Long-term scrap heap grows ever larger in grim downward spiral

THE number of people who are long-term unemployed has risen steeply, prompting fresh warnings that thousands are being left on the scrap heap by the effects of the economic downturn.

Yesterday’s labour market research revealed that 868,000 people across the UK had been registered as unemployed for more than a year – up from just 630,000 at the same point in 2009.

In Scotland, long-term unemployment figures are unavailable, but statistics for the number claiming Job Seekers Allowance shows that those who have been on the benefit for more than 12 months has risen from 11,400 in 2009 to 18,300 today.

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The figures will be of serious concern to ministers, who have admitted that the longer someone is off work, the harder it is to get them back in the labour market.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is rolling out his Work Programme, designed to get people on benefits back into the workplace.

Dr Ewan Macdonald of the Institute for Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow said: “There are many unemployed people who don’t have a health problem, but what we know is that unemployment leads to poor health and it can be a downward spiral from there. It is crucial that we do more as a society to give people support.”

He added: “There is an argument for giving people purposeful activity, such as volunteering work, or helping them back into education.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said it might be more important for policy-makers to come up with ways of tackling the long-term unemployed, rather than those who had just lost their jobs and happened to be under 25.

It said: “It is far from clear that age is the best criterion on which to base policy decisions, not least because older people have much lower escape rates from unemployment than the young.

“Arguably, duration of unemployment rather than age is a far better guide as to which categories of unemployed people merit special help.”