David Cameron visiting Rolls Royce this week. Photo: Arron Hoare (Crown Copyright)
Saving Our Safety Net Fact of the Week: “not statistically different from zero”
The big social security news of this week has been the Prime Minister’s announcement of major benefit cuts for young people if his party wins the election. On Tuesday he promised to end the “well worn path from the school gate and onto a life on benefits”, with “no more something for nothing”.
As I noted last week, the Prime Minister clearly believes that being tough on social security is a vote winner. If you visit the Conservative Party’s website, you’ll find that their list of policy choices offers you “benefits capped” under the Conservatives versus “higher benefits” with Labour.
The latest target is unemployed young people. The policy isn’t entirely clear; the Conservative website says:
A future Conservative government will require 18-21-year-olds who haven’t been in employment, training or education for six months to do 30 hours of community work a week as soon as they start claiming benefits.
Not many people get to 6 months without a job, training or education without social security, and the website says that this measure will “effectively abolish long-term youth unemployment.” So it isn’t entirely clear whether under-21s who have been unemployed for less than 6 months will be required to take part.
But the PM made a great deal of this policy being “from day one” so I assume that the policy will apply from the start of the claim.
He didn’t mention the fact that there has already been a policy like this: it was called Day One Support for Young People and it ran in London in 2012 – 13, covering 18 – 24 year olds. It ran in London because it was one of Boris Johnson’s bright ideas, and it was jointly badged by the DWP, Jobcentre Plus and the Mayor of London. Unfortunately for the Mayor and the Prime Minister, an evaluation of the programme was published in November, which found that there was a significant impact on how likely people were to get jobs, but only for a short time. The programme was had its greatest impact at 4 weeks, when the chances participants would be in employment were 0.8 percentage points higher than for non-participants, but this impact was not sustained and disappeared by the time people had been on the programme for 8 weeks. Beyond that, well, let me quote the report directly:
At longer periods after the JSA claim start, up to 26 weeks, the impact is not statistically different from zero.
Of course, the government should be concerned about young unemployed people. This week’s job statistics show that, while unemployment overall is falling (with the rate and level falling to their lowest since 2008) young people are missing out on this. There were 740,000 unemployed 16 – 24 year olds in Oct – Dec, up slightly from 737,000 in July – September. And long-term youth unemployment is a particular worry – despite significant progress this year, there is still a long way to go before we get back to pre-recession levels and the picture is worse the longer the duration of the unemployment:
It’s a crying shame that all this prompts our government to do is to bring in a trick to “effectively abolish long-term youth unemployment” and pull a fast one for the election.