Tories 'distracting voters' with DWP bootcamp for people claiming benefits

Unions accused DWP Secretary Mel Stride of a 'desperate attempt to distract voters from years of failures'
DWP Minister Mel Stride gave a speech today announcing further measures to get people back into work -Credit:Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror

Tory ministers are coming under fire from critics for using new plans to create skills "bootcamps" to divert attention from their shortcomings, amid the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) crackdown on unemployment benefits.

Today, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride unveiled proposals to provide training for benefit claimants in key sectors that are experiencing labour shortages. These sectors have been impacted by stricter visa regulations from the Home Office, affecting areas such as hospitality, care, construction, manufacturing, and logistics.

The government's strategy includes prohibiting overseas care workers from bringing family dependents to the UK and significantly raising the salary requirement for skilled workers. Existing skills bootcamps, which can last up to 16 weeks, aim to assist individuals in retraining; however, the latest initiative is concentrated on the sectors most affected, reports the Mirror.

READ MORE: HMRC share five reasons to let them know, 'avoid penalties', and even save money

During an appearance at a Jobcentre in London, Mr Stride acknowledged that the new immigration rules introduced by the Home Office will pose a "recruitment challenge" for certain businesses. Nonetheless, he argued: "But this is also a huge opportunity for the thousands of jobseekers in our domestic workforce to move into roles that have previously been filled by overseas work."

According to the DWP, the "skills bootcamps" plan will mirror actions taken in 2021 to address the shortage of HGV drivers. Unison's head of social care, Gavin Edwards, commented: "There's nothing wrong with promoting social care as a career and offering proper training to try to attract new recruits to the crisis-stricken sector.

"But forcing the unemployed off benefits and into caring roles, while keeping pay rates low, simply won't work. Most people will neither want to do the jobs, nor be remotely suited to them. This latest foolish idea shows ministers are clueless about how to fix care. It's yet another desperate attempt to distract voters from years of government failure and broken promises."

Paul Nowak, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, added: "Any government serious about upskilling its workforce wouldn't have made 40% cuts to education. If we want to plug gaps in our labour market we need a proper skills strategy - not performative politics."

Alison McGovern. -Credit:Sunday Mirror/Roland Leon
Alison McGovern. -Credit:Sunday Mirror/Roland Leon

Mr Stride also took the opportunity during his speech today to announce a new government advertising campaign encouraging firms to recruit workers from the skills bootcamps. However, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Alison McGovern, countered: "After 14 years of Tory failure, Mel Stride cannot escape the Tory record on work.

"The Conservatives have run down our skills and training system. And we now have record levels of net migration. They should be putting in place proper plans to tackle worker shortages and adopting Labour's plans to connect the immigration system to skills, not setting up another talking shop.

"Labour have a plan to get Britain working by cutting NHS waiting lists, reforming jobcentres, making work pay and supporting people into good jobs across every part of the country. Change with Labour cannot come soon enough."