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15/01/2011 - How to kick someone when they are down

LATE last year, Con-Dem Chancellor George Osborne unveiled the biggest UK spending cuts for decades, with welfare, councils and police budgets all being hit.   As we all know, his £81 Billion cuts package will mean that hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs will disappear over the next few years.   
Although exact figures have yet to be released, up to 500,000 public sector jobs could go by 2014-15 as a result of the cuts programme.  Most commentators believe that the axe will fall heaviest on the National Health Service, children’s services, housing, local government, social care and the voluntary sector.
These massive public sector cuts will have an obvious knock on effect on the private sector. 


Not content with decimating existing jobs, it appears that Con-Dem government are trying to make it even harder for the unemployed to find a job.  For they are now refusing to reinstate the £1 Billion Future Jobs Fund.


The Future Jobs Fund was set up to create 150,000 six-month work placements in England, Scotland and Wales before March 2011.  It was used by hundreds of voluntary sector organisations to create thousands of short-term jobs.


Many of these organisations say that the Future Jobs Fund was an excellent scheme.  It helped out thousands of long-term unemployed people - in particular young people between 8 to 24-year-olds who had been out of work for over six months. 


Here they gained valuable work experience, training and qualifications.  This helped them build up their self confidence, work track record and skills. 


They were also paid the national minimum wage (or more) for a minimum of 25 hours a week.  And many of those on the FJF programme were later offered permanent positions of employment after their placement.
(For instance, Social Enterprise London – SEL – used the Future Jobs Fund to create 500 positions in 32 London social enterprises with 65 per cent of those placements converted into continuing paid employment.  Indeed, Social Enterprise London CEO Allison Ogden-Newton called the FJF “the best scheme ever devised to support disadvantaged young people into work”).


Despite the apparent success of the Future Jobs Fund, the Con-Dem government will end all funding in March.  Instead it will launch what it calls a new welfare to work policy – but this won’t be until June.  This leaves a potential gap of three months in the support available to help unemployed youngsters find work.
Solidarity Trade Union is not a great fan of temporary work schemes.  However, we have to be realistic here.  We’d rather see unemployed youngsters gain work experience – if only for six months – rather than kicking their heels.  The Future Jobs Fund didn’t represent a long term solution to unemployment, but it was a step in the right direction.  And, as we noted earlier, there’s evidence from the voluntary sector to suggest that it was working.


For some reason, the Con-Dem government isn’t prepared to pump money into an expanded FJF programme to help long-term unemployed youngsters.  However, they are prepared to sit by and watch the bankers award themselves around £7 Billion in bonuses.


Cameron and Clegg appear to be happy to abandon a whole generation of young workers by scrapping the Future Jobs Fund.  Talk about kicking someone when they are down.