Memorandum submitted by East Sussex Archaeology
and Museum Partnership after the publication of the Welfare Reform
1. Seek a clear ministerial statement as
to the specific cuts to the WBLA programme and for training for
those unemployed people aged over 25.
We have written to Margaret Hodge Minister for
Work on two separate occasions in October and November 2005 seeking
ministerial clarification as the status of WBLA. We have not had
a response of any form. When Michael Foster (MP for Hastings and
Rye) asked a specific question about this on our behalf, at a
select committee session, to Mr Nicholas (JCP) he confirmed that
there had been at least a 75% cut in this area and that it was
directly driven by ministerial steer. If this is the case surely
it is beholden on ministers to announce this publicly and make
this known to Parliament, the unemployed in our community and
to the training sector. To my knowledge such a statement has not
been made in any shape or form. Given the huge scale of the cuts
to one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society surely this
should be made transparent so that it can be held up to the appropriate
committee, parliamentary and public scrutiny.
2. Seek clarity in relation to the Government's
position in relation to providing training for the unemployed.
The Government now appears to have excluded
the very significant percentage of unemployed people from training.
From July 2006 onwards the only training in our region (The Government
of South East England Region (GOSE) for those aged over 25 will
be New Deal 25 plus, this is for those unemployed over 18 months.
There are 97000 people aged over 25 who are economically inactive
in the GOSE region (Labour Market statistics helpline). Firstly,
there are very few training places for this substantial group
and secondly only a tiny percentage of them will be eligible for
A huge percentage of this highly disadvantaged
sector of our community will be excluded from this key plank of
support of re-entering the labour market. This is not resource
targeting this is discrimination on a grand scale. Universities
and schools and rightly pressured by the Government to make learning
opportunities available to all particularly the most excluded
in our society-the new cuts in training introduced by the Government
are a complete contradiction of the approach that they are asking
of the educational sector itself.
3. Explaining the reason for the paucity
of the proposed training provision in relation to the increasing
national demand for training.In the statement made by John Hutton
on 24th January "A new Deal for Welfare:empowering people
to work" there is no mention of training apart form one
aside concerning providing information about training. Given the
fact that the Minister was referring to getting the 2.7 million
incapacity benefit recipients back to work and getting more of
the 720,000 lone parents back to work and also getting the hundreds
of thousands of older people back to work the omission of training
from this was astonishing. Whilst training is not exclusively
the means of supporting such people back to work it is absolutely
a key mechanism for the majority of such people. Under the few
New Deal programmes which are being made available after July
2006 the intended length of training programmes is 13 weeks. This
is farcical in relation to people who may have profound mental
and physical health challenges, who may have been out of work
for ten years. who may have very low self esteem and who may have
very low communication and basic skills. Firstly, the training
will not be long enough to provide these skills and the relevant
vocational skills to move into employment, secondly the type and
quality of qualifications which people will be able to do will
be very limited because of this time constraint, thirdly this
length of training will be regarded as totally inadequate by many
employers and will again limit the employment areas which people
can address themselves to. We currently train people for up to
fifty two weeks; we have twenty years experience-in providing
high quality training for the long term unemployed and given our
experience and performance can legitimately call ourselves experts
in this field. I can state categorically such individuals need
longer term training to successfully gain sustainable employment
which is value to them. The focus in John Hutton's statement and
the new training frameworks is on work focussed interviews, grants
and benefit realignments-this is not actually a coherent strategy
for re-skilling such people. It is an attempt to deny the vital
role of training and go for the cheapest quick option to getting
people into employment. Some people will ultimately positively
benefit from options such as the "Pathways to work"
this but for many hundreds of thousands of people the key means
by which they could have gained skills and qualifications to get
back to work has just been removed by the Government.
As you are aware in the quarter September to
December, unemployment rose by 110,000-the highest such rise in
12 years. Given the fact that there are 1.5 million people registered
as unemployed, 2.7 million people on incapacity benefit (whom
the Government wants to get into employment-most of whom are aged
over 25) and that there are over 700,000 unemployed lone parents
(mostly aged over 25) surely it is insane to cut the key training
programme for the twenty five plus age group by over 75%.
Surely it is also completely counterproductive
to offer such short-term limited training when the people whom
the Government is targeting for employment have such profound
challenges and often need a high level of pastoral support and
counselling alongside their vocational training. The government
should ensure that JCP regions retain the frameworks and flexibility
to offer training of up to and over 52 weeks where the requirement
is clearly identified by local JCP staff on behalf of their clients.
4. SETTING UNREASONABLE
The Government rightly sets benchmarks for training
programmes. So, for most training provision 40% of leavers have
to gain employment. We currently get 76% of our leavers into employment.
There used to be a 16 week period after people left training in
which if a person got a job then the training provider could claim
an employment outcome. This period was reduced to thirteen weeks
in 2001. Under the New Deal programmes running after this April
this year the tracking period will be six weeks. This is ludicrous.
The Government is saying in effect that people facing greater
challenges and barriers to employment will be able to undertake
much more limited training for a much shorter time and then they
have to get employment in a much shorter time or the training
will be deemed to have failed. This will create false failure
statistical outcomes. Many people will get employment directly
related to their areas of training but maybe after 8,9,10,11 weeks
however this wont be captured statistically so it will appear
that both the training provider and training itself will be deemed
to be failing. The Government is almost perversely setting its
own training up to fail. A very real concern given the previous
points is that this could be used as a means of legitimizing further
cuts to training at a national level. It is not however some political
game it is the destruction of opportunities for some of the most
vulnerable excluded members of our society and it is the unnecessary
destruction of the training provision that could and currently
is supporting such people. It flies in the face of so much other
national and regional governmental policy as to be completely
I and my staff team are very dedicated to supporting
the unemployed community. We do this with great heart, commitment
and skill. To see the surreptitious destruction of training for
key parts of the unemployed community is very hard. I think that
some answers should be forthcoming from ministers, I think further
scrutiny needs to be applied to may of these issues as a matter
of urgency and I think some existing types of provision needs
to be maintained and training actually to be expanded to meet
the new demand.
There are many other related issues which I
have not raised as I do not want to dilute the focus of attention
in some of these key areas. This government has done so much good
in this area and should rightfully be proud of its achievements
this far. This in many ways makes the present situation even more
incomprehensible and less excusable.
I would be very grateful for any attention which
you are able to bring to this matter. am fully aware of the huge
range of major issues coming before your committee at present.
I would submit to you that this matter is of very real national
significance and I very much hope that it is a matter appropriate
for scrutiny by your committee as such scrutiny urgently does
need to be applied.
I have copied this letter to Michael Foster
as he has helped support our search for answers in respect of
this matter. I have also copied this to Barry Sherman as I believe
that the huge reduction in lifelong learning opportunities to
an already excluded sector of society has broader further implications.
Further given that the Adult Learning Inspectorate are being merged
with Ofsted there a natural coming together of issues and concerns
between DWP and DfES. I fully understand and respect that your
committee has the primacy in these matters.
We will also seek to raise the matter through
our local MP's and through all our means available to us.
1 February 2006