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7 Jan 2004 : Column 111WHcontinued
John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): It is a pleasure to instigate a full debate on progress2work, and I am delighted that there will be time for other colleagues to discuss their experience. I should like to begin by painting the backdrop, using my constituency as an illustration, because it demonstrates the current position possibly more vividly than any other part of the country.
Since I was elected, the constituency has had the largest fall in unemployment of any constituency in Britain. Indeed, month by month, over the past six months, it has consistently been in the top four in respect of rolled forward annual reductions in unemployment. To all intents and purposes, putting aside the small number of people always between jobs and those with a class A drug addiction, we have full employment. If one talks to employers in the area, there are skill shortages, some of which are long standing, some of which are newer and more unusual, such as the shortage of forklift truck drivers, and are being addressed. There is nothing unusual about an occasional skill shortage. There are no particular worries, other than in relation to traditional building skills, and that is true of the rest of the country.
There is, however, a general labour shortage. A number of major companies have problems finding employees able and willing to take the jobs on offer. Four weeks ago, one of my constituents challenged meunwisely, if I may say soabout the availability of jobs. I kept a diary of all jobs advertised in all my local newspapers. He now has a permanent job. He did not have a drug addiction, but had some significant disability issues. He was very angry four weeks ago, but wished me a happy new year as I returned to Parliament.
The backdrop is important. We do not have mass unemploymentalthough we did when the pits closed. We do not have lots of unemployed people who cannot find work. We have a precise and specific problem. That problem will worsen due to further good news. B and Q has announced the creation of 1,200 new jobs. Other companies such as Terberg Matec and Hazelwood have recently announced permanent, full-time job increases owing to the success of the economy. That has not happened before. In the past, we had to shift people around the country, as the Nottinghamshire pits opened later than the rest. Even in those days, there was unemployment. The concept of full employment is new.
I campaigned for Finningley airport not only for the right to fly where we choosewe are not nimbys in my areabut for its job-creation possibilities. We shall struggle to find people to fill the jobs in, for example, the three new hotels being built, and in the construction and servicing of the new terminal. We shall continue to have general labour shortages. That is a good position to be in because wages will be pushed up. Standards of living are going up commensurately more than ever before. That is a very rosy picture.
The one problem is benefit recipients who could work: those people who have a class A drug addiction. In my area, virtually every one is a heroin addict. Most of them have not worked. They have a chequered history in terms of housing, the criminal justice system and employment.
The general picture is that those people find work when they feel capable of working. I make no slight on their motivation, because most of them are keen to get hold of money for obvious reasonsto feed their addictionand would prefer to earn money rather than steal. A minority are criminals who become drug addicts.
Progress2work was set up to deal with precisely that group of people. Indeed, it differentiates between them. It is set up to deal with the easy entrants, the non-chaotic drug users. The Government programmes in my area have been outstanding successes. Some of those currently dealing with drug addiction are outstanding successes. The action team for jobs and the custody to work initiative have been and are tremendous successes. However, one programme stands out as being only a partial success. I would not describe it as a failure, but it needs to be a full success, because we are talking about the key groupindeed, the only groupwho are unemployed in my constituency, both now and for the foreseeable future.
Let us start with a definition of chaotic versus non-chaotic, because that is fundamental. I am not sure who is competent to differentiate between a chaotic and a non-chaotic drug user. Where a difference can be shownwith progress2work across the country, it has beenis between a drug user and a drug addict. Often, the drug of choice is part of the differentiation. Drug users may be in and out of the criminal justice system and in and out of work. They use drugs on occasion. They may use them regularly, but they are not addicted to them. They tend to be less chaotic and more available for work. In fact, they tend to work for periods.
Those people may take a cocktail of drugs at times. They tend to take cocaine. In my area, they occasionally take crack cocaine. They take cannabis. They take amphetamines. They take drugs on a non-injecting basis. They do not wake up on a morning requiring drugs to get through the daythey choose to take drugs. If they take stimulants such as amphetamines or crack cocaine and commit crimes, they may well end up, in a circuitous way, on progress2work, because they are quite happy to get back into work.
Of the addicts in my area who are injecting, about 30 inject amphetamines and the rest inject heroin. They wake up on a morning requiring drugs. In my analysis, the heroin addicts and the other drug addicts are not going through progress2work. Let me explain why and the fundamental weakness in progress2work.
I have the statistics for Bassetlaw. Over the existence of progress2work, 10 people have gone into jobs through that programme. The number is 25 according to my hon. Friend the Minister's figures, which I wholly accept, for north Nottinghamshire, which covers four constituencies, over the two years. Those are very small numbers when we consider that the number of known addicts, not users, in the catchment area is about 3,000. The numbers are tiny, but the definitions in respect of progress2work include users as well as addicts.
The Minister for Work (Mr. Desmond Browne) : I follow the structure of my hon. Friend's argument. If I understand it properly, the challenge that he poses for progress2work is to do more with greater numbers in a comparatively short term. In north Nottinghamshire, of
John Mann : I thank the Minister for his intervention, but I draw the opposite conclusion. It is not my desire to diss progress2work, which was an appropriate Government expenditure. However, the results were very poor.
Mr. Desmond Browne : My hon. Friend is courteous in giving way in this important debate. My point is that, in terms of entries into work, the programme in his area enjoys a success rate of 22 per cent. As I hope to show later, that is among the best there is, even set against the best international comparisons for people who have taken on the challenge of that group of people in labour market programmes. Does he know of programmes that can produce better success rates in terms of job entries than 22 per cent?
John Mann : I will answer the Minister directly. I certainly do know of such programmes in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the Netherlands, which I have visited. I am visiting France to look at programmes in two weeks' time. I can give precise details of the systems in operation in those countries and show why they are more successful.
