Headlines: March 15th, 2001

As the number of jobless people falls below the one million mark, for the first time in 25 years, new measures are announced to get people into work. The New Deal jobs scheme, which has so far helped 270,000 young people find employment, will be extended to groups including lone parents and people with disabilities. Also, it will include those over 25-years-old and partners of jobless people.The effect on the over 25 group is that they face withdrawal of benefits for up to 26 weeks if they fail to take advantage of the new opportunities on offer. The options will be: to take a subsidized job, training, voluntary work or a place on an environmental task force. In a move to change attitudes people becoming unemployed will be required to attend an interview with the Employment Service before signing on for benefit.There will be compulsory interviews and special schemes to help unemployed people with basic skills problems and drug addicts. New “action teams” will focus attention on areas worst hit by unemployment.

The Conservative Party has criticised the New Deal as an expensive failure and the latest in a long line of employment schemes which try to predict the skills that people will learn while in a job, but do not train people in the skills they need to get or keep a job. Their alternative proposal ‘Britain Works’ is designed to address this issue by getting people ready for the labour market and getting them into the labour market and helping to keep them there. Companies would be paid on the basis of how many initial placements they secure and how many jobs are sustained. ‘Britain Works’ focuses on making sure that potential recruits have the right attitude and that employers can rely on them.