The second thing that struck me was that although Phillips was trying to understand, and said that she felt "chastened" after meeting a couple on IB, she showed the great gulf in the realities of people like her and those of the poor. Several of the lads she talked to in Blythe spoke of the restrictions of lack of mobility; the expense of bus travel, the lack of transport in some cases. One young man had just passed his driving test and had got a job because of that. To Phillips this showed the lads' lack of mental and emotional "equipment" to get themselves out of the trap. It didn't occur to her that it costs a great deal of money to learn to drive, and that the lack, or expense, of public transport is a very real barrier. This incomprehension means that very little of her thesis is credible. Still, she tried.
Monday, 4 January 2010
Don't mention New Deal
Two things struck me most about tonight's Radio 4 programme in which right-wing journalist Melanie Phillips looked at unemployment. The first was that there was no mention of New Deal. Earlier in the evening there had been an item on the Today programme about NEETs, which featured an apparently successful 12-week course run by Barking Council. Then Phillips went to Blythe in Northumbria and looked at a similar course run by the Prince's Trust; and at a project for the long-term unemployed run by South Tyneside local authority. Finally Phillips spoke to Jim Knight MP about the benefits system. But nobody mentioned New Deal. Vast amounts of money have been spent, and continue to be spent, on New Deal in its various incarnations, but whenever people write, or make programmes about, unemployment it seems to be regarded as irrelevant. Why?