Rachel Reeves’s first major speech as shadow work and pensions secretary has been long anticipated. Back in November there was a memorable furore when the Telegraph reported that Labour was planning to “scrap benefits for under-25s” as part of its new approach to social security (Ed Miliband has told shadow ministers not to use the term “welfare”). The claim was quickly denied by Reeves, with angered activists told to wait for her speech in January, but it still aroused the suspicion of the left. Then on Saturday, in a story headlined “Youth Dole Axe”, the Sun claimed that Reeves was set to announce plans to “take away” benefits from the young, prompting another wave of Twitter outrage.
Today, Reeves finally has a chance to speak for herself and will announce a policy far more sophisticated than the Sun’s story implied (it is puzzling how some on the left, who consistently criticise tabloid reporting, are nevertheless prepared to believe their accounts of Labour policy). In her speech at IPPR, Reeves will detail Labour’s plan to introduce a “Basic Skills Test” for all new claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance within six weeks of them signing on. Those who are deemed to lack basic maths, English and IT skills will be required to take up part-time training or lose their benefits (the party estimates that it will affect around 25,000 a month). No one will be automatically stripped of their benefits and the policy will apply to all jobseekers, not just the under-25s (proving the inaccuracy of those earlier reports). Reeves will say: “We all know that basic skills are essential in today’s jobs market, but the shocking levels of English and maths among too many jobseekers are holding them back from getting work. This traps too many jobseekers in a vicious cycle between low-paid work and benefits.
“Government plans in this area just aren’t enough. They’re now asking jobseekers who exit the failed Work Programme to take up literacy and numeracy training, three whole years after those people first make a claim for benefits.
“A Labour government will introduce a Basic Skills Test to assess all new claimants for Job Seekers Allowance within six weeks of claiming benefits. Those who dont have the skills they need for a job will have to take up training alongside their jobsearch or lose their benefits. Labours Basic Skills Test will give the long-term unemployed a better chance of finding a job and will help us to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis.”
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at
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