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On conditionality, I am advised that the sanctions were present in the 2005 regulations; nothing new has been introduced. The noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, asked about the cost of the pilot last year and the estimate for the current year. The main cost comprises the cost of the courses. The costs to date are of the order of £3.5 million. Interviews are taking place with Jobcentre Plus staff and there will be more intensive interviews, but the cost of the courses is a significant component of the costs.

Both noble Lords asked for an update on how things are going to date. I am afraid that I shall disappoint them. The evaluation is under way, but it is important to base it on the entire two years of the pilot. Therefore, it has not been published yet but I can make some general comments on the courses. I believe I have already said that participants are pleased and encouraged by some components of the courses and appreciate that they help them to move closer to the job market. Work done on the courses suggests that some are more personalised and focused on individual circumstances while others are a bit generic. However, there are different providers in different pilot areas and the courses are not the same

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in each pilot area, as they have been contracted separately. There is an issue about sharing good practice from all that. That will be in the evaluation so that we can take forward what we learn from that.

I am conscious that I may not have given the detail noble Lords seek. However, it is right to consider the matter at the end of the two-year period because the pilot is continuing.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: Can the noble Lord tell us how many people have been through these courses so far? He may have done so, but, if he did, I did not hear him.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Yes, I have the figure for that and if I talk for long enough it will appear. If it has not by the time we finish this exchange, I shall certainly provide it before we conclude our proceedings today. The number of people who have gone through courses is just over 16,000 to date. That is a not inconsiderable number of people and it is an important indication.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: I thank the noble Lord for that figure. I should have thought that was a sufficient number to enable you to do at least a preliminary assessment rather than waiting for another year.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: An evaluation has been started and is continuing across each of the pilots. It seems fair to wait until the 24 months are concluded so that we can get an overall view of how the measure has worked. I refer not only to the value of the courses but outcomes in getting people back into the labour market. I shall discuss the matter with officials and if they can say something a little more definitive on where we are to date on that I shall be happy to write to the noble Lord. However, I cannot undertake to do that without checking with them first, simply because I believe that the information we have comprises fairly raw interim data.

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Lord Skelmersdale: Perhaps the Minister is unable to undertake to do that, but perhaps he can undertake to consider very seriously whether an order parallel to this is laid next year without any evaluation.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: If we wanted to continue this for a third year without evaluation, my understanding is that there is no plan to do that. This was envisaged as a two-year pilot to start with, and it had to be done through two separate processes. My noble friend Lord Hunt made it clear a year ago that 24 months was what was originally envisaged. We do not envisage running it on. It is absolutely right that there should be a proper evaluation and that the feedback from that be made available to noble Lords.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, asked about varying time periods. Eighteen months is the current situation generally for the New Deal for those aged 25 or over, and that is the point at which the conditionality

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in the extra support goes in. Freud had a range of recommendations, and I cannot do more than reiterate what we already said when we discussed that, which is that the Government welcome the broad thrust of what Freud says and have committed to comment in detail on it. We said we would respond within the course of this year. I cannot give a more detailed timetable than that, but this is something with which the Government are actively engaged.

The particular focus on a six-month start for these pilots is to recognise that a lot of people go out of JSA in the first six months; they find their way back into work without the sort of support and engagement that these pilots envisage. This looks at whether an intervention at that point for this group of claimants, rather than the longer 18-month period, can throw up benefits that indicate that we can get people back into the job market quicker and help their aspirations in doing so. That is why there are different timescales. Freud is part of an important wider debate, and there will be feedback on that in due course.

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The issue of the one-week sanction was in last year’s regulations. Hardship payments are available to those in need if a sanction is levied and they would otherwise be without resources, so there is a safety net.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: I thank the Minister for that. I am sorry if I misunderstood. So the one-week benefit sanction has already been in effect over the past year? How many people have been sanctioned under it?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The sanction has been there since the start. I am advised that 111 people have been sanctioned to date. If there are no further points, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Ullswater): That completes the business before the Grand Committee. The Committee stands adjourned.

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