Category Archives: Work programme

My speech to Labour Party Conference in Brighton, 23rd September 2013

Conference – It’s a privilege to open this debate, a debate we approach with a passion and care.

That’s not a sign of weakness, that’s a sign of our strength.

We are so much stronger and our policy is so much better for the work of Unison’s Liz Snape, the TUC’s Kay Carberry, for the leaders of our ten biggest councils, to those from business and the third sector who’ve worked so hard on our youth jobs taskforce.

It’s stronger for the Labour councillors all over Britain who have helped us think radically about how we revolutionise the Tories’ failing back to work system.

It’s stronger for Sir Bert Massie, a pioneer of disability rights, for his taskforce, and for the hundreds of disability activists who have helped us think radically about how we make rights a reality for disabled people.

And it’s stronger for all our brilliant PPCs, fighting in key seats, who brought together residents to tell us how they want Labour to rebuild social security and a different kind of Britain.

And what sort of party would we be if we were not passionate about the stories we hear.

Like the woman I met with MS who told me how her carer, her teenage son, had lost all his support; it’s tough she said, for a boy to lose to that help when he knows his mum won’t get better.

Or the Remploy workers on a GMB picket line, fighting for work, who said to me: this isn’t just my job; this is my life.

Or the thousands of young people, I fight for in East Birmingham, hunting for work, who speak of the hundreds of CVs they send and never even get a reply – and still they keep going.

You know, there’s a Tory minister – and I’ll let you guess where he went to school – who tells us: our young people lack grit.

Well, let me tell you this: the young people fighting for work in East Birmingham have got a damn sight more grit than you need to get through Eton College.

Good people all over Britain hear these stories too.

And right now they’re asking themselves what kind of country are we becoming?

Once upon a time the Tories told us they cared: all those speeches in Easterhouse.

And people gave them the benefit of the doubt.

We were promised a Tory party that cared about the poor.

We were promised a welfare revolution.

We were promised we’re all in this together.

Three years on I tell you the jury is in.

A cost of living crisis.

A million young people out of work.

Long term unemployment at record highs.

Disabled people living in fear.

Child poverty rising.

Living standards hammered.

A promise that started in Easterhouse has ended with the spectacle of a Tory Minister, Michael Gove, blaming the poor for the temerity to turn up at a food bank.

He should be ashamed.

Three years on, I tell you the verdict is simple:

These Tories have let their prejudice destroy their policies.

And just as bad as the prejudice is the incompetence.

They say to err is human.

But if you want someone to really screw it up you send for Iain Duncan Smith.

And Conference that’s why we need to fire him.

But let me level with you, we won’t win power with a plan to roll back the clock.

To restore the status quo.

To ignore the calls for change.

The vast majority of people in this country believe the welfare state is one of our proudest creations.

It’s a mark of a civilised society.

But the vast majority don’t believe the system works for them or for modern times.

So let’s not be the defenders of the status quo, we must be the reformers now.

Today life is very different to the days of Beveridge.

The job for life is gone.

If you’re without a skill, you’ll most likely to be without a job.

Two thirds of couples both work – yet struggle with child-care.

Millions struggle on low wages while company profits rise.

Hundreds of thousands save for decades just to buy a home.

We’re aging, and yet fewer have a pension.

Getting a job, setting up home, working as a parent, caring for another, saving for the future.

These are the challenges of the real world you can’t solve by demonising others.

These are the challenges for One Nation Social Security.

And the truth is today the system doesn’t help.

So we need to change the system.

And build a new consensus rooted in our values, our party’s values, our country’s values.

Where we listen not to our demons but to the better angels of our nature.

Were we move from a language of division to a language of respect.

Where we match the personal responsibility to work.

With the collective responsibility to care.

These are the founding principles of the system we built in 1945, and these are the principles we must restore.

And today I want to tell you how.

With the ideas we’ve hammered out in hundreds of conversations and debates all over Britain this last year.

And the cardinal principal is this, full employment first.

Full employment has always been the foundation for rebuilding Britain. It was for Atlee’s Labour, it was for New Labour, it will be for One Nation Labour.

The Tories system doesn’t work.

So we need a better way.

So let’s start with a tax on bankers bonuses’ to fund a job for every young person out of work long term.

But let’s go further.

Let’s take the ideas – like Apprenticeship Agencies, pioneered in Labour Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Newham and Wales.

And use them to revolutionise the path from the classroom to the career.

But, let’s go further.

Let’s stop fighting unemployment with one hand tied behind our back.

