Jobless 'urged to go sick': Benefit offices accused of fiddling dole figures

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Indy Politics
UNEMPLOYMENT Benefit Offices have been accused of urging fit people to 'go on the sick' rather than claim unemployment benefit and be counted among the unemployed.

In an attempt to reduce jobless figures UBO offices are also 'hiding' job offers from people looking for work unless they are officially described as unemployed, according to Frank Dobson, Labour's employment spokesman.

As a result of such policies and other statistical changes, the Government has 'fiddled' the unemployment figures below 3 million when there are more than 4 million out of work, Mr Dobson says in an analysis published ahead of today's unemployment figures. The key underlying jobless total fell 26,000 in March, following February's surprise drop of 25,500, to leave the total at 2,940,800.

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment, stopped short of announcing an end to rising unemployment but hopes it will be 'third time lucky' today.

In his analysis Mr Dobson points out that the total jobless figure is 12.8 per cent above the figure in January 1992, while the number on sickness benefit has risen by 16.7 per cent over the same period.

Mr Dobson said he had evidence that Job Centres were reserving vacancies for those who were officially unemployed. 'Jobs are kept 'under the counter' for them but not offered to other people looking for work who are not included in the official figures.'

Among the groups now excluded from the unemployed are 430,000 married women who had part-time jobs, more than 110,000 young people and about 150,000 'older men', he said.