I do not want to enter into an argument about the figures, as it is the methodology that needs to be changed, but the figures for Bassetlaw show that only three people out of the 600 identifiable heroin addicts are in sustained work. That simply is not good enough. I know most of the addictsmore than 120 of them were at the public inquiry into heroinand have assisted people to get back to work. My record is comparable with that of progress2work; indeed, in terms of sustainability, it is better.
Let me explain why there is a problem with progress2work. My view is shared, in confidence, by many of the agencies involved in the programmeI have spoken consistently to them in the past 18 months about what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they are doing it, to try to find out what does and does not work and to identify specific problems. There is one core theme. The progress2work system is straightforward. The order in which things are dealt with is, in essence, housing, employment, health and that is the fundamental weakness that causes the problems.
The logic is that people will not get work if they are not in proper housingif, for example, they leave prison and cannot find housing they will not get a job. Therefore, sorting out housing becomes item number one. Some good progress2work agents have extremely good systems for sorting out housing. Some argue that that should not be their job, that housing should be sorted out first and that people should then go to the agencies. Finding employment is more difficult, but the health issues are not addressed.
The order in which it should workindeed, it is how it works in Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealandis health, housing, employment. The time difference between the three may be significant. The concept that someone who was a drug addict would go back into work and not have their health issues initially dealt with is not one that those countries would understand. In the Swedish example, which is the best model and is the best resourced, health comes first and foremost.
Over the past seven months, GPs' ongoing and successful treatment of heroin addicts has risen from none to approximately 100. That is just within my constituency. We have 100 people who are no longer using heroin and are in treatment via a GP. The system should work, so that the people who have received health treatment are moved to stable housing. From stable housing, they should then get into employment.
The second major structural problem with progress2work is that there is no employer involvement. In my area, no employer is directly involved. I used to be involved in this kind of thing with engineering workers; I dealt with job losses and retraining. It is easy to put on a skills courseI was employed through my union to put on coursesbut to get people back into sustained work is a different ball game.
I shall talk about the employers in my area and explain why the scheme does not work, and why their engagement is fundamental. The biggest employer is Hazelwood. Why does not Hazelwood take on people who have or who have had a drug problem? It will not do so because it is a food company. It does not want the word to get out that a food company is employing druggiesit has been clear about that in private, although a bit more reticent publicly.
It is difficult to engage the company in the idea of employing drug users, although I know that it has had a number of class A drug users among its employees. It is fundamental that it accepts that it will need to take on such people because that is the pool of labour available.
Another major employer, Wilkinson, does not take on people who have a criminal record for theft. That excludes class A drug users with a heroin addiction, who will have a criminal record for theft. The third biggest employer is Rampton hospital, which again does not take on people who have a criminal record for theft. The fourth employer is Bassetlaw hospital, which, although it will not say so, has not yet managed to take on someone who has had a class A drug addiction because it is a health institution. There is no logic in that. The engagement of employers is fundamental.
I shall refer to other moneys that have been thrown at the issue. We have criminal justice intervention money for the whole of Nottinghamshire. We also have continuous treatment money from the Home Office. On 23 December, the drug alcohol action team allocated £540,000 to the re-employment of people.
That is a lot of money, but it is money well spent. That should be intertwined with progress2work. Through the DAAT, progress2work is setting up an employer advisory committee, engaging employers in precisely how to take people on and explaining that there will be
When I speak to employers, they say that they will be happy to consider changing their policy of not employing those people if the person who gives them validation for their success in being drugs-free is the GP. One of the structural problems with progress2work is that there is no such validation, just an assertion that the person is drugs-free.
DAATs were not even involved in the tendering process. We need a merging of what the DAATs and progress2work do if the latter is to succeed. There is variability across the country. It is a bit of a Cinderella operation. There is a range of voluntary groups, some of which are dabbling in every single aspect of drugs, whatever that means. Some dabble in residential rehabilitation.
Let me describe some of the problems with the statistics when it comes to residential rehabilitation and say what that means for progress2work, because in essence the same methodology is being used. What I say will not be of any comfort to the main Opposition party, becauseunlike the Government, thankfullytheir entire drugs policy is to have more residential rehabilitation. With residential rehabilitation, there is an immediate drop-off of about 40 per cent. Under progress2work, the drop-out rate on the 13 programmes is 37.5 per cent. Others have put the immediate drop-out rate at around 40 per cent.
With residential rehabilitation, people go through a programme and remain drug-free throughout it. When they leaveit is a bit like when they leave progress2workthey slip back into taking drugs. The success rate worldwide of residential rehabilitation programmes is 2 per cent. That is similar to the success rate for progress2work if it deals with class A drug users, unless there is an ongoing linkage with the health service, which in the community can only be made through the GP.
There is a problem that is not the responsibility or fault of the Department for Work and Pensions. It was inherited when the programme was set up. It is the reason why, uniquely among the DWP's successful programmes, this one has been far less successful, and that is the model for drugs treatment. That model has, until the last six months, been one of detox and sending people back into the community. The message is, "You're clean of drugs. Off you go, my friend. Go sort yourself out and, by the way, here are programmes to help you sort yourself out."
That is well meaning and, if taken in the right context, potentially very effective but all the evidence from across the world demonstrates that success with heroin addiction using a detox model is practically nil. No country has any evidence of the detox model working. The only two countries that have persevered with it have been the United States and the United Kingdom but, thankfully, there have been changesI have been pressing for such changes since I came to the Houseto the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse in the past six months.
We are shifting away from that model, and Nottinghamshire is shifting away from it faster than anywhere else. That is why there are 100 people in drugs treatment who are no longer committing crime. They are the people who should be using progress2work, and there are questions to be asked about the linkages and why those people are not being fed in.
