Clegg: Yes to intensive support for unemployed young people; no to automatic benefit withdrawal

On his weekly LBC phone-in earlier today, Nick Clegg took a call (from Lib Dem activist Linda Jack; see comments) on the proposals mooted at the Conservative Party Conference to remove the automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit from those aged under 25 and require them to be in either work, education or training.

The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has written up Clegg’s response (which has been slightly unfairly characterised, or at least oversimplified, in the headline):

Clegg said he supported the idea that some claimants who had been on the work programme for two years should work for their dole, the proposal launched under the title “help for work” by Osborne in his conference speech.

Referring to those that have been on the work programme for two years, Clegg said: “One attitude is to say you let them drift off. What the government is saying is you cannot turn your back on these people. You have got to give them very intensive support, training, personalised support, get them in every day because clearly something has gone wrong if they have not been able to find work for two years and they are able to work. This is not a benefit cut.”

Referring to plans to withdraw benefits from under-25s not in work, education or training, outlined by David Cameron in his conference speech, he said similar principles already applied with the youth contract, a scheme in which the young unemployed are required to take work at wages subsidised by the state.

He said: “I think everybody agrees that if you can help it, you don’t want youngsters on benefits, you want them either being active or earning or learning.”

Referring to the youth contract, he said: “Here’s the big thing – and this is already in the rules by the way and I’m a big supporter of this – if you don’t take those opportunities up, don’t expect you can go back home and just sit on benefits. You can’t just say: ‘I’m going to cross my arms, sit on my sofa and not try.’ Let’s look at that.”

He added he was not entirely sure what the Conservatives had in mind, but pointed out that stricter conditionality on jobseeker’s allowance already existed.

But he stressed: “I’m not in favour of just blanket removal of people just because they happen to be a certain age.” He pointed out he had opposed such a move when it was raised by Conservatives. “What if you’re a youngster from Lincoln who’s trying to make his or her way in Manchester and you’re trying really hard and then suddenly you’re having the rug pulled from under your feet.

“So I’m all for making sure there’s better conditionality so that the incentive to just rely on benefits is minimised.”

That seems to me a reasonable position: opposing arbitrary and automatic benefit withdrawal, and supporting intensive, focussed initiatives to help those young people who by virtue of a lengthy period of unemployment are in danger of becoming stuck in an lackadaisical benefits system.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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50 Comments

  • Nick

    I am not surprised you support it – Clegg said it

    Can you actually explain to me what he actually means?

    I would have thought that being the leader of a small party, in Coalition with, and in danger of being swamped by, a larger party who would be very clear what he means and explicit. In doing so he would avoid being misinterpreted.

    What we have above is dissembling and lack of clarity – he really needs to do better than this

  • You’d have to be some kind of psychopath to support ANY withdrawal of benefits.

    Its the safety net! We’ve bloody paid for it already!

  • Jedi – we do pay a huge amount, the problem it that it is not going to the people who are supposed to receive it.

    Its going to fund £Million profits for private companies, the likes of A4E etc.

  • Jedi

    I was unaware I choose how much tax I pay? The Government decides and my employers takes it out of my pay packet

    The only people who choose what to pay are on a different pay scale to me…….

    I would actually choose to pay higher tax for improved services, in fact I voted LD when they offered to add tax for education. I would also choose that those earning a lot, one day it may be me (but very very unlikely), pay more tax as well.

    I would want it to be spent well but in principle paying more is okay to me.

    Other people may choose to vote to pay less but that is up to them

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Oct '13 - 9:01pm

    @CP – so do you think if someone will not go for training and won’t look for work taxpayers should continue to pay their benefits ?

  • When there are over 2 million more people looking for jobs than there are vacancies, you do need to question what you hope to achieve by forcing people to send of x amount of applications, all day, for ever.

    If there are no jobs, what is the point? Leave it up to the individual to decide if it is worth sending off 100 more. And then let them use their insurance in the best way they see fit.

    Simon are you also in favour of the government removing people’s trust funds and inheritance in the same way?

