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Annie Hayes

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Welfare reform is ‘a mistake’

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The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called the proposals that force the unemployed to do community work in exchange for benefits a ‘mistake’.

A paper has been published by the government which is now open for consultation until 22 October 2008. Key to the recommendations are suggestions on how to simplify the benefits system to a two tier system. It also aims to ensure that for most people out of work benefits are only temporary, with schemes to make sure that most people that collect benefits contribute actively in return for them.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber has rejected the proposals calling the timing “poor”: “With the economy slowing down, and many commentators expecting unemployment to rise, now is not the time to start blaming the victim. People who lose their jobs want help in getting new skills and new paying jobs, not make-work schemes that provide no pay, no prospects and not even any time to search for a new job.”

In further reaction, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) sounded a note of caution over the potential for employer discrimination towards jobless groups.

Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser, said: “CIPD research shows that employers are more than three times as likely to deliberately exclude those with a history of drug illness or alcohol problem than those with who have been on long-term incapacity benefit. The government needs to reflect this in their incentives framework to ensure that those who win contracts to help people find jobs do not simply cherry-pick from the more employable groups, such as lone parents.

“Equally, the government needs to provide more support to those who are more likely to be excluded to improve their employability, such as drug addicts. It’s therefore encouraging to see that drug addicts being offered support and treatment in return for benefits.”

On a positive note, Davies welcomed the opportunity to simplify the benefits system calling it a “big step forward”.

Last week, HR Zone revealed that the benefit claimant count had hit a 15-year high.

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Annie Hayes

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