Thursday, 17 November 2011

Do placements for the unemployed work?

To BFTF's utter and complete surprise, a status update with a link appeared on Facebook from No1 Son.

The surprise was the the link was not to a "poll" or a joke or a YouTube video - but instead to a serious story on the Guardian Website.

Where did that come from ???

Anyway, the story related to a policy of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) whereby young unemployed people were offered the chance of an unpaid work placement at companies such as Tesco and Poundland.

Critically, once the young people "express an interest", they cannot leave the placement without losing their unemployment benefit (currently £53 per week). Of course, the fact that they are receiving the benefit puts a different perspective on the placements being "unpaid" - but let us leave that to one side for now.

No doubt there are all sorts of legal and ethical issues related to this policy, by what really interested BFTF was one simple question :

Do the placements improve the employability of the young people?

According to the article, the employment minister, Chris Grayling stated that"Our work experience scheme is proving to be a big success with over half of young people leaving benefits after they have completed their placement."

Ok, but how many young people who didn't complete the placement got jobs? And are the ones who took the placement the ones who are most motivated and would have got jobs anyway?

It would be nice to know whether the policy, you know, actually worked. .

Finding it difficult to locate an appropriate contact at the DWP website, BFTF sent an email to the local Conservative association, the key part is shown below :

"...the merit of this policy lies in its effectiveness, which is something that is relatively easy to measure - Two groups of similar, unemployed, young people are compared, one group who took part in an unpaid placement, one group who did not.

The difference in employment outcomes for the two groups will tell you whether the policy is effective

My, question, at the end of this, is to ask whether this very simply piece of research has been performed and, if so, what were the results?"

Dear reader, if you see a news report or press release that looks a bit dodgy, you may wish to challenge the authors or organisation to ensure that they are not pulling the wool over your (and everybody else's eyes). Individually, we can't do everything, but we can all do something.

Update (10th Dec)
The conservative group at the city council recently responded to BFTF's question. Regarding the comparative data, they said:
"as we are still in the infancy of the scheme such comparative and meaningful analysis has yet to be completed."
And pointed out some thing that was a surprise to BFTF (and had certainly not been mentioned in the original media report):
"The Government has changed the Work Experience rules so that young people can do up to two months work and keep their benefits. Under previous rules it was for only two weeks. The intention is that young people who choose to take the opportunity of more meaningful work experience and can gain the experience that many employers insist upon even for entry-level roles."
Lastly, they promised to:
"endeavour to find some comparative statistics for you via the Department of Work & Pensions"

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