Call for action as Norfolk’s jobless total rises

Increasing numbers of workers in Norfolk are among the ranks of the long-term-unemployed, prompting an MP to call for community service for the jobless.

The number of people claiming jobseekers' allowance for two years or longer in the county has risen by 264pc since the recession started.

In 2008, 280 people in Norfolk had been unemployed for two years or more, but for 2011 the figure has shot up to 1,020.

The rise began in 2009 and by 2010 860 people had joined the two-year unemployment list.

The figures were revealed after a question in the House of Commons by Great Yarmouth Conservative MP Brandon Lewis, who blamed the last government for the increase.

Mr Lewis said he had expected the figures to rise but not so steeply.

The businessman called for community service to be brought in for the long-term unemployed to take down the numbers.

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'We have to reinstill that work ethic and self-esteem,' he said. 'There will be skilled people in that figure. Why don't we get them helping community groups and matching their skills set to what the community needs?'

The Conservative Party proposed community service for the jobless in November 2010 as part of work and pension secretary Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reform.

But to date little progress appears to have been made and critics, who include the Archbishop of Canterbury, believe getting the jobless to do community service would mean the unemployed would be treated like criminals.

Mr Lewis said the figures were part of the government's inheritance from Labour.

'It is indicative of areas like Great Yarmouth,' he said. 'They (the Labour government) would put money in but mask their failure.'

He added: 'I wanted to get to grips with what the real situation is.

'We have to look at where we have an opportunity for economic growth.'

Mr Lewis identified tourism and engineering as areas where Norfolk could grow, but said the county was being held back by a skills shortage.

He said many employers were struggling to find the trained staff they needed while employees were not willing to take lower paid jobs in industries such as farming, meaning recruiters had to bring in staff from around Europe. 'We've got too many people not prepared to take that first job,' he said.

Nationally, the unemployment figure is expected to rise further in 2012 with the number of people out of work predicted to hit 2.85m –- the highest since 1994, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

According to November's figures 17,556 people were claiming jobseekers' allowance in Norfolk including 4,488 in Norwich.

tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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