Lawrence Kay

Politicking on the backs of the poorest

Politicking on the backs of the poorest
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This afternoon Jim Knight MP, the minister for welfare reform, proclaimed that the Government wants to turn the Jobcentre Plus network into a careers service for everyone. He said that welfare advisers, who currently try to help get people on benefits back into work, will start to “provide opportunities for progression” for anyone in a job – no matter whether the person is a banker or a bin man.

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