Lib Dem conference: Lloyd’s anger over disabled people failed by Work Programme


theweeksubThe government’s failure to devise a strategy to cope with disabled people and others who have been failed by the Work Programme has left a disabled MP so angry he wants to “chuck someone through a window”.

Stephen Lloyd, the MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, said his constituency was now starting to see cases of people who were still jobless after finishing their two years on the government’s new Work Programme, which was launched in June 2011.

Many had been out of work for 15 years or longer, or had mental health conditions, or were disabled people with other high support needs.

He said he was finding people who during those two years had only had one face-to-face meeting with a Work Programme adviser, with the remaining contact all by telephone.

He said: “I am absolutely furious. I want to chuck someone through a window.”

He said he had raised the issue with the Conservative work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and civil servants at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but had been told the government’s Jobcentre Plus was dealing with the problem, which he said was “rubbish” and “nonsense”.

He said the same issue was occurring in every constituency.

He said: “There is no proper, costed, coordinated, focused budget for Jobcentre Pluses to help these ‘two-year returns’, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”

Early next month, he will be meeting with training providers, the council, and local college and Work Programme providers to ask them: “Right, these are our friends, these are our neighbours, what are we going to do as a town to help them?

“I think the most productive way to break the cycle for people who have been out of work for a long period of time is work experience. That way you get back into the groove and get back into the normality of nine to five.”

He wants to launch a campaign in Eastbourne to “go out to the town, shoulder to shoulder” with the training companies, colleges and Jobcentre Plus, and call on the town to find “100 work experiences in 100 days for this particular group”.

He points to a similar scheme he launched in the town after the last election, in which he spearheaded a challenge to find 100 apprenticeships for 100 local people, which was so successful that they ended up with 181.

He said he was hugely proud that unemployment in the town was now just 3.9 per cent, having fallen from 5.1 per cent two years ago, which he said was due to “sheer heavy lifting and work and focus and getting everyone in the tent from the council, from the training college, from the employers, and getting a whole sense of: ‘These are our people, we have got to do some work’”.

18 September 2013