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Oct '13 - 9:26pm

    @Simon McGrath
    “CP – so do you think if someone will not go for training and won’t look for work taxpayers should continue to pay their benefits ?”

    Given that the benefits they get are two fifths of sod-all and that nobody in their right mind would prefer them to waged work? Yes. I do wonder what people think failing to pay (at least) benefits will produce, other than misery, alienation and immense motivation to kick ‘society’ in the teeth. Before sanctioning jobseekers, we should be sanctioning the people who are supposed to be helping them to recover, who are blatantly not doing a good job.

    I don’t believe these layabout skiver people are common enough to justify this sort of action. Additionally, if someone were that feckless then making them destitute would simply encourage them to find other, more socially harmful, mechanisms to express it. This cannot end well, so why start it?

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Oct '13 - 9:28pm

    I hasten to add that ‘layabout’ and ‘skiver’ are not words I would generally use at all, particularly not in relation to the jobless. Then again I have had a taste of long-term unemployment, so presumably I am one myself.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 3rd Oct '13 - 10:42pm

    Apologies, Linda; the Guardian article was slightly unclear.

    Gareth, I find it difficult to discuss this subject with you because you are not able or willing to separate rhetoric from policy. I don’t like the way Osborne discusses this subject, but I am willing to look at the detail of proposals anybody makes. We simply don’t have those details from the Tories at the moment. I don’t know what Clegg said because I wasn’t listening and haven’t seen a transcript.

  • A Social Liberal 3rd Oct '13 - 11:28pm

    Jedi – and to the nasty party at large

    You continue, by omission, to mislead the debate. When quoting the 38% – ish of GDP arguement, you (and here I refer to the conservative whole) are being disengenuous not to state that the vast majority of that 38% goes to the OAPs.

    Of course, the Tories would not dare to do anything about the vast majority of walfare spending – there are too many votes in it

  • Paul In Twickenham 4th Oct '13 - 12:17am

    Meanwhile over on zerohedge (the activist US financial website that is often less than accurate but never less than entertaining) a contributor has talked about “Generation Screwed” (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-03/government-cutting-benefits-generation-screwed) and singles out the UK government for criticism : “What a pathetic excuse for a social contract. There has to be a better way.”.

    His somewhat radical suggestion is that the young people of Britain should go and study in China : “While your friends are living off the dole or paying the bulk of their income to the government, you won’t even know what they’re talking about.”

    Tyler Durden tends to over-dramatize, but there can be no doubt that “Generation Screwed” is subsidizing the comfortable retirement of the Golden Generation of baby-boomers.

    Mr. Clegg pays lip service to their problems, just as his friends in Brussels shed crocodile tears about the catastrophic level of youth unemployment in the Eurozone periphery. But none of them seem to have anything to offer other than tea and sympathy.

  • Nick Clegg vehemently opposes unpaid internships but has somehow decided that the unemployed should work for their ‘benefits’. Further stigmatising the unemployed, supporting a policy that will require them to carry out 35 hours of community service a week to claim benefits of £50 to £70. When did unemployment become a crime that is punishable by community service? When did it become okay to pay people below minimum wage?

  • Richard Dean 4th Oct '13 - 2:37am

    38% goes to OAPs? I don’t believe it! The OAPs around here don’t get anything like what that implies.

  • For me the point is when he said “I’m not in favour of just blanket removal of people just because they happen to be a certain age.” Meaning he’s not in favour of the no benefits for people under 25 proposal.

    He may well be in favour of workfare. I find it all a bit vague the way he talks about it actually. I agree with him when he suggests that people must be encouraged to do something, whether that is training or working rather than settle for life on the dole. I don’t agree with slave labour and people working for nothing. But there should be schemes where they can get work experience voluntarily.

    The Tories have their own agenda as always. They’d like to see welfare scrapped altogether I’m sure. And not to mention just wanting to wipe people off the unemployment figures.

    I’d like to hear a clearer answer from Clegg on workfare though, and perhaps we would have got it if the presenter had given Linda right to reply.