Let’s deliver a large devolution of power from the DWP to local councils.

Let’s build a new partnership between our job centres and town halls.

Let councils shape the programmes to get people back to work.

And let’s go further; let’s set a limit on the time we’re prepared to let people languish out of work.

Let’s invest in jobs for anyone out of work for two years, but say it’s got to be a deal.

We’ll invest in new chances, but if you’re fit to work, we’ll insist you take it.

Full employment first, that’s the Labour way.

Conference, any job is better than no job. But a good job is better than a bad one.

When the welfare state was started, its big idea was to ‘minimise disruption to earnings’.

Now our task is different. It’s to ‘maximise potential of earnings’.

That why we need Universal Credit to work.

So if the government won’t act to save it, we will.

The Tories’ system may prove dead on arrival. So we need a better way.

So, today we announce our Universal Credit Rescue Committee.

And I’m grateful to Kieran Quinn, leader of Tameside, the first pathfinder, for his offer to drive our work.

But, we’ll need more.

We’ll need a campaign for the living wage because it is wrong that we are spending the nation’s tax credits propping up low pay at firms with rising profits.

The deal has got to be simple. If your workers help you do well, then you need to give them a pay rise.

We the Labour party stand as the party of work – and the party of better off in work.

But, listen, if we want a new consensus, we need to remember this: if working people are strong, then Britain is strong.

So we should help working people.

Yet, those born in the turbulent world of the 1960’s, pay so much in and get so little out.

It’s wrong and we should change it.

Those in their 50’s are the people who’ve worked most, cared most, served most. And what do they get?

I’ll tell you, nothing.

So let’s bring back an idea from Beveridge.

Extra help for those who’ve paid their dues but are desperate for extra help to work again.

After a lifetime’s working or caring, I think it’s the least we can do.

Conference it’s a modest step – but it’s a big signal.

But, there’s something more.

Like most families in this country, I know that disability can affect anyone.

Therefore it affects us all.

Yet, today disabled people are threatened by hate crime, by Atos and by the Bedroom Tax.

Today we deny disabled people peace of mind, a job, a home and care – and I tell you that is wrong.

We need to change it.

So we will change the law so hate crime against disabled people is treated like every other hate crime.

And I say to David Cameron, Atos are a disgrace, you should sack them and sack them now.

And yes Conference we say the Bedroom Tax should be axed and axed now and if David Cameron won’t drop this hated tax, then we will repeal it.

We’ll protect disabled people in Scotland and across the UK.

Conference, we need a system that delivers the right help to the right people.

So assessments have to stay.

But let’s take Andy Burnham’s idea of whole person care and ask why not bring together health, social care – and the back to work system into one comprehensive service.

That’s what Labour did in Australia.

Let’s see if we can learn from that here.

I’m delighted to announce that Jenny Macklin, a fine Labour politician and the architect of the system down under, is going to help us figure out how.

Conference, nearly 10 years ago many of you helped win a very tough by election.

For nearly a decade I’ve served the poorest constituency in Britain.

I know in power we will have difficult decisions to make.

And I passionately believe we judge our success not by the money we spend but the difference we make.

There is no moral credibility without financial viability.

That’s why we’ll cap social security spending.

But, full employment, fair pay, a return to Beveridge, rights a reality for disabled people, fair pensions not for some but for all.

These are our principles for rebuilding social security for new times.

More than 50 years ago, my hero Clement Attlee, a man with the best hair in Labour history, made his final broadcast to a war weary nation hungry to win the peace.

We call you, he said, to another great adventure, the adventure of civilisation, where all may help to create and share in an increasing material prosperity, free from the fear of want.

That’s the Labour way, that’s the Ed Miliband way, and that’s the way we’ll win.

The Work Programme is still failing

Three years into the parliament it’s failed over a million people. That’s nearly nine out of ten people on this flagship programme. Worse of all, the government missed every single one of its minimum targets and in nearly half the country, the Work Programme is literally worse than doing nothing. No wonder the benefits bill is £20 billion higher than planned and no wonder the Chancellor himself was forced to attack ‘under-performing’ back to work programmes.

We can’t go on like this. We desperately need a change of course starting with a compulsory jobs guarantee that would make sure everyone out of work long term would have to take a job after two years.

The government tries to talk tough on welfare, but their failure is locking millions out of work, and is sending the benefits bill through the roof.

“This government talks to tough on welfare but their failure to end Britain’s jobs crisis is locking millions out of work and sending the benefits bill through the roof.”

“We urgently need a work programme that works and real action to get young people into jobs. That’s how to get welfare spending under control.”

