The Work Programme is absolutely central to our strategy to deal with the challenge of long term unemployment by helping people into the right kind of employment.
The Work Programme is also a pathfinder and if it delivers in the way we think it will then it will change public service delivery across Government.
I know many of you are involved in the Work Programme and it has been a busy 12 months.
From start to finish it has been a rapid process, through design, contracting and putting the Work Programme in place.
And I know many of you have been working flat out to get ready for the start date of the Work Programme and the hard work doesn’t stop here.
So, I want to start by saying thank you.
We’ve started the most radical reform of employment support this country has seen.
We hope and believe almost two and a half million people will be helped by the Work Programme over the next five years.
And support is not capped because the mechanism we are using to fund the Work Programme means we are using the savings made when you get someone into work.
There is no limit to our aspiration.
We are using a black box approach, we are trusting the professionals to deliver the support they know works. We are saying to providers: “You do what needs to be done and we will pay you when you are successful”.
We want to unleash the creativity of the industry.
And the varied payment structure means there is more money available to invest in the hardest to help.
I’m really looking forward to watching that innovation take place.
The networks developed to deliver the Work Programme are still bedding in and I think it’s quite typical for there to be some movement.
I expect supply chains and networks will grow and evolve over the lifetime of the contracts, advancing on experience of what works and bringing in others as appropriate to maximise success.
The sub contract chain is crucial. We want to encourage strong supply chain partnerships with fair and supportive treatment for sub-contractors. The Merlin Standard provides real commercial protection to smaller organisations involved in the Work Programme.
We do not expect smaller organisations to be used as, what somebody recently described to me, as bid candy. And we will take a pretty dim view of primes that cast their supply chains aside or mistreat subs. The specialist provision that smaller organisations provide is a really important part of the package.
I’d like to thank Paul Warner from ALP for his work on the Merlin Advisory Group.
This is just the start, we see the Work Programme as the blue print for social interventions.
We believe everyone who can work should work.
There will always be support for people who are unable to work.
But for everybody else work is a crucial part of taking a full and active role in our society.
This is why employment support is the back bone of social interventions.
We are already considering a number of bolt-ons to the Work Programme - for example, building employment support in to the rehabilitation of offenders and drug addicts. This could transform social interventions.
And the Work Programme blue print, in particular, the payment by results model, is already being replicated in a number of areas such as health and offender management.
And I know that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is looking at how the payment by results model can be used to reward training providers for job outcomes.
Skills training is a key part of the employment picture.
We are committed to integrated employment and skills provision - at a Ministerial level John Hayes and I work extremely closely together.
ALPs announcement that you will be changing your name to the Association of Employment and Learning Providers is an extremely welcome step forward.
Budgets are tight, we have been forced to take some difficult decisions and now we all have to spend wisely.
This means we have to focus the resources we have where they are needed most and where they will have the greatest impact.
We know that people who leave school with no qualifications are over three times more likely to be out of work than people with a degree.
Nearly 14 million working age people do not have numeracy skills at the level expected of an 11 year old.
We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge.
Nor do we underestimate the wider benefits of improving the skills of the nation.
Some researchers estimate that a one percentage point reduction in the proportion of working age people with no qualifications will provide a net social benefit of between £32 and £87 million from reduced property crime in Britain.
We will fully subsidise basic skills training in England for everyone aged 19 years and over, regardless of their benefit status. In addition, from August this year we will give Jobcentre Plus advisers the power to require some benefit claimants to attend training if someone is clearly missing a bit of their skills jigsaw that would help them to get a job.
One of the most important aspects of this is understanding the local labour market and responding to skills needs.
This means more freedom and flexibility for colleges, for Jobcentre Plus advisers and for Work Programme providers than has been done in the past.
We are encouraging frontline services to operate more strategically. For example, from now on Jobcentre Plus will use data about current and emerging vacancies to identify future skills needs. District managers will then work with local training providers to develop short courses designed to meet those needs.
Employers also have a key role to play. They have a duty to share their training needs and work with local agencies to ensure people are able to take advantage of local vacancies. But we also want to encourage employers to co-fund training opportunities, sharing the financial burden, as ultimately they will be the beneficiaries.
This partnership working is also crucial to the delivery of the apprenticeship programme.
Last week there was a welcome fall in the youth unemployment figures, 79,000 down on the quarter, bringing the total down to 895,000. This is still a huge number.
Even when you take into account the number of those in full time education but looking for work, the number is still much too high. There are still 618,000 young people who are unemployed and not in full time education.
That’s why, in this year’s budget, we announced a further expansion of the Apprenticeship Programme by an additional 40,000 places. This will give us the extra capacity to target young people who are not in employment, education and training - the so called NEETs.
Apprenticeships are an excellent way of building capacity for the future and ensuring young people move into fulfilling and sustainable careers, and have the skills base they need to progress in their chosen profession.
We rely on training providers, employers and Jobcentre Plus to work with the National Apprenticeship Service to ensure apprenticeships meet the different but very much complementary goals of employers, learners and the economy as a whole.
So, my message to you today is this, please keep doing what you are doing, continue to work together to deliver this exciting package of reforms, we can work better, deliver more, if we work together.
This is an exciting time to be part of the employment and skills world.
I know the last few months have been tough, there have been a lot of changes, and we’ve had to make some difficult choices.
But I think now we can all see that the world that’s emerging is one that is better for providers, better for Government and most importantly better for those people who need our help.
Greater freedom and flexibility on the ground will translate into first rate, personalised support for those who need it most.