This is a bad idea for a simple reason: it is far more important to help the unemployed back into work than give assistance to people who already have a job. The longer that someone is out of work, the worse their chances of getting back into it. Trying to get some of the nearly 6 million benefit claimants into any available jobs should be the foremost priority for Jobcentres over the next few years. If it is not, then Britain’s blight of long-term unemployment will be renewed for another decade.
In its struggle to show that it is providing good quality public services for lots of voters rather than just a few of them, Labour is currently suggesting lots of well-meant reforms. The recent public service guarantees were a good example of this. Today’s announcement is just another iteration. Unfortunately, unemployment is going to be so bad for so many years that no “initiatives”, “roll-outs” or policies with a “21st century” bent are required. Getting people back to work is all that matters.
Lawrence Kay is a Research Fellow in Policy Exchange’s Economics Unit