At the party conferences of the main two parties, I was interested in what Ed Miliband would say about housing (read what I blogged in response to this) and what George Osborne would be saying about getting people into jobs.
I have blogged previously about the Work Programme (‘How does the Work Programme actually work ….?‘)
This is what Mr Osborne told representatives about plans for those who have been on the Work Programme for more than two years: “We are saying there is no option of doing nothing for your benefits, no something for nothing any more. They will do useful work to put something back into their community; making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, working for a local charity. Others will be made to attend the job centre every working day.
“And for those with underlying problems, like drug addiction and illiteracy, there will be an intensive regime of support. No-one will be ignored or left without help. But no-one will get something for nothing.”
This begs the question: what is the purpose of the Work Programme? Why are providers not already addressing issues such as drug addiction and illiteracy? In the view of current providers, are they not viable clients under the payment by results regime?
I am really keen on providing genuine work experience and opportunities for people who are unemployed, especially those who have been long term unemployed. At BHT we are doing more and more to prepare people for work and we provide work experience and actual jobs too. We receive no funding through the Work Programme. Our initiatives are paid for from our own charitable funds and from charitable sources such as the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.
I often wonder how much we could achieve if we received even a fraction of the funding pocketed by Work Programme providers. It is such a shame the government did not apply localism principles to the commissioning of work-related activities. The public purse would have been much better served.
I also have doubts about being asked to take on someone who is being required to “work for a local charity” when they have no wish to do so. Any volunteer programme costs money if it is to be worthwhile. What finances will be made available for their management and on costs? Will resources be redirected from the Work Programme? (Better still, end the Work Programme and invest the money on a programme that works!).
My final point relates to the job market. Where are the jobs? In Brighton and Hove graduates often get entry-level jobs such as waiting on tables. Brighton has the best qualified bar staff in the country. But where does that leave men and women who have limited educational qualifications, who aren’t being well served by the Work Programme? Perhaps they can wait a couple of years before being supported with their underlying problems. What a waste of time and public funds.