Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Family champion plan 'a gimmick'

Children and families minister Tim Loughton had agreed to become a 'family champion'
Children and families minister Tim Loughton had agreed to become a 'family champion'

The Government was today accused of engaging in gimmicks following the disclosure that a minister is personally to "adopt" a workless family to try to help them off benefits and into work.

The Department for Education confirmed that children and families minister Tim Loughton had agreed to become a "family champion" under a scheme devised by social entrepreneur, Emma Harrison.

The Sunday Times reported that Mr Loughton was among a number of Government ministers, advisers and MPs who had volunteered to take part. They were said to include Rohan Silva, one of David Cameron's senior policy advisers.

However there appeared to be some confusion in Whitehall over the plan with employment minister Chris Grayling - who was also named among the volunteers - saying that he was not involved.

"I was rather surprised when I read this one. It was news to me that I was going to be in there," he told Sky News.

"Tim is the children's minister and I know that he wants to lead from the front over this. I am sure he will do an excellent job."

However shadow home office minister Vernon Coaker dismissed the plan as "gimmicky" and accused ministers of lacking a proper strategy for dealing with the long-term unemployed.

"It smacks of something that gets a headline, but what is going on underneath? What is the strategy?" he said.

The scheme is intended to encourage the middle classes to act as mentors to families in which no one has worked over two or three generations. They would introduce the families to their contacts, help them manage their household finances and guide them through the bureaucracy.

Ms Harrison, whose company manages £300 million of government training contracts, denied the scheme was a gimmick.

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