A Welsh MP has urged the government to abolish Jobcentre Plus and replace it with an agency that gives contracts to charities and private recruitment companies in order to tackle long-term unemployment.
Welsh Labour MP Chris Evans has secured a Westminster Hall debate to press for sweeping change in order to make sure that “no-one can be allowed to have a life on welfare”.
The Islwyn MP said: “Change will cause pain in many areas, but the decisions that secure long-term, sustainable employment for everyone in our country are worth the short-term hurt that would be caused. It will require a generational effort, but we must start now.”
“The first stage is to abolish Jobcentre Plus.”
He continued: “Jobcentre Plus must be replaced with an agency that exists to contract charities and private recruitment companies to provide a service based firmly in the communities of the long-term unemployed. That service would ensure that there is localised, individualised and specialist support for jobseekers, delivered by groups with a proven track record of success in their locality.”
The MP set out a new system, in which if a person lost their job on Friday, they would have a “personalised discussion with a job search expert by Monday about what employers in the area are looking for, what they want to achieve, what barriers are stopping them from achieving their goal and how they can get the skills that they need and that employers want.”
Mr Evans also said that long term unemployed were the “elephant in the room” as they are a risk to businesses, and that the government should take the risk away from companies. “Anyone who has worked in business – especially in small and medium-sized enterprises – knows that taking on a new employee is a risk, especially one who has been long-term unemployed. I can understand why firms often choose not to do so.”
“The Government are large enough to take the risk away from companies. We can give employers tax breaks for taking on the long-term unemployed”
Mr Evans has concerns about the present system of “sanctions” used against welfare claimants, due to faults in the current system and not being able to receive the support they need.
He went on to say that a new approach is needed to be built around a partnership between Government, charities, private enterprise and local residents.
Employment minister Priti Patel disagreed with claims that Jobcentre Plus is not “fit for purpose”.
She said: “Every day our work coaches conduct nearly 100,000 interviews across a network of more than 700 jobcentres…
“The Work programme aims to support claimants at risk of long-term unemployment. It has been successful and, to date, has supported over 400,000 long-term unemployed people in getting back into work.
“As a result, we have been able to get more people back into work and support people through very challenging circumstances.”