Labour urges temporary jobs for long-term unemployed

 

Labour's Liam Byrne: "If you want welfare to work to genuinely work, then you need jobs"

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Labour has said it would offer the long-term unemployed a guarantee of a six-month job if it was in government.

Businesses would be given subsidies to hire people on a temporary basis, with those refusing a suitable job having benefits docked.

Labour said the move sent a "clear message" about its stance on welfare but admitted it could not commit to the scheme if returned to power in 2015.

David Cameron said the opposition was avoiding hard choices.

BBC political correspondent Vicky Young said Labour were setting out what should be done now rather than committing themselves to the measures if they were re-elected or making a future spending pledge.

The announcement, she added, must be seen in the context of the debate over welfare reform ahead of a parliamentary vote on Tuesday about scrapping the link between benefit rises and inflation by limiting most working age benefits to a 1% increase.

Labour said its plan, intended to help 129,400 people out of work for two years, would be funded by restricting tax relief on pension contributions available to higher-rate taxpayers.

The long-term unemployed would be offered 25 hours of work a week in the private or voluntary sectors at the national minimum wage for six months.

Welfare debate

The scheme expands Labour's existing jobs guarantee proposal which has up to now only covered 16-24 year old job-seekers.

Labour's shadow work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne said the long-term unemployed needed to be "working or training and not claiming".

"I know that will be a culture shock for many people but for many more it will be a lifeline," he told the BBC News Channel.

Analysis

Labour's "jobs guarantee" isn't the guarantee of a full-time, permanent job for everyone who has been unemployed for two years.

The scheme, as envisaged, would aim to provide the long term unemployed with six months part-time work or training.

But as Labour are in opposition, the scheme of course doesn't exist at all.

And it isn't - yet - a firm manifesto commitment for 2015 - though it is similar to the Future Jobs Fund, which the party designed when in power.

Politically, though, it allows Labour to go on the front foot ahead of next week's vote in the Commons on benefit levels.

Labour will oppose capping the increase in most benefits at 1% for the next three years - a real terms cut. But they don't want to be seen as soft on "scroungers".

So they will argue that if the government were to adopt their idea of a "jobs guarantee" now, then the long-term unemployed would be compelled to participate in work or training schemes - and the benefits bill would come down.

This, they believe, will help them survive a coalition attack next week when both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems will say Labour just isn't serious about cutting the costs of welfare or making work pay.

"There is a vital principle at stake here," he added.

"The government promised us an awful lot on welfare reform...What is now happening is long-term unemployment is going through the roof. That is pushing up the welfare bill and to balance the books the government is having to raid working families tax credits.

"We are saying there is a different way to bring the welfare bill down."

The proposed subsidies, he added, were an acknowledgement of the fact that businesses expected to make a profit and would not take on new staff "for nothing".

While the headline rate of unemployment has fallen in the each of the last seven months, Labour says the number of long-term jobless is nearly 150% higher than in late 2010.

At the end of Labour's six-month scheme, workers would have to find a permanent job or revert to claiming jobseeker's allowance.

The £1bn cost of the scheme - which Labour hope could eventually be extended to those out of work for 18 months or a year - would be funded by introducing a 20% limit on tax relief on pension contributions for those earning £150,000 a year or more.

Labour said the current 50% limit on tax relief on pensions for the highest earners should be brought into line with the 20% level for basic rate taxpayers.

'Bizarre'

Ministers say the government's Work Programme, in which firms and charities are paid to help find jobs for the long-term unemployed, is "on track" despite opposition criticism.

The government insists nearly 10% of the initial participants have got into work and stayed there for six months, while 50% of those who have taken part have come off benefits.

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps: "You can't spend the same money twice"

Mr Cameron said a million private sector jobs had been created since the coalition government came to power in May 2010 and claimed Labour was "just not focused on the big challenges" confronting the UK.

"This is sort of reheating a rather unworkable scheme that we inherited in 2010," he said.

"I think what Labour really need to focus on is their bizarre decision to support benefits going up faster than wages, which is what they are going to be voting for on Tuesday."

The Treasury said Labour had already earmarked cuts in pension tax relief to reverse austerity measures and was effectively spending the same money twice.

In response, Labour said that while it remained opposed to government cuts in tax credits, it could not commit to reversing the changes until it had seen the state of the public finances after 2015 and the money saved was now needed to help people into work.

 

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  • rate this
    +97

    Comment number 110.

    The one thing that is guarenteed, is that this headline grabbing policy will be changed in 6 months of the election if Labour get in. All parties should avoid promises like this. It will only lead to people getting pushed onto jobs no-one wants and lead to voter disappointment in their newly elected govt.

  • rate this
    +107

    Comment number 105.

    This is how it works. Government to Workshy "Here is a job for you: 25 hours a week at a low wage" Workshy "No thanks - I am better off on benefits." Government "We will stop your benefits if you don't take the job." Workshy "No you won't as we will be thrown out of the house and you will get all the bad publicity." Government "You are right - carry on." Workshy "Thanks." Will it ever change?

  • rate this
    +106

    Comment number 103.

    I can't help noticing that most of the 600,000 Polish immigrants who have arrived under NuLabour's open door immigration policy have found work, often in low skill jobs at minimum wage rates. Good luck to them.
    A shame that a % of our indigenous unemployed do not show the same committment.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 96.

    Will it cost money? Yes.

    Do you pay money to people out of work who then don't do anything constructive for it (beyond search for a job)? Yes.


    Will it be better to have those folk doing something constructive that gets them used to work, as they'll get the money anyway? Yes.



    Will such a scheme give the unemployed something to add to their CV making a job more likely? Yes.

  • rate this
    +59

    Comment number 31.

    I don't see the point in this, inventing a job so you can pay someone? If it means investing in apprentices and helping industry maybe but I doubt it. Surely it’s a patronising thing to do and if we are paying the unemployable we may as well keep the bill down with benefits rather than a made up job which accrues employment rights such as redundancy etc?

 

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