
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Last week, former Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud described the benefit cap, which is now hitting 120,000 more households than at the beginning of the pandemic, as “ghastly”. Efforts to protect incomes during covid have been undermined as increased universal credit and housing allowance rates led to more families being capped, with numbers rising as the grace period for universal credit expires. If the supposed aim of the benefit cap is for families to go into work and to cut their housing costs by moving, will the Minister explain how families have been supposed to do that in the past 12 months, when neither option was effectively possible?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I remind hon. Members that the benefit cap is set at the equivalent annual salary of £24,000, or £28,000 in London, which importantly provides fairness between taxpayers in employment and those with working-age support. Claimants can approach their local authority for discretionary housing payments if they need additional support to meet rental costs, or indeed for hardship grants. The hon. Lady should look out for the forthcoming in-work progression report, which will look at all these matters. We should take all this in the round.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
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If her Department will publish the findings from its review of the special rules for terminal illness before the summer 2021 parliamentary recess. (901840)

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Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)
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What steps she is taking to work with (a) charities and (b) training providers to support young people back into work. (901858)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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Engaging with charities and training providers is central to our support for young people. This collaborative working includes the co-delivery of our national network of more than 130 new DWP youth hubs, helping us to assist young people to be ready to take up opportunities in growing sectors and move into new kickstart roles.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston
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I am one of those people who do not think it is a good idea for everybody to work from home, because it means that young people do not have older workers that they can observe and chat to, to learn the ropes. However, while a lot of office space sits empty or underoccupied, would my hon. Friend consider encouraging employers to make that space available to charities and training providers in order to train young people in the skills they need?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I very much understand my colleague’s comments. Supporting young people to thrive and find new opportunities is an important priority for me, and I take his comments on board. This is exactly what we are doing with our new DWP youth hubs. Jobcentre Plus works with employers, training providers and charities to identify local training needs and to ensure that opportunities and suitable outreach are available for all claimants, including young people.

Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti [V]
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Careers fairs can be a fantastic way of promoting opportunity in the local area, which is why I plan to host one in my constituency of Meriden in the coming months. Given the strengths of jobcentres and their local relationships, what support can they provide to help make careers fairs such as mine a success?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Jobcentre staff have a wealth of knowledge of the local labour market, cultivated by working closely with MPs, partners and businesses in their local community. My hon. Friend’s careers fair will be a very welcome addition to the ongoing work of Jobcentre Plus branches in the area, which are inviting employers on a one-to-one basis for kickstart interviews daily. They have virtual group information sessions as well to get young people into work.

Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers [V]
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The Lakota Training Group, set up by Joanne and Paul in Stockton, does incredible work, helping the long-term unemployed to develop the skills and confidence they need to get great jobs—they go above and beyond to change the lives of so many people. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to help training providers such as Lakota continue to help people find work and unleash their full potential?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I know that my hon. Friend’s local Jobcentre Plus in Stockton has a very important relationship with Lakota and they have been working closely together for a number of years. They are currently offering motivational and employability courses, including “All about you”, which builds on the customer’s skills, confidence and job search techniques and will help us, crucially, to deliver good job outcomes for local people in Stockton.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) (Lab)
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What recent assessment she has made of trends in the number of personal independence payment applications her Department has approved during the period that covid-19 restrictions have been in place. (901855)

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Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
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What steps she is taking to ensure that universal credit claimants are able to take advantage of sector-specific training opportunities. (901861)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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Through our plan for jobs, we are working with employers to deliver sector-based work academy programmes and swaps, and to provide bespoke training and experience, alongside a guaranteed interview for a real job in growing sectors. Additionally, DWP Train and Progress has provided even more flexibility for universal credit claimants to access training for longer, including new skills boot camps led by the Department for Education.

Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory [V]
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I thank the Minister for her answer. In Truro and Falmouth, and around Cornwall, hospitality businesses are struggling to recruit staff at the moment. Does my hon. Friend agree that UC claimants could be provided with hospitality sector-specific training, and, potentially, with further incentives, to ensure that these vacancies in this hugely important sector are filled?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I am working strongly with the sector. These are some of the most rewarding, varied and enjoyable roles that there are. It is right that we encourage people to work in hospitality, as well as to enjoy its reopening. In Falmouth, we have created an intensive programme to provide claimants with an interest in hospitality with a set of transferable skills to ensure that they have the skills they need to flourish in this vital sector in beautiful Cornwall.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to topical questions.

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Chris Green Portrait Chris  Green  (Bolton West)  (Con)
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  As the furlough programme comes to an end, a great many people will be concerned about their prospects. Does my hon. Friend share my appreciation of the work of the Bolton and Leigh jobcentres and all the work that they have done to make sure that they are fully prepared to support people during this difficult time? Will she also welcome the fact that many employers locally are reporting that they have jobs for people to go to? (901900)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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I hugely appreciate the endeavours of all our work coaches, especially and including those in Bolton and Leigh JCPs. The Office for National Statistics says that our new monthly experimental vacancy data suggest that we are almost back to the pre-pandemic level in terms of vacancies; it was over 800,000 in May. Through our Jobcentre Plus provision, we have a wide variety of support available to help employers to fill those vacancies.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Always a pleasure, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister exempt the £500 Scottish Government covid-19 payment to health and social care employees resident in Scotland from the Department’s calculation for the payment of universal credit? (901899)

Oral Answers to Questions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 17th May 2021

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
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What recent estimate she has made of the number of (a) successful and (b) total applications to the kickstart scheme in the Thames Valley region. (900008)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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I can confirm that, as of 6 May, around 12,300 kickstart jobs had been made available for young people to apply for in the south-east of England region, and around 2,300 young people had already started in their new kickstart roles. Delivering the kickstart scheme at pace means that the DWP deal is still developing the tools to further break down the data on a more local level.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran [V]
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I thank the Minister for her answer. I agree that helping young people to get into work through this crisis is of paramount importance, but I was deeply concerned to hear, in a business roundtable organised by our local enterprise partnership, that that data is being gathered only at a regional level by the DWP. This means that the LEP and the councils cannot assess how well Oxfordshire is doing or measure the efficiency of any interventions that we might put in place to do even better. I thank her for her explanation, but can she give us any timeline on when we can have this data broken down to at least upper-tier council level? And can she meet me and officials so that we can understand how to ensure that young people make the most of this scheme?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue of getting young people into work. As we heard from the Secretary of State, approximately 400 young people, on average, have been going into work per day for the past four weeks. I urge her to meet the Rose Hill youth hub, the newly launched DWP youth hub that covers her constituency and has been working with Oxford Jobcentre Plus from April, as well as Aspire, Activate and Oxford City Council. That will give her the insight that she needs about what is happening on the ground. She can also meet the local youth employability work coaches. We are breaking down the data as far as we can, but our priority right now is to get young people into those new roles.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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When she plans to publish her Department’s review of the special rules for terminal illness. (900011)

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David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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What recent steps her Department has taken to help young people into employment. (900042)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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The new enhanced DWP youth offer has provided wraparound support for young people since September 2020, delivering employment and skills support and training through our youth employment programme, new youth hubs and additional youth employability work coaches. We currently have more than 110 new youth hubs operating digitally or physically, with at least one in every JCP district. We will have more than 140 physical youth hubs delivering face-to-face support as the covid restrictions are lifted further.

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker [V]
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How is the Department encouraging businesses and other employers to sign up to these schemes so that we can create those vital jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds who might otherwise be long-term unemployed?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We are doing it non-stop, as my hon. Friend will be pleased to know. The DWP Lords Minister —my noble Friend Baroness Stedman-Scott—and I regularly attend stakeholder and outreach events to promote kickstart to employers. Last week, I spoke to more than 90 employers at an event partnering with MyKindaFuture, a mentoring platform. The team in my hon. Friend’s local jobcentre are working with local employers to support those most at risk of long-term unemployment through the new opportunities they need. I am pleased to share with my hon. Friend that they recently helped a young man who was struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to find a new kickstart job as a green keeper.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney [V]
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I have recently received correspondence from the learning and skills lead for automotive engineering at Lincoln College in my constituency, which is shortly due to hold Autoinform 14-19, a practical taster event that aims to allow young people to spend time in workshops with local employers and industry specialists looking at electric cars, acoustic vehicle alerting systems, diagnostic methods and the MOT test. One difficulty is securing schools’ buy-in with the scheme. How does my hon. Friend believe the Government can support organisations such as Lincoln College to ensure that we help as many young people into employment as possible?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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The DWP’s partnerships on the ground with local labour markets are key to these new employment opportunities. I am pleased that Lincoln JCP is working in partnership with the Network, a charity that aims to prevent young people from becoming NEET—not in education, employment or training—and engages with and connects to wider support. Customers will also benefit from a key partnership locally with the DWP, Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln College Group, which have created many new opportunities for our young people within the new kickstart scheme.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe
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The Government have brought in some brilliant measures to get young people into employment and I witnessed that at first hand on a visit to NORI HR. We are also hosting an education summit locally, and I welcome the support from our local training providers such as North Lancs Training Group, but can the Minister set out what measures are in place to help jobcentres and training providers to work together so that people are fully aware of all the opportunities available to them?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point, and I thank NORI HR for all its work. All MPs in this Chamber should take the opportunity to work with their local Jobcentre Plus team to support and promote kickstart. Locally, the DWP is working with employers such as NORI HR and also the Accrington Stanley community trust, which Members might have seen on “Football Focus” recently. The first cohort of employees started in March this year in a variety of kickstart roles including admin, sports coaching, youth work, site maintenance and leisure attendants. We are also working in partnership with the Hyndburn DWP youth hub to support our young people to be ready for these new kickstart roles.

Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore
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Across Keighley and Ilkley, businesses care passionately about giving young people the skills they need for a successful career, and these include Byworth Boilers, an excellent business that offers apprenticeships to help local residents to take their first step on the career ladder. The desire from local businesses is there, but they often need Government help to turn this into a reality, so will my hon. Friend confirm how her Department is helping to give companies such as Byworth Boilers the chance to deliver for young people?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I am more than happy to support Byworth Boilers and all the local employers, and to extend my thanks to the businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency and up and down the land that are putting forward opportunities to work with young people. I know that my hon. Friend works closely with the team at the Keighley jobcentre, who are in touch with many local employers including the Spoons Tearoom, Ideabean Software Technology and Superdrug, who are working together with the DWP to help to create new opportunities and progression for local jobseekers.

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Spencer [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for her response. Young people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, given the high rates of unemployment in hospitality. Today I visited one of our local hotels, the Hilton Cobham, which has now fully reopened and is looking forward to welcoming the guests who enjoy Runnymede and Weybridge’s local attractions such as Thorpe Park, the Brooklands Museum and, of course, the birthplace of Magna Carta. Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the next step in lifting the restrictions and invite people to visit and stay in Runnymede and Weybridge, to go to our fantastic pubs and restaurants to eat, drink and be merry and to support—[Inaudible.]— economy and jobs?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I think I got the point; we all love a bit of Thorpe Park. I join my hon. Friend in welcoming the wider return of hospitality in the travel and hotel sectors. This will be a vital boost to our economy and local jobs. In my hon. Friend’s jobcentre, we have new kickstart roles advertised in various hospitality areas including golf at Foxhills Country Club and Resort, sports and leisure through the RunThrough events team and social media opportunities with Little Olive Consulting, as well as vital local roles with Woking Borough Council and Surrey County Council.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett [V]
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I appreciate all that my hon. Friend is doing to help young people, many of whom will bounce back into work quickly and easily, but what dedicated support is available to help those who face more complex barriers to employment?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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My right hon. Friend is right. That is why we have our new youth hubs with work coaches dedicated to youth employability to support young people with complex needs. They are able to remove barriers and support young people into employment and, crucially, to continue that support for the next six weeks after they have moved into work. In my right hon. Friend’s area, the jobcentres are running crucial sector-based work academy programmes in social care, construction and security, as well as offering new kickstart roles to young people and working with the London Borough of Bexley, which is also a vital kickstart gateway.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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What new steps she plans to take to support families living in poverty. (900013)

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Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con) [V]
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We have heard a lot about youth unemployment this afternoon. The House of Commons Library tells me that it has increased by 10%, with a 110% increase in the number of young people claiming unemployment benefits. Those statistics are concerning, especially for the Clacton constituency, where historically we have struggled with youth unemployment. We must get these young people back to work. The new lifetime skills guarantee will help, but what discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Treasury about the introduction of national insurance contribution relief for employers who hire young people, as we have done for those that hire veterans? If discussions have not taken place, will they soon? (900062)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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I have regular discussions with a range of Ministers across the Government about how best to get young people into work and thriving. We are already incentivising employers to hire young people through the kickstart scheme, through which we pay wages and the associated national insurance contributions for six months. It is a job creation scheme for the young people who are most at risk of long-term unemployment, building vital experience throughout the pandemic and giving them the confidence and skills needed to thrive in their future workplace.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The kickstart scheme was launched with much fanfare but it has been a bit of a flop, not to mention a headache for many businesses such as METERology in my constituency, which has been given a total runaround by the Secretary of State’s Department. Recent figures suggest that if the UK Government maintain a rate of 400 new employees starting each day, they should hit their target of 250,000 new jobs in 625 days—that is two years—so what more are they going to do to ensure that kickstart can really live up to its hype rather than just be a slogan for the Chancellor’s naff hoodie?

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Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab) [V]
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Youth unemployment is rising and one route out of this is through apprenticeships. One of the problems with apprenticeships can be apprenticeship pay, often described as apprenticeship poverty, where it costs more to attend work than the young apprentices earn. What is the Minister doing across Departments to address that injustice? (900061)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Lady for pointing out the great opportunities of apprenticeships. The kickstart scheme can lead to such an opportunity, and we will be explaining to young people the opportunities that exist through our youth hubs. On supporting people, we have our flexible support fund for people to get into work and to thrive in work. Our in-work progression report will be reporting soon and we will look at it closely to see whether it covers any of these matters.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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As society leaves lockdown restrictions and recovery accelerates, will my right hon. Friend confirm that universal credit is designed not only for people who are unemployed, but to support people into work and to continue to support them while they are in employment? (900070)

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Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)
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According to research by the Resolution Foundation, we are facing a U-shaped unemployment crisis, which will hit the youngest and the eldest workers the hardest. For women who are already being forced to work beyond their expected retirement age, this only adds to their financial hardship and many fear that they will never find work again. Do the Government have any plans to help, or will they continue to let down these hard-working women, many of whom started in the labour market when they were just 15 or 16 years old? (900066)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Older workers can get help from their work coach if they need further qualifications or modern certifications. The DWP works with the Government’s business champion for older workers, providing outreach and advice for employers. We encourage all employers to reap the many benefits of recruiting workers who can bring a wealth of skills and experience to any workplace. I advise people to head to the JobHelp website, to look at the Department for Education’s digital toolkit, or to speak to their work coach about any support so that they can perhaps have the best part of their career in the final years of their career.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
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This Government are focused on getting more people into work through an ambitious plan for jobs. However, last week I was contacted by a constituent in Redcar and Cleveland who is a qualified primary teaching assistant looking for work. She told me that, every time she declares her autism and epilepsy, employers sadly decide not to pursue her applications further. What more can the Government do to encourage employers to give differently abled people such as my constituent the equal opportunity of work? (900073)

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Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith  (Crawley)  (Con)  [V]
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  What support is the Department for Work and Pensions providing to those who have unfortunately been made unemployed in aviation communities, which have of course been particularly negatively impacted by the covid-19 pandemic? (900079)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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My hon. Friend knows the pain of the impact on the aviation sector, as do I in my nearby constituency. The DWP has a range of support for individuals who have been employed in this sector and are affected. The DWP rapid response service provides key help and advice for employers and their employees if they are facing redundancy. Our work coaches provide claimants with individual personalised support, utilising our plan for jobs, which includes SWAP—the sector-based work academy programme—for those currently displaced by the impact on the aviation sector. That can help to build confidence and transfer their very wide-ranging skills into other opportunities for the short or the longer term. I am pleased that many of them are working locally, vaccinating—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Let us go to Geraint Davies.

Work and Pensions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Tuesday 13th April 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Ministerial Corrections

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Department for Work and Pensions
Apsana Begum Portrait Apsana Begum
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On that point, after the Battersea incident, a group of campaigners gave evidence to various Committees of the House, which resulted in a crane register being developed. The register was scrapped after 2010. Does the Minister have any views on whether that should be brought back? In my view, it should.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising the existence of the former tower crane register. The tower crane register was a short-lived statutory scheme requiring duty holders to send the HSE information about any tower cranes they were erecting. It was intended to provide reassurance to the public. There was, however, no demonstrable improvement to tower crane safety, and the regulations and register were revoked in 2015 as a result, but I do take her point.

[Official Report, 22 March 2021, Vol. 691, c. 753.]

Letter of correction from the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies).

An error has been identified in my response to the debate.

The correct response should have been:

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising the existence of the former tower crane register. The tower crane register was a short-lived statutory scheme requiring duty holders to send the HSE information about any tower cranes they were erecting. It was intended to provide reassurance to the public. There was, however, no demonstrable improvement to tower crane safety, and the regulations and register were revoked in 2013 as a result, but I do take her point.

Health and Safety Regulations: Cranes

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 22nd March 2021

(6 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Apsana Begum Portrait Apsana Begum (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)
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The issue of health and safety with regards to cranes used in construction was brought into sharp focus in my constituency of Poplar and Limehouse by the collapse of one such crane on 8 July last year. It is with great sadness that I pay tribute to the friends and family of June Harvey, who died as a result. The collapse also destroyed the homes of those who lived around June, and temporarily displaced many other residents in the surrounding area. It is important that this trauma and pain is given the recognition it deserves.

On the night of 8 July around 100 residents had to evacuate their homes after a nearby crane collapsed and were temporarily housed in two hotels. One of the hotels was relatively close to the site and situated among amenities in Whitechapel. The other was much further away, in Canning Town, and with almost no such amenities near it. Clearly neither of these temporary housing situations were ideal, and all those constituents were uprooted from their lives. They were unable to return to their homes, some for weeks, only having the possessions that they grabbed on their way out with them. This meant that some could not go to work; for example, a constituent who worked for Transport for London was unable to access his uniform. Families who were already having to educate their children from home were subsequently forced to do so in cramped hotel conditions. All of this, against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic, has continued to cause great disruption. However, none of this compares to the loss experienced by the family of June Harvey, and of course many more could have lost their lives or been seriously injured in Bow that day.

The crane was operating in a built-up residential area, as evidenced by the number of constituents who had to leave their homes that night and go to alternative accommodation. I am in no position to draw conclusions on who is to blame for the collapse in Bow or assert causation; it would be simply wrong for me to do so. Rather, I wish to bring attention to the human stories around this issue and raise concerns more generally about the ongoing practices within the construction industry, especially in regard to the use of large cranes in residential areas.

Indeed, there continue to be a number of incidents and accidents involving cranes. In Battersea in 2006 two people were killed in a crane collapse, a crane operator and a member of the public; 10 years later Falcon Crane Hire was fined £750,000. The same company was also responsible for a similar collapse in Liverpool in 2007, resulting in one death. Closer to home, there was a collapse in Canary Wharf during work on the HSBC tower, with three workmen killed. It was found at the time that there had been three further crane scares in the previous six weeks and that safety paperwork had gone missing. These incidents must therefore be set in the context of campaigners and trade unions raising concerns about the under-regulation of health and safety in the construction industry amidst a drop in inspections and cuts to the Health and Safety Executive, particularly since 2010.

