The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) have responded to the announcements in the Government’s Green Paper on Welfare Reform and tackling unemployment and incapacity benefits by stressing the importance of training and skills development in long term measures.
The ALP welcomed some recommendations in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) green paper. These include the reformation of incapacity benefits; a £360 million roll out of Pathways to Work across the country by 2008; extending support to lone parents and older workers; reforming housing benefit; transforming support for people living in our cities; and delivering support to meet the needs of everyone.
ALP Call for Cross Government Initiative
The Government hope that these measures, together with other unified policy initiatives, will allow the nation to meet the Government’s target of achieving an 80% employment rate for people of working age. The ALP have welcomed this statement as essential in the progress of the national skills strategy, but have called for the development and implementation of a more coherent, cross-government plan, co-ordinating programme offerings from both Jobcentre Plus and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).
The ALP presented evidence to a Commons select committee last week, stressing that the characteristics of the unemployed meant that the gap between employers” skills demands and the potential employees” skills levels was wider than ever. The ALP has long been concerned by the so ““ called “revolving door” phenomenon amongst the unemployed. It has also cautioned Jobcentre Plus in their approach to setting up “prime provider” arrangements, fearing that this may lead to the loss of high quality and specialist provision.
There have also been concerns over the funding of skills initiatives. In the second half of 2005 the Government decided that responsibility for basic skills training and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training should come under the remit of the Department for Education and Skills’s (DfES’s) LSC. The ALP has also called for close cooperation between the DWP and the DfES to ensure that their joint programmes function in the most efficient manner.
Graham Hoyle Looks to Fill In the Gaps
Mr. Graham Hoyle, the Chief Executive of the ALP, responded to the DWP green paper, saying: “The answer to filling that gap and enabling perhaps a million people to get back into work is training. The traditional focus of Jobcentre Plus on job finding as the main objective was too simplistic and would prove ineffective if continued.
“Acquiring basic skills in areas such as numeracy, literacy and IT is essential to help successful jobseekers to stay in work for a long time,” he continued. Mr Hoyle added: “The Government’s policy of choice and contestability points to a range of prime providers in each district working collaboratively with smaller, specialist operators.”
The welfare reforms have been broadly welcomed, unlike the latest Education white paper which seems set to trigger a backbench rebellion from the Government’s own MP’s backed by influential figures such as former Education Secretary Estelle Morris and former Party leader Neil Kinnock. It would seem logical that, in order for the Government to tackle “worklessness” in the medium and longer term, fundamental measures must be developed both in the welfare and education systems, or else further improvements may fall victim to departmental demarcation disputes.
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