Making work pay: Balls announces compulsory jobs guarantee for long-term unemployed

Ed Balls today set out plans for a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long-term unemployed - ensuring there is a job for every adult who is long-term unemployed.

Ed Balls today set out plans for a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long-term unemployed – ensuring there is a job for every adult who is long-term unemployed.

In an article for Politics Home, the shadow chancellor says the guarantee will be for adults out of work for two years, to be extended to those without a job for 18 months and then a year. Those offered work will be obliged to take it up or face losing benefits.

There are currently 129,400 adults over the age of 25 who have been out of work for 24 months or more – a staggering 88 per cent increase on the same month last year, and 146 per cent increase in the last two years.

Labour says the £1 billion costs can be funded by reversing the government’s decision to stop tax relief on pension contributions for those earning more than £150,000 being limited to 20 per cent.

Balls writes:

Tackling long-term unemployment will be a top priority for the next Labour government because we know from the 1980s that it has a scarring effect on individuals and communities, damages our economy and society, and builds up long-term costs for the taxpayer.

“Once again this government’s record is lamentable. It’s so called welfare to work programme is nothing of the sort. The Work Programme’s results have been worse than doing nothing with just two in 100 jobseekers helped into sustained employment. And the government’s wider economic failure, with a flatlining economy and rising long-term unemployment, means the welfare bill is set to be over £13 billion higher than George Osborne planned.

“Labour has already proposed a compulsory Youth Jobs Guarantee, which would use funds raised from a tax on bank bonuses to fund a guaranteed job for every young person out of work for a year or more – which they will have to take.”

The three tests for a “One Nation” welfare system, Balls adds, are that it:

1. “Must pay more to be in work than live on benefits, both for the individual and the Exchequer”;

2. “Must get tough on the scourge of long-term unemployment by matching rights with responsibilities”;

3. “Must be fair to those who are in work or genuinely want to work“.

He concludes:

“David Cameron cannot be the one nation prime minister Britain needs when his government targets people in work and people who want to work, and labels them as scroungers. When a government becomes more interested in exploiting the challenges the country faces rather than solving them, it shows they are no longer fit to govern, and are just interested in scoring cheap points and trying to set so called political traps.

“The fundamental truth is that the best way to get the benefits bill down is not to attack the striving mum in part-time work or the redundant nurse desperately trying to find a new job, but to get everybody back to work. That is what Labour’s jobs guarantees would do. Britain needs real welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works.

“Welfare reform that unites the country and takes the economy forward, not divisive, nasty and misleading smears from an out of touch and failing government.”

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