Ask Us!

Tue, 07/02/2012 - 18:07 -- nick

When you click on the Department for Work and Pensions web page for its Youth Contract, it makes much of how it has consulted businesses and gained their approval for this programme (
But the people who, more than any other, will be involved in this programme are unemployed young people themselves. Why is it not as important to DWP to trumpet the sign-up of young people as it is that of businesses? There is no mention either on the front page or the links from it of how their views have been included.
DWP and Jobcentre Plus serve a number of client groups. It is right that businesses are involved in setting policy, but the relationship between the government and unemployed and economically inactive people needs to be rethought and recast to recognise the fact that the needs of the unemployed are key to everything DWP and Jobcentre Plus do. While Jobcentre Plus now calls its service users ‘customers’ many unemployed people would not recognise a change in the relationship with their adviser or an improvement to the way they are treated. It’s one of the reasons why we at Unemployed Net have concentrated much of our efforts on influencing how the government and service providers can provide a better deal to unemployed and economically inactive people.
The think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) also fallen in to the same trap with its November 2011 research in to apprenticeships. The IPPR’s Chief Economist, Tony Dolphin, says that "The government has got to first of all find out whether it’s young people that are reluctant to take apprenticeships, or whether it’s employers that are reluctant to take them," Dolphin said. ‘Assuming it's the latter, which I suspect it is, they've got to find out why’ (quoted at
As a key part of this research the question must be: why haven’t the IPPR asked young unemployed people why they aren’t taking apprenticeships? These views are surely key to this piece of work as apprenticeships form one of the government's key policy responses to the disengagement of young unemployed and economically inactive people, and their success depends on making sure that both those offering them and those targeted by them are prepared to do so.
Another example is the Consultation on 21st Century Welfare ( document, which discusses potentially some of the largest changes to benefits payments in living memory, including the introduction of the Universal Credit. The document lists those it has consulted under the headings ‘Members of the public’, ‘Department for Work and Pensions staff’, and ‘External organisations’.
Given the fact that this legislation will make big differences to most benefit recipients’ lives, why haven’t they been consulted directly? Governments have funded surveys anf focus groups of unemployed people before (including for the Skills Conditionality Consultation in March 2011 - so it is possible. Why isn’t it compulsory?
Some organisations that fund projects aiming to get people in to work insist on applicants providing information on how they have gathered the views of those they are targeting (European funding organisations are particularly strong here). But why isn’t this seen as being key to undertaking this work? Any organisation providing these services needs to understand how to market to unemployed people, and how to deliver in a way that maintains interest and gains the results they need, particularly under the government's competitive delivery model used for for the Work Programme. Many voluntarily gather this information, but the government and other funding agencies have the power to make it part of the tender process for all.
It’s time to make this change; to ensure that unemployed and economically inactive people are consulted as early as possible, whether on legislation or service provision, and their views prioritised when the delivery methods are being set. Over to you Mr Grayling.