Trends of deregulation are widespread, most notably with regard to the safety of cladding, which has also affected many of my constituents and was pulled into sharp focus by the Grenfell Tower fire. The latter has rightly been pointed to by many as a warning of what could continue to happen should health and safety regulations not be tightened. Evidence upon evidence makes it clear that the regulatory framework needs to be looked at again to ensure the safe usage of safe cranes as part of safe construction of safe buildings. We need robust legislation and robust enforcement.

Crane safety relies in part on adherence to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which place duties on people and companies that own, operate or have control of work equipment. The Health and Safety Executive, in laying out how to comply with this protocol, writes that equipment must be

“safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate”.

This provision does not, however, contain any legal requirement for certification of those operating cranes, only stating that such equipment is to be

“used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training”.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 also apply to cranes. These regulations set out that crane operations must be

“planned by a competent person;…appropriately supervised; and…carried out in a safe manner.”

The approved code of practice for this piece of legislation defines such a person, who can also be responsible for assessing such equipment, as someone with

“appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined”.

These two regulations do not strike me as being sufficiently robust. The definition of a competent person able to test equipment and plan a crane operation is worryingly vague, and as is often the case with this Government, it takes responsibility from their hands. I therefore urge the Minister to tighten up regulations around crane usage and the construction industry more generally.

The Grenfell fire tragedy is also a warning to us all in relation to how such incidents as I have dealt with are responded to by Government. When we look beneath the rhetoric, the endless legal complexities and the passing of the proverbial buck, the truth is that years have passed since the Grenfell tragedy, yet still no one has been called to account. One of the many frustrating battles the Grenfell community has been obliged to fight was simply to be rehoused, with some of the most vulnerable survivors still not rehoused years later, due to the severe lack of investment in affordable housing.

I am conscious that the investigation into culpability for the aforementioned Battersea crane incident took 10 years—10 years—to discover that 24 bolts were faulty in the crane that collapsed. I believe it would be unjust for my constituents to have to wait that long, and I ask the Minister today what steps her Department will be making for this investigation to be concluded in a much swifter manner. The verdict on Battersea was reached only roughly four years before the incident in my constituency. If the same time were taken in relation to this latest incident, we would be waiting until 2030.

With investigations taking so long, it is really hard to imagine any sufficient action being taken as such collapses are forgotten. In the meantime, while no organisation has been found legally liable for the negligence or criminal health and safety offences that may have caused this incident, my constituents, who have done nothing wrong and who have been bereaved, are suffering great distress, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder, and they face uncertainty and hardship.

To conclude, the incident that took place in my constituency last year has had a lasting impact on many of those constituents and residents who have had to leave their homes. Many have contacted me even recently due to worries that there may be further works at the location that might lead to further crane usage. When I was visiting residents at the two hotels in the weeks following the incident, someone who had witnessed the accident at first hand described to me that they still feared the crane collapsing when they were going to sleep at night in the hotel room. We must have swift answers about what happened locally, including how the tragedy was, and indeed is being, handled, so that those affected can achieve a sense of justice and closure, and we can be assured that something like this can never happen again.

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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I thank the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Apsana Begum) for securing this debate on such an important issue. Before I respond, I must pause to pay tribute to her constituent June Harvey, who tragically died in the incident involving a tower crane in the hon. Member’s constituency in July last year. Her family and friends have my heartfelt condolences.

I have been informed that the investigation into the tragedy is ongoing. The Metropolitan police is leading on this, with the support of the Health and Safety Executive, in line with the work-related death protocol. That agreement sets out how the police and regulators will work together in such sad circumstances. Both will continue in their efforts to bring the investigation to a conclusion as quickly as possible. As the investigation is sub judice, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further, other than to say that it can be very challenging for all concerned to wait for the conclusion of a complex investigation process, especially when it concerns the loss of a loved one. The hon. Member has rightly taken the opportunity to raise in the Chamber the wider issue of tower crane safety, and while I am unable to discuss the incident that has prompted the debate, I will endeavour to respond to the wider points raised.

Tower cranes are complex structures found across the country. At any given time, there are 800 to 1,000 estimated to be in operation. People need to feel that there is an effective legislative framework in place to ensure the suitable and safe operation of tower cranes. The statutory framework regulated by HSE for tower cranes consists of several pieces of health and safety legislation. The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, known as LOLER, contain most of the measures in place to ensure tower crane safety. That includes ensuring that careful consideration is given to where cranes are sited, that all lifting equipment is periodically thoroughly examined and that lifting operations are properly planned according to a written safe system of work.

Thorough examination of cranes under LOLER should take place each time a crane is installed and before it is put into service, and inspection should take place at least once every 12 months while it is in service and after exceptional circumstances have occurred—for example, if the crane has struck another structure. Examiners must be competent and have sufficient authority and independence to ensure that any examination recommendations are fully and properly acted upon. That can be achieved through membership of the Safety Assessment Federation or appropriate approved accreditation. There is a statutory duty for examiners to report serious defects identified during any examination to HSE.

Also of relevance are the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, or PUWER, which require tower cranes to be properly maintained, suitable for the work and conditions and only operated by properly trained people. Cranes should have a comprehensive maintenance record kept, and information on safety should be available to all crane users.

Apsana Begum Portrait Apsana Begum
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On that point, after the Battersea incident, a group of campaigners gave evidence to various Committees of the House, which resulted in a crane register being developed. The register was scrapped after 2010. Does the Minister have any views on whether that should be brought back? In my view, it should.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady for raising the existence of the former tower crane register. The tower crane register was a short-lived statutory scheme requiring duty holders to send the HSE information about any tower cranes they were erecting. It was intended to provide reassurance to the public. There was, however, no demonstrable improvement to tower crane safety, and the regulations and register were revoked in 2015 as a result, but I do take her point.

Other pieces of legislation relating to the working of tower cranes, including working at height, do require work to be properly risk-assessed. Cranes supplied for use should meet essential health and safety regulations. Construction work that requires the use of a tower crane should have a suitable safety management system in place. Under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, all duty holders need to reduce the risk to people not employed by them—for example, members of the public—that arise from the use of tower cranes, so far as is reasonably practicable.

To summarise, over time this comprehensive legal framework has been developed so that it suitably covers all aspects of tower crane operation in the work context. The information and clarity on how duty holders must comply with the legislation is also set out in a range of freely available publications by both the HSE and the industry.

Apsana Begum Portrait Apsana Begum
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I do not want to pre-empt anything that the Minister is going to say, but the HSE is clearly underfunded and it is not able to undertake inspections proactively, as it should. The UK record’s is quite bad when it comes to having enough inspections. Does she agree that the HSE needs to be funded properly so that it can be proactive, as opposed to reactive, in dealing with such matters?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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This Government have taken steps—particularly in relation to covid—to ensure that the HSE has been able to secure the extra funding that it has needed. For example, it has been able to assist further in response to the covid-19 pandemic, with an extra £14 million from the Government this year. The HSE remains a widely respected regulator because it delivers high-quality regulatory outcomes in workplace health and safety. I understand the hon. Lady raising this point, but I reassure her in that regard.

Duty holders must comply with the legislation set out in the range of publications by the HSE and industry. The HSE publishes the approved codes of practice for LOLER and PUWER on its website. That website provides a wide range of explanatory guidance for businesses and workers, and has had more than 10 million views. It also provides explanatory guidance on the safety of tower cranes, including full information about planning, safe systems of work, supervision and thorough examination. The HSE supports industry bodies, particularly the Tower Crane Interest Group, TCIG, which has also published extensive guidance and technical notes on its website. HSE works with the British Standards Institution on the production of tower crane safety standards, particularly on BS 7121, which is a suite of guidance on lifting operations.

As I have mentioned before, at any given time there are over 800 tower cranes in use across Great Britain. Since 2011, there have been 91 reported separate incidents involving tower cranes recorded by the HSE, including 11 tower crane collapses. Tragically, six people have lost their lives during these incidents, including, sadly, in the case that has given rise to tonight’s debate. The HSE, as the regulator of tower crane safety, investigates all reported incidents involving a tower crane collapse on construction sites. These are rightfully treated as very serious, though they are infrequent incidents.

Investigations and research conducted by the HSE and industry have shown that several causal factors can contribute to failures and dangerous occurrences relating to tower cranes, including adverse weather conditions; human or operator error, both in the erection and operation of the crane; poor communication of instructions; and failure to have in place effective maintenance and examination arrangements. When the cause of a tower crane collapse involves a serious breach of law, the HSE takes appropriate enforcement action. Since 2011, the HSE has served eight enforcement notices and taken eight prosecutions in relation to tower crane incidents. It works with trade associations, standards bodies and industry groups post incidents to share any lessons learned to assist in improving crane safety in the future.

In conclusion, tower cranes are covered by a comprehensive legislative framework. The HSE uses the powers that it has been given to regulate tower crane safety effectively, including by taking strong enforcement action. It also works with industry to continually improve tower crane safety standards. Although infrequent, incidents with tower cranes are carefully investigated because of their high consequences, to ensure that any lessons learned can be captured and, of course, that appropriate enforcement action is taken.

Once again, I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for bringing this debate to the House, and for her thoughtful and passionate contribution in the Chamber this evening. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the ongoing investigation into the tragic death of June Harvey, as it is sub judice. As the investigation is being led by the Metropolitan police, I think it would be more appropriate for me to ask the Minister for Crime and Policing to provide the hon. Lady with an update on the progress of the investigation.