Mr. Desmond Browne : The heart of progress2work is the fact that it is a voluntary programme. People are not fed into the programme at all. The people from my hon. Friend's constituency and area who come into progress2work do so as volunteers. It is important that that issue is understood in relation to the size of the challenge that drug users present in his constituency and area. The programme is not intended to be the whole solution to the drugs problem of that area. It is part of a network of solutions.
John Mann : Again, the Minister, I fear, misses the point. With only three people in sustained employment, progress2work is only a very small part when there are 600 heroin addicts on the unemployment register in the constituency. Of the 89 referrals for progress2work, only 10 have been self-referrals. Of course, we cannot compel peoplewell, we can, but that is not the current approach. However, some of the health treatment has been voluntary. The 100 people with GPs volunteered to go for treatment. I would like the matter to become more straightforward. If a drug addict commits a crime, they should have treatment or go to prison. I would like to see more sanctions built in, and that is precisely the Government's approach with the criminal justice intervention programmeheavy sanctions are built in.
In Bassetlaw, there were no specific police officers allocated to arrest and referral duties, but an agreement has been reached with my local police force and we now have five such officers. There will now be a lot of arrest and referral there. As we have CJIP money across Nottinghamshire, there is compulsory drug testing in the custody suites of all police stations in the county. That offers progress2work a unique opportunity that is not available anywhere else in the country: to get people into treatment, knowing what drugs they have been on, and to get the system the right way round so that people are in treatment with their GP in the community, rather than with a drugs workera newly qualified psychology graduate, 20, 30 or 50 miles away. Thankfully, that system has been adopted in Britain at last, after 30 years.
The key issue for progress2work and the employment service is how to get the employers on board. The evidence from the Netherlands is not optimistic. It has been found that small employers there are significantly more likely to take on people who have had a drug addiction or who have ongoing drug problems than large employers. We do not have small employers in my area; in many coalfield areas, small employers are few in number. We have large employers. So we cannot simply rely on small employers. We need to track the large employer situation.
I have some suggestions. We need not to get rid of the progress2work programme but to make it permanent, despite its shortcomings and its weak levels of success. We need to tighten up the tendering process significantly. Not any Tom, Dick and Harry can claim to do voluntary drugs work, but in Britain that scenario
I have just mentioned the £540,000 extra that has gone into the Nottinghamshire DAAT, which is held properly accountable with performance management indicators from Government and the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse. Sustained employment has to be a critical part of that accountability. The Minister will say that Jobcentre Plus is keen to have targets per worker, but that will not work until the progress2work initiative has caught up with the time changes by the Department of Health and the Home Office. That means that we should not deal with class A drug users as we have done.
A fundamental weakness has been to say housing, then employment, then health. Evidence from progress2work shows that that order of priorities has never succeeded other than for tiny numbers. We should do it the other way round, with health first. We should keep people in treatment, then ensure that their housing is sorted and then sort out their employment.
I suggest to the Minister that Nottinghamshire and and north Nottinghamshire would be ideal places to evaluate independently the different routes into work of those who have gone through progress2work and those who have gone into treatment through the primary care trustthrough one of the GPsso that we get the best from both models in terms of getting people into work.
Finally, employer involvement at local level is crucial. Employers must not only be engaged but challenged, and those who are not prepared to take on people must be exposed if that is necessary. If success is to be achieved, they will require a validation from the health service that people are no longer taking drugs, rather than simply an assertion from someone who is being paid to put those people into work that they are no longer doing so. That is a small alteration, but it will fundamentally change the results of progress2work.
I offer Nottinghamshire as the ideal place for the Minister to try some new methodologyto set up an employer forum and to throw progress2work and the DAAT initiatives on employment together, so that they work as one. If that is done, we will have the best of all worlds and this welcome initiative will have the same amazingly successful results as other Government initiatives on employment have had in my constituency over the past six years.
Mr. Frank Cook (in the Chair): Order. To be helpful, I remind hon. Members that it is customary in a 90-minute Adjournment debate in this Chamber for the first of the three winding-up speakers to commence 30 minutes before the conclusion, which means that we have 29 minutes left. I ask the Members who are seeking to catch my eye to bear that in mind when they make their contributions, which should be pertinent and as brief as possible, and if they are tempted to take interventions and respond to them.
Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South) (Lab): I am delighted both that my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) secured this debate and that I am presentas delighted as I was on Monday 24 November last year when I was asked to launch progress2work in Aberdeen. That is partly why I am present today.
What my hon. Friend has said is interesting. The criticisms that he makes of progress2work in his area are precisely the strengths of the one that is operating in Aberdeen, so perhaps his arguments have been listened to. I suggest that many of failings in the implementation of progress2work schemes that he has mentioned have been addressed, and I hope that what I have to say will show that that is the case.
It was Jobcentre Plus in Aberdeen that decided that it wanted to introduce progress2work. I must give it credit for realising that providing the specialist help that is needed to get drug addicts and recovering drug addicts into work was not its forte, and for turning therefore to an organisation called Aberdeen Foyer, which is experienced in dealing with getting into work not only hard-to-place young people but drug addicts.
Aberdeen Foyer started as a housing association. It provided housing for peoplepredominantly the youngwho could not sustain tenancy in any other way. Part of its role is to move young people through the process of getting into permanent housing. It runs several housing projects. It is an innovative organisation. It has been quick to tap into various Government moneys and projects that have helped young people, particularly those with chaotic lifestyles such as drug addicts and those who have just come out of the criminal justice system, back into work and mainstream society. It has a proven track record. As a result, I am hopeful that progress2work in my area will be successful.
