Today’s announcement by Gordon Brown of reforms to benefits for young people is old news and has already been tried by consecutive Conservative and Labour governments.
As Project Work under the Conservatives, and New Deal under Labour, the entire process has been - and always has been - a complete sham designed to shunt people off unemployment statistics.
The announcement claims that everyone under 25 years old who has been unemployed for a year would get a guaranteed job, work experience or training place.
But let’s be clear - very few if any will be given a job. Instead, they’ll be shunted off into low-skill “work experience placements” and training courses that seek to rip off employers.
How do I know? Because I was subjected to both schemes when unemployed in the 1990’s.
The premise behind project work was slightly more narrow, in that long-term unemployed would be shunted into work placements.
But the reality is that these were worthless exercises that offered no skills training, cost the government millions in subsidies, and its only achievement was to shunt people from the unemployed register.
Here’s an idea of some of the “work experience” placements offered:
- tidying cemeteries
- cutting undergrowth in wasteland
- painting fences
- talking to care residents
As the examples illustrate, these are not experience placements that offer any relevant work experience or skills training useful for employers.
Think it wasn’t representative? Ask anyone from around the country who went on Project Work.
Labour’s New Deal was slightly more adventurous - it offered training programs which were gladly taken up by a raft of exploitative companies which had already been set up to profit from New Deal.
While the concept of skills training was a laudable goal, the system was played for as much money as possible by the companies offering the training.
Despite having extensive computer skills and internet experience at the time, I was placed on a program to gain recognised qualifications in Windows Office software - Word, Excel, and Access.
Here’s the nasty truth - the company simply gave students answers to the tests, in order to qualify them quickly and therefore in theory, get shunted off in employment with worthless unearned qualifications.
Sure, you would take the exam under “exam conditions”. If you did not pass, you were given the paper back, told where you went wrong, helped through the answers, and then told to complete the exam in your own time.
Not surprisingly, a large number of people passed.
And, again, by being signed up, it took hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people off the official Jobseeker’s Allowance records, because people on such schemes were officially reclassed from “unemployed” to “in training” - even though we all still received a modified form of Jobseeker’s Allowance (an extra £10 a month!).
Think I’m kidding again? Just talk to anyone who took New Deal.
The sad truth about employment schemes
The sad truth about employment schemes is that they are nothing more than an expensive political gimmick, that does nothing to address fundamental problems of unemployment.
After all, if Gordon Brown were really that concerned about improving employment prospects, instead of cutting VAT last December, he could have cut employer’s National Insurance contributions to help encourage companies to retain staff.
Instead, he promised to raise it, killing any potential green shoots in the employment market.
In the meantime, get ready for another political gimmicky employment scheme, that will allow government ministers to elucidate on the great strides being taken, warm speeches about improving the prospects of young people, and posture that they are actually doing something about unemployment.
However, not a single one of the politicians will be aware of the actual conditions on the ground, the extent by which government money in such schemes is openly exploited, and what an amazing waste of taxpayers money such schemes become.
No doubt money will also be given to local councils to help employ people in especially deprived areas as well.
Oh, guess who went on a qualifying course for one of these, passed with full marks, and was refused a basic admin assistant job at the council - on the grounds that no jobs were available in the first place?
Yep, did that, too, and the council got its extra funding.
The truth about unemployment
The real tragedy is that there are a whole variety of reasons why people can be unemployed, and the trap is that once someone has a gap in their employment record, it serves as a mark against you.
It quickly develops to the point where you are unemployable for skilled labour, even if you have the skills, because employers will gladly shirk hiring someone who can be perceived to have shirked skilled work for any significant length of time.
Additionally, Gordon Brown’s initiatives for building economic recovery and stability have been too limited and have already failed, with an additional tax squeeze on entrepreneurs through rising tax rates for small businesses and loss of tax relief on developing business assets.
Despite small businesses being one of the biggest employers in the UK economy, the UK government - insists on continuing to add extra burdens, despite such businesses already being pressured by adverse economic conditions.
And here’s the really nasty truth - unemployment is going to get a lot worse. But instead of facing that reality, politicians are already getting ready to fix the unemployment figures.
The harsh reality of unemployment certainly isn’t going to get any better. If you don’t believe me, ask the millions who will not be working next year.