On the points raised in relation to the HSE’s work on the regulation of cranes, and any areas that I have not been able to address, I will ask the HSE to respond to the hon. Lady where appropriate. The tragic incident prompting tonight’s debate has highlighted to us all the importance of tower crane safety. I can assure the hon. Lady that the Government continue to support the regulatory regime for tower cranes, as well as the work of HSE and industry in ensuring their safe use.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 8th March 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham (Burnley) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the jobcentre estate is adequately equipped to support an increased number of jobseekers. (913004)

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

As part of our estates expansion and renewal programme, the DWP by summer will have rapidly increased the number of Jobcentre Plus sites, placing them in new locations where they are needed. This will ensure that we bolster our face-to-face support in a covid-safe environment for both our claimants and our additional 13,500 new work coaches. As Members will appreciate, negotiations on some sites are ongoing, and I will update the House further when appropriate to do so. Meanwhile, MPs with a new site opening in their constituency are being notified.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Sadly, the pandemic has meant that many people in my constituency of Aylesbury have lost their job and, for the first time in decades, find themselves looking for work. How can my hon. Friend ensure that the Jobcentre Plus estate and its staff are equipped to help jobseekers who are in their 50s and 60s, who have paid their taxes and their national insurance for their whole working lives and now need bespoke personal assistance to find a new job and continue to contribute to the economy?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

We are supporting people of all ages back into work in Aylesbury and beyond. The DWP has a network of 50-plus champions throughout our JCPs. These champions work with work coaches and stakeholders to focus help and support for the over-50s, highlighting the benefits of employing them and sharing best practice. Our plan for jobs provides new funding to ensure that everyone, including those 50 and over, get tailored support to build on their skills and move into work.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many businesses in remote rural communities, as in North Devon, are a long way from a Jobcentre Plus, and therefore would not usually use the jobcentre to advertise vacancies, particularly given poor public transport. What assurances can my hon. Friend give that rural businesses will be actively engaged by Jobcentre Plus, as it is especially important that young people looking for work in such rural communities are able to access local jobs through the kickstart scheme?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

Our JCPs are engaged with local recovery plans, including in rural areas. They are essential to help people of all ages into work and help all communities to thrive. In North Devon, the DWP is funding the youth flow partnership with local businesses and the chambers of commerce to help young people engage with opportunities such as kickstart. I was delighted to join my hon. Friend at her recent event with local businesses in her community to discuss kickstart and how we can tailor those opportunities for every area.

Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In January, the DWP confirmed the lease had been signed on a new Jobcentre Plus in Stockton South. Can the Minister confirm how many work coaches are due to work at the new site and how they will be helping my constituents in Stockton South?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend will now be aware that we have signed a lease on a new jobcentre in Stockton’s Dunedin House. I am pleased to report that work is now under way on opening to support claimants, which is due by the end of this month. A total of 49 new work coaches have been recruited in my hon. Friend’s constituency to help local jobseekers, and 20 will be based in the new site, along with some of our more experienced work coaches and leadership, to ensure the sharing of best practice and helping people in Stockton to progress.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I pay tribute to Worthing jobcentre, which has been very proactive in dealing with new benefit claimants and will have a lot of extra work, alas, with people who find themselves out of a job because of the pandemic.

Work coaches offer important support to a diverse range of claimants, but self-employed claimants can really benefit from the wisdom of someone who has direct experience of setting up their own business, so what specialist support will be available to UC claimants looking to boost their incomes through self-employment in the future?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

DWP work coaches can refer claimants interested in moving into self-employment to our new enterprise allowance programme, and to other sources of local business advice and support as appropriate. The new enterprise allowance offers participants the important opportunity to develop that business, as my hon. Friend points out, to make that business plan and receive more than a year’s support from a business mentor to make a success of it, in Worthing and beyond.

Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I start by thanking all the staff at Burnley jobcentre, who are doing an amazing job in supporting people day and night?

As a result of the pandemic, unemployment is increasing in Burnley, impacting on those who find themselves out of work for the first time as well as young people looking to enter the world of work. What steps is the Department taking to support people in Burnley who find themselves in that situation?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

Alongside our plan for jobs, Burnley JCP recently held a virtual careers event for jobseekers, which I know my hon. Friend was brilliantly a part of. In Cumbria and Lancashire we have recruited almost 400 extra work coaches to assist customers, with a further 90 due to join in the next three months. We have also set up a DWP youth hub in partnership with Burnley Borough Council and Calico, and we are working with local employers to provide local kickstart placements such as with the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and Stanley Black and Decker.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps she is taking to reduce the number of repeat assessments that benefit claimants with severe conditions are required to undergo. (912988)

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Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent estimate she has made of employment rates in the UK. (912995)

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

The latest official statistics from the Office for National Statistics show the UK employment rate is at 75%. The package of support put in place by this Government, including the furlough scheme, has protected many jobs during the pandemic, but there have been difficult times for many. Meanwhile, in the Budget we announced that the furlough scheme has been extended to the end of September.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Unemployment has not really been a major issue in Cambridgeshire for some years, but with over 8,000 people furloughed in the city of Cambridge and 300 jobs in Chatteris lost recently, there is now real fear. Cambridge City Council is appointing an economic recovery officer, but overall where is the plan for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough? Where is the strategy to secure quality jobs in future?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I can absolutely assure the hon. Gentleman that we work with the local recovery plans and that we have a plan for jobs in Cambridge and beyond, so there is positive news in his constituency. We are doing our sector-based work academy programmes in construction, warehousing and care. We are working with our new job finding support service with the Papworth Trust. We are engaging with local companies on kickstart—indeed, we are working with Addenbrooke’s and a bunch of other local companies—and we have recruited 50 new work coaches for the Cambridge jobcentre since March, with 18 more to come, making an extra 68 to help in his constituency with that local recovery plan.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In June, the Prime Minister promised an opportunity guarantee for every young person. With 800,000 young people now not in education, employment or training, and only 4,000 kickstart placements to date, the Minister recently told the Work and Pensions Committee, “Watch this space”, and that details on the guarantee would land at the Budget. If the Prime Minister announced it and she supports it, did the Chancellor not get the memo or has the Treasury once again blocked support where it is needed? Can the Government not get their act together on a jobs promise such as the one Labour has proposed so that young people out of work or training at six months get the opportunities that they need?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I know the hon. Lady is committed to opportunities for young people, as am I, and our plan for jobs has multiple interventions: the £2 billion kickstart scheme, job finding support, JETS—job entry targeted support—the 13,500 new work coaches, our £150 million boost to the flexible support fund, and restart coming this summer. I assure her that our focus on youth continues. In her constituency, 17 employers are engaging with kickstart for young people, with 77 vacancies available and 11 starts. Of course, 140,000 opportunities are coming through the system now and I continue to have this focus on youth employment, as she rightly points out that we should, and I will continue to work across Government to highlight that.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps her Department is taking to ensure universal credit payments are not reduced in the event of a claimant receiving two payments in the same monthly assessment period as a result of a wage payment being delayed by a bank holiday or weekend. (912996)

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Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What discussions her Department has had with the Department for Communities on the kickstart scheme. (912999)

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

The Northern Ireland Executive will be running the job start scheme to support young people to progress. Similar to the kickstart scheme available in England, Scotland and Wales, it is also focused on helping young people most at risk of long-term unemployment. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the DWP has been in regular contact with colleagues in Northern Ireland to discuss the development of the job start scheme and share progress and insight on the kickstart scheme.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is absolutely right that the kickstart scheme is a wonderful, innovative scheme, which should be applied to Northern Ireland, but it has not yet been rolled out there. I wonder whether the Minister will be honest with us and tell us whether that is the fault of the UK Government or the fault of the local Communities Minister, who has been allocated the money but has not yet applied it to the scheme? Will the hon. Lady encourage her to get on with applying this scheme to Northern Ireland in the next telephone call that she has with the Communities Minister in Northern Ireland?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Northern Ireland received Barnett consequentials to support the job start scheme, and our officials have been talking. The money is not ring-fenced, and I am keen to see all young people access this type of scheme across the United Kingdom so that they can get the support they need to progress. Should anybody need further support to make this happen in Northern Ireland, our officials continue to stand ready to see it start.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps she is taking to support universal credit claimants during the covid-19 outbreak. (913002)

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Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent steps she has taken to reduce youth unemployment. (913011)

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

This Government are committed to providing support to help young people move into work and avoid the scarring effects of long-term unemployment as we recover from the pandemic. The £30 billion plan for jobs includes new youth hubs and specific interventions targeted at young people. Our DWP youth offer and the kickstart programme are designed to move young people towards meaningful and sustained employment opportunities.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Happy International Women’s Day, Mr Speaker.

Last year, youth unemployment went up by 420,000, reaching 600,000, and it is set to reach 1 million, yet the Government’s kickstart programme has got only 4,000 young people into work, despite employers providing placements. Will the Minister explain by what date her Department’s own target of 200,000 placements will be met?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady is absolutely correct: we are converting more than 140,000 job placements into starts and 30,000 jobs are currently being advertised. In her area, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has approval for more than 500 kickstart opportunities in a variety of sectors across the borough. A virtual youth hub is also operating in Tower Hamlets to support people and we hope it will move to face-to-face contact shortly. There are 119 new work coaches in Hoxton and a new temporary Jobcentre Plus is opening in Leman Street in Tower Hamlets in April. We take youth unemployment incredibly seriously. As we move into recovery, we will make sure that young people take up roles and move into work safely, to get those kickstart opportunities going.

James Daly Portrait James Daly (Bury North) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. (913044)

--- Later in debate ---
Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is wonderful to hear from the Secretary of State about the progress on the kickstart scheme. Does she know that one of the sole traders in West Worcestershire, who is keen to take on a kickstarter, discovered that they needed a company number to do that? Also, with farmers in my constituency saying that they are lacking labour, has she thought about setting up a seasonal agricultural work kickstart scheme? (913048)

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

We welcome the involvement of all employers of all sizes in all sectors in the kickstart scheme. We have made it even easier to bring in small employers and sole traders by developing an important kickstart gateway-plus model to accommodate their specific needs. They can apply through an approved gateway-plus organisation that can provide a suitable pay-as-you-earn scheme process for young people on placements with them. With regard to working on agriculture, I am engaged with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers on this and we are focused on supporting all sectors that need labour. There is a covid economy and growing jobs in some sectors and we are keen to support them.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It has been 19 months since the Department for Work and Pensions announced the review into the special rules for terminal illness and, in that time, an estimated 6,000 people have died waiting for a decision on benefits claims. Can the Minister explain why there has been such a delay, assure us that every possibility is being pursued to rectify this and reassure those who are still waiting? (913045)

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Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As unemploy-ment has been going up in recent months and is set to increase further, will my hon. Friend join me in commending the efforts of jobcentres around the country for all their work, especially the jobcentres in Leigh and Bolton that serve my constituents so well? (913053)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I echo my hon. Friend’s words and those of other Members who have praised the very hard work of all our DWP staff, especially of course in Bolton and Leigh. They include an additional new 41 work coaches recruited for jobcentres that serve my hon. Friend’s constituency. Thanks to their efforts, the kickstart scheme has so far seen the development of more than 300 roles across more than 50 employers in the Bolton and Prestwich area.

Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A number of constituents have contacted me regarding issues with the Child Maintenance Service, which we have raised with the appropriate officials, but there are long delays, which cause much distress to families in Stockton South. Will my right hon. Friend please address this with officials in her Department so that we can get much-needed answers and solutions? (913054)

Oral Answers to Questions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 25th January 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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What recent representations she has received on removing the benefit cap. (911260)

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

The proportion of individuals capped remains very low in relation to the overall UC case load and exemptions continue to apply. There remains a statutory duty to review the cap within this Parliament. However, we are in an unusual economic period, and any decision will need to consider potentially counter-intuitive and shifting trends.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that answer, but at a time when all of us know constituents who are struggling through the crisis which has brought them such hardship through no fault of their own, are the Government really going to impose the benefit cap on tens of thousands of families with children when the so-called “grace period” comes to an end? Is that really true? If it is, can she tell me this: how is that fair?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

The benefit cap provides fairness for hard-working tax-paying households as a clear incentive to move into a job where possible. Universal credit households are exempt from the cap if the household earnings are at least £604 a month. I reiterate to the House that the amount of individuals capped remains very low in comparison to the UC case load, at around 3%.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on trends in the level of child poverty. (911261)

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Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps her Department is taking to encourage employers to participate in the kickstart scheme. (911268)

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

We continue to engage with employers of all sizes to create high-quality placements for our young people to get their start on the employment ladder, and to make it even simpler, from 3 February we will remove the 30-job minimum for job applications, giving new applicants the choice to apply directly or via one of over 600 excellent approved kickstart gateways.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As you well know, Mr Speaker, South Ribble has many brilliant small businesses that are keen to provide a kickstart opportunity for a young person. For example, Mark Wright Landscapes got in touch saying that it was worried that it was too small to participate. In that instance, I was able to direct them to the great North and Western Lancashire chamber of commerce, which acts as a gateway. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking that small business and encouraging others in Lancashire and beyond to create a job and give an opportunity through kickstart to as many young people as possible?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I would very much like to thank my hon. Friend for raising the opportunities for smaller businesses, and the great team at the North and Western Lancashire chamber of commerce for their hard work and the services they provide as a gateway organisation. This is helping many sole traders and employers in her constituency to support our young people to take up these kickstart roles, ensuring that young people have that vital wraparound support, getting them on to the career ladder and, above all, grasping future work opportunities.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With youth unemployment set to reach 1 million and 600,000 already unemployed, can the Minister provide some updates on how her Department will meet the 250,000 kickstart programme target that it stated it would meet? The numbers that the Secretary of State has set out today are worryingly low. Will she also consider removing the six-month requirement, where a young person has to be unemployed for six months before they qualify for the kickstart programme?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

The young person needs to be on universal credit and working with our excellent work coaches. In respect of Hoxton and Poplar, in the hon. Lady’s constituency, we are recruiting 27 new work coaches in Hoxton and 67 in Poplar. Since the end of September, we have been working with the new Tower Hamlets youth hub, with local employers and gateways bringing opportunities. I encourage the hon. Lady to visit her local jobcentre to see what has happened there in the past year, because I do not believe she has visited and think that would put her mind at rest.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps her Department is taking to help increase levels of employment among young people (a) during and (b) after the covid-19 outbreak. (911267)

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

This Conservative Government and I, as the employment Minister, are committed to providing support to help our young people to move into work and avoid the long-term scarring effects of unemployment, both during the pandemic and as we recover from its impact. Our plan for jobs includes an expanded DWP youth offer, kickstart and more than 100 new youth hubs to assist young people to move into meaningful, sustained employment.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Alec Shelbrooke [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Small and medium-sized enterprises in my constituency have raised concerns about the time it takes to apply for the kickstart scheme. What action is the Department taking to ensure that applications are processed as quickly as possible?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

The Department worked at pace to launch the kickstart scheme in September, with the first applications open in November. Our aim is to take forward applications within one month, but it can take longer if we require additional information. We expect the situation to improve as we adopt processes and embed learnings from the thousands of employers and hundreds of gateways that have joined the scheme early on. My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the application from Fotofabric Ltd in his constituency has now been approved.

Rob Roberts Portrait Rob Roberts (Delyn) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps her Department is taking to help people whose sectors have been particularly affected by the covid-19 outbreak to switch careers. (911280)

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

Our plan for jobs is providing a range of vital, tailored employment support for all jobseekers who are looking to move sector; targeting support for those impacted by the pandemic; and linking into local recovery plans. The plan includes DWP’s job finding support, or JFS; sector-based work academy programmes, or SWAPs; job entry targeted support, or JETS; and our new restart programme. It will also utilise the forthcoming UK shared prosperity fund.

Rob Roberts Portrait Rob Roberts [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Back in 2013, my constituency of Delyn had an unemployment rate of 5.2%; thanks to successful aspirational Conservative policies, this was down to just 3% before the pandemic took hold, but now sits at around 6%. With some sectors—particularly tourism and hospitality—more severely impacted than others, will my hon. Friend confirm that, despite many things being in the hands of a Welsh Government who, I hope, are in their final months in power, the UK Government will continue to provide support and generate opportunities for my constituents to get back into work as soon as possible?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I am happy to confirm that DWP will continue to work hard to support people like my hon. Friend’s constituents. I know that the staff in his three local jobcentres are already delivering training, mentoring circles and kickstart prep courses with partners such as Google, Amazon and the Prince’s Trust, as well as working to develop new resources to help to support local jobseekers.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Government’s definition of care, support and supervision for benefits recipients in (a) supported and (b) exempted housing. (911270)

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Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government’s emergency income support schemes have helped millions of people, but unfortunately there are gaps in support. Will the Government look again at how to help PAYE freelancers, the newly self-employed, directors of limited companies, and particularly women for whom periods of maternity leave have made it even more difficult to come within these covid emergency schemes? They need help; they are suffering real hardship. (911339)

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

We are providing £15 million for local authorities to make discretionary payments to people not eligible for the self-employment income support scheme. The DWP has temporarily relaxed the minimum income floor for self-employed UC claimants affected by covid-19. The self-employed have also benefited from other parts of our support package, such as increased local housing allowance. However, I urge anyone who thinks they may need further support to check the benefits calculator on gov.uk.

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State should be ashamed that right across the UK, food banks, schools, charities and communities have had to mobilise to feed hungry children because of the inadequacy of the welfare state. Analysis from the House of Commons Library shows that 680,000 of these children could be lifted out of poverty if universal credit was not cut and child benefit was increased by just £5 per week. Why will she not implement those changes? (911323)

--- Later in debate ---
Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The covid-19 pandemic has presented some stark economic challenges for Crawley affecting people of all ages. What support has the Department for Work and Pensions put in place to help workers get back into work across my constituency? (911341)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

In addition to the excellent work already being done at the Crawley youth hub in the town hall and the existing Jobcentre Plus, I am pleased that, as part of the DWP estates expansion and renewal programme, we will shortly open a new jobcentre at Forest Gate and a DWP response hub at Gatwick airport. As well as generating valuable employment opportunities, this will ensure that we can provide the support that individuals of all ages need in and around Crawley.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have a constituent who, over the space of the two and a half preceding years, was sanctioned for a total of 1,100 days. Does there not come a point at which it is clear that the sanction regime does not work for some individuals, ceases to be a proportionate response, and becomes cruel and unusual? Will Ministers look at ways of making sure that those individuals who are suffering in this way get treated with a lot more respect and dignity? (911325)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

Sanctions are only ever used when someone fails to comply with reasonable and appropriate commitments without a good reason. Following the gradual reintroduction of conditionality in the claimant commitment, the UC sanction rate remains very low, at a record low level. I am happy, if the hon. Gentleman wants to raise this particular issue with me, to have a look at it, but, as I say, the sanction rate has very much been on a downward trend.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The kickstart scheme has been a fantastic initiative in helping to secure valuable work placements for more of our young people in Blyth Valley, but it is currently only available to businesses with more than 30 employees. What assessment does my hon. Friend make of lowering this threshold to allow for smaller businesses to be given the same opportunity? (911345)

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

Mr Speaker, would you like to be a 3D animator, a disabled riding school assistant, a camera operator or maybe a trainee fencing coach? These are all kickstart roles that are available. We have made it simpler for employers to get involved with kickstart, cutting the 30 posts minimum threshold so those applying for any number of roles can now apply direct to the DWP. We have also made it easier for sole traders to sign up. We have had a great response, with over 6,500 employers stepping up to offer placements in different fields and sectors, as we have heard, and also to be crucial gateways.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

People who receive legacy benefits were excluded from the uplift to universal credit, but the Government have now announced plans for an uplift this April of 0.5%. If people are claiming ESA in the work-related activity group, that equates to 37p a week, which is derisory. We need to ensure that people on legacy benefits receive a proper degree of support, so as part of the Secretary of State’s review of the UC uplift that she mentioned earlier, will she commit to providing a similar uplift to legacy benefits? (911332)

Work and Pensions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 11th January 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Ministerial Corrections

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Department for Work and Pensions
Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

As for HSE finances for the 2020-21 financial year, an additional £6.1 million was made available by the DWP, and £4.5 million was made available from DEFRA, to prepare for the new chemicals framework.

[Official Report, 9 December 2020, Eleventh Delegated Legislation Committee, c. 8.]

Letter of correction from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies), the hon. Member for Mid Sussex.

An error has been identified in my response to the debate.

