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Blunkett: The shape of New Deal 2


Secretary of State at the Department of Education and Employment, David Blunkett, yesterday spelt out further plans for building on New Deal through further policies of inclusion. The aim being to reach full employment.

Mr Blunkett's comments were made at an Anglo-American Welfare to Work Symposium in Windsor, designed to evaluate current progress and identify new policy solutions for the new economy.

Mr Blunkett said, "This is a time of unique opportunity. Thanks to Gordon Brown's prudent management of the economy and our New Deal investment in people's skills, we have a once in a lifetime chance to reach out to those who are most isolated, building a fully inclusive and fully employed society in which the interests of the excluded and the interests of business come together in broadening the pool of labour available in an expanding labour market.

"We are proud of our track record on the New Deal and we are now just 20,000 short of our manifesto target of quarter of a million young people off benefit and into work by the end of this Parliament. Since the election employment has risen by over a million and long term unemployment has fallen by over 60%.

"This is cause for satisfaction, but not celebration. Three major challenges exist if we are to build a skilled and inclusive workforce for the new economy and the new century.

"Firstly, we need to embrace the potential of those people who find themselves excluded from the labour market. In the early months of this Government, economists were forever predicting that employment would have to rise by between 300,000 and 500,000 if we were to contain inflation. Contrary to these expectations, last week, inflation fell below 2%, whilst unemployment fell tantalisingly close to the 1 million mark - it is now somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000 lower than the experts predicted.

"If we are to sustain this blend of economic growth, low inflation and low unemployment, we need to reach out to those who have traditionally been excluded from the Labour market, overcoming barriers of race, gender and disability and putting work within reach of everyone equipped to seize the opportunities of a buoyant economy. It's a recipe for economic prosperity, but also one for social cohesion.

"Secondly, we must move on from the sterile economic debate of the past two decades, learning the lessons of our American and other international partners. Keynesianism is being recast - no longer based on the massive capital projects of the post-war period, but still very firmly rooted in investment. That investment must now be in human capital, in the flexible development of skills required by
new economic and technological structures.

"Our record in just three years has shown that supply side investment can stimulate demand but there are still plenty of people who deride that investment - just look at the spurious and inaccurate allegations about the cost per job of New Deal, when we have clear proof that the programme is virtually paying for itself.

"Thirdly, I want us to build on what is one of the finest aspects of New Deal - a continuous, concerted effort to evaluate policy effectiveness and improve wherever possible. We have moved on from the days when the main rationale of policy was to massage the unemployment figures - the days when Ministers stayed in their bunker, blithely asserting that all was well as the British economy

"We need to learn from our experience and apply the lessons and knowledge of other countries. Today I am setting out five key priorities for the development of New Deal Mark 2.

"There are some in our society who remain far removed from the world of work. They need sustained help and support - and we must ensure that it is provided. This Government rejects completely the politics of the social scrapheap which are such a blight on our recent history. We see the link between personal opportunity and stronger, safer, more vibrant communities.

"Policy must be tailored to the complex and fluid demands of the modern labour market - and I am very proud of the work Tessa Jowell is doing to ensure that DfEE is not just the Department for Employment, but for jobs, careers, skills and working lives.

"We need to look more closely at the role of education and training within our employment programmes - affording people the type of opportunities for self-advancement to which I owe so much.

"I want us to explore further the role of employers - building on the fantastic support which businesses and other organisations have offered New Deal. This is a crucial element in sustaining New Deal as a true national crusade for full employment which also reflects the reality of local economies.

"And we must have flexibility, ensuring that the state supports individuals efficiently at difficult and vulnerable times of transition, offering security and support and fostering self-reliance.

"There is a range of influences that we need to draw together, including what is happening at local level in terms of housing, transport, crime, race relations as well as the infrastructure of the local community. All of this is part of our long-term goal to end long-term unemployment and to transform aspiration and expectation over the next five years.

"Given the current state of the economy, I believe, we have - for the first time in a generation - the opportunity to help some of the most disadvantaged people in our society. We know we can and must do better still if we are to open access to the job opportunities of the new economy to everyone.

"We have come a long way in the past three years. Macro-economic stability, a diverse and dynamic labour market with a wide range of types and patterns of jobs available, along with the impact of New Deal itself, means that very long-term youth unemployment is now virtually ended.

"Our challenge now is to ensure that we learn from and build on the successful experience so far, adapting, updating and modernising our programme to face the next set of challenges in the rapidly changing world of tomorrow."


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