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16 Apr 2014

Encouraging start for Claimant Commitment

The claimant commitment is really a contract between an unemployed person and his or her “work coach” at Jobcentre Plus, though government lawyers refused to let it be called a “contract”. It turns out that requiring people to sign a paper that commits them to certain actions — such as producing a CV, or checking regularly for jobs — has had an instant effect, says Matt Ridley.

Some people walk out, not wanting to perjure themselves about cash-in-hand jobs they already have. Others get serious about looking for work: evidence suggests that the introduction of the claimant commitment has doubled the number of job searches people do.

Work coaches also take their responsibilities more seriously after signing the paper. And when they “sanction” a delinquent client by withholding benefits, they can point to the commitment: “You agreed to do these things and you haven’t.” Usually such sanctions have to happen only once and the lesson is learnt. Mr Duncan Smith’s hope is that unemployed people should think they have a job like anybody else — the job being to find work — and an employer like anybody else: the boss being the work coach.

It’s too soon to credit the claimant contract for much impact, but Britain’s employment statistics grow ever more startling. Considering the length and depth of the recession, the rise in unemployment was smaller and the subsequent fall faster than almost every expert expected. After years of economic pain, economic inactivity and the number of workless households should be at stubbornly high levels. In fact, they are at record low levels. Total employment is at record high levels.

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