Monday, July 15, 2024

Liz Kendall says economic inactivity holding UK back as she visits Job Centre

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Liz Kendall, who has declared that “economic inactivity is holding Britain back” is visiting a Job Centre in the north of England on Thursday.

Following a manifesto promise, the party said Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service will be merged in an effort to both get more people into work and support people to find better paid jobs.

Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service will be merged under the new Government's plan (Philip Toscano/PA)
Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service will be merged under the new Government’s plan (Philip Toscano/PA)

Labour has said a new so-called Youth Guarantee for 18-21 year-olds will see more opportunities for training, an apprenticeship or help to find work offered to all in this age category “to prevent young people becoming excluded from the world of work at a young age”.

It has also promised that more disabled people and those with health conditions will be supported to get into and remain in work “by devolving more power to local areas so they can shape a joined-up work, health, and skills offer that suits the needs of the people they serve”.

Former prime minister Rishi Sunak had faced criticism following a speech on welfare reform in April which saw campaigners accuse him of a “hostile rhetoric” on sick notes and describe proposals as a “full-on assault on disabled people”.

Those plans included benefits being stopped if someone does not comply with conditions set by a work coach and a proposal to reform personal independence payments (PIP).

Disability equality charity Scope has hailed the new Government’s “positive vision” but urged it to provide reassurance to disabled people who are unable to work “that they won’t be forced into unsuitable jobs, or have vital financial support taken away”.

Previous analysis by the Resolution Foundation calculated that spending on welfare is set to rise by almost £21 billion a year by the end of the next parliament, with the increase almost entirely down to pensions and disability benefits.

Ms Kendall said rising levels of economic inactivity are unacceptable and that immediate action must be taken, with 9.4 million people currently economically inactive, a record 2.8 million people out of work due to long-term sickness, and 900,000 young people not in education, employment, and training.

Ahead of her visit to Leeds, Ms Kendall said: “Growth is our number one mission and, as the Chancellor said, our Back to Work Plan is central to achieving our plans.

“Economic inactivity is holding Britain back – it’s bad for people, it’s bad for businesses, and it’s bad for growth.

“It’s not good enough that the UK is the only G7 country with employment not back to pre-pandemic levels.

“It is time for change in every corner of the country.

“We’ll create more good jobs, make work pay, transform skills, and overhaul jobcentres, alongside action to tackle the root causes of worklessness including poor physical and mental health.

“Change delivered by local areas for local people, driving growth and delivering opportunity and prosperity to everyone, wherever they live.”

More disabled people and those with health conditions will be supported to enter and stay in work, by devolving more power to local areas so they can shape a joined-up work, health, and skills offer that suits the needs of the people they serve, the Department for Work and Pensions said.

The department’s new ministerial team will see how people with health conditions, and those aged 18-24 and over 50 are being supported by the Job Centre in Leeds.

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin will join the visit which will include a trip to the Smartworks charity, which helps people prepare for job interviews by providing free clothing.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at Scope, said: “Tackling economic inactivity by addressing the root causes of ill health and NHS waiting lists, rather than demonising people who are too unwell to work, is a victory for common sense.

“Bringing in a localised approach is a key part of this – local advisers are best placed to advise on local opportunities for disabled people.

“We encourage the Government to go further and address other significant barriers disabled people face, such as such as employers’ negative attitudes, inflexible working practices, and backlogs getting the right support.”

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