Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall has vowed to scrap the government’s hated Work Programme, if she becomes the next party leader.
Criticising the controversial back to work scheme, dubbed ‘workfare by its opponents, Ms Kendall branded the Work Programme a “failed experiment in welfare privatisation”.
Local authorities would be granted new powers to help the long-term unemployed into work. This may include allowing councils to hire (contract) local employment support providers.
Employment support could be specially tailored to better meet the needs of jobseekers and the skills requirements of local businesses. However, it remains unclear as to how it would be funded.
Ms Kendall is expected to make the pledge as part of a speech, where she will argue that councils are best placed to spread wealth and opportunity at a local level.
Ms Kendall said: “I believe Britain is great, and can be even greater still if we tackle the long-term, structural weaknesses in our economy, so everyone achieves their potential and every part of the country shares in our future success.
“Our great cities should not have to wait for Westminster to address housing shortages or fill skills gaps.
“They shouldn’t be stuck with national programmes, like the Work Programme, when they can do better themselves.
“And they shouldn’t have to look to central government for almost all of their funding.”
Ms Kendall is one of four MPs contesting the Labour leadership and if often regarded as being on the right of the party. The other contenders are the favourite Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and the outspoken left-winger Jeremy Corbyn – favoured by many Welfare Weekly readers.
Despite improvements in recent years, the Work Programme is still failing to help a majority of participants into work, with as many as 70% returning to Job Centres after completing the scheme.
And DWP figures also show that less than 9% of sick and disabled people find work lasting at least three months.
Responding to the figures published earlier this month, Labour MP Kate Green said the “Tories’ Work Programme is failing people who want to find a job and earn a living”.
Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager from the mental health charity Mind, added: “It’s hugely concerning that the Work Programme is still failing to support people with mental health problems into jobs.
“On top of this inappropriate support, many people find the constant threat of benefit sanctions is making them feel more unwell and less able to work.”
“We support the Government’s aspiration of helping more people with mental health problems to find work, but the current approach needs completely overhauling if it is to provide appropriate and effective support.
“People on ESA should be taken off the Work Programme and moved onto specialist, personalised and local schemes.”
“We already know of schemes, such as WorkPlace Leeds, delivered by Leeds Mind, which cost much less than the Work Programme and achieve far better outcomes, with 32% of people with severe and enduring mental health problems gaining paid employment.”