We need a national investment policy

From: Martin John

PCS National Officer for Work and Pensions

The latest idea from Emma Harrison, boss of programme contractor A4E, to enlist paid and volunteer mentors as reported on your front page Working to Mend Broken Britain has not been uncritically received.

For many commentators the return of mass unemployment requires more serious policy responses than enlisting celebrity mentors for workless families. With 2.5 million people looking for work, including almost 1 million young people, it is difficult to see where gimmicks get us apart from yet more bizarre spin-offs for reality TV.

If any hard-pressed family actually does get adopted by Minister for Work Chris Grayling he may actually be asked why Jobcentres are closing or why the staff in Jobcentre Plus is being reduced by over 20 per cent. On past form if challenged on this he would waffle on about deficit reduction and the nation’s credit card being maxed out but the increasingly obvious fact is that government cuts are now adding to the jobless total.

What is required is a national policy of investment and job creation with a special focus on employment and training for young people. In the past the former Manpower Services Commission directed programmes and policies of this type from its HQ in Sheffield. Now in a tragic twist the DWP’s cuts are breaking up that centre of expertise threatening hundreds civil servants with redundancy. These are the very people whose job it is to develop and professionally evaluate employment programmes undistracted by celebrity do-gooding.

In the circumstances it is surely right that Emma Harrison’s ideas are looked at a little more searchingly despite her proven talent for self-publicity.