Despite the fact that progress2work was set up only a little more than a month ago, it already has 14 active cases and two people in full-time employment. It is far too early to tell whether these jobs will be sustained, because they have not been going for 13 weeks. Yesterday, however, when I spoke to the people involved in progress2work in Aberdeen, they were very positive, partly because they have involved employers, which answers one of the criticisms from my hon. Friend. In fact, much of the work has been done not only with drug addicts themselves, but with employers. Persuading employers to break down stigma against drug addicts has been a part of the work of the people involved in progress2work in Aberdeen, as well as persuading them that there will be ongoing support.
One of the big problems for any hard-to-place group is that, often, in most of the other new deals, help ends after the 13 weeks, if it lasts that long. Once someone has been in employment for 13 weeks, it is regarded as a success. For most long-term unemployed people, that is fine because the statistics suggest that, once a person has been in work for 13 weeks, they will probably continue working for six months or a year, and that if that person loses their job, they will get back to work relatively quickly because they have a track record of work.
Aberdeen Foyer has been successful because it has been working with that client group for some time. It has had a number of them on the so-called life shaper programme. That has helped them to get ready to work. In answer to the point raised by my hon. Friend, we have an extensive methadone programme in the Grampian health region and the route from addiction to good health is through methadone. Large numbers of people are on methadone. Many young people, once they are established on the methadone programme, have come to Aberdeen Foyer, have been through the life shaper programme, which has not managed to get them into work. They have now graduated, if you like, to progress2work. It is progress2work that will finally identify suitable employment, get them into jobs and support them in doing so.
Aberdeen Foyer also works with the Prince's Trust. It is hopeful that, if it cannot find a job for a person at a particular time, it will be able to get them into one of the voluntary programmes run by the Prince's Trust. That would make them more likely to be able to get long-term employment, because they will have a track record of being in work and it will look much better on their CV if they have been involved in voluntary work.
It is worth pointing out that, until progress2work came along, there were no central Government-funded programmes specifically to help recovering and recovered drug addicts into work. There were local initiatives that were often starved of funds, that struggled against the prejudice that said "We might as well write these people off. There is no point in attempting to get them into work because who is going to employ them anyway?" I am very proud that this Government have changed that whole atmosphere, that we are not writing off anyone, whether they have a severe disability, are lone parents, have been out of work for years, or have been a drug addict or a criminal. As a Government, we now say that anyone, provided that they want tothat is crucialshould be given the support and help to get them into jobs.
That is a worth while and something that was brought home to me on 24 November, when I launched the progress2work in Aberdeen. I met the young people involved. One chap who had been in and out of prison most of his life, for the first time thought that he might be able to make a go of it. A young woman said that, 12 months before, she was in a black hole and that she could not see how she could ever get out of that black hole. The opportunity that she was given was the beginning of the rest of her life. Suddenly, there was a way out of the black hole. I became emotionally involved when I heard her stories. I felt uplifted that, for the first time, those young people had the prospect and hope that they would make a go of it, get a job, return to the life that the rest of us take for granted and be part of society.
I welcome the progress2work programme. It is still early days, but I hope that my hon. Friend will take it from me that lessons have been learned regarding many of the criticisms that he raised. I hopeI keep my fingers
Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) on securing this debate. As he knows, I spent a period of my life working in Bassetlaw. It is a nice part of the world and I am pleased to hear about the general success in employment. Sheffield is not doing as well, although the situation has improved over the past several years. It still relies on objective 1 money from Europe because it is an area of deprivation. I am concerned about the range of people who have been unable to benefit from the new jobs in the area. Those people might not have had the necessary skills for the job, they might have been long-term unemployed, or they might have had problems such as substance misuse. Therefore, the programme is extremely welcome.
In Sheffield, the programme is jointly run by Sheffield Futures, which is a careers guidance service, and Phoenix House, which is a long-established organisation for helping people with substance misuse problems and drug addiction. There is a high level of expertise in the labour market and in supporting people who are struggling to give up drugs and live a drug-free life. Phoenix House employs people to work directly with former drug users to help them back into work.
The scheme in Sheffield has been running since April 2002. The co-ordinator, David Lythall, told me that there was a slow initial take-up of the programme, which is expected with such schemes. However, establishing the fundamental basis of the programme was important for making connections with the number of agencies involved, for example the criminal justice agencies and the treatment services. A good fundamental working network emerged between the programme and those groups already working in the area. I worked in the social care sector for many years and was concerned that people with problems would need to carry a filofax, or the electronic equivalent, to store the details of all the people and agencies with which they were in contact. Establishing co-ordination of support among those groups can be difficult. The progress2work organisation in Sheffield deals with and receives referrals from 22 agencies. The complexity of the sector is clear.
There has been a large drop-out rate in Sheffield. It is important to examine whether that is to be expected. Having decided to come off drugs and establish a life in the community, many drug users hope that something will happen quickly. However, the reality is that arranging everything that needs to be in place to enable them to get into worknot just any work but a job that meets their desires and needs and that they can sustain over a perioddoes not necessarily happen very quickly. As with many programmes for drug users to get over and work through drug addiction, there must be a recognition that people sometimes need to do it several times before they get to the stage where they can be reintegrated into society fully, go to work and maintain relationships in the same way as the rest of the population.
The service's approach is to work through the barriers that stop people on the programme from getting into work. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) said, there are clear differences between programmes. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw said that it is necessary to deal with health first, then housing and then work. That is exactly the approach that is taken in Sheffield. The issues around health, stabilisation and treatment programmes are dealt with before accommodation and, finally, work, but at the same time consideration is given to whether people are getting the right benefits and support to enable them to live in the community.
There is a recognition that it may take as many as six months from the time a person first enters the programme until they get into work. Someone who comes out of prison and is drug free at that time may find that that can happen much more quickly, but there are success stories about those who have gone through a longer process. In addition to getting people into work, we must also take into account that some people need to build skills and that perhaps going into further education, whether part time or full time, and gaining skills and qualifications would be the right way.
