Writing exclusively for PoliticsHome, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne says the Government's welfare programme is a 'totem of incompetence'.
Imagine a Health Secretary, three years into the job, bragging about long waiting lists. Briefing a friendly national newspaper about just how catastrophically they had failed to address the problem. It would never happen. Yet is appears this is exactly Iain Duncan Smith’s new strategy for the long-term unemployed: blame the unemployed.
We all know that this government’s economic plan is failing and unemployment is not just higher than it was in May 2010, it’s rising. We know that we are all paying for the fact that there’s not enough work around in our pay packets - £1,700 per person since the general election. And we know that the Work Programme isn’t just not working, it’s literally worse than doing nothing.
But long term unemployment stands out. In a sea of failure this government’s record on long-term unemployment is a totem of incompetence. The number of people out for work for more than two years has doubled in the last year, now a staggering four times higher than in 2010.
Yet there is a solution on the table. Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee would offer anyone who has been out of work for more than two years a real paid job – one that they would be required to take, no ifs and no buts.
No-one should live a life on the dole. It’s not good for them, it’s not good for society and it costs a fortune. That’s why Labour would bring in our Compulsory Jobs Guarantee and we’d pay for the upfront costs using the money this government want to spend subsidising the pension contributions of the top 2 per cent of earners at more than double the rate of people on average incomes paying the basic rate of tax.
We simply can’t go on as a country throwing money down the drain by allowing long-term unemployment to continue to spiral out of control.
Yet this government isn’t just failing on long-term unemployment, they seem to think a million locked out of work is something to shout about. Instead of getting people off benefits, taking out of the system and into jobs paying in, this government is content to sit on the sidelines. And everyone else pays the price.
When things get tough Ministers take out the cudgels and batter hardworking families tax credits leaving us with the ridiculous position where many families would actually be better off if they quit their jobs and started signing on. That’s not a problem this government inherited. It’s one they created.
This government has presided over three years of failure. In the next two years people will look very hard at their record, not their words. And what people will see is nothing other than a record of abject failure where the benefits bill is rising £21billion higher than planned because quite simply this government don’t know what they are doing.
Britain needs real welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works, but all we get from this government is big talk followed by colossal failure.