HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 cc70-1WS
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress is being made in achieving full employment; what further plans he has to assist people into work; and if he will make a statement. [132946]

Mr. Browne

Our aim is to deliver work for those who can and security for those who cannot.

We are well on cur way to getting three quarters of people of working age people into work—not just in one year but year on year. Through a combination of economic stability and radical labour market reforms, we have achieved a lot. There are more than 1.5 million more people in work now than in 1997 and unemployment is at its lowest levels since the mid 1970s. Both the UK employment rate and ILO unemployment rate are the best of all of the major industrialised (G7) countries. Claimant long term (one year plus) unemployment has been virtually eradicated for young people and has fallen by three-quarters for adults.

But there is still more to do. High levels of employment are not enough. We need to provide employment opportunities for all groups of people who want to and can work in all parts of the country.

Through Jobcentre Plus, we are providing everyone of working age—the unemployed, lone parents, sick and disabled people—with advice and guidance on the full range of support available to help them move into work.

In areas with higher levels of worklessness we have introduced Action Teams for Jobs. From April 2004, we are also introducing a programme of intensive support in neighbourhoods with very high concentrations of worklessness. Local Worklessness Pilots will operate in 12 neighbourhoods for 2 years testing a new approach to offering intensive support to local residents to help them overcome barriers to employment.

We are also providing more help for those who face the greatest barriers to work. We now have programmes to help, for example, former drug mis-users, the long term unemployed, people from minority ethnic communities and we are piloting reforms to Incapacity Benefit in order to give more opportunities to this group of people as well.