Job schemes too confused for trainees

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The Independent Online
The Government's attempts to cut unemployment are badly coordinated, confusing and often of low quality, according to a leaked report from the bodies set up by ministers to oversee training for people out of work.

The draft policy document, which will be used to lobby ministers, civil servants, employers and industry, is bound to prove highly embarrassing.

Drawn up by the national coordinating body for the 81 Training and Enterprise Councils in England and Wales, it says the benefits system discourages the unemployed from seeking work. The TECs spend pounds 1.2bn a year on training programmes, which include posts for young people.

The work in progress, leaked to Labour's employment spokesman, Stephen Byers, is expected to be completed within the next month.

It will detail "a confusing array of opportunities" and complex rules which the TECs believe put off Britain's two million jobless and lessen the usefulness of government schemes. It also says that forcing people to go on programmes by threatening to cut off their benefit demotivates them further.

One of five policy documents being produced by the TECs in an attempt to co-ordinate policy and to tackle fundamental issues on unemployment, it says opportunities often fail to relate to the needs of employers. There is no proper monitoring of schemes to see whether they meet the needs of their region, the economy or the wider community, it says.

Although some programmes are subject to inspection, there is little control elsewhere on their quality, it adds. Most unemployed people want a proper job rather than a scheme, it argues, and they often believe that government programmes are unlikely to help them find one.

Research shows that the biggest disincentive to unemployed people thinking of going back to college is the fear that they will lose their benefit if they do so. The social security system is inflexible, and does not encourage people to take low-paid or part-time jobs, the report says. The Job Seekers' Allowance, which was introduced in October and which compels claimants to sign agreements to look for work, will only make matters worse.

Mr Byers said the document was "the clearest possible condemnation of the Government's failure to adequately tackle the question of long-term unemployment". A spokesman for the TECs said the document had not yet been finalised. "It is invidious to think we are in the business of criticising the Government, full stop. We are trying to influence the thinking of ministers, civil servants and other bodies," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said it had not yet seen the criticisms but that they would be studied with interest.

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