The Conservatives are failing to deliver the jobs they promised and are plunging more people into poverty
This week, we heard the Chancellor deliver a limp Spring Statement which – according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – will result in 600,000 being people pulled into poverty. The reality is he is making people poorer, with the biggest hit to living standards in record.
The usual response from the Chancellor when challenged on poverty is this: work is the best route out of poverty.
But there is a problem.
Despite the impression the Chancellor tried to create, the truth is that employment is still below 2019 levels – and people’s wages are being hammered in real terms by the Tory cost-of-living crisis. We have rocketing vacancies, but unemployment has stopped falling.
Something is broken in the UK economy, and the Tories are trying to hide it.
Why won’t they tell the truth? There are still fewer people in work now than before the pandemic, and the vacancies crisis is not helping people get a job or get a better job in the way that it should.
The DWP have shut their eyes, crossed their fingers and hoped the problem would just go away
The truth is, Rishi Sunak had to cover up for failure in the UK’s largest spending department: the Department for Work and Pensions. Following criticism from the National Audit Office that their flagship Kickstart scheme provided, “limited assurance over the quality of the work placements created by the scheme, or whether jobs created by employers would have existed anyway,” it is clear from yesterday’s data from the OBR that the department has failed to have any real impact on the labour market. A pathetic situation when one in eight young adults are out of work or training.
The Department for Work and Pensions is in complete disrepair, unequipped to deal with a bruised, insecure, and under-employed workforce with the speed and intelligence we need. Just a few weeks ago, Boris Johnson claimed that their latest scheme would get people into work more quickly. But there is little evidence that it’s working.
We all know that people can thrive when they find the right role, and sometimes – with the right training – a change of job or industry can be a fantastic opportunity. However, this requires a sensible and compassionate approach, so that people aren’t pulled into an unsuitable role before inevitably falling out again.
These days, few people go to a job centre with any enthusiasm. Support is not tailored to people who may be struggling with long Covid, or mental health challenges. Two years ago, we entered national lockdown for the first time. Since the pandemic began, we have seen a predictably massive national increase of those with long-term illnesses – in response, the DWP have shut their eyes, crossed their fingers and hoped the problem would just go away.
Generally, when times are hard, we see people working longer and delaying their own retirement. But this time, the DWP’s unique incompetence meant that, in just two years, we saw half a million over‑50s leave the labour market altogether. We are losing those skills and precious life experience from our economy just when we need it most.
The Conservatives are failing to deliver the jobs they promised. Only a Labour government will ensure that people have good jobs, delivering the security and prosperity they deserve.
Alison McGovern is the Labour MP for Wirral South and shadow minister for employment.
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