Welfare-to-Work Scheme Soars Past its Jobs Target

A pioneering welfare-to-work scheme is proving so successful in getting people off benefit and back into the workplace that yesterday it was decided to up its target for 2010 to 40,000 from 30,000. Glasgow Welfare to Work Forum has the chance of a slice of £5m and inclusion in the government’s new Cities Strategy scheme.It is aimed at allowing local areas to deliver tailormade solutions to getting people back into work rather than being served with rigid diktats from Whitehall.

Launching the Cities Strategy project in Glasgow yesterday, Jim Murphy, Welfare Reform Minister, said that the government drive was not about disadvantaging people but empowering them. “We want to help as many people as possible get off a life on benefits and get into the workplace,” he said.

John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, formally included Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee among 13 UK cities as part of the Cities Strategy, aimed at getting organisations to pool their resources and co-operate better.

The overall aim is to reduce the 2.7 million people currently on benefit in the UK, which would save some £7bn each year in payments. Glasgow’s three-year-old scheme has, it seems, so impressed Mr Hutton that he is now using it as a model for the rest of the country.

In a letter yesterday to Jim McColl, chairman of the Glasgow scheme, the Secretary of State praised its success. “It has been a beacon. We have had success to date but it is dangerous to be complacent,” Mr McColl, a millionaire businessman who runs Clyde Blowers, told The Herald.

Already, the Glasgow scheme has met its 2007 target of getting 15,000 off benefit and back into work – a year early. Consequently, in three years, the city’s rate of “economically inactive” people has dropped from 117,000 to 102,000.

Mr McColl explained how various bodies realised they were duplicating their efforts and that it was much better to join forces. He explained how there were so-called “animators”, a rather high-sounding word for door-knockers. Working in Easterhouse, they meet people in the street or outside a supermarket or pub, asking if the unemployed and those on benefit want help to get into work.

Those contacted are invited back for chats at the Hub social centre, which already offers a range of services from debt advice to a creche.
“The basic idea is to find out what the blockages are to people getting back into work. Our aim is to help people have a better quality of life, not to make life more difficult for them.”