Letter: Obliging the unemployed to train without obliging society to provide them with jobs

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his article 'Is workfare unfair?' (5 February), Andrew Marr suggests that unemployed people should be offered compulsory training rather than compulsory work. If only he would talk to unemployed people on the Employment Training programme about this, he would find out how mistaken this plea is. Even though ET is theoretically voluntary, many trainees tell of how they have had their 'arm twisted' by the Employment Service to go on it, and how they ended up wasting their own time, as well as sometimes ruining the training for people who really want to be there.

For many unemployed people, there is a world of difference between an obligation to train and an obligation to work. Society can not make anyone become a motivated trainee. Admittedly, people sometimes need to be persuaded to pursue their own self-development, but the worst possible way of achieving this is to tell them that whether or not they want training, they have got to endure it anyway.

Work is different. The overwhelming majority of unemployed people want work, and believe that people should work. They are generally relaxed about the idea of the long-term unemployed having a new obligation to work, so long as they have some real choice over the type of work that they do.

Either there should be an obligation for the long-term unemployed to work, in return for society having a new obligation to deliver that work, or there should not. To mix this up with an obligation to train, and limit this according to age, would be fundamentally mistaken.

Yours faithfully,


Full Employment UK

London, N16

5 February