Cameron targets ‘jobless Britain’

By Alex Stevenson

Persistent unemployment and the welfare state will be the “centrepiece” of the Conservative conference, David Cameron has said.

The Tory leader said he planned to cut unemployment through voluntary work, subsidised employment and training.

The New Deal will rely heavily on the private sector. Firms will identify which of those on benefits should be encouraged to return to work, as well as prepare training opportunities for them.

“We recognise the jobs crisis is one of the most serious things we face as a country,” Mr Cameron told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.

“If we don’t deal with it it’s not just bad for those people who are unemployed now – there’s a danger that short-term unemployment becomes long-term unemployment and builds up massive problems for our families and our country in the future.”

There are now over 2.5 million people unemployed and one in five young people are struggling to get a job in Britain, he said, adding: “If you look across Europe, there isn’t a country in Europe which has more children growing up in a household where nobody works than Britain.”

Mr Cameron wants to focus this year’s party conference, the last before the general election, on ‘getting Britain working’.

He expects the upfront cost of the shift will be around £600 million, taking into account the existing schemes currently in use by the government.

Labour, Mr Cameron said, were the “party of unemployment” whereas the Conservatives are the party of “jobs and opportunity”.

“They’ve never really bitten the bullet of proper welfare reform,” he said of Labour.

David Freud, the London School of Economics welfare expert, originally worked for Labour but has now switched to the Tories to develop the opposition’s policies.

Lingering unemployment is expected to remain a persistent problem throughout the next parliament, continuing to exert pressure on the welfare system long after GDP returns to positive growth.