Social Policy

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The Independent Online
Getting 250,000 under-25s off benefits and into jobs, treating an extra 100,000 patients by a pounds 100m cut in NHS bureaucracy and introducing "fast-track" punishment for young offenders are three of Labour's firm "promises" on social policy.

On social security Labour is far less specific, aiming to spend less through welfare-to-work and fraud-busting policies, and promising to retain Serps, the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme. Labour will, however, create a new framework for funded second-tier pensions as an alternative. Without any detailed commitment, the document states that "the benefit traps that make people worse off when they take a job must be tackled."

There is, however, "a commitment" to "high and stable" levels of employment - the 1944 White Paper definition of full employment - starting with a cash rebate for employers who take on the long-term unemployed, together with its pledge of a job or training for every young person unemployed for six months.

The package - an "economic imperative" - will be funded by the windfall tax on utility profits. The options for the young include a private sector job subsidised by a pounds 60-a-week six-month rebate; a six-month benefit- plus-job with a voluntary sector employer; full-time study, or work with the planned environmental taskforce.

"There will be no fifth option of remaining permanently unemployed on full benefit. We believe that is fair - right and responsibilities go together."

The NHS plans include the bureaucracy cut, the replacement of GP fundholding with GP commissioning and the restoration of the right of all GPs to refer to any hospital.

"Tough on crime" includes removing the "licence to carry on offending" from the youth justice system by halving the time from arrest to sentencing for persistent offenders.

And the document again stresses "rights and duties" to defend Labour against its suggestions for tackling disruptive neighbours, truancy, young children out late at night and vandalism.

"If your life is being made hell ... your rights are being infringed," it says.