Tuesday 15 September 2009

Don't mention New Deal

I caught a fascinating Radio 4 programme on Saturday morning. Called "Give us a Job", it was marking the centenary of the institution of Job Centres. They were called Labour Exchanges then, of course. You can hear it on iplayer. After looking at the history, Michael Portillo (yes, I know, but he's out of politics now) spoke to Mark Serwotka and then asked Yvette Cooper about the new Welfare Reform Bill. I waited, naturally, for any mention of the New Deal or Jobcentre Support contracts, but all we got were a couple of cliches about how the Bill was "to take forward more support" for people looking for work and, "We're a society that cares for people." Either the omission was deliberate, or it reflected the irrelevance of these hugely expensive contracts.
This morning the Guardian reports the results of a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses, called "The Jobcentre is not working". Again, there is absolutely nothing about New Deal and the private companies. All the burden of expectation is on Jobcentre Plus, despite the fact that the government is spending vast amounts of money on private companies like A4e to take on much of JCP's role. This is a curious situation, to say the least.

PS. The One Show tonight had a piece about youth unemployment, from Hull which has the highest incidence, and has for years had this dubious honour. The focus was the Young Person's Guarantee. Yvette Cooper was given a few brief lines to say; notably that any young person signing on today is guaranteed not to be signing on a year from now. What they're carefully not saying is that the jobs will be only temporary, and that many youngsters will get only "training". Again, the privatised New Deal situation is unmentioned. The real point of the piece, I felt, was that the only body actually doing something about youth unemployment is the local Council, which funds apprenticeships.

PPS. With all the current talk of cutting non-essential programmes, can we dare to hope that the decidedly non-essential FND contracts will be cut?

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