Trasnscript of the Second Reading of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill

For your reference, here is the link to the transcript of yesterday’s debate:

Cameron’s Government now so incompetent it can’t even organise work experience

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to the Appeal Court ruling on the Employment, Skills and Enterprise scheme, said:

“It beggars belief that David Cameron’s Government is now so incompetent it can’t even organise work experience. Work experience is crucial in helping many young people get ready for work.

“Two years in, David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith’s so-called welfare revolution is in a state of advanced chaos. With almost one million young people out of work, what we need now is a tough but fair compulsory jobs guarantee that ensures every young person has the chance to work and no option to sit forever on the dole.”



Damning report exposes chaos and confusion at heart of Tory-led Government

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to today’s PAC report criticising the Government’s handling of the Work Capability Assessment, said:

“This damning report exposes the chaos and confusion at the heart of the Tory-led Government.

“Help for disabled people needed careful change yet Iain Duncan Smith has behaved like a bull in a china shop and now we see the price for the taxpayers and thousands of vulnerable people.

“David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have botched the Work Programme, lost a grip on Universal Credit and it’s now clear they’ve lost control of yet another reform costing multi-millions and causing millions huge distress.

“We warned the Government against a ‘big bang’ roll-out of this sensitive test in 2011. We said ‘get it right first’ but instead, ministers went hell for leather forcing thousands to jump through hoops which their own advisors said were wrong and costs the country £110 million a year.

“The Government has got to listen to Labour’s call for fast and fundamental change of the test before any more money is wasted and any more people are hurt.”



Labour challenges Government to back compulsory jobs guarantee

Labour will tomorrow challenge the Government to back its plan for a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long term unemployed as new figures from the IFS show 7 million working people will be hit by the Government’s ‘strivers tax’.

The new report from the IFS shows that 7 million working families will lose out under the government’s real terms cuts to tax credits and other benefits. It follows Children’s Society research which shows that a second lieutenant will lose £552 a year, a nurse could lose £424 a year and a primary school teacher could lose £424 a year.

Labour will oppose the Bill and call for the Government to bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee, which would give people out of work for 24 months or more a job which they would have to take up or lose their benefits.

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“The Government’s myths about who will be hit by their cuts to tax credits and benefits have now been exposed. While millionaires get a tax cut, 7 million striving working families are paying the price for David Cameron and George Osborne’s economic failure.

“The best way to get the benefits bill down is to get the economy growing and people back to work, not hit striving families. Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee would give the long-term unemployed a job, which they will have to take up or lose their benefits. Our plan is tough but fair and the Government should back it.”

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“It’s now clear. There’s a Labour way to bring down the welfare bill and a Tory way. The Tory way is to hijack support for working people. The Labour way is to help people work.

“The Tories and their Lib Dem friends have delivered a flatling economy and rising long term unemployment which has put up the welfare bill by over £13 billion more than planned. And now they want working people to pay the bill with a strivers tax that will hit 7 million families. Yet they’re happy to give a £107,000 tax cut to 8,000 millionaires.

“Tomorrow’s Bill does nothing to create a single new job, fix the chaos in Universal Credit or the Work Programme which has been an utter failure. So we’ll be asking MPs to vote for real welfare reform, a compulsory Jobs Guarantee that will end life on welfare for the first time.”


Editor’s note:

1. Labour has tabled the following “reasoned amendment” to the Second Reading of the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill and will seek to put this to a vote in the House of Commons tomorrow:

“That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill because it fails to address the reasons why the cost of benefits is exceeding the Government’s plans; notes that the Resolution Foundation has calculated that 68 per cent of households affected by these measures are in work and that figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that all the measures announced in the Autumn Statement, including those in the Bill, will mean a one-earner family with children will on average be £534 worse off by 2015; further notes that the Bill does not include anything to remedy the deficiencies in the Government’s work programme or the slipped timetable for universal credit;  believes that a comprehensive plan to reduce the benefits bill must include measures to create economic growth and help the 129,400 adults over the age of 25 out of work for 24 months or more, but this Bill does not do so; further believes that the Bill should introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee, which would give long-term unemployed adults a job they would have to take up or lose benefits, funded by limiting tax relief on pension contributions for people earning over £150,000 to 20 per cent; and further believes that the proposals in the Bill are unfair when the additional rate of income tax is being reduced, which will result in those earning over a million pounds per year receiving an average tax cut of over £100,000 a year.”