The correct response should have been:

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

As for HSE finances for the 2020-21 financial year, an additional £1.6 million was made available by the DWP, and £4.5 million was made available from DEFRA, to prepare for the new chemicals framework.

Draft Chemicals (Health and Safety) and Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Mims Davies Excerpts
Wednesday 9th December 2020

(10 months, 1 week ago)

General Committees

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

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Chemicals (Health and Safety) and Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie.

This draft statutory instrument was laid before Parliament on 15 October. Through this instrument, we are making the necessary arrangements to implement the terms of the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol in law for chemicals regulations. It will ensure that those regulations function effectively from the end of the transition period, and that the existing high standard of protection for human health and the environment will be maintained.

In preparation for our exit from the European Union, a statutory instrument was made last year to ensure that the regulatory framework for chemicals remains functional after exit and to provide certainty for businesses and the public. It achieved that by making technical amendments to the retained EU law, such as changing EU-specific references and transferring functions and powers currently held by the European Commission to the appropriate authorities in each of the UK’s constituent nations. Since the 2019 regulations were made, the withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland protocol, has been agreed. The protocol requires that EU legislation will continue to apply in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period. The existing EU exit legislation therefore needs to be amended to reflect the fact that retained EU law will be substantively applicable in Great Britain only. If approved, the draft regulations will make the necessary arrangements to three retained EU regulations, as well as EU-derived domestic legislation.

I appreciate that the technical and composite nature of the regulations makes this particularly complex, and therefore the decision to present the proposals as a single instrument was for the benefit of the House, to reduce pressure on parliamentary time and to ensure we are able to deliver an orderly transition. As this is such a technical instrument, I shall provide a concise summary of the regulations and the changes we are making for the members of the Committee.

On the three retained EU regulations to be amended, the first is the biocidal products regulation that governs the placing on the market and use of products that contain chemicals which protect humans, animals and materials or articles from harmful organisms such as pests or bacteria. This market covers a wide range of products such as wood preservatives, insecticides such as wasp spray or anti-fouling paints to remove barnacles from boats. Secondly, the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures regulation ensures that hazardous intrinsic properties of chemicals are properly identified and effectively communicated to those throughout the supply chain, including to the point of use. The current classification laws are sophisticated and incorporate a detailed technical system of classification criteria. The classification is partly done through standardised hazard pictograms and symbols and warning phrases associated with specific hazards such as explosivity, acute toxicity or carcinogenicity. Lastly, the export and import of hazardous chemicals regulations require the export of listed chemicals to be notified to the importing country. For some chemicals, the consent of the importing country must be obtained before export can proceed.

The instrument is making three main changes, which I shall summarise. First, we are updating some transitional provisions in the 2019 regulations so that they apply from the end of the transition period, when the retained law comes into force, rather than from exit day. It should be noted that although the instrument’s title references genetically modified organisms, the only amendments to the relevant legislation are to update two references to “exit day”.

Secondly, the instrument removes Northern Ireland from the scope of the 2019 regulations by omitting references to Northern Ireland and changing UK-specific references to “Great Britain”. The instrument also revokes changes made to domestic legislation in Northern Ireland in the 2019 regulations, which are no longer required due to the protocol.

Finally, the instrument legislates for the Government’s commitment on unfettered access for these chemical regulations as well as the need to ensure that the UK authorities have the appropriate information and regulatory safeguards in respect of chemicals placed on the market in Great Britain.

The Health and Safety Executive currently acts as a UK competent authority within the EU regimes for chemicals regulations. Under this instrument, it will become the GB regulatory authority. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland will be the regulatory authority with responsibility for Northern Ireland. We are working closely with Northern Irish colleagues to prepare for the end of the transition period and support them afterwards. Both organisations have demonstrated their resilience throughout the pandemic, and I am confident that they have the capacity to undertake any new responsibilities brought by EU exit.

This instrument was not subject to consultation as it does not alter existing policy. Published guidance has been followed, and in line with it a full impact assessment has not been concluded for the instrument as it does not meet the de minimis threshold. However, I assure Committee members that the changes brought by the instrument have been communicated through a series of stakeholder events throughout the autumn and guidance published on the HSE website in October.

Devolved Administrations have also been fully engaged in the development of the instrument and have provided consent for the elements that relate to them. We are also in the process of agreeing a provisional common framework for chemicals that aims to maintain existing standards and promote common approaches to chemicals policy in the future.

In conclusion, this instrument will provide important continuity and clarity to the chemical industry, ensuring that the legal requirements that apply in relation to chemicals regulations are clear, following the end of the transition period. I hope that colleagues of all parties will join me in supporting the draft regulations, and I commend them to the Committee.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Hosie.

I thank the Minister for her opening remarks. The regulations are needed to address deficiencies in retained EU law on chemicals and GMOs legislation arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The Minister has outlined the regulations, but I will cover them briefly in my remarks.

EU law has played a vital role in ensuring that the framework that regulates chemicals and GMOs operates coherently and effectively. That framework includes regulations such as the biocidal products regulation that the Minister mentioned; the classification, including of hazards, labelling and packaging, or CLP, regulations; the regulations concerning the export and import of hazardous chemicals; and the GMO regulations, which lay down measures for the contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms with a view to protecting human health and the environment. We support this instrument, which ensures that retained EU law relating to chemicals and GMOs continues to operate coherently at the end of transition.

The Minister also outlined, as does the explanatory memorandum, why, if the changes were not made, several chemicals regimes in the scope of the instrument would not be consistent with the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol when the transition period ends. The reasons for the instrument are clear, but I want to focus on several concerns about its effective implementation and the transfer of functions to the HSE.

The first concern relates to HSE duties as it becomes the GB regulatory authority. Leaving the EU and the European Chemicals Agency means that the HSE will take on new responsibilities. From 1 January, businesses that wish to apply for an active substance to be approved, or for a biocidal product to be authorised in Great Britain, will need to apply to the HSE instead of the European Chemicals Agency. As the Minister said, the territorial extent of this instrument is Great Britain except for certain provisions. The HSE will take on the functions that the ECHA performs where these are still relevant in Great Britain. For example, it will co-ordinate the active substance evaluation process for Great Britain. It will also introduce its own processes and systems for receiving and processing applications.

The Minister said that she has confidence in the HSE’s capacity, but she will appreciate why I am asking questions about it. The new demands pose concerning questions about whether the HSE is adequately funded, staffed and resourced to deliver its new responsibilities, particularly on top of the additional work it has undertaken due to covid. Since 2009-10, funding for the HSE has been cut by £144 million in real terms: by more than half since Labour was last in Government. Although in May the Government announced £14 million more funding for it, that still leaves a substantial cut.

We know from a response to a parliamentary question that the Government have recruited only 37 full-time equivalent inspectors since March. What review has the Department for Work and Pensions undertaken with the HSE about its resources, systems and processes, and how it will effectively carry out its extra duties, such as confirming the hazard classification and labelling of chemical substances after the end of the transition period?

Is the Minister confident that the HSE will be able to cope with that increase in responsibilities? What assessment has she made of any new specialist skills that may be required? Could there be an economic impact on the chemicals, pharmaceuticals or plastics industries if there are any delays in required work being carried out by the HSE? Has that risk assessment been done as part of any review that the Department has undertaken? There may be a need for further recruitment, and difficulties have been experienced in the past year in finding necessary specialists. Can the Minister therefore guarantee that any extra staff will be in place by the first week of January, ready for EU exit?

With the HSE potentially having to navigate and regulate stand-alone GB schemes and parts of the EU chemicals schemes simultaneously, there will be additional pressure on it. At the same time, staff will be making new regulatory decisions for UK’s entire food and chemicals markets, with limited access to EU data. Not having adequate resources and systems will also put the incredibly hard-working HSE staff under enormous pressure, which is why we and the Government must not ignore this.

None of us wants questions about the HSE’s capacity to deliver an effective chemicals regulation regime into 2021 and beyond. Indeed, this issue has been raised before, and in February this year the Government said that they

“are making sure that the HSE…have the resources and evidence they need to ensure the safe management of chemicals and to protect public health and the environment.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2020; Vol. 672, c. 159WH.]

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Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra
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I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution, which I am sure the Minister noted. It relates very much to the next point that I was about to make.

In February 2019, Mary Creagh, the then Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, also raised concerns about how the new functions would be taken on within the UK and the budget in relation European Chemicals Agency funding. That is not to say there should be direct comparison of EU-wide budgets and what the UK needs, but the HSE and other agencies involved need to be sufficiently equipped in order for our scientists to deliver safe and effective products on to the UK market. For the new work now required of the HSE, other agencies within Northern Ireland and others across industry that will be involved in a proportion of the new work that will be now taken on, what assessment has been made of the level and type of additional resources required?

My second question before I conclude relates to the Northern Ireland protocol. I thank my colleagues in the other shadow departmental teams for their input on this. The Northern Ireland protocol will mean that a number of areas of law in Northern Ireland will remain aligned with the EU after the end of the transition period, as the Minister commented. Changes to the standard policy approach for unfettered access are needed for highly regulated goods, such as chemicals. This will require a strong focus on transparency requirements to ensure that UK regulators are provided with the requisite information, in parallel to that provided to the EU. With regards to unfettered access and the forms required for highly regulated goods, what estimate has the Minister made of costs to business of the additional transparency requirements, and how many exports does she expect will be covered by them?

In conclusion, the amendments to the 2019 regulations relating to the withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland protocol, are necessary to ensure that retained EU law relating to chemicals and GMOs continues effectively from January. However, I would welcome reassurance about the planning and resourcing for the new functions that the HSE, particularly, and other agencies will take on.

This is one of around 20 statutory instruments that will need to be tabled before the House rises for recess. Will the Minister update us on the timetabling for the remaining SIs relating to the Northern Ireland protocol? With only two weeks until Christmas, she will understand concerns that there may not be enough time for all these to pass through the House before the end of the year with the necessary scrutiny. If she is unable to update us today, perhaps she will be able to forward that information to me after.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston for her comments and the questions she raised. On the final point, I believe that we are at the end of the road of what we need to do in regard to the HSE, but I am happy to take away her query. I thank all Members who have been part of this debate, and I am happy to address some of the hon. Lady’s comments.

