More than 4,700 people in Devon are set to spend their second successive Christmas on the dole according to TUC research.
The TUC analysis of official unemployment figures shows that the number of people on Jobseekers’ Allowance for more than 12 months is 1,005 in Torbay, 1,685 in Plymouth and 2,040 in the rest of Devon, rising to 20,305 across the whole South West.
Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West TUC, said: “While the recent fall in unemployment has brought some seasonal cheer, the number of people spending their second successive Christmas out of work is a huge concern.
“There is never a good time to be out of work, but it’s particularly tough at Christmas when there is a lot of pressure to buy presents for the kids and big family reunions that add to food and transport costs.
“These long periods of unemployment not only carry a harsh financial penalty, they can knock people’s confidence and cause permanent damage to their career.
“The government should make tackling long-term unemployment a top priority. And yet one of its decisions was to scrap the Future Jobs Fund and replace it with under-resourced and under-performing Work Programme.
“We need to see more investment in getting people back to work so that fewer people have to spend their next Christmas on the dole again.”
The study shows that mass long-term unemployment is no longer limited to a few employment blackspots. Last month, 149 of the 232 local authority areas across the UK had at least 1,000 long-term dole claimants, compared to 105 local authority areas in November 2011.
While overall unemployment has been falling steadily in recent months, long-term unemployment has continued to rise. Over one in three (35.8 per cent) people currently unemployed have been out of work for at least a year, the highest proportion since May 1997.
The TUC wants the government to do more to tackle long-term unemployment. Over a quarter of a million 16-24 year olds have been out of work for at least a year, which can have a terrible scarring effect on their careers.
The TUC has serious concerns about the adequacy of the Work Programme, which is poorly funded and failing to get people back into work. Recent figures found that just 3.5 per cent of people referred onto the Work Programme were able to find a job for a decent length of time.
The government’s decision to cut resources for employment support has contributed to rising long-term unemployment at a time when the rest of the labour market is improving, says the TUC.
(from a press release)