Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Unemployment rises again

Unemployment rose again today, with the claimant count hitting 1.23m and the ILO measure reaching 1.97m by the end of last year.

John McDonnell MP, LEAP Chair, said:

"These figures are horrendous for the mounting numbers of people on the dole. Yet they hide the large numbers of workers now on short-time working and enforced sabbaticals. There is also a growing issue of in-work poverty.

"The situation is not helped by the privatisation of Jobcentre services, which drain resources from tackling unemployment - diverting it into the profits of private companies.

"The Government must now halt the privatisation of welfare services, and we will be demanding that at the mass lobby of Parliament on 3rd March which is supported by PCS, the TUC, and dozens of welfare organisations."

This is what PCS had to say:


The Public and Commercial Services Union, the union representing Jobcentre Plus staff, praised their professionalism and hard work in dealing with the rising numbers of unemployed as figures out today showed a continued rise in those out of work.

Warning that the system was creaking under the pressure and was only being held together by the hard work and commitment of Jobcentre staff, the union urged the government to put more resources in Jobcentres and to re-open offices.

Jobcentres have extended their opening times and staff are working overtime to provide support and advice to people finding themselves out of work. With jobcentres under severe strain, the union warned that taking Jobcentre staffing levels back to 2005 levels wouldn't be enough.

Between 2004 and 2007 the government cut 18,000 Jobcentre staff and have closed over 500 jobcentres and benefit offices in the last 5 years.

As the recession deepens, PCS also criticised the government's Welfare Reform Bill, arguing that jobs not punitive sanctions were needed, warning that the bill would drive people into poverty and stigmatise those who needed the most help.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said:

"Jobcentres are creaking under the pressure of the rising numbers of unemployed. If it wasn't for the dedication and hard work of Jobcentre staff then people wouldn't be getting the first class help and support that they expect. In stark contrast to the obscene bonuses in City, low paid jobcentre workers, many of whom received no pay rise at all last year, are helping people whose lives have been turned upside down by the economic crisis.

"The government need to get ahead of the game by putting more staff into jobcentres and by re-opening offices to ensure the growing numbers of unemployed get the help and support they need. The government also needs to drop its obsession with privatising Jobcentre work and step back from writing blank cheques to private companies who are demanding more money for contracts to help the long term unemployed into work."

LEAP is supporting the PCS lobby of Parliament on the Welfare Reform Bill, which takes place on Tuesday 3rd March. Get along and lobby your MP.

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