Temporary work scheme has 7,000 vacancies

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DESPITE rising unemployment, nearly 7,000 places are vacant on the Government's temporary work programme for jobless adults, writes Barrie Clement.

The Department of Employment said yesterday that although 30,000 places were available on the Employment Action scheme, which provides community-based work for the unemployed, only around 23,000 had been filled.

The programme was launched in June last year to provide work experience in return for expenses of up to pounds 10 a week on top of unemployment benefit, albeit with minimal vocational training.

But the Labour Party said that by May of this year, two months after the target deadline, only 20,000 places had been created. In some regions just 50 per cent of the intended capacity was available, Gordon Brown, Labour's treasury spokesman, said.

Mr Brown said the figure revealed that ministers' promise to take action on unemployment was 'no more than a callous betrayal, not only of the hundreds of thousands made unemployed in this recession, but also of the millions of people now desperate for a swift upturn in the economy'.

Unless action was taken to remove the fear of unemployment - which was preventing people from spending and moving home - the economy would remain in recession, he said.