Shining a light on the menace of long-term worklessness – Stephen Timms MP

Shining a light on the menace of long-term worklessness

In politics we talk a lot about how to get people off benefits and into jobs.  But very few in politics have direct experience of creating jobs for people who have been out of work for a long time.  That’s why Colin Crooks’ accounts of individuals who made it into work with his social enterprises, and those who did not, are so enthralling.  They are real-world experiences and .

Mr Crooks largely accepts the ‘work first’ presumption that has guided thinking in the Department for Work and Pensions for some years.  His contribution, however, is the idea of ‘patient employment’: that people who are de-motivated and deskilled by long-term unemployment need an employer who will take the time to build up their capabilities.  People who have lost touch with work need to see the real-life benefits of developing their skills, rather than just being sent on course after course.

He argues that this kind of job creation is best achieved in social enterprises.  As he says, it takes a Shavian ‘unreasonable man’ to want to go into deprived parts of the country to create jobs for long term unemployed people.  He suggests creating Social Enterprise Zones, where social entrepreneurs would be encouraged, and public bodies would be obliged to issue tenders on the basis of maximising local benefit.  And he argues for a tax of £1000 on each redundancy which employers could offset by investing in job creation nearby.

But will social entrepreneurs always be patient employers?  And to what extent would encouraging clusters of social enterprises be a sticking plaster, disguising the problem of unemployment rather than solving it?  Colin would answer that if we want our young people to learn the routines of work and the skills to succeed, and then build up their neighbourhoods, we need their parents to be in work and setting an example.  Building capabilities through social enterprise could begin to sow those seeds.

Stephen Timms MP

East Ham