Training 'at heart of benefits problem'

Too many claimants are returning to the dole, MPs say
Too many claimants are returning to the dole, MPs say

Helping those who struggle to achieve sustainable employment through training is crucial to reducing dependency on benefits in Britain, MPs believe.

At present 40 per cent of all jobseeker's allowance recipients getting a job are back on benefits within six months, while over two-thirds of benefit claims are repeats.

A report published today by the Commons' public accounts committee says the 40 per cent figure goes beyond acceptable levels of turnover in the labour market.

It criticises the 13-week definition of what is considered 'sustainable' and calls on the government to adopt a performance-measuring system which tracks their progress over a longer period.

"Far too many people bounce back and forth between short-term employment and being on benefits," committee chairman Edward Leigh said.

"The two key departments - the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills - must work together more systematically if they are to help into long-term employment those of our citizens for whom employment is a brief interlude between a morale-sapping existence on benefits."

MPs note those most at risk of struggling to find long-term jobs have the lowest skills and call on businesses to do more to raise the skills levels of their employees.

Around a third of employers do not invest in training. Although the report says training is curtailed by financial constraints it also says reducing the regulatory burden should be accelerated as this may deter staff development programmes.

Employment minister Stephen Timms said the government had made "great progress" in helping unemployed people back to work.

But he admitted some would face "complex barriers" and need greater support.

"We are working with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to integrate employment and skills services to make sure we help people to get the right skills to move into long-term and fulfilling work," he said.

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesperson Danny Alexander blamed government plans to penalise benefit claimants avoiding work for the current problems, however.

"The government's rhetoric on draconian benefits sanctions completely ignores the real problems stopping people holding down regular work," he said.

"We need decent training programmes geared towards the needs of individuals, which will help people back into work."


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