Most people find that it takes some time to get through and that they might not make it the first time. Some people are much more motivated, but there are other barriers, which could be addressed in other ways. An issue that was raised by my project in Sheffield was the difficulty with some of the eligibility criteria for various programmes. For example, one can access the new deal only if one is on jobseeker's allowance. If one has been a drug user and has been on incapacity benefit, perhaps for a long time, the idea of losing that safety net to move to the jobseeker's allowance before going into a programme may be very scary and difficult. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether the Department could give consideration to these schemes and to whether there could be some flexibility on the eligibility for work programmes, rather than always having strict criteria that mean that one has to be on jobseeker's allowance to access them.
In terms of moving into employment, it has been interesting to hear my hon. Friends the Members for Bassetlaw and for Aberdeen, South discuss whether there has been access to employers. The view in Sheffield is that giving people a progress2work label might not be helpful because of what it means and because of fears about drug users and former drug users, as well as people with a criminal record. At the moment, nothing has been done to build links with employers.
The other key lesson that I want pull out of both this debate and my discussions is that the different approaches across the country may cause some of the problems. Although there is always a benefit to allowing different schemes to develop in different areas in different ways, the important step is allowing people to learn from good practice in other areas. I understand that regional co-ordinators have meetings at the national level to share information, and that that must be done formally, so that issues can be picked up.
I want to discuss the co-ordinator role, which is performed by a member of staff at Jobcentre Plus in Sheffield. It is important that it is within Jobcentre Plus and that someone on the drug alcohol action team performs itmy hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw raised that issue. That strong link means that all the work done within the area by the drug alcohol action team is linked to the progress2work scheme. I welcome the implementation of the programme, but lessons can be learned from across the country and there is scope to examine how it works and to improve it.
I should like to see schemes expanded to meet the full need in an area. In my area, it is clear that the scheme will overshoot expectations. Two workers deliver the programme at a cost of about £750 per service user, which is good. A lot of work has been done, and it could be built on further to improve the programme.
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near".
My constituency currently has an unemployment claimant level of only 5.4 per cent.most people would be shocked to hear that the unemployment level in the Rhondda is only 5.4 per cent. Unemployment in the Rhondda has halved since 1997. Only 1,103 people in the Rhondda are actively seeking work, which is a 44 per cent. fall since 1997. In case the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) is working out the mathematicsit does not sound as though the figures add upmany of us in the Rhondda are getting older, and fewer people are of working age.
We still have a dramatic problem with the number of people who live lives of benefit. The number of people claiming disability living allowance in my constituency has risen by 25 per cent. since 1997. The number of people on incapacity benefit has fallen by 25 per cent. The overall figure is coming down, but that still means that roughly 30 per cent. of working age people in my constituency are on incapacity benefit, which is a significant problem. If the first challenge for the socialist Labour Government was to tackle the scourge of unemployment, the second challenge must be to give people a better opportunity than a permanent life on benefit. That is why the issues that we are discussing todaythe tough end of trying to enable people to get into workare an essential part of a Labour Government's job.
Employers' perceptions are also a problem. Those perceptions relate not just to those with drug and alcohol problems but to those who have been in prison. It may be that only 14 per cent. of employers in the UK say that, whatever the offence that somebody has committed, they would not employ that person, but the problem is worse locally, where many employers are nervous about employing people with a criminal record in a community that is tightly knit, where everybody knows everybody and where people cannot get away with pretending not to know someone's past.
The challenge is significant. First, we should help those who know that a life on benefits is not the fullest possible life, and, secondly, we should help the most difficult people to helpthose are the people that progress2work is aimed at. I am talking about people with drug and alcohol problems, the homeless and those who have a criminal record. Helping those people involves joined-up thinkingI hate to use new Labour jargon. That is important if we are to achieve any outcome for any of the individuals or families that we are talking about.
Historically, it has been difficult to get the joined-up thinking that we need in Wales. Devolution has made it somewhat more difficult because we have to get the Welsh Assembly's health priorities to match the UK-wide health priorities, and the probation service to work with the local authority. Different cycles and sources of funding have made things significantly more difficult.
There is also the problem that 35 to 40 per cent. of GPs in the Rhondda are likely to retire in the next five to six years. That is a dramatic issue. Should we be training more GPs now to ensure that they have the skills to deal with drug and alcohol dependency, or should we be trying to ensure that we get new GPs coming to work in the valleys who already have the skills to deal with the challenges of the future?
Essential to any likely success in the programmeours has been running for more than 18 monthsis the idea of treating people as individuals rather than as numbers and statistics. I visited the Jobcentre Plus in Tonypandyor Ikealand as it is known by many of my constituentsjust before Christmas. Not only the change in lay-out of the building, but the change in mentality that has been brought about by taking down the screens and creating a secure environment in a different way has radically transformed people's experience of the service. It does not feel like going into a fortress anymore. When people go into the Jobcentre Plus, it feels like someone might be interested in them, their skills and abilities, and how to get them the opportunity of work. Binding together the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency has been an absolutely positive experience.
In that context, the work of TEDSTEDS has the local contract; it used to be known as Taff Ely drug services, but it cleverly changed its name to treatment and education drug services, so that it could cover more than Taff Ely, which is just part of the areamust fit integrally into the broader job of trying to give more people work opportunities. Contrary to the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw, we have had 120 people use the service so far, and 76 of them have had positive outcomes of some kind.
Chris Bryant : I am sorry, but I am going from the statistics that I have. Some 76 people have had positive outcomes of some kind. My hon. Friend may think that the only kind of positive outcome is sustainable work. There are five people who have gone into sustainable work. However, as he said, we shall often be dealing with people who have very chaotic lifestyles who need to go in and out[Interruption.] I note what you are signifying to me, Mr. Cook.
