Battle for Blunkett's jobs portfolio

4th July 1997 at 01:00
The Employment Service is expected to be Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett's choice to run the Government's #163;3.5 billion new deal for the unemployed.

The decision would take away the central role of representatives of from the training and enterprise councils, the Further Education Funding Council and local authorities.

Ministers are anxious to promote local partnerships to run the programme. But a secret deal between the TEC National Council and the Local Government Association shows their desire to be at the forefront of national planning for the scheme. The FEFC is also known to be keen to fund the work.

A confidential paper, New Deal: Local Partnerships, drawn up by the TEC National Council and the LGA, has been sent to ministers in an effort to win them over.

It shows that the two organisations, which have been at loggerheads for years, have come together in an attempt to seize the high ground in implementing the programme to get unemployed people back to work.

They argue that the Government's programme will only succeed if it is based on local partnership s, with TECs and local authorities as the core partners. There is virtually no mention of the voluntary sector and even less reference to further education colleges, both of which would expect to play prominent roles.

But ministers look set to back the Employment Service, which would be expected to commission other bodies - TECs, the careers service, colleges - to provide the guidance, counselling, education and training part of the new deal.

Employment Service case workers will be allocated to everyone on the scheme to check education, training and employment standards. Trainees will be encouraged to blow the whistle if they are not happy with the quality of training.

Regional and national conferences this summer will sort out how to create partnerships between the 100 Employment Service district offices, colleges,TECs, the voluntary sector and others.

The #163;3.5bn Welfare to Work package should be big business for colleges and TECs. The 16-hour rule, limiting the time that claimants can study without losing benefits, will be abolished for 350,000 adults who have been out of work for two years.

Employers will receive #163;75 for each long-term-unemployed person they take on. Under-25s will be entitled to nine months at college after receiving counselling and advice. #163;200million is to be spent on child care, training and after-school clubs for lone parents. The first #163;100 a week earnings of single parents on benefits will be disregarded, to help with child care costs. A further #163;200m will be spent on training for people with disabilities.

Chancellor Gordon Brown wants 50,000 young people on Welfare to Work schemes to be trained as child care assistants to support other trainees over the next five years. Other Welfare to Work programmes include helping insulate homes for the elderly.

The TECLGA anxiety over the likely role of the Employment Service is shown in its paper. Local partnerships should operate as "gateways", it says "providing a clientcustomer interface that is acceptable, integrated with other programmes and seen to be neutral of the Employment Service and the legacy of suspicion surrounding it."

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