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Gordon Brown: ‘Joblessness, homelessness and hopelessness are not inevitable’

Writing exclusively for The Big Issue, the man who helped prevent global financial collapse in 2008 has new ideas to help the economy recover from Covid-19.

Gordon Brown has stressed that “mass joblessness, homelessness and hopelessness are not inevitable” despite the catastrophic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK economy, as he gives The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance (RORA) his full support.

Writing in this week’s Big Issue magazine, the former Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor takes aim at the Conservative government’s stimulus measures following months of lockdown, which he says offer “nothing new” for the unemployed, self-employed and those receiving Universal Credit, and “serious design flaws” in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s proposals to support employees.

“British families are now more fearful of the economic and employment impact of Covid-19 than they are of the virus itself,” he said.

Sunak announced a new Job Support Scheme on September 24 to replace the furlough system which has supported businesses and staff who cannot operate fully during the pandemic.

But Brown said the new plans do nothing to address “much needed” investment in Britain’s infrastructure and could damage employment by making it “cheaper for an employer to employ just one full-time worker than it is to keep on two part-timers“.

And the “most glaring omission” is a failure to improve the government’s Kickstart programme for young people, Brown said.

“There will still be 500,000 under-25s falling through the net and condemned to the breadline; a lost Covid generation with no work and no hope. This is not the levelling up promised by this government,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a Lifetime Skills Guarantee on September 29 to give free training to anyone without an A-level or equivalent qualification, but the scheme will not be available until April 2021.

Brown was in charge of the British economy as Chancellor through the boom years of 1997 to 2007 and was instrumental in the economic recovery following the 2007 financial crash. While Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010 he organised an economic package which was adopted by leaders across the globe, saving the world’s financial system from implosion.

Now, in the most difficult of times, he is backing The Big Issue’s own efforts to protect jobs and prevent homelessness through the RORA campaign.

Brown said: “Mass joblessness, mass homelessness and mass hopelessness are not inevitable economic outcomes of the Corona pandemic. They depend on the decisions government make.

“We may not yet have a vaccine to stop the spread of the virus. But we do have the economic know-how to stop the rapid spread of unemployment.“

Brown is playing a leading role in The Alliance for Full Employment, which brings together Metro Mayors, business leaders and trade unions to go further in protecting jobs and promoting employment.

The Big Issue’s RORA campaign shares the same goal of keeping people in their homes and in their jobs to stave off poverty.

He added: “Our aim is to persuade the government to offer a full and genuine guarantee of work training or education for every young person, combining skill training, work experience, help with job search and an incentive for employers to take them on.

“Our second aim is to extend the furlough by adopting the far more progressive part-time worker scheme successfully pioneered by Germany, France and Denmark, which makes it worthwhile for an employer to hold on to most of its workforce.”

Read more from Gordon Brown in this week’s Big Issue magazine, available now from Big Issue vendors around the UK. If you can’t get to your local vendor then you can buy individual copies from The Big Issue Shop or subscribe to receive a copy direct to your door or device every week. Head to bigissue.com/subscribe for more details or download our Big Issue app now, available from the App Store or Google Play.

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