Alastair Darling Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has set out the Government’s strategy for restoring a work culture, which he claimed had been undermined in some areas since the 1980s. Where there is seen to be little prospect of work, people accept receipt of benefit as a way of life. He claimed that getting people into paid employment was one way to reduce a whole range of social ills, including crime and disorder.The strategy will support people in the over 50s group, lone parents and disabled people to help them find work. It is estimated that up to 70% of 2.3 million people claiming incapacity benefit could return to work. A proposal to require people on disability benefit to undergo periodic health checks has brought a storm of protest.
Alistair Darling was speaking at the launch of an Institute for Public Policy Research study on unemployment. The study report calls for action to deal with areas of extreme unemployment. Statistics show that there are 68 local labour markets where less than 70% of working age people have a job and in some cases more than half of adults have no work. Areas include cities like Glasgow and Liverpool, but also small towns and rural areas in Wales, Northern Ireland, the North East, Devon and Cornwall.
In some parts of the country like the North East or Wales more jobs are required, not just measures to improve people’s ’employability’. More resources need to be targeted on the hardest to help groups and the Institute points out that almost half the New Deal windfall tax, amounting to some 2.3 billion pounds at the end of the last Parliament, has not yet been spent.