  • jedibeeftrix 4th Oct '13 - 8:40am

    @ bcrombie – “I was unaware I choose how much tax I pay? The Government decides and my employers takes it out of my pay packet”

    In a narrow sense you are right, but the government is constrained in its pillage of the private purse by the possibility that its excess will see me turn up holding a pitchfork and a burning brand. At the end of the day power in britain belongs with the people, and has been demonstrated to be so every time the people have revolted, for the result has been that the government backs down.

    I know it seems terribly messy, but it really is for the best that politicians are held in ultimate check by the thought of a rough hewn gibbet and a baying crowd. It is a wonderful antidote to despotism. 😉

  • ” get them in every day because clearly something has gone wrong if they have not been able to find work for two years and they are able to work. ”

    Yes. Clearly something is wrong. Why presume it must their fault or that they are doing something wrong? Perhaps if the are able to work but can’t secure work then it is simply that there aren’t enough jobs. This comment says alot about how Nick is falling for the Tory blame game rhetoric.

  • Simon McGrath 4th Oct '13 - 8:42am

    @CP simply not true there are no jobs – employment is at an all time high.

  • jenny barnes 4th Oct '13 - 8:47am

    @simon. If you repeat it often enough, maybe people who have jobs will believe you.

  • I think the unemployment count should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    The figures are extremely massaged to skew the true extent of employment.

    This is something that all governments have been doing for decades. The former Labour party and Conservative party as well.

    When a Job seeker is sent on to one of the “workfare” program , They are no longer counted as being part of the unemployment figures or claimant counts. This is despite the fact that they are still receiving benefits. They still get the same amount that would be paid in JSA, just that it is paid from the training budget, or comes direct from the person who is administering the workfare program i.e A4E.
    It is the same with the
    The New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) Jobseekers have been encouraged young people to come off JSA and go self employed,
    people who have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for six months or more. It will provide access
    to business mentoring and offer financial support up to around £2000. The £2000 equates to around 6 months worth of JSA, which is payable up front. You can not claim JSA for 6 months whilst you are on the New Enterprise Scheme.
    The Job center encourages under 25’s to become, (carpet fitters, painters, nail technicians) for example, provide 2 days training.
    I mean seriously how many carpet fitters and painters can our economy support right now?

    Labour did exactly the same thing with the New Deal.

    Even though these people on workfare, or whatever government scheme they are still paid for out of the DWP budget, in effect they are still receiving JSA.
    But for these purposes of the ONS they are not counted as part of the official unemployment figures or claimant count.

    I suspect that these Government schemes are more about skewing the true extent of the figures for the unemployed. That want to be able to say “unemployment is coming down” “the claimant count is coming down”
    When really it is not true at all. Labour can not call the government out on it because they know very well that they did the same thing when they were last in government and they will do exactly the same thing if they get into government again next time.

    I am not say all these scheme’s are a waste of time and do not help anybody, but I think people need a reality check.
    The workfare program has a success rate of something like 3.75% of getting people into “real paid employment” which means the other 96.25% on workfare who the scheme is not working for, are being hidden from the unemployment figures.

    We do need honesty and we need transparency

  • @simon mcgrath
    Just because the employment level is high it doesn’t mean there are enough jobs.

  • On Question time last night. I thought Grant Shapps was pretty useless and he was tied up in knots.

    The guy from the daily mail just spouted more bile. I thought it was hilarious when he tried to claim the Daily Mail was not political, the audience even cracked up. I also liked the roasting he got from Mehdi Hasan who showed him and the paper up for what they really are, which received the loudest applause I have ever seen on question time.

    Yvette Cooper, kept doing the thing that annoys me the most, avoiding the questions and not really giving a coherent response.
    I am afraid that the Welsh Liberal Democrat kept getting overshadowed a bit , which was unfortunate as she seemed the only one who had anything sensible to say and was at least trying to answer the questions honestly and on point to the questions asked.

    But it was one of the best Question times I had seen in a very long time.

  • “but if Nick thinks the way to build their self esteem and confidence is to demonise them I despair”

    When did Nick demonise them? I despair at the lazy way in which people say they are being “demonised” without a shred of evidence that this is actually happening. Saying they should be in work or training or at least looking for a job is not “demonising”, is it, let’s be honest?