The HSE works very closely with the Environment Agency, under the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I am happy to take away the point of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown and ask the HSE to respond to him.

As to whether the HSE has the administrative capacity and resource to deal with the additional burdens, it currently acts, as I said in my opening remarks, as the competent authority for the EU chemicals regulations and therefore already has capability and capacity, which can be built on, to take on full GB regulatory authority responsibility.

Since the announcement of the referendum and our leaving the EU, the HSE has been preparing for all different scenarios for future UK-EU relationships and has always had a focus on readiness for a stand-alone regulatory system. It will be ready on day one: roles, processes, skills and recruitment and training have all been scoped out and mapped, as part of the wider HSE transition programme, which covers chemicals regulation as a whole. We have looked at what workload there might be on day one, in terms of the operating model and how we develop the scope of chemicals regulation as a whole, carrying out discovery work with stakeholders on the work that will be needed with regard to future operating capacity.

As for HSE finances for the 2020-21 financial year, an additional £6.1 million was made available by the DWP, and £4.5 million was made available from DEFRA, to prepare for the new chemicals framework. That represented a 60% increase on the 2019-20 financial year, and appropriate bids have also been made under the spending review for 2021-22. We wait to understand the details on that.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her responses, but I would be grateful if she will clarify one point. She talked about how the HSE’s existing capabilities could be built on, and said there had been some scoping and mapping. As we are so close to the end of transition, can she say whether any risks and concerns have been raised either by DWP or the HSE to her directly about readiness for 1 January, and whether any resources might still be required?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I am happy to respond to the hon. Lady. In fact, I must point out that owing to more demand in relation to covid the HSE budget in 2019-20 was £129 million, and there will be an extra £1.6 million for the functions in question.

On recruitment and readiness, the HSE has identified a total of 147 posts to be filled by the end of the financial year. It reports good progress on filling those posts, with 108, or 73%, filled. It is confident that that means it will be ready in relation to the transition period. Of the 73% of posts filled to date, the vast majority will start in January, with the remainder commencing in post before April.

Several campaigns are ongoing and due for completion in 2021. We are concluding the recruitment of the outstanding posts and recruiting 117 brand new posts in the chemicals regulation division, relating specifically to EU exit. That represents a 45% increase from the baseline staffing, since January 2020, and I hope that the hon. Lady will see that it demonstrates a significant commitment to taking on the new functions that are required. I believe, in fact, that we had about 900 applications when the recruitment opened.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those at the HSE who have done a remarkable job through the pandemic and covid this year. The HSE has called in or visited 78,000 businesses as part of its work on spot checks. It has a significant compliance rate and staged spot checks in more than 41,000 businesses in relation to covid issues.

As to taking on the new functions and being ready to work with industry, there has been significant engagement with industry on the next stage, including 22 comms events just this month with the chemicals industry. Since January we have engaged with more than 6,000 attendees from across the chemicals section. There is significant information on the HSE website, the chemicals section of which gets over 50,000 views a month, and over 226,000 e-bulletins go out to subscribers. There have been extensive conversations and communications with the sector, and I have joined with Ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and from DEFRA to engage with that sector and with stakeholders.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am really pleased to hear that the Government and HSE have been engaging with businesses. However, I am still hearing concerns from businesses that are worried about re-registering pre-existing chemicals that have already been registered, and any potential need to prove that new levels of testing have been met, particularly animal testing. Can the Minister give an assurance that no new tests will be required for pre-existing chemicals by the HSE, and particularly no new animal tests?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

On animal testing, the relevant legislation affected by the instrument is the biocidal products regulation. That regulation contains mandatory data sharing provisions that are maintained in retained EU law and will apply in Great Britain, with amendments to make clear that the HSE will operate this process, rather than the European Chemicals Agency. The UK has been at the forefront of opposing animal tests where alternative approaches could be used, and we will retain the last resort principle. I hope that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.

Turning to divergence, GB will be free to make decisions on key issues. However, that does not mean we will disregard evidence, discussions and decisions made at EU level, nor any impacts on Northern Ireland. Horizon scanning and monitoring will be part of the UK chemicals framework as a whole.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate what the Minister just said. What would be useful, maybe in writing, is an absolute confirmation for the industry and for animal rights organisations that any pre-existing chemical that is currently registered under the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals regulation, and will need to be re-registered with the HSE, will not require any new levels of testing due to moving their registration over. Of course, it will be difficult for new chemicals that come on board later, but just so that we can be absolutely sure, will the Minister say that no existing registered chemical will require any new levels of testing? That would give me and the industry reassurance.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman that the REACH regulation is not included in this SI. DEFRA has the policy responsibility for REACH regulation and is bringing separate legislation forward on this. I hope that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her responses to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown, and I understand that some of the REACH regulations are covered by other SIs. However, these are very important points, so could I just probe her on one thing, which relates to the reduction in animal testing that the BPR has promoted? She has given some assurance that this will remain part of UK policy, but could she also give an assurance that if there is any change to that policy at any time, that change will come before the House? I do think people across the country will want to see us keep that commitment into the future.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

On divergence, I reiterate that GB will be free to make decisions on key issues. However, that does not mean that we will disregard evidence, discussions and decisions made at an EU level or elsewhere, and we will absolutely be engaging with stakeholders.

Regarding scrutiny—I think that was where the hon. Lady was going—decisions taken by the Secretary of State on chemicals regulations will be subject to the same processes of informal and formal consultation, enabling Ministers to be held to account as they are for any of their other decisions. In addition, for several decisions, the consent of devolved Administrations will be required as well. I maintain that the HSE has an excellent reputation for engaging with stakeholders and ensuring that we develop the appropriate health and safety regulations. I hope that I am reassuring hon. Members this morning.

In regard to unfettered access, the Government’s approach to the Northern Ireland protocol was set out in the May Command Paper and subsequent business guidance. This outlines that there will be some specific requirements for movements between NI and GB in respect of items categorised as highly regulated goods, and chemicals are highly regulated goods because they can pose a significant risk to human health and the environment. Northern Irish businesses will have the right to place a product on the market in Great Britain where they already have an authorisation to place that product on the market in Northern Ireland, provided that they notify the HSE with the information that they would submit previously to the EU. If the HSE has any serious concerns that any product poses a risk to public health or the environment, it has the ability to take safeguarding measures. The HSE has the ability to act and it will continue to. Costs, of course, are recoverable from industry. The return of costs is agreed, and they come back to the HSE—I must point that out to Members.

As many Members will attest, our chemicals sector is world leading, and, as we have heard today, it is vital for other key industries, such as the pharmaceuticals, automotive and aerospace industries. We want to ensure that that continues and that those sectors continue to succeed. We also need to provide certainty, as we have heard, for businesses in Northern Ireland and across GB that the statute book will be fully functioning for the end of the year and that NI businesses will have unfettered access to the market in Great Britain. This statutory instrument seeks to ensure that and to meet our obligations under the protocol.

I am sure that Members are all with me on the need to provide continuity and clarity to our chemicals industry following the end of the transition period. I want to ensure that the legal requirements that apply in relation to chemical regulations are clear and provide certainty to all. We must maintain our high standard of protection in the workplace and otherwise, and this instrument will uphold that. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Chemicals (Health and Safety) and Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 30th November 2020

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Work and Pensions
Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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What steps her Department is taking to encourage employers to participate in the Kickstart scheme. (909471)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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We are working with employers at a local, national and regional level, and we continue to have wide-ranging engagement to promote the scheme. Department for Work and Pensions officials are supporting applications through existing and growing partnerships. From day one, we have engaged with more than 300 stakeholders to ensure that the design of the kickstart scheme delivers for our young people and employers alike. We continue to work with those in growing sectors to boost further opportunities, so far creating more than 4,000 applications and more than 20,000 approved kickstart roles—these numbers are growing daily.

Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies [V]
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Last week, I met with Ameon, a building services company based in Fylde that is looking to grow its team due to the recent construction boom in the north-west. In construction, qualifications are vital to building a career. Will my hon. Friend outline how the kickstart scheme interacts with sixth-form and further education colleges to help enrolees to get valuable experience of work and certified lifetime skills?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency are coming forward daily, and DWP employer advisers are running daily sessions to get young people ready to be matched with placements. In addition, we have created new youth hubs and are working with local partners to assist young people in removing any barriers. Alongside that, we have allocated every kickstarter an additional £1,500 of employability support to ensure that they are ready to take up future work opportunities.

Alan Mak Portrait Alan Mak
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Small and medium-sized enterprises in my Havant constituency are major local employers and already support apprenticeships in large numbers. What steps is my hon. Friend’s Department taking to help kickstart gateway providers, particularly local authorities, to help SMEs to benefit from the scheme?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We are determined that SMEs can take part in kickstart. We are actively working with a range of gateway organisations, including chambers of commerce, local authorities and charities, so that they can support smaller employers to offer kickstart roles. Guidance is regularly updated through the kickstart portal on gov.uk to clarify the process and highlight changes, and SMEs can access local employer contracts through those pages.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Mullan
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More than a dozen local businesses and charities have put forward applications, working with myself and the South Cheshire chamber of commerce. They are keen to get going and want to give young people opportunities. When might they be able to start deploying the roles?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We are encouraging employers to create a range of opportunities through the kickstart scheme for all young people aged 16 to 24 who are at risk of long-term unemployment, including those who have disabilities. Our work coaches will help to identify those young people in need of any extra support available through the kickstart scheme and any other suitable provision to support them. Meanwhile, my hon. Friend will be interested to know that the wide-ranging opportunities in his constituency go to the approval board this week for consideration.

