Clacton: Initiative to tackle long-term unemployment backed by MP Douglas Carswell
22:10 23 February 2014
Clacton has been named as one of only six areas in the UK being targeted in a new government scheme aimed at overhauling entrenched benefits cultures.
The bid to banish the town’s reputation as one of the country’s benefits capitals comes after a damning report found that more than half of working age people in the heart of Clacton rely on out-of-work benefits for their income.
Last night, Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton, pledged his full support to the initiative, admitting action was required after the “depressing” report revealed some “uncomfortable truths”.
However he criticised senior government figures who condemn jobseekers as “scroungers”, attacking their belief that a carrot-and-stick approach is the only way to get people back in to work.
The scheme will see staff at Clacton’s Jobcentre Plus centre trained to tackle the causes of long-term unemployment and engage with benefit claimants to help them overcome the “barriers that are holding them back” to lead better lives.
The Centre for Social Justice report said last year that 54% of 16 to 64-year-olds in the Pier Ward of the town receive unemployment benefits – the fifth highest rate in the country.
The Department for Work and Pensions pilot will focus on people in the Pier and Alton Park wards of the town who have been claiming working-age benefits for at least three of the last four years.
Mr Carswell said: “The report was a very bad day for Clacton. I felt really depressed when I read it. It highlighted some uncomfortable truths.
“Coastal communities have a very difficult and specific range of problems and for seaside towns like Clacton there are pockets of high unemployment. But the only way to change things is to acknowledge the truth and I now feel positive the report has led to some action.
“I dislike it when the Government gets on its high horse and talks about scroungers and using a carrot-and-stick approach.
“In my experience, people get caught in a trap and stuck in a rut and it is really tough. A young man came to see me two weeks ago who had not worked for three years. I took him through the various stages and he secured a job interview.
“There are good people out there, like him, doing all the right things to get back in to work. They need that extra special helping hand. This pilot is exactly what we need.”
Lauren Kilbey, project manager at Clacton’s Jobcentre Plus, said she hopes the lives of around 120 people claiming benefits will be turned around this year.
“It is about getting people to take more responsibility and helping them to overcome the barriers that are holding them back for leading happier, healthier and more resilient lives,” she said.
Mick Page, leader of Tendring District Council (TDC) , said staff will receive “valuable customer insight”.
“This is a very important project which will help those where all other routes have failed,” he said. “TDC is pleased to support this very worthwhile scheme.”
The pilot will launch at TDC’s Weeley Council Chamber on March 19.