I watched with interest yesterday as George Osbourne announced new plans to make the long term employed earn their benefits by doing work in the community. I also watched as many people complained that the plans amounted to forced labour and how it wasn’t fair on those who were trying hard to find a job in such a difficult market.
Osbourne also announced plans to make people report to the Job Centre daily, instead of the current requirement which is once a fortnight. Again, people accuse the government of not trusting them to look to work by themselves.
I am fully supportive of these new plans and this is why. For over six years, I worked helping disadvantaged, unemployed people back to work. Many of those people genuinely wanted to work and were prepared to do anything to improve their chances of securing a job. They undertook work experience placements, attended training sessions and were constantly making appointments with me to get CV and application support. These clients were prepared to take any job that was offered to them, so long as they were working and able to pay their own way, they were happy.
But then there was another group of clients, who initially were just as keen to engage with the services which we were offering. But as time went by and they became comfortable with their routines and their benefits, they became less committed to finding a job and extremely resistant to any suggestions that were made. Their appointments at the Job Centre were the same time every fortnight and the day before, they would attend our service looking for the minimum 2 jobs that they needed to evidence their job search. Effort to find those jobs was minimal – they only wanted to do just enough to satisfy the job centre. They were also only prepared to apply for particular jobs which fitted with what they wanted to do and refused to consider anything else. Re-training was always rejected and so the longer they were unemployed, the harder it was to get them back to work and they became long term employed.
I do also accept that there are another group of people who desperately want to work but are struggling due to a variety of factors such as disability and mental health issues. There is no doubt that these people need specialist help and support to get back into employment. Indeed, there remains a stigma to employing disabled people which still needs to be addressed, despite the Equality Act 2010. But Mr Osbourne has said that specialist support will be made available and there are organisations which offer such help, including Flyinglady. (Please contact Flyinglady for info)
People who genuinely want to work will welcome Mr Osbourne’s changes as voluntary work in the community will increase their experience, boost their confidence and provide an opportunity to meet new people, all of which increases their chances of securing paid work. As one commenter said yesterday, if people want to work, they have nothing to fear from the changes.
I do have one concern over these plans and that is the extra pressure it may put on the Job Centre. That’s why it is a long term goal of Flyinglady to open a centre which will help those who really want to work and make a contribution to society. My vision is to provide a whole spectrum of support – everything under one roof – which will help the long term unemployed to build their skills and confidence in order to get back to work as soon as possible. But these services will only be available to those who really want to work and are prepared to work hard to secure a job. There’ll be more on that to come but for now, I hope the welfare reforms will help people to work.