Chancellor Gordon Brown seeks employer support for welfare reform plans

Gordon Brown met with employers last week to enlist their support for a decade of welfare reforms.

The chancellor threw his full support behind a radical review of the welfare system carried out by investment banker David Freud.

Freud called for the unemployed to be more responsible for looking for work, and an increased role for the private sector in placing people into jobs. He warned that employers had a “vital” role to play in making the system work.

Brown told Personnel Today he was meeting employers to discuss the opportunities the reforms offered for them to recruit skilled workers.

“This goes hand in hand with the Leitch Review on Skills,” he added.

The chancellor, who is expected to take over as prime minister later this year, said at the Downing Street launch last week: “Today marks the first step in a decade of welfare reforms. It is time to move to the next stage and look at the inactive, not just the unemployed.”

Employers groups said they were willing to play their part in the reforms – but warned that an injection of cash was needed.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: “Any programme to tackle persistent long-term unemployment must ensure people are properly equipped for the workforce. Companies stand ready to help with that.”

But he added: “Given the challenges, the programme must be properly funded.”

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation said a major challenge for the welfare reforms would be “changing employers’ perceptions” of hiring people from diverse backgrounds.

What Freud recommended

  • Greater use of the private and voluntary sector.
  • Higher rewards for organisations that are successful in helping claimants find and stay in work.
  • More personalisation of employment support, with higher financial incentives for targeting the hardest to help.
  • Matching increased welfare support with greater obligations on claimants to look for work.
  • Simplification of the benefits system.

Source: Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity report 

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