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Chris Grayling: Work Clubs scheme will help unemployed back to work

Britain today has five million people claiming out of work benefits. One in five households is entirely dependent on benefits, with no one working.

Nearly a million people of working age have never worked. It is nothing short of a national scandal. It's a problem that remained almost untouched under the last Government, for year after year after year. 

It's a problem made worse by the recession, and by Gordon Brown's ill-thought out management of our economy. 

It's a problem that we have inherited, and that we have to solve.
 
One of the most familiar Labour refrains has always been that we don't care about unemployment.
 
Well let them remember that they left office with more people out of work than when they first entered Government.
 
That they left office with more young people not in education, employment or training than there were in 1997 when they came to power.
 
That billions and billions of pounds were spent on failed programmes.
 
And at the end of it all, their legacy is a culture of welfare dependency and deprivation in communities up and down this country.
 
It is a record they should be ashamed of.
 
And there's a real human cost of that failure. Have a listen to this.....
 
Vox pops video insert.
 
And do you know the biggest failure of all.
 
Go into every town or city centre up and down the country and you will find enterprising people from overseas who have managed to find jobs.
 
And we still have five million people here on out of work benefits.
 
It's just madness.
 
That's why welfare reform is right at the top of the coalition agenda.
 
And it's why we absolutely have to change things.
 
But we're also dealing with the aftermath of the recession.
 
And the challenge of getting those who have lost their jobs in the last few months back into the workplace. 
 
So what I am going to do in this session is to walk you through our plans to Get Britain Working again.
 
I'm going to start by talking about the problems caused by the recession.
 
And I'm going to touch on the areas in which we are working to step up the support we offer to newer jobseekers.
 
And then I'm going to go on to talk about our bigger plans for welfare reform, and particularly the Work Programme. You've heard a lot this week about our plan for a Universal Credit to make work pay. The Work Programme is our other key reform - and it starts next year. More on that later.
 
But first - how we help the newly unemployed, and those young people who have emerged from education into a tough job market in recent months.
 
The first thing to realise is that Government shouldn't try to do everything itself.
 
We need to harness the skills, the resources and expertise of individuals, of businesses, of the voluntary sector, as well as of experienced professionals in national and local government.
 
So our Get Britain Working programme will be a rallying call to people who can get involved and make a difference.
 
To those out of work, who can work together to help each other.
 
To those in work, who can offer advice and guidance to those who are not.
 
To those who have built businesses and can help those who want to.
 
To those running companies and to Britain's sole traders and small businesses to offer that initial work experience that can transform someone's prospects.
 
All working together to help tackle unemployment.
 
Actually we started some of this when we were in opposition.
 
One of the things that people looking for work tell me regularly is that it can be a pretty lonely business. That it's much easier if you have people to work with, to talk to, to share experiences with.
 
So through our social action programme, many of our candidates and MPs helped build a network of job clubs and work clubs around the country. All designed to provide precisely that opportunity - for jobseekers to work together and help each other. Yesterday we heard from Chris Skidmore, who did such a brilliant job of winning Kingswood at the election, about the club that he has been involved in setting up there.
 
We are now planning to bring that experience to Government.
 
Not to do it ourselves.
 
But to help local communities do it for themselves. Providing the financial support to get Work Clubs off the ground. And helping to encourage the partnerships that will make them work.
 
The first of those new Work Clubs launches today. With the help of a group of employers, spearheaded by ASDA, a new club is being launched in Questlett just down the road here in the West Midlands. There'll be many more in the months ahead.
 
One of the pathfinder clubs which we helped set up in opposition was in Banbury. Let's take a look at what's been done there.
 
Work Club video
 
Well the man who was the original architect of the Banbury Job Club is my colleague, the local MP, Tony Baldry. Will you please welcome him to the stage - as well as one of the people who have found work through the Club.
 
Baldry interview
 
Work Clubs are one example of the way in which local communities, employers and the voluntary sector can help unemployed people. But there's another important role that the voluntary sector can play as well.
 
That's through providing the unemployed with the opportunity to spend some of their time volunteering while they are looking for work, as a way of developing new skills that can really help when it comes to looking for a job.
 
We're going to launch a real drive to encourage the unemployed to look at volunteering as an option. We'll publicise volunteering opportunities on the JobCentre Plus website. And advisers will proactively promote volunteering to people while they are looking to work.
 
Why does this matter? What kind of difference can it make?
 
Well, my colleague Andrew Selous, who is our Parliamentary Private Secretary, went to visit one charity to find out.
 
Addaction video
 
One of the big barriers for young people after school and college is a lack of experience to offer a potential employer. It's that old vicious circle - no experience, no job. No job, no experience.
 
Soon after I was appointed I had a letter from the mother of an unemployed teenager who told me her daughter had arranged unpaid work experience for herself, but the JobCentre Plus rules had stopped her from doing it while she was claiming JSA.
 
We're going to change all that.
 
I want every young unemployed person to have the chance to get a good work experience opportunity, to take those first steps in the workplace. Not to have a system that stands in their way.
 
It goes without saying that we'll change the rules that stopped that young woman.
 
But we'll go further than that. My team in JobCentre Plus will go out and actively seek work experience opportunities that they can offer the young people who they are helping.
 