Labour’s motion for our Opposition Day Debate today on ‘Jobs and Social Security’

This House notes that only just over two in every hundred people referred to the Work Programme in its first year have gone into work; further notes that it has delivered a worse outcome than no programme at all; recognises long term unemployment is soaring and that the welfare bill is projected to be £20 billion higher than planned; notes with concern that the government is cutting £14 billion from tax credits and is taking £6.7 billion from disability benefits to pay for this cost of failures; and calls on the Government to implement a bank bonus tax to fund a Real Jobs Guarantee for young people and commission a cumulative impact assessment of disability benefit changes.

Only two in every hundred people getting a job through Work Programme – Ed Miliband

Figures released today show that the Tory-led Government’s Work Programme has got only 2.3 per cent, or two in every hundred, applicants into jobs.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“Today we’ve learnt that the Work Programme turns out to be a miserable failure. It’s just not working.

“It’s not working because over the first year of the Work Programme just over two in every hundred people have been getting a job.

“And estimates are that if the Work Programme didn’t exist five in every hundred would be getting a job.

“Why isn’t the Work Programme working? Because to reform welfare, which is what everyone wants to see, you’ve got to have government and people playing their respective roles, shouldering their responsibilities. A One Nation approach.

“We’ve said in relation to young people, we shouldn’t be letting then languish out of work, we should be getting them jobs.

“We should be working with employers and saying government will pay the wages, if you pay the training and mobilise business across this country to get our young people working again.

“That’s the way we can really reform welfare, pulling together as One Nation and each taking and delivering on our responsibilities.

“What we’ve seen from this Government today is a failure to reform welfare. Welfare bills are going up not down, not because of generosity in relation to welfare from this Government, but because their plans aren’t working.”

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“Today’s figures reveal the Work Programme is comprehensively failing. We were promised a welfare revolution and what we’ve got has been exposed as worse than doing nothing.

“Welfare bills are over £20 billion higher than expected because this Government has failed to get Britain back to work and now George Osborne has been forced to take £14 billion off tax credits to help foot the bill. Now we know why. The recovery has been throttled, the Government’s welfare revolution has failed and Britain’s strivers are being asked to foot the bill.

“This is deeply, deeply disappointing news. On the DWP’s own benchmarks, just 2.3 per cent have found a ‘job outcome’. That is under half the rate the DWP said could be achieved by doing nothing. Meanwhile long term unemployment has soared by over 200,000.

“George Osborne must now take the big steps we propose to drive down unemployment and start with a big plan to get our young people into work.”





Editor’s notes:
1) The Work Programme is getting only two in every hundred people into jobs – 2.3 per cent.

Today’s statistics are from the period from June 2011 to July 2012 – a period of 14 months. But according to the Government’s own Invitation to Tender for the Work Programme, performance levels should be assessed on a 12 month basis.

“The Key Performance Measure: 3.13 Performance will be measured by comparing job outcomes achieved in the previous 12 months to referrals in the same period. In years six and seven there are no referrals and performance will be measured by jobs outcomes achieved in the previous 12 months divided by year five referrals.”
Department for Work and Pensions, The Work Programme, Invitation to Tender, Specification and Supporting Information, p.13

In the first 12 months of the Work Programme, 785,360 have been referred to the Work Programme and only 18,270 thousand have found a job. This means that the Work Programme has managed to get 2.3 per cent of people referred to it into jobs.

2) The Work Programme is performing at half of its Government’s minimum performance level.

“Minimum performance standard will apply to payment groups 1, 2 and 6. It will be defined as non-intervention performance level plus 10 per cent.”

Given that the non-intervention performance level is 5 per cent, the minimum performance standard is 5.5 per cent. Groups 1, 2 and 6 are 18-24 year old JSA claimants, 25+ year old JSA claimants and new claimants ESA.

Department for Work and Pensions, The Work Programme, Invitation to Tender, Specification and Supporting Information, p.13 and p.14

In the first 12 months of the Work Programme, 554,290 of people in these groups have been referred to the Work Programme and only 11,640 have found a job. This means that the Work Programme is performing at 2.1 per cent for these groups – under half of the Government’s minimum performance level of 5.5 per cent.

3) The Work Programme is getting fewer people into jobs than if the Government did nothing at all.

“DWP will set a non-intervention performance for payment groups 1, 2 and 6 reflecting the number of job outcomes that would be expected to occur in the absence of the Work Programme. This is calculated by DWP based on analysis of historical job entry rates.”

The table on page 13 of the Invitation to Tender sets this out as being 5 per cent.

