Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Mr Harry G Moss

  The most I could hope for under the circumstances is that the Committee will consider my revised proposals as outlined in this letter in order to get 100,000+ claimants away from the workplace for three years or more back to work, saving the Treasury over £3 billion per annum.

  The government of the day should educate all employers towards the adoption of a Voluntary Code of Practice whereby at least one in 200 new recruits are taken directly off the long-term benefits (on a basis where the longer the job applicant has been away from the work place, the more consideration should be given) until such time as 0.5 per cent of the whole workforce would have been recruited directly off of long-term benefits.

  Employers need to be persuaded of the fiscal benefits of employing long-term returners-to-work, in terms of their obvious motivation to work and higher loyalty factor—and hence less staff turnover costs—than job changes. I believe that these benefits are so good that no form of government subsidy to employers adopting the Code of Practice need be given.

  Under the Code of Practice applicants away from the workplace for three years or more should be assessed non-empirically for any post—based on interviews, exams and selection boards. Successful applicants should be initially employed on a trial period of three months, six months or nine months (where workplace absence is up to six years, six to 12 years or more than 12 years). Some trial periods could be initially part-time! Some trial periods could be preceded by, where appropriate, a voluntary placement for three months or less. Trial periods should not count towards the two year qualifying period for redundancy pay. Claimants of Severe Disability Allowance or comparable benefits should be at liberty to enter into a voluntary placement/trial period without the consent of the DSS and should be able to continue to receive non-means tested disability benefits during the trial period.

  Upon successful permanent employment, the ex-claimant who is disabled, and was away from the workplace thereby three to six years, six to 12 years, or more than 12 years, should be able to reclaim DSS benefits as if the claim were not broken, for two years, three years or five years respectively after commencing work, not counting the trial period. This is vital.

  Further, many long-term returners-to-work, particularly the disabled, would be in financial hardship with clothing and other expenses faced by returning to work. I should therefore suggest that a tiny proportion of the £3 billion per annum saved if 100,000+ long-term claimants return to work be given back in the form of, upon evidence of being accepted for a Voluntary Placement or trial period, a grant of £200, £300 or £500—again where absence from work was three to six years, six to 12 years or more than 12 years.

  Wherever IT skills can benefit a placement, the government should consider exempting from VAT anybody on the scheme who buys their own computer in order to improve IT/internet skills, and should increase the Social Fund budget specifically to enable returners-to-work to borrow, interest free, from the DSS, money to buy their own computers. Very many returners-to-work would benefit by becoming teleworkers. Teleworking will reduce Corporate Capital tied up in office space, and teleworkers do not add to traffic congestion or train/bus overcrowding at rush hour.

  Very many returners-to-work after three or more years won't however even have a telephone and until such time as the anti-social profits of BT from the iniquitously high rental charges and existence of any call charges whatsoever for modem calls cease, returners-to-work will remain socially excluded and cyberworld excluded. Therefore, I further propose that a returner-to-work receive a grant to fully cover telephone line rental and modem call charges for six months, 12 months or 18 months—where the returner-to-work had been away from the workplace, again, three to six years, six to 12 years or more than 12 years.

  These are my proposals which have the broad support of my own MP and several others on both sides of the House. Every MP has some 200 or more constituents to whom the issue of re-employment after three or more years absence from the workplace is the key issue. Nothing will liberate a disabled person more than some sort of equal playing field in employment opportunities and fiscally incongruous prejudice against anybody away from the workplace for three years or more is the primary obstacle stopping progress towards that equal playing field.

  Nothing costs us more than Social Security. On closer examination I can estimate that, if all reasons for long-term absence from the workplace are included, then at least 40,000 claimants would welcome the chance to work again after 12 or more years; 60,000 after six to 12 years and 80,000 after three to six years. If the benefits paid to each claimant plus tax and National Insurance lost come to £450 per week (I think the figure is actually much higher) then getting these 180,000 claimants back to work will save the Treasury over £4.2 billion per annum for a one-off cost of c£115 million were all the above measures to be adopted.

  Even with my revised number of 180,000 claimants for three or more years who want to work you can see that I am still being conservative with my estimates.

  I hope too that were my ideas implemented, another tiny proportion of the vast savings made, be used to stop the decline in real terms, year on year for over 20 years of disability benefits and that in particular, benefits to the elderly, such as the minimum income guarantee and £150 winter fuel payment, are extended to all claimants on a disability premium. (They traditionally, were until Labour came to power—look at the notorious £10 Christmas bonus, for example.)

  By not helping the long-term claimant who wants to work back to work, the government is making life worse for those too disabled to ever work again.

  That the Committee may have the opportunity to consider my proposals, could represent a powerful breakthrough for those in our society who must badly need to work and who are most discriminated against! As Vivienne Parry said in the News of the World article, "employers must break the habits of a lifetime". All discrimination is shameful, but demanding that job applicants must have recent work experience, when that is clearly impossible for the long-term claimant, is particularly despicable. It is also frightening for very many people in work, who know as things are, that if they become out of work for any reason and don't quickly get re-employed, they may never work again.

  This whole issue therefore goes to the heart of industrial relations and affects all of us.

Harry G Moss

April 2000

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