I make the simple point that one of the biggest difficulties we shall always face is not that of providing more drug treatment services but that of housing. Many of those with drug dependency problems are going into wholly inappropriate housing either because the local community is unable to cope with them or because the houses are uninhabitable due to the fact that an unscrupulous landlord has not made them habitable. Until we solve that problem, we will be unable to make the radical changes we still need to make in this area.
Paul Holmes (Chesterfield) (LD): I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) on securing the debate. There are two general background issues that should be considered before we consider progress2work. One is how we perceive the drug problem as a whole. Unlike alcohol or nicotine, for a long time, drug addiction has been seen as a crime rather than an illness, especially from the 1970s onwards, when GPs were prevented from prescribing heroin to addicts. There has been some improvement in that attitude, and all credit to the current Government for taking some steps in that direction. I shall return to that point later.
There is also the question of the new deal framework, within which progress2work is one of many different schemes. One of the many criticisms of the new deal is that it has primarily dealt with the easy to place. Many reportsfrom the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and internal research at the Department for Work and Pensionshave indicated that many of those who have got jobs under the new deal would have got those jobs anyway during a 10-year period of constant economic growth. New deal resources have also been dissipated in the blanket interviews that were introduced for invalidity benefit claimants and single parents.
The new deal has been criticised for ignoring the hard to place, such as disabled people, although the Shaw Trust is doing work for the Department with difficult-to-place disabled people. Now, we have progress2work, which is a step in the right direction
Paul Holmes : I thank the Minister for the specific correction. Most people would see progress2work as working in the framework of the new deal. It is interlinked with Jobcentre Plus and the programmes it offers. If it is not a new deal programme, may I suggest that the Government make it a flagship of a new new deal, if they move on from the blanket new deal approach, which most reports indicate is of little practical use.
Progress2work is a step in the right direction. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw said that but, as he noted, it is a limited step in the right direction. It concentrates on those whose drug problem is, to a large extent, solved. The problems of people at the end of the cycle of drug addiction, offences, imprisonment, rehabilitation and detoxification are not so severe. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw described eloquently the difference between chaotic and non-chaotic lifestyles among former drug addicts.
My constituency of Chesterfield has a great deal in common with Bassetlaw. The town was largely built upon mining, associated engineering and a small amount of associated steel and chemical industry, almost all of which have been completely wiped out during the last two decades. As in Bassetlaw, unemployment is no longer the massive problem that it was in the early 1990s, when the pits were closed overnight, or during the 1980s, but it is still higher than the national average.
The problems of drug use in a community such as Chesterfield are found in every community in every part of the town. Similarly, they are found in public schools such as Eton, and in inner-city schools. Drug problems are not confined to one part of the community, but they are at their most intense in areas of traditional social and economic deprivation. During the 1980s and 1990s, those areas were devastated by mass unemployment. The medical focus on drug addiction emphasises the illness and the detox approach mentioned by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, who referred favourably to the approach in other countries.
A social model of drug addiction would consider matters rather differently. For example, a survey said that 70 per cent. of US servicemen took heroin while they were in Vietnam, but on returning to America and a more stable lifestyle, only 3 per cent. continued taking it. One social condition led to massive drug use in one set of circumstances. Under another social condition, there was almost no drug use later. Similarly, around 1979 to 1983, the number of known registered drug addicts in the UK trebled. That happened when unemployment doubled from 1.5 million to 3 million. The social model of drug addiction based on those statistics would regard the problem as much more than just a medical illness and addiction.
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw spent a lot of time talking about how a certain frame of mind and attitude among communities in Bassetlaw or parts of Chesterfield must be broken. Those communities may no longer have the mass unemployment that triggered the problem in the 1980s and 1990s, but there is still a frame of mind in which there is peer pressure on people, and a loop of drug addiction.
Progress2work in Derbyshire is run by Phoenix Enterprises, which has a number of offices. I had the pleasure of opening its first Derbyshire office in Chesterfield before progress2work was introduced. At that time, Phoenix Enterprises told me that one of the problems of the new deal programmes it was administering was that it could not deal with the most difficult people, such as those with a drug problem. Phoenix argued that because it was a not-for-profit company, it had money of its own that it could recycle, which was not going into profit and, as far back as 2001, it was using its own funds to top up new deal money to send people to private drug rehabilitation programmes before even trying to get them into employment. Such people would normally not have been dealt with.
Andy Ellis is the operations manager for Phoenix Enterprises in Derbyshire. He is a great enthusiast for the progress2work scheme. He says that, from June 2003, when Phoenix Enterprises started in Derbyshire, to December, 116 people started the programme. The success rates have been high compared with some of the examples we have heard from other hon. Members. For example, there is a success rate of about 89 per cent. Some 42 of those 116 people have gone into permanent full-time employment, 32 have gone into full-time further or higher education courses, and 22 are on mainstream Jobcentre Plus training programmes.
Andy Ellis's Derbyshire scheme is the fourth most successful of the 44 second phase progress2work schemes, and the 11th most successful of the 75 first and second phase schemes. That is a good example for the Minister to consider. He visited the Phoenix offices in Derby at the start of the scheme. I invite him to visit the Chesterfield offices now that the scheme is under way and well proven after six or seven months.
Another success story that Andy quotes is an anonymous one from Derby. An ex-offender who had been in jail due to his drug use and associated crimes went on to do a NVQ level 3 in cookery. The course ran in the evening and he still had an electronic tag, so he could not attend. At that point, he would normally have gone back into the community and ended up reoffending. However, the progress2work scheme found him a placement in a restaurant, which turned into a full-time job, and got him a day off for college in the daytime. The scheme was able to tap into the discretionary fund and bought him a chef's uniform and a set of knives to enable him to start his full-time job.