Department for Work and Pensions, The Work Programme, Invitation to Tender, Specification and Supporting Information, p.13

Given that it has managed to get 2.1 per cent of people in these groups into jobs, it is performing at less than half the level it would perform at if the Work Programme did not exist

Interview on Sky News, Wednesday 14th November 2012

Sky News

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Speakers:        Liam Byrne and  Dermot Murnaghan



DM:                 If you look at the picture over the last 4 or 5 years after two recessions these unemployment figures are quite encouraging aren’t they?


LB:                  Well the headline fall in unemployment today is welcome but what worries me is what is happening beneath the headlines and you just touched on one of the chief concerns, today’s figures show that there has been yet another sharp rise in long-term unemployment, it is now heading up towards the million mark, we also saw another rise in long-term youth unemployment and in half of England’s regions we saw unemployment go up not down. So I’m worried about what is going on beneath the headlines and I’m also concerned that the government’s Work Programme which was supposed to deal with long-term unemployment in particular is now clearly failing and failing badly. We saw figures out last week that showed that Job Centre staff have now lost all confidence in the programme, the number of referrals to the programme have halved, if you can believe it, over the last year despite this rise in long–term unemployment and some of the trends are also a matter of concern, I mean if we look at the trends for the last month as opposed to the last quarter we see a rise in youth unemployment, we see a rise in women’s unemployment and we also see that claimant count go up. Now the reason that that is serious is that this is helping push up the welfare bill over the course of the parliament by an incredible £24bn, that is money the taxpayers are going to have to find


DM:                 Ok, so you are encouraged but not encouraged then listening to your analysis of the figures, but it is that overall trend that I want to look at. The suggestion is here as we look at those demonstrations and strikes on continental Europe with double digit unemployment rates some of them, of course, as we know in Spain into the 20% and beyond. With us at 7.8%, high yes, and terrible problems there but after what we’ve been through does it tell you that the government’s current economy strategy is working and that you might have the wrong recipe?


LB:                  Well if you take a step back and you look as you suggest at the last couple of years there is a very clear story that emerges, basically people and working families in Britain are busting a gut to do whatever it takes to get back into work, so getting on for half of the jobs that have been created since the election are part-time jobs, now that is not a recipe for a strong Britain roaring back to recovery, what it says is that the people who are in work are often insecure and the people who are out of work are increasingly locked out and that is why we are saying look, there is something the government should do extra because their programmes are now clearly failing and that is why we’ve said put a bank bonus tax to help get young people back to work and crucially gives the construction sector a big kick-start.


DM:                 Right we got the point but I mean doing extra you are saying increase debt to decrease debt I mean that is rather a dangerous strategy is it not?


LB:                  No if you take for example what Ed Balls said at Labour Party conference, he said that we should use the proceeds from any sales of 4G licences to put a big boost into our construction sector, get Britain building again and construction is one of the sectors that has taken an almighty hammering over the last couple of years and that has pushed up unemployment and that has pushed up the welfare bill. You can also I think do more to help the purchasing power of families, I mean, the government is talking about potentially freezing Tax Credits yes again in the Autumn statement, now that is a worry because today’s figures show us that prices are now rising by 60% faster than earnings. Now if you start taking away or freezing or cutting people’s Tax Credits as well, then that pushes working families much closer to the poverty line. That is not good for kick-starting our recovery over the next year either.


DM:                 Just let me ask you about that recovery because you used an interesting phrase in the answer before last, you talked about ‘Britain is not roaring back to recovery now’, kind of an implicating there that it would be if Labour was in power, how could it with the size of the debt you saddled this government with?


LB:                  Well look we’ve been very clear that when tax receipts fell of a cliff during the last recession there was going to be a big bill that we were going to have to pay back but we said look, the way that you pay that bill back is you make some sensible tax rises, you make sure those with the broadest shoulders carry the biggest load, so you don’t give a big £3bn tax giveaway to Britain’s richest citizens, you share the load of rising taxes more fairly, second you do make some cuts in public spending but you do that at a pace that doesn’t throttle our chances of recovery and crucially you get people back into work as fast as possible, and that is what this government is doing wrong. They promised us this big Work Programme that was going to be the biggest ever back to work programme ever and the truth is just a very long way away from that and last weeks figures as I mentioned showed that referrals to the programme have halved over the last year, despite the fact it was set up to tackle long-term unemployment and what do today’s figures show, is that long-term unemployment is spiralling upwards still so I’m sure the government is just in a degree of chaos and gridlock at DWP and that is why we are saying more needs to be done.







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