Frank Field and Sir Nicholas Soames spearhead plan for jobs ‘guarantee’ for long-term unemployed

Sunday Times - 10 Jun 2018

The taxpayer should fund six months paid work for anyone struggling to find a job, under an ambitious plan to “abolish” long-term unemployment to be launched by MPs this week.

The “employment guarantee bill” is being spearheaded by Labour’s Frank Field and Conservative Sir Nicholas Soames, and has the backing of a cross-party group of more than 30 MPs.

Under the proposal, jobseekers who have been out of work for six months would be guaranteed paid employment in the private, voluntary or public sectors.

“We can abolish long-term unemployment as a first plank in a post-Brexit reform programme,” said Field, the veteran MP for Birkenhead.

“Lots of people who voted to leave the EU had never had any reason to vote before and felt left behind. This would show we have taken the Brexit vote seriously.”

The timing of the scheme is likely to raise eyebrows, with the unemployment rate at 4.2%, its lowest in more than four decades. Critics say employers could use government-subsidised workers to cut their wage bills

Matthew Oakley, a former Treasury economist who wrote a government-commissioned review of jobseeker’s allowance in 2014, said: “For people stuck in long-term unemployment it’s not just lack of experience but often physical and mental health conditions keeping them out of work. Those problems need addressing first. Getting them into paid work isn’t a magic bullet. Where do they go when the six months is up?”

Soames said a job guarantee would be costly for the taxpayer, but could lead to “very considerable regeneration” in areas left behind by rising rates of employment. The MP for Mid Sussex said: “There are places where unemployment is painfully stuck despite heroic progress across the country. There’s an opportunity to give people some paid work to give them confidence.”

Tommy Stubbington, Sunday Times