I want to see businesses both large and small offering those precious first few steps in the workplace.
 
Some big firms are doing this already. Marks and Spencer is one. They do it for a whole range of people looking for jobs.
 
Here are two examples of the difference it can make.
 
 
M&S video
 
 
Of course the best way to deal with unemployment is to build businesses and in doing so to create employment opportunities.
 
Just remember that Microsoft began in a garage. And Sony as a radio repair shop in a bombed ruined building.
 
You'll hear a lot this week about our plans to boost business and small businesses in particular.
 
I'm also the Minister responsible for Health and Safety rules that apply to small businesses. And you can be absolutely sure that, together with Lord Young, I will be doing everything I can to ease the huge burden that health and safety regulation places on our entrepreneurs.
 
But the voluntary sector has a huge role to play as well. And we're actively looking at the lessons we can learn from what they are doing to help people off benefits and into self-employment.
 
One organisation that already has extensive experience of mentoring new businesses is the Princes Trust. It's worked with literally thousands of young people to help them into self-employment.
 
I'm delighted that one of those entrepreneurs, Clifford Harding, is here today, together with the man who mentored him, Eric McBean.
 
And accompanying them onto the stage to join me for this discussion and then to be with me for the Question and Answer session about employment later is my colleague, the Minister for Small Business, Mark Prisk.
 
Princes Trust discussion
 
All of that is just a start.
 
Better support through JobCentre Plus, with the help of local communities, businesses and the voluntary sector.
 
Along with a real drive across the Government to create an environment where business can flourish and jobs are created.
 
But our welfare challenge is much bigger than this.
 
The big difference we really need to make is to end the culture of long-term welfare dependency that blights so many of our communities.
 
In each of the past three years, I've stood on this platform and talked to you about how we are going to bring about real change in those parts of our society that are broken.
 
And my colleagues and I in the Department of Work and Pensions are privileged to have the chance to begin the reforms that can make that difference.
 
Let me also say something about my boss Iain Duncan Smith.
 
I remember standing on this platform three years ago and telling all of you how important he has been to our Party's thinking on social reform.
 
Tomorrow you will hear his vision for change.
 
More than anyone in our Party, he has set out a path that will transform our society - and it is a privilege to be walking that path with him.
 
The Universal Credit that Iain will talk about tomorrow is a key part of making work pay.
 
But there are two other things that I'm planning which will help transform the welfare landscape.
 
The first is to do what Labour never did.
 
For year after year, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown simply abandoned the two and a half million people on incapacity benefit in Britain.
 
Nobody talked to them.
 
Nobody asked if there were better alternatives for them.
 
Nobody challenged them to find a new way to make more of their lives.
 
And no one double-checked to make sure they really needed those benefits.
 
From next week all that will change.
 
Starting on a small scale, and then from next April on a national scale, we will assess all of those claimants - except for those who are about to reach retirement age.
 
Each one will go through an independent medical assessment to see what their condition really is.
 
Those with the potential to work will be expected to do so.
 
Those who could work with extra support will receive it.
 
Those who cannot work will continue, and rightly so, to receive unconditional support.
 
And the minority who are playing the system will lose their benefits straight away.
 
By next spring we will be assessing 10,000 people per week. It will be one of the biggest programmes of its kind ever carried out.
 
I am simply not prepared to let a situation continue where we leave millions of our fellow citizens to live out their lives on benefits without ever asking whether there is a better alternative.
 
But that's just the start.
 
It's no good just assessing people.
 
That was the Labour way.
 
You actually have to do something with them afterwards.
 
And that's where the Work Programme comes in.
 
The Work Programme will be one of the biggest employment and back to work programmes in the world.
It will replace the haphazard mix of Labour schemes that cost billions and never worked.
 
And it will create a whole new world for benefit claimants.
 
No more sitting at home on benefits doing nothing.
 
No more excuses about it all being too difficult.
 
Remember that under Labour we had five million people on benefits.
 
And more than two million people managed to come to the UK from other countries and find jobs without difficulties.
 
No wonder we need change.
 
So from next spring we'll start to roll out the Work Programme around the country.
 
There'll be much better support for those on benefits to get them back into work.
 
It will be delivered by experienced organisations in the private and voluntary sectors
 
We'll give them the freedom to design the right programmes for claimants - not just to implement schemes designed in Whitehall.
 
But the quid pro quo for that will be that they work on a payment by results basis.
 
We'll only pay those organisations when they get welfare claimants back into work.
 
And help them stay there.
 
But this is a two way bargain.
 
We'll help people to get back on their feet again.
 
But if they refuse that support, then they will lose their benefits.
 
As simple as that.
 
So there'll be new rules setting out the conditions for receiving benefits. And clearer, simpler and tougher penalties for those who break them. 
 
Now I talked about the leadership that Iain Duncan Smith has given the Party over the social challenges we face.
 
I now want to introduce you to another of my colleagues - a man I worked with when he didn't even dream of becoming a politician.
 
He wrote a powerful report on welfare reform for Tony Blair.
 
He gave up on Labour and joined us.
 
And now he and I are working together on the Work Programme.
 
And he's here to join Mark and I to take your questions.
 
David Freud.

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