    What he is saying is downright reasonable and moderate. I really am not sure what it is that he is expected to say more than what he has.

    @ Paul in Twickenham
    Mr. Clegg pays lip service to their problems, just as his friends in Brussels shed crocodile tears about the catastrophic level of youth unemployment in the Eurozone periphery. But none of them seem to have anything to offer other than tea and sympathy.

    What have his “friends in Brussels” got to do with this, exactly? So he’s to blame for Eurozone periphery unemployment too, is he?

    As for offering little more than tea and sympathy, er you mean apart from the £1bn Youth Contract you mean presumably?

  • Oh, the weather was horrible yesterday and the bin men didn’t collect. Let’s all blame Nick Clegg for that too.

    Has there been an influx from Comment is Free here or something?

  • @RC
    “I despair at the lazy way in which people say they are being “demonised””

    RC I do not think you are being fair to the people that do feel as though they are being demonised.

    “without a shred of evidence that this is actually happening”
    There is plenty of evidence of this happening. People like me feel it on a daily basis and have been saying it for years now, That is Evidence.

    It is not necessarily the “policy” itself that is the issue, though I do have issues with the policies. It is the language that is used by the Tory Ministers and the right wing media to promote these policies. It is language that is used to fuel hostility towards those on welfare. Language like “something for nothing” “shirkers & Strivers” “feckless”
    Take David Camerons speech to conference earlier in the week when he said and I quote
    ““Our fellow citizens working every hour of every day to put food on the table ask this: why should my taxes go to people who could work but don’t? Or to those who live in homes that hardworking people could never afford? Or to people who have no right to be here in the first place? I say this to the British people: you have every right to be angry about a system that is unfair and unjust – and that’s why we are sorting it out.”

    This language really worries me. Our Prime-Minister is deliberately using language to stir up hostility towards people claiming welfare. It appears to me that he is encouraging this hostility towards the most vulnerable people in society who through no fault of their own might have fallen on hard times be it through unemployment or illness. He is telling them to be angry.

    It is this language that is making people like me up and down the country feeling demonised, The unemployed, sick and disabled.

    This is simply not good enough to keep ostracizing people in this way and segregating society.

    The most vulnerable people in society, should not be constantly subjected to this kind of hostility that is being whipped up against them.

    Liberal Democrats have a real opportunity to call the Tories out whenever this language is used, but sadly it does not happen anywhere near enough.
    When Nick Clegg comes out and supports the “policy” but does not rebuke the language to promote it, it appears as though he is going along wholeheartedly with the Tories.

    But please do not say that people who say they are feeling demonised are lazy or there is no evidence of it. because that simply is not true,

  • Daniel Henry 4th Oct '13 - 10:55am

    That’s the liberal dream Prateek, but how do we cost it?

  • What Prateek said.

  • RC 4th Oct ’13 – 10:26am
    Oh, the weather was horrible yesterday and the bin men didn’t collect. Let’s all blame Nick Clegg for that too.

    You’ve misunderstood the nature of this government RC. Its never Nick or Dave’s fault ….. Its the fault of Labour, or te eurozone, or greedy inefficient public sector workers, or immigrants or shirkers…. Anybody but Nick or Dave!

  • >Universal Citizen’s Minimum Income.

    And what are the Terms and Conditions attached?

  • Richard Dean 4th Oct '13 - 12:56pm

    Universal Citizens Income looks like a real Vote Loser. It would have to be paid for by citizens, many of whom would be mistrustful of any system that appears to open the door to uncontrolled spending. Concepts of laziness, living off the state, a something-for-nothing underclass, etc would be high on many working people’s worry list, perhaps higher than now. How would the consequent enhanced social divisions be addressed?

  • @ Simon

    Blame where blame is due.

    And Nick and Dave did not create an 11.4% budget deficit, leave an economy that had just been through the worst recession this century with an economy solely dependent on extra government borrowing for any renewed growth, massive household debt, a collapse in exports to the Eurozone, a manufacturing sector that had shrunk from 20% to 10% of the economy and a financial sector that was out of control, energy and food prices that rocketed hitting living standards . Those were the problems they faced. Can you honestly say ANY of them were due to government policy?

