LETTER :The `tough' approach to youth unemployment

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The Independent Online
From Dr Dan Finn

Sir: Your endorsement of Gordon Brown's "tough" approach towards the young unemployed ("Labour gets it right on jobs", 10 November) is misconceived, as is the shadow Chancellor's decision to undermine the overall value of his proposals by linking Labour's package to explicit new benefit sanctions.

While it may help Labour win some Tory votes, the stress on sanctions sends the wrong message to the unemployed and to those working to create high-quality opportunities for them. Forcing people on to programmes simply to protect their benefit payments, and where their psychological motivation will be close to zero, will not help them to get jobs. It will in fact reinforce the deep scepticism that already exists among the young about the purpose and value of government schemes.

Gordon Brown's package is a long way short of the "most ambitious attempt yet" to tackle youth unemployment you describe. At best it is a modest, if welcome, extension of the opportunities that already exist for those out of work.

Finally, it has been profoundly dispiriting to see senior Labour shadow ministers scoring cheap points by peddling gross stereotypes about the young unemployed. This has given a green light to those advocating a workfare regime and has done serious damage to the hard-won credibility of many in the Labour Party who have worked to protect high-quality programmes for the unemployed.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Finn

Stockport, Greater Manchester

10 November