Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Four facts about welfare reform

An incredibly smug article by David Coats about how the 'Government must not step back from welfare reform' on the Progress website.

I met David Coats last year at a seminar which discussed this very subject. And I remember him explaining to me that, of course, the whole basis for the welfare reform proposals was that the number of jobs available would continue to increase, and that the model didn't work if that stopped being the case.

Funnily enough, Coats doesn't mention that now. Instead, like James Purnell, he attempts to frame the debate in the following, superficially plausible, way:

"At this time it is important to provide more support to help people get jobs, and it is only right that in exchange for more support we expect them to take greater responsibility themselves. Of course, there are some well-meaning people who oppose these difficult but necessary reforms, but they are wrong to argue for the status quo."

If the debate just gets framed as 'more support vs status quo', then the measure will pass easily. But if you are supporting these welfare reform proposals because you think that people who are out of work should get some extra help in finding a job, you might be surprised to find out that you're also supporting the following:

1. Cutting people's benefits on the say so of a bureaucrat, with very limited right of appeal. Research by the government found this had a "negligible effect" on whether people tried to find jobs, but obviously makes life harder for children whose parents are punished in this way, and will increase child and family poverty.

2. The creation of a 'multi-billion pound market' in welfare services, in which companies from all over the world will be able to bid to receive government handouts of 'up to £50,000' per claimant who gets a job.

3. Making it much harder for small, community-based voluntary sector groups which work with the most disadvantaged people to get funding to help support them to get jobs and skills. It will be almost impossible for these groups to compete with private companies for funding to deliver welfare support services.

4. A report written in three weeks by an investment banker who boasted that before writing the report 'I knew nothing about welfare', and whose report claims amongst other things that the cost of housing is not a barrier to people finding a job.

Rather than simply opposing the welfare reform bill when it is announced in the Queen's Speech, I hope lefties will support putting amendments to it which would make it more effective at doing what we all agree is needed - providing support for people to get jobs and allowing community-based voluntary groups to help deliver services and get funding to help the people in their communities. After James Purnell has spent a few months giving speeches about how the status quo is not an option and how we need to be more radical in removing the barriers which stop people getting jobs, let's see how he votes on, say, an amendment to make childcare free and more widely available for working parents, or to reduce the cost of transport or housing, or to make work pay with a 'living wage' for all workers, or to tackle discrimination amongst employers against disabled people, or any of the other sensible and moderate ideas which would remove some of the barriers to work which people experience.

There are better and more popular ways of reforming the welfare state then handing over billions of pounds of taxpayers' money to firms which are dependent on corporate welfare in the form of government handouts while at the same time taking from the very poorest in our society. I do think it is possible to get a majority of Labour MPs to understand this over the next few weeks and months and to persuade them to support some genuinely radical welfare reform, rather than playing 'follow the banker' and implementing David "I knew nothing about welfare" Freud's proposals.

1 Comments:

At 9:56 am , Blogger Letters From A Tory said...

This is such a mess.

All the reforms that Labour and the Conservatives have been so desperate to promote all rest on the assumption that work is available.

With unemployment rocketing, I find this hard to believe.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home