There are other success stories. For example, the scheme has provided people with deposits for a flat, so that they can move away from the peer group pressure of their former friends and neighboursthe people they grew up withwho are trying to get them back into drugs after they have come off them. Then those people can start a new lifestyle and move back into work.
Andy Ellis is a great advocate of progress2work. He has, however, pointed out some problems. Many people have multiple issues, including debt, homelessness, health and all sorts of problems, about which we have heard from hon. Members. Andy believes that those problems should be dealt with in a one-stop programme, rather than having to refer people to other programmes
Some drug agencies in Derbyshire will categorically not refer people to the progress2work scheme. Primarily, that is due to funding. If the targets are funding led and a successful outcome means that the funding goes to, say, progress2work Phoenix Enterprises, the drug agency that had the initial referral will lose the funding. Andy Ellis suggests that drug advisory teams, for example, need to introduce referral targets and instructions to work in partnership as part of the allocation of money and contracts.
I come now to funding. Andy Ellis has five outreach workers in Derbyshire and says that, at present, he could easily use 10 outreach workers to their full capacity. Again, that may be a step in the right direction. However, as the Minister said earlier, perhaps the argument is that we do not need more of the same. The praise for, and the problems of, the schemes were reflected throughout the country by those who run them. For example, Working Links, which operates several schemes in the south of England, echoed in particular the first point made by Andy Ellis about the multiple issues faced by clients and the problems of having to refer people to different agencies and groups. He said that a one-stop shop approach, such as that in employment zones, would be a much better way in which to deal with such issues.
Another difficulty is that Jobcentre Plus managers in different parts of the country interpret the rules or flexibility of the schemes differently. In Derbyshire, the managers work extremely well with progress2work. For example, when someone with a drug problem and a chaotic lifestyle has had to drop out of a training course for a while, Jobcentre Plus in Derbyshire has waived the imposition of sanctions. I have been told that Jobcentre Plus managers in other parts of the country are not always so liberal in their interpretation of the rules concerning the imposition of sanctions.
My conclusions are that progress2work is a welcome initiative. As the Minister said, perhaps the call is for more, but not more of the same. When interpreting the way in which regulations are applied, more flexibility is needed from Jobcentre Plus managers throughout the country. A one-stop advisory approach needs to be introduced as opposed to multiple advisors or agencies. To return to the case put by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, more intervention is needed with chronic cases, not just the cases of those who have already reached the end of the process and are mainly rehabilitated already.
Ultimately, the scheme needs more money. Where would that come from? The Treasury has a case to look at. For example, to keep the 25,000 extra people in our overcrowded prisons costs £3.5 million a year, which is £35,000 per inmate. Many inmates have been sent to prison for burglary, petty theft and car crime associated with obtaining the money to feed their drug habit. If they do not have work and a settled lifestyle, they will reoffend and be sent back to prison. Andy Ellis receives only £375 per client compared with the £35,000 that it costs to lock up a person. The redistribution of that money would be an obvious way in which to tackle such a major social problem.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con): This has been an interesting debate. I know that we are always supposed to say that. In fact, since I became a Member of the House, every hon. Member who I have heard wind up a discussion has begun by saying the debate has been interesting. However, I mean that particularly in respect of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). When I have heard him speak in the main Chamber, he has spoken with extraordinary passion and knowledge about the problems of drug addiction in his constituency. He has done so again today. In many ways, he is a model of how, if a person has enormous knowledge about a specific subject, that person can speak with great authority in Parliament. Having heard him speak before, I have certainly taken such a lesson from him and, having listened to him today, I have taken it again. I cannot add to his criticisms of the progress2work scheme and suggestions for its improvement because I do not have the same in-depth knowledge.
On behalf of the Conservative party, the official Opposition, I say that, despite the occasional sniping from some who have spoken today, we genuinely want the progress2work scheme to work. Naturally, we believe that there is great purpose in trying to put people with a history of drug addiction back into employment. Not only is that good for the country, because we all know the horrendous cost of drug addition to our society, but it is good for the individuals concerned. Every available piece of evidencethe statistical and personal evidence that we have from our constituencies and personal livesis that the best way to help drug addicts out of addiction after they have received rehabilitation treatment is to try to get them into permanent housing and employment, and bring them back to the mainstream of society. We all want to achieve that.
As Members of Parliament who are here to hold the Executive to account, we should question whether the money being spent on progress2work is money well spent. Could it be better spent on different kinds of schemes and could the scheme be improved? We are talking about considerable sums of money. The Government invested £40 million in the first three years of progress2work and have committed themselves to an annual ongoing cost of around £20 million for the scheme. We are talking about large sums of money that have the capacity to do real good.
In my remaining five minutes, I should like to ask the Minister some specific questions and to pick up on some of the points made by hon. Members. First, what record does progress2work have in placing people into sustained employment? The hon. Member for Bassetlaw called it a poor record. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) conceded that the scheme had been up and running for only a month in her constituency. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Munn) conceded that there was a slow take-up and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) said that only five of his constituents had found sustained employment. What is the national record? The written answer that the Minister gave to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw in
Chris Bryant : It was not a first and will not be a last. Although only five people went into sustained employment, 21 have gone into other jobs. Moreover, 23 people in the Rhondda have gone into other training and educational opportunities.
Mr. Osborne : I accept that there may be other outcomes from the progress2work scheme, but its principal purpose is to put people into sustained employment. I merely ask the Minister to tell us the current record of progress2work.
