Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Saturday, 4 April 2009 00:01 UK

Jobless training courses 'demoralising'

By Wesley Stephenson
Donal MacIntyre show, BBC Radio 5 Live

Job centre in Glasgow
More than two million people in the UK are unemployed

Sitting on desks, fighting for computers and over-stretched tutors with no time for the clients.

This is the picture painted of courses for the unemployed by people who have experienced them.

Darren said his course in Lincoln was a waste of time. "You probably had eight computers to about 60, he said. "And you're all fighting over them to get on the internet to do a job search or send your CV off."

He said the opportunity to search for jobs was limited. "Most of the time you sit around doing nothing, chatting, laughing, and messing about doing nothing productive when you could be out looking online, going door to door, asking about training at the job centre."

New Deal

People all over the country have complained to the BBC about the compulsory courses, which are run by private companies with contracts from the Department of Work and Pensions. They are part of the New Deal, Labour's flagship policy to get people back into work, which was introduced in 1998.

People who have been on courses run by a company called A4e said their experience was "demoralising".

The tutors were very stretched; you were basically herded into a room with a load of other people and left to your own devices
David, A4e course attendee

The company is the largest New Deal contractor in the country with around £80m worth of contracts.

Recent government figures show that all providers are falling well short of their targets to get unemployed people into work.

In a recent article in The Times newspaper, Frank Field, the former Welfare Reform Minister, described the performance of the New Deal as "derisory" and "depressing".

Cramped conditions

New deal trainee Darren also complained there was not enough room for people on the course. "There would be a class of 30, but only about 18 chairs," he said. "There were people sitting on the tables because there were no seats."

Man walks past window of job vacancy notices.
Training providers are failing to meet their targets to get people into work.

David, who also did the course in Lincoln, said: "The tutors were very stretched. You were basically herded into a room with a load of other people and left to your own devices."

One woman who went on a course in Greater Manchester said the lack of staff caused problems.

"Most clients are left alone for hours at a time and with nothing to do," she said. "Even fully grown adults can become silly and do stupid things just to while away the time." She says she spends a lot of her time playing games.

The complaints have been echoed by people on courses run by A4e in Nottingham, Southport and Sheffield.


The courses are due to be replaced in October by a scheme called the "Flexible New Deal", which the government insists will improve clients' experience.

Rob Murdoch, the executive director of A4e, admits that the New Deal is far from perfect but he says that A4e has placed more than 13,000 people into jobs through the scheme in the past year.

He believes that things will improve with the Flexible New Deal. He said it will "deliver a service much more suited to the polarised unemployment market we see today."

In a statement, the Department for Work and Pensions said it realised that "performance between New Deal providers differs - that's why we track their performance and manage contracts.

"We will not give up on anyone who loses their job and we will continue to provide real help to ensure short-term unemployment does not become long-term worklessness.

"From October 2009, our Flexible New Deal programme will take over, offering more tailored back-to-work support to jobseekers, and paying providers by results."

This story will be broadcast on the Donal MacIntyre show on BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday 5 April 2009 at 1900 BST. Download the free podcast .

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