Conservative youth unemployment plans for private providers will cause ‘confusion’

Conservative plans to place private providers in direct competition with Jobcentre Plus to help the young unemployed back to work will cause wide-scale “confusion” and could lead to a drop in standards, experts have warned.

David Freud, shadow welfare reform minister, told Personnel Today the Tories would look to use private career advice and training firms to help get the young jobless back to work, rather than relying on the government’s job centres.

Last week, the party announced it would offer those out of work for six months or more instant access to tailored support in finding a job, rather than waiting for 12 months under a Labour government.

Theresa May, shadow work and pensions secretary, told the magazine private providers would offer this support because the government’s Jobcentre Plus advisers were currently struggling to cope with high demand for its services during the recession.

But Denise Bradley, HR manager at retailer The Health Store, said: “It will make HR’s life more difficult because private sector providers will bombard us with calls and information.

“It would be very confusing because at the moment it’s all in one place and we know exactly where to go to get what we need. I have people I talk to regularly at Jobcentre Plus and they offer a one-to-one service, which I value. With private providers I would lose the personal contact.”

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the EEF, warned the large number of private providers may not only confuse employers, but could also cause standards to drop.

“With a multiplicity of providers they might not all provide the same standards and do the same preparation for people,” he said. “We would want to see some degree of common approach in how this is done.”

But some HR professionals said private providers would be more incentivised to secure employment, which could lead to a better service.

Hazel Mitchell, HR director at ITN, said: “There is more incentive for [providers] to make a hire into a company as they receive a fee. What’s the incentive for Jobcentre Plus other than paper-pushing or filling quotas?”

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