The University’s Institute for Public Policy and Practice hosted a session for Liverpool City Region leaders which examined some of the myths about worklessness and the extent to which they have shaped policy responses.
Taking the cue from a recent report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the session engaged decision-makers from local councils, public health, trade unions and registered social landlords as well as commercial deliverers of the Work Programme.
A ‘culture of worklessness’ and the existence of families within which several generations have never worked have been cited as key issues by the Coalition Government and previous UK administrations. The session provided an opportunity to discuss how pervasive and widespread these phenomena really are, whether they provide a meaningful focus for policy and what approaches and intelligence would improve decision-making in the future.
Professor Fiona Beveridge, Head of the School of Law and Social Justice, chaired an expert panel which drew contributions from Professor Rob MacDonald, author of the Rowntree report, and Professor Alan Harding, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Practice , alongside representation from Knowsley Council and Jobcentre Plus.
Professor MacDonald said: “It is often suggested that unemployment can be explained by “cultures of worklessness” and “welfare dependency” being passed down the generations, from grandparent to parent to child. Despite using every method available, we were unable to find any such families in our fieldwork in very deprived neighbourhoods of Glasgow and Middlesborough. If they exist, these families can only account for a minuscule fraction of workless people.
“Politicians and policymakers need to abandon theories – and policies flowing from them – that treat workless people as ‘scroungers’ and ‘shirkers’. It is the ‘low-pay, no-pay’ jobs market that keeps millions in poverty and holds the economy back.”
Commenting on the event, Professor Harding added: “Sessions like this provide an intelligent space for academics, policy-makers and practitioners to come together and tackle entrenched issues – like worklessness – in a creative and challenging environment. We were delighted to collaborate with Knowsley as the lead City Region authority for employment and skills on the development of this event. Working together, we were able to engage a panel and audience with a genuine breadth of experience and knowledge and we’ll look forward to further engagement on issues that are of real importance to Liverpool and its city region.”
A summary of the session will be available on the Institute’s website shortly.