My second question is: what is that as a proportion of the total number of people who have been in a progress2work scheme? Can the Minister confirm that there are targets? Mike Stuart of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, which was involved in setting up progress2work and monitoring it, said that there was an initial target of 33 per cent. of people progressing into these jobs. That is not being achieved at the moment. I should be interested to know whether there are targets, even if they are not being achieved.
Thirdly, why does the Minister think that there is such a variation between the different districts? Hon. Members talked about the areas that they represent but it is striking that, in Plymouth, the scheme managed to get 70 people into jobs, in Glasgow, north, it managed to get 55 people into jobs and in other areas such as north Birmingham, Newcastle and Tayside, the numbers are five or fewer. Nothing is obviously different about those places, so why is there a variation? What is the Minister doing to monitor the difference in success rate, so that he can identify what works and what does not?
Fourthly, does the Minister think that there needs to be earlier involvement in the rehabilitation process by progress2work? John Hollis-Davis, chief executive of the Social Partnership in Liverpool, clearly believes that progress2work did not get involved early enough. He calls it an
He argues that it is simply an add-on at the end rather than being fully embedded in the system. What is the Minister doing to tackle a problem that all hon. Members have raised: the involvement of employers and persuading larger employers to engage with the scheme?
My fifth question concerns "joined-upness"that is probably not a word. How is progress2work working with other schemes? The hon. Member for Bassetlaw gave the example of the DAAT in his having £540,000 to put people into jobs. How is that working with progress2work? There seems to be no joined-up thinking.
I find it difficult to add to the very powerful speech made by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw. We all want recovering drug addicts to be helped into full-time employment, but is progress2work working as well as the Minister hopes, and what can be done to improve it?
The Minister for Work (Mr. Desmond Browne) : I add my congratulations to those of other hon. Members to my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) on securing a debate on this important subject. I have listened carefully to the points made by him and other hon. Members. I shall try to come to them individually, and in the inadequate time left to address them as best I can. A frustration of this welcome additional debating Chamber is that issues often generate questions that the Minister is left with insufficient time to answer. I shall, however, do my best.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw is to be congratulated not only on securing the debate but on his commitment to the issue of drug abuse in his constituency and on the work that he has done consistently since he has been a Member of this House. He may have been involved in such work before he was elected. That includes the helpful work that resulted in the Bassetlaw heroin inquiry report. One of the recommendations of that report to my Department was to roll out progress2work in other parts of his constituency. He says that his experience is relevant to his constituency but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) said, it is reflected in constituencies across the country where there are, unfortunately, significant numbers of people suffering from class A addiction problems. That is why my Department has developed a special programme for former class A drug abusers. In my Department, we refer to those facing the greatest barriers to work as the hardest to help.
It is undoubtedly true that those who are addicted to class A drugs are among the hardest of the hardest to help. I make that point because, when Parliament makes not only the Government but those whom we charge with the responsibility of delivering programmes accountable for expenditure of public money, and when we assess whether their programmes are a success, we must realise what challenges the customersdrug abuserspresent. I welcome the fact that the programmes appear to be welcomed across the House. Those customers have to overcome multi-faceted barriers because, quite often, drug addiction is only one part of a very chaotic and difficult lifestyle. It must be dealt with in many different ways.
I accept that the Government must become better at joining up those resources and the programmes for class A drug abusers, so that they work together to best effect. I cannot always promise that Department for Work and Pensions programmes can provide, for people who want
Underlying some of the constructive criticism from my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw and from the hon. Members for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) and for Chesterfield (Paul Holmes) was a sense that this labour market programme was under-performing. As the Minister with responsibility for the programme, I say to them that that is far from the conclusion that I have drawn. I shall seek to address the performance issues in the way in which the hon. Member for Tatton asked me to do, by giving the House the figures that he asked for. I believe those figures to be impressive, and I shall explain why.
I believe that I shared the figures with my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw in a letter that I sent to him, following a recent conversation that we had. The national figures for progress2work show that, to date, 6,736 people have started the programme. Of those, 1,215 people have moved into jobs, 333 of which are described as sustained jobs. The Department defines a "sustained" job as one that a person has sustained for 13 weeks or more.
Those figures must be considered against the background that progress2work is being phased in. At present, we are in the third stage of progress2work, the first stage having gone live in October 2002, the second in July 2003 and the third in October 2003. I shall not do the mathematics for the hon. Member for Tatton by telling him what percentage 1,215 is of 6,736he can do that for himself. Equally, I do not have to do the arithmetic for him on how long someone needs to have been in work from October 2003 for them to be considered as having a sustained job.
We need to apply a degree of common sense to the matter. We are dealing with people who are among the hardest to help, and so getting them into a programme and maintaining them in that programme is an achievement. That is why the programme is called progress2work. Although the focus in our Department is consistently on the outcomes of jobsrightly so, because that is our businesswe recognise that, with that particular client group, progress to work, as well as the outcome of jobs, is a measure of success.
It is for Parliament to decide whether that level of progress to work is consistent with the expectations of the programme when it was designed. However, the progress achieved to date is still among the best of the international comparators. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw undertook to write to me about where there were programmes that were giving better
Before coming to the House today, I commissioned some research on other countries that have attempted to deal with that particular client group. I discovered that, around the world, most programmes are small and some are time limited, unlike progress2work. Very few of the programmes have good quality follow-ups and the client groups' problems are of varying severity. However, I shall share with hon. Members some of the measures of success. For example, in Bielefeld, Germany, five out of 74 people obtained paid work through a programme that was specifically designed for class A drug users. In the Integra scheme in Ireland, the figure was 20 out of 71. In New Zealand, in a programme working with Maori youth, who were much harder to help than those just facing class A drug addiction problems because of additional problems related to ethnic issues, one person out of the 235 referred to the programme obtained work after three months. On a programme in the USA that worked with women, 41 per cent. of the 366 who enrolled obtained at least part-time work.