    People here are yet again heaping blame on Nick Clegg where there is no blame, if you look at what he’s actually said and done versus what people are claiming here.

    @ Matt

    You can talk about the language used by the Conservatives, but this is not a Conservative site and we are NOT the Conservative party. No-one among the Lib Dems has “demonised” the unemployed or the young or the disabled. Why should we be held responsible for what politicians in another, separate party say?

  • Matt (Bristol) 4th Oct '13 - 1:26pm

    It feels to me that reading this and the discussion there is an implicit wriggling going on within the leaders of the Coalition to try (desperately) to find a policy that could be simultaneously presented to the Tory faithful as ‘workfare’ and to the LibDem faithful as ‘intensive support’ (ie there would be a compulsive element, a work/volunteering element and an apparently supportive / retraining element all working in nominal balance with each other). This would be why the language being used is so vague on this point. Discuss…

    I have been speculatig since 2010 on how long it would take a Tory thinktank of some kind to propose what would effectively be a reinstate workhouse system. Let’s try the following thought-experiement:
    1) A form of ‘intensive support’ with compulsion to work is introduced for those on longterm benefits
    2) some time later, concerns are raised that people on this scheme are not attending regularly or engaging with the retraining, then re-enrolling for benefits under assumed names (or similar fraud) – there is a tabloid scandal
    3) at the same time, the social housing crisis and food poverty situations continue to worsen, despite some growth in the economy and more jobs apprently being created in low-paid roles.
    4) Someone somehwere proposes that there is one solution to these problems; people in social housing who are not engaging with the benefits / retaining scheme must be compulsorily rehoused in ’employment rehabilitation centres’ to continue to receive benefits and housing entitilement, thus freeing up social housing capacity and reinforcing the compulsive element of the original scheme. These centres would be wonderful, in that they would have improved health and nutritionist staff on hand to support residents and their families, and dedicated tutors for the kids etc etc…

    You see what I mean?

    Obbiously this is fantasy, but I don’t think many of us thought we would be seeing a LibDem leadership getting as close as they are to a workfare-type scheme 10 years ago – if you start filling in the incremental steps in between, a policy that was once apparently lunatic and betyond the fringe becomes plausible if not palatable.

    And on the subject of workhouses – it was a long time ago but this was an ideologically liberal policy put forward in 1834 by a Whig government in which future Liberal prime ministers served, and arising from the philosophy of Bentham and John Stewart Mill, that darling of the party. The party that repealed the workhouse was the Labour party For over 100 years, the Liberal party ad its successors nurtured the workhouse system. I am a LibDem supporter, but let no-one argue (as they frequently do on this site) that there is one ideologically pure system of liberalism against which policies can be tested; there are differing strands within the party and its history and differing choices for the party to take at any one moment. The question is, where do we go now? Let’s not go down this road, eh?

  • @RC
    “You can talk about the language used by the Conservatives, but this is not a Conservative site and we are NOT the Conservative party. No-one among the Lib Dems has “demonised” the unemployed or the young or the disabled. Why should we be held responsible for what politicians in another, separate party say?”

    No you are right, this is not a conservative site, It is however a site for Liberal Democrats who are in a coalition government as a junior party.
    Do you not that as a party of government, there is a responsibility on it to call it to account, it’s partners when they use language that is intended to create hostility and resentment to those on welfare, the vulnerable people in society?

    Put aside for the moment the fact that the Liberal Democrats are in government, Do you not think that as a party they should speak out against a party that uses such derogatory language that stigmatizes a section of society?
    Surely any party that is either in government or opposition has a moral duty to hold the Conservative party to account when it uses such nasty tactics.
    There is a responsibility on Labour just as much as on Liberal Democrats to do this.
    Surely there is a wider responsibility on society as a whole, regardless of their affiliation to say NO, that is enough, to the Tory ministers, this is not the kind of Britain that we want to become, We don’t want to be a country that stigmatizes the unemployed, sick and disabled.

