Nick Brown outlines the Government’s new approach to work

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first_img Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Nick Brown outlines the Government’s new approach to workOn 30 Apr 2002 in Personnel Today Nick Brown, Minister for Work,explains to Ross Wigham how the Government intends to tackle issues of age,racial diversity and returning ex-offenders to the workplaceQ What is your remit at theDepartment of Work and Pensions?A Our new department draws togetherthe employment service and the benefits agency with a very large budget of morethan £100m employing a third of the civil service.It draws a distinction betweenthe services offered to people of pensionable age and those of working age andmy responsibility is for the working age section of the department.This division is very new and Ithink bringing together the link between the search for work, and the benefitspaid to people out of work is the right way forward. We shall deliver thisthrough Jobcentre Plus, which we want to roll out across the country.Q What are youdoing to involve employers?A We need to improve theservices we offer to employers. We have appointed business managers tocommunicate with employers so that each centre can have an understanding of thelocal labour market and the needs of local employers.We have also introduced a callcentre with a sophisticated system to track vacancies and we hope this willhelp employers to communicate with us. Instead of just sending people along tointerviews, we can deal with employers’ needs as they’ve explained them to us.I want employers to help shapethis service. The relationship between companies and the employment service iscrucial. It is a great challenge to us to build our relationship even further.Q What is thekey challenge for the department?A The best way of alleviatingpoverty in any household is by getting people back to work. No matter howgenerous the benefits system is, it doesn’t make up for a wage.After net pay, childcare is themost significant issue in determining if people, especially lone parents, canreturn to work. Childcare is not evenly distributed and that is why we’veemployed co-ordinators for every Jobcentre Plus. Q How are you getting peopleback into the job market?A The New Deal has been afantastic success and there are now only 4,000 young people long-termunemployed. We have helped lone parents and people from ethnic minorities findwork through this system.We are piloting and introducingother New Deals to help people with specific problems such as recovering drugabusers and ex-offenders.Q What is themost pressing problem in the workplace?A Ethnic minority groups arealways under-represented, under just about every test you can make of the labourmarket, no matter how tight it gets. Clearly there is lots more work to be doneon diversity.There is no one answer and,having spent a lot of time looking at this issue, it is very difficult to avoidthe conclusion that discrimination by colour, perhaps more than by race, playsa part in this. The better paid the job, the more difficult it is for someonefrom an under-represented group to reach it.Employers should look at theirown organisations to see if there is colour prejudice and try to develop aheightened consciousness of its potential workforce.With the labour market so tightcompanies should be looking beyond the traditional sources of recruitment. Theyshould look at the older returning worker or people with a disability who maybe able to fit perfectly well into the workplace.Q How can theGovernment combat the 30 per cent productivity gap between our key competitors?A It is not just a matter ofpeople working harder, it’s about what people work with. We need to concentrateon systems and how time is organised.Q How did youresolve the Jobcentre Plus dispute, which resulted in a national strike?A The Government stood itsground and did not reinstate security screens because these offices are notdangerous places. We’re very concerned about staff safety, but the fact is weare now delivering a better service. The new environment tellspeople that the Government is on their side and working on their behalf. People like being treated likeadults and this has reduced the temperature and aggression you get on ourpremises. The screens exacerbated theproblems, as did making people wait in an environment where chairs were boltedto the

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