Felicity Buchan Portrait Felicity Buchan
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The kickstart scheme is proving to be a great success in my North Kensington jobcentre, with many placements already made and a number—for instance, in gyms—awaiting the end of lockdown. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is critical that we get young people into work, especially in London, where the cost of living is so high?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: it is vital that we support young people into employment. As we know, they are often the most affected in these times of economic uncertainty. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that in addition to kickstart, the DWP Kensington youth team is actively working with local partners, such as the Rugby Portobello Trust, to help young people in her constituency back into work.

Pauline Latham Portrait Mrs Latham [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Young people are particularly at risk of being left behind as a result of this pandemic. Will my hon. Friend assure me that as we get our economy moving again, she will ensure that younger people have the chance to develop the skills that they need for future employment?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

The Secretary of State and I are determined that the kickstart scheme will provide for young people a vital springboard to gain vital skills and experience in fully subsidised six-month roles, which will help to build their networks and their future opportunities before they move into long-term employment, apprenticeships, traineeships or further training. I was delighted to be in Derbyshire earlier this year to see exactly how the scheme will work on the ground.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the previous Parliament, Members will recall that the apprenticeship levy scheme was a bit of a flop. It let down businesses, young people, local authorities and colleges. With my local area seeing a 182% increase in unemployment, youngsters are having their lives blighted by joblessness now. What urgent action is being taken to work with local authorities, with employers and, of course, with colleges to promote apprenticeships as a viable future option?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. It is very important that kickstart works with all the opportunities that are available for young people, and my Department is working across Government to achieve that. The Haringey youth team is made up of 10 work coaches focused on 18 to 24-year-olds and, absolutely, they are already working directly on this in her Wood Green jobcentre, and I encourage her to go to see it if she has not already done so.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne [V]
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Partnership will be crucial to drive down youth unemployment. I know that areas such as Greater Manchester are keen to understand how kickstart performs locally to assist in making the initiative a success. Can the Minister give clarity as to whether all the information relating to kickstart participation, which now comes in terms of gateway organisations, number of job placements applied for, sector information and so on, will be shared with mayoral combined authorities such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority so that they are able to identify gaps that may then require more local partnership intervention?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I am meeting with the M9 Group of Mayors once again and they have been absolutely crucial in terms of local design, local mayors, local enterprise partnerships, and our local chambers of commerce. The scheme has been designed with local authorities and local labour markets in mind. The hon. Member will be pleased to know that we are working closely with Stockport local authority, particularly with its job match service around kickstart.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab) [V]
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I am sure that, like me, the Minister wants to ensure that kickstart works for disabled people. I would like to know whether the Government have carried out an equality impact assessment of this scheme, and whether they will publish it. Will they also commit to the following: support from Access to Work from day one of employment; access to kickstart for recipients of employment and support allowance; and disability awareness training for all employment advisers? These small changes could help to ensure that every young person is able to benefit from kickstart.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I know that she is focused on young people, as am I. She may have heard from the Secretary of State that we are absolutely determined about this and that that work is already embedded; it is part of kickstart. This placement is treated like regular work, so all existing schemes such as Access to Work can be used, and our young people in jobcentres will be able to discuss all the options via the work coach.

Ben Bradley Portrait Ben Bradley (Mansfield) (Con)
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What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help vulnerable families with the cost of food and bills in winter 2020-21. (909447)

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Craig Tracey Portrait Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire) (Con)
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What progress her Department has made in recruiting additional work coaches. (909455)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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My hon. Friend will be aware that we have committed to recruit an additional 13,500 work coaches by March 2021, and we are on track to meet that. Since July, 5,468 have been recruited, and I had the pleasure of meeting some of our new London recruits at the Department for Work and Pensions’ Caxton House. I was delighted by the additional positivity, diversity of skills and fresh knowledge they bring to the DWP family.

Craig Tracey Portrait Craig Tracey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is great to hear that progress is being made on that, and I am sure the Minister would agree that its success depends not just on quantity, but quality. Can she confirm what measures are being taken to ensure that these coaches have the right experience and training to ensure that they provide real value? In recognising that people will have vastly different needs, what will be done to ensure that they are connected with the right coach, rather than just a coach?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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All our new work coaches receive six weeks’ up-front training. That includes a week’s induction, followed by an initial 25 days’ intensive training, 20 days’ facilitated learning and five days’ consolidation. Their ongoing learning continues with access to action learning sets, bite-sized products and a learning hub to help build their confidence and skills as they continue to grow in their role. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that a second round of recruitment will kick off in his region in the run-up to Christmas, looking for almost 200 more work coaches.

Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger (Devizes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps her Department is taking to incentivise employers to hire young people. (909457)

Mark Jenkinson Portrait Mark Jenkinson (Workington) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to incentivise employers to hire young people. (909463)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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The new enhanced DWP youth offer commenced in September. That is in addition to kickstart. We are increasing the support offered via a 13-week youth employment programme to help young people gain the skills and experience that employers are looking for. We are also working with our network of external partners to deliver 100 new youth hubs, co-located and co-delivered locally, alongside expanding the number of our youth employability work coaches.

Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am encouraged to hear about the progress being made on the kickstart scheme. Does my hon. Friend agree that schemes that provide young people with not only a job placement and coaching but wider personal skills training and even opportunities for social action are more likely to be successful in equipping young people for their careers and incentivising employers to keep them on?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I absolutely agree, and I thank my hon. Friend for his work and interest in supporting young people and focusing on their progression. I remind all Members that, outside the 25 hours that a kickstart work placement provides, jobseekers are encouraged by their work coaches to undertake other activities to help them progress towards long-term employment.

Mark Jenkinson Portrait Mark Jenkinson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and appreciate the work that the Department is doing in this important area. Youth unemployment remains a challenge in Workington. Can she outline the steps that her Department is taking to assist my young constituents at a local level?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that his excellent Workington jobcentre has developed five mentoring circles for young people, covering topics such as first impressions, transferable skills, interview skills and CVs. There has been much interest by local employers in Workington to become part of kickstart, with new job opportunities available across many sectors, including roles in adult social care and additional placements working with businesses such as Tesco.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to support self-employed universal credit claimants during the covid-19 outbreak. (909458)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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The minimum income floor —the MIF—was first suspended in March this year, and we have now extended the suspension until the end of April 2021. This provides vital support for self-employed claimants by ensuring that they receive a full UC award during these uncertain times.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double
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There is no doubt that the universal credit system has stood up well to the unprecedented increase in demand placed on it this year, including by being flexible and responsive in the way that the Minister described. Will she join me in thanking the staff at the UC service centre in St Austell, which I believe is the busiest and best performing service centre in the country, for their excellent hard work and dedication this year? Does she share my concern that all we hear from the Opposition is dragging down the system, which is working so much better than the legacy system we inherited, and while they call for it to be scrapped, they never say what they would replace it with?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I would be delighted to extend my thanks to the dedicated and hard-working team at the St Austell service centre and their colleagues across the rest of the DWP, who have played their part in processing a 90% national increase in UC claims since March. I agree with my hon. Friend’s point about the Opposition. Without the agile, digital universal credit system, we simply would not have been able to quickly and safely process millions of additional claims and get money and support to the people who needed it most in this health emergency.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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What steps she is taking to increase promotion of the Access to Work scheme to employers. (909461)

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Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
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What assessment she has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on levels of unemployment. (909466)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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The latest Office for National Statistics labour market figures show a level of unemployment of 1.6 million. This has increased by around 260,000 since the start of the pandemic. As part of our plan for jobs package, the DWP has launched new programmes, including kickstart, JETS and the job finding support service to help people who have been impacted by the pandemic to find new employment.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon [V]
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My hon. Friend will be aware that since March, because of covid, youth unemployment in my constituency of Harlow has, sadly, risen by 134%. Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the extraordinary work of the Harlow jobcentre, and to the education, skills and training provided by Harlow further education college, which will be at the forefront of creating jobs? Can she set out how Harlow businesses can access the kickstart scheme and the apprentice funding announced by the Chancellor?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to the hard work and commitment of the Harlow jobcentre staff throughout these difficult times. We are in active discussions on a new DWP youth hub in Harlow. Those at Harlow jobcentre, alongside our 600-plus other jobcentres, do an immense job daily, encouraging and helping our most vulnerable claimants and supporting all individuals based on their circumstances, and that is where kickstart and other programmes will come in. Jobcentres do work locally with external partners—with charities, local employers and key organisations across Harlow and elsewhere—on local recovery plans and local needs.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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What recent assessment her Department has made of trends in the level of unemployment. (909467)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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The latest ONS labour market unemployment level in the east of England is 137,000, and the national rate now stands at 4.8%. In addition to other measures, the DWP has established “job help” and “employer help” websites to provide jobseekers locally and employers the opportunity to get guidance and tools to help people find new roles.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins
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Nearly 15,000 people are relying on the inadequate support provided by universal credit. So, to get a grip of the jobs crisis, what discussions is the Minister having with the Chancellor regarding reasons for using the furlough scheme to keep people in work and to incentivise employers to use it as flexibly as possible—for example, to allow workers at risk of redundancy a trial period in a new role, rather than proceeding to make them redundant?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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That is absolutely the reason we have the job help website and at DWP our rapid response service. That is why we have our £30 billion plan for jobs, which includes the JETS—job entry targeted support—scheme, the “find a job” support service and the new employer help and job help websites.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)
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Whether she has made an assessment of the potential effect on (a) working age and (b) child poverty of reducing (i) universal credit and (ii) working tax credit by £20 a week in April 2021. (909472)

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Mark Jenkinson Portrait Mark Jenkinson (Workington) (Con)
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The Government’s investment in work coaches is hugely welcome. I have seen for myself what an important role they play in helping people into new roles and careers in Workington. Will the Minister join me in encouraging people across the country to consider joining the DWP as a work coach? (909508)

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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Work coaches are vital in delivering our £30 billion plan for jobs. They have done an amazing job already this year, with an additional almost 5,000 work coaches already recruited, another 1,700 agreed starts in the pipeline and recruitment open again. We will be advertising for 3,000 more posts between now and the end of January, in addition to the posts currently advertised. Search “work coach” on gov.uk to apply.