    Of course the Liberal Democrats are not responsible for what another party says, but I do remember a time when Liberal Democrats would be standing up for the kind of people who are being stigmatized. Liberal Democrats would do all they possible can to speak out against this type of segregation.

    I do believe that party still exists and I do have high hopes that its loyal members and supporters will remind it’s leaders of the values that it holds dear.

  • @RC
    I’m not saying Clegg or the coalition are to blame for everything rather I’m pointing out there is a tendency on both sides of the coalition to avoid accepting responsibility for anything but rather to blame everyone else.

    As to the specifics of this thread … I do blame Nick for failing to do more for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. I also blame him for failing to challenge Tory rhetoric in the dismissive manner it deserves. If you want confirmation of this then how about a headline from todays Daily Mail website “Clegg backs plans to cut back on benefits”. It may be possible to argue that is their interpretation but my point is that he should do more to oppose to offer even the slightest encouragement for the nasty party or their friends in the right wing press. For that I do blame Nick.

  • Paul in Twickenham 4th Oct '13 - 2:27pm

    @RC – presumably you didn’t read the link I attached. There was no reason why you should particularly, but if you had then you would have seen that the author’s comments about the UK were in the broader context of what is happening to youth across Europe. This is not a British-only phenomenon and I was attempting to say that there is a broader problem with youth unemployment that appears to be beyond the wit or will of the politicians. Why on earth would you think that I am blaming Nick Clegg for NEETS in Portugal? Are we being a little bit over-defensive?

    As for the £1bn youth contract – would that be the same £1bn youth contract scheme over 3 years that was announced in November 2011? I always hated how Labour would keep re-announcing the same money over and over. Presumably the Liberal Democrats are not doing the same?

  • Peter Davies 4th Oct '13 - 3:22pm

    @Richard Dean
    “It would have to be paid for by citizens” all of whom would receive it resulting in quite small changes in net income.
    “many of whom would be mistrustful of any system that appears to open the door to uncontrolled spending.” There is no spending involved, just transfers which are fixed.
    “Concepts of laziness, living off the state, a something-for-nothing underclass, etc would be high on many working people’s worry list, perhaps higher than now. ” Most people who don’t work already get benefits. The main beneficiaries of Citizens Income would be the working poor.
    “How would the consequent enhanced social divisions be addressed?” It would reduce social divisions. We would all get benefits and all pay taxes so there would be no stigma attached.

  • These unemployed young people! There is one called Joe, all he does is sit around and write, every day. I always say Joe Rowling needs some intensive something or he will never come to any good!

    And there’s 2 sisters, and all they do is play on guitars everyday with their friends, Lian and Noele need some intensive something too!

  • Richard Dean 4th Oct '13 - 3:33pm

    @Peter Davies
    No spending involved? So the people receiving the Citizens Income can’t spend it? Pull the other one!

    Universal Citizens’ Income also seems like the ultimate rejection of LibDem values, particularly values of localism, family, and community. It enforces centralized decision-making about what everyone should receive, it rejects the roles of family and community in providing support, it does nothing for equality or liberty. Worse, it provides the illusion that problem of poverty has been fixed, so lessening motivation to actually fix that problem.

    A thoroughly anti-LibDem proposal.

  • Bill le Breton 4th Oct '13 - 4:58pm

    Does Morgan Warstler here http://www.morganwarstler.com/post/44789487956/guaranteed-income-choose-your-boss-the-market-based
    have an answer to Richard and others difficulties over Citizen Income / Negative Income Tax?
    I recommend a glass of your favourite Friday night tipple before reading it.

  • The vast majority of people who are unemployed don’t wish to be and very much resent the constant accusation from people like Iain Duncan-Smith and George Osbourne that they are ‘workshy’, ‘lazy’, ‘feckless’, ‘scroungers’, ‘skivers’. People like IDS and Osbourne are repellent SCUM. They know what they are doing and should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves but won’t be as they have no social conscious. The ONLY way to solve this dire problem is for the British economy to expand and produce more jobs so the numbers of vacancies is roughly in balance with the number of job seekers and until that occurs then the sort of language used by IDS and Osbourne shouldn’t be spoken. If the Lib Dems are unwise enough to support Tory stigmatisation of the unemployed then that is your look-out and I think it would be politically stupid not to say morally repugnant.

