The Department for Work &​ Pensions has cut its comms spend by three-quarters since 2009, as a report finds that long-term unemployment is at '​crisis'​ levels.

The DWP has revealed it spent £​13m on comms between April and December 2011, suggesting an overall spend of about £​17.3m across the financial year. This represents a fall of 73% from £​64m in 2009-10.

The number of staff in the department'​s comms team fell from 301 in 2009-10 to 215 by the end of December 2011, with the cost of press office salaries dipping from £​2.8m in 2009-10 to £​1.9m in 2011-12 (see table, below).

The figures, revealed as part of PRWeek'​s '​state of the public sector'​ series of reports, came as the TUC warned that almost half of unemployed workers over the age of 50 have been jobless for a year or more.

It also showed that the number of 18- to 24-year-olds out of work for at least six months has risen by more than a third in the past year.

Responding to the figures, Fishburn Hedges CEO Fiona Thorne called for some '​rebalanc​e'​ after austerity cuts wiped out Government comms budgets in 2010. She added that DWP campaigns could be '​fantastic at reaching communities of people and helping them to help themselves'​.

Thorne, whose agency handled several DWP contracts in the past, said: '​The scale of public spending cuts inevitably meant valuable and effective campaigns disappeared, as the decks were cleared. Now there is perhaps some need to rebalance.'​

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