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Support is needed to help people back to work

Amid the debate about economically inactive people being required to work for benefits, we have forgotten to mention the most essential part of helping people back to work, namely the support they require.

It is not enough simply to ask people to work as a form of forced labour. What we should be aiming for is the promotion of work as a way of life, but to do that we must ensure the appropriate pastoral support programmes are available.

There are a number of areas in which the Executive can assist. Firstly, they can ensure these programmes are enhanced, by investing in pastoral support for those who do start back to work to help them adapt and seek advancement.

Secondly, they can adapt the education system so that people leave it prepared for the workplace, with relevant skills, including by investing in early years education and encouraging secondary schools to promote careers skills programmes.

Thirdly, they can encourage the Coalition Government to adapt its regional economic policy to ensure regions away from Greater London get their fair share of public-sector employment, promoting specifically Northern Ireland. There is much to be done in encouraging people back into work and supporting them once they are there - and there is no reason we in Northern Ireland should not seek to lead this type of development.

PAULA BRADSHAW

Alliance Party member

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