    I say this as a person who has suffered longterm unemployment and who has voted for you in the past.

  • Nick Barlow 5th Oct '13 - 7:56am

    Richard – it sounds like you don’t actually know anything about the idea of basic income/citizens income and are thus projecting all sorts of weird ideas about what it is. As for it being a ‘rejection of Lib Dem values’, you might be interested to know it was in the party’s manifesto in 1992: http://www.libdemmanifesto.com/1992/1992-liberal-manifesto.shtml

  • Richard Dean 5th Oct '13 - 10:29am

    @Nick Barlow.
    “All sorts of weird ideas” get into manifestos, don’t they? If 1992 was the last time it was there, I guess people realized later that it shouldn’t have been, maybe for all the reasons I mentioned.

  • Peter Chivall 5th Oct '13 - 7:10pm

    There seem to be 2 ideas implicit in the Tories’ version of workfare for under-25s: that appropriate employment is available for those unemployment benefits and that all that is needed is to provide a) appropriate skills and training and b) ‘incentives’ not to sit at home. Let me give your readers a true story, although one about a 29year old, not a 25year old.
    A young man from this area had gone to University in Bristol to study Chemistry and got a 1st Class degree. He went on to do an MChem and then research for a PhD. In total he studied for 8 years, only 7 years of it funded by the State in any way.
    In 6th form he had worked in potato packing sheds to get spending money and to save to add to his student loans. When doing his PhD he had worked on bin trucks collecting recycled materials when his ‘stipend’ ran out. Other times he had helped family out on construction jobs and even helped refurbish an old cruising yacht. He would turn his hand to anything. About 8months after completing his PhD he got a 1-year contract with a Laboratory at Oxford Uni that dealt with carbon dating of archeological finds, amongst other things. He was so popular and efficient in his job as acting Laboratory Manager that the management tried to create a post so he could stay on when his 1-year maternity cover was up. About this time, Alistair Carling cut £1,000m from university research budgets to bail out the bankers. The young man’s post had to be given to present someone else in the Chemistry faculty being made redundant from a permanent post.
    He then did what Coalition ministers advise all unemployed young people to do – he returned home and lived in his mum’s spare bedroom. He signed on. He sent his CV to 100s of research bodies. He went to dozens of local employment agencies – this city has over 200 of them! He would literally do anything. In 18months he got NO (zero, zilch) job offers. As a retired Connexions adviser I helped him to re-write his CV as a skills-based one – giving prominence to his GCSEs and Alevels, and to his data-entry and group management skills etc., but relegating his Chemistry degree and PhD to a small print appendix. Eventually, he got fed up and borrowed some money from his family and signed on as crew on a small yacht – he took a delayed (by 10 yrs!) gap year and sailed the Atlantic for 9 months. (Google “Across the Whale’s Acre” for his illustrated blog.
    When he returned next spring, a full 2 years after losing his job in Oxford, he was more fortunate. No, he didn’t get a post in the UK, but with the Royal Dutch Oceanography Institute on an Island in the North Sea.
    This young man is no geek – he is popular, sociable and athletic (he will be running in the Great Eastern half marathon next weekend) and plays in a 5-a-side team. What he is is middle-class, educated and a scientist in a provincial English city where all employment, even by national companies in retail, insurance and engineering is controlled by employment agencies.
    The agencies employ clerks who can read, write and wordprocess. they choose from the 100s of CVs, people who they recognise as suiting what the employer wants – reliable, undemanding, adequately educated but not ‘over qualified’.
    Oh, and by the way, the Claimant Count and the count of those ‘Not in Employment and Seeking Work’ (set by the International Labour Organisation and used by the Office for National Statistics) are quite separate statistics and even the BBC knows the difference. I just hope Nick and his advisers do.

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