Friday, December 14, 2007

I looked to the government to help the working man

You know about the government departments which are not 'fit for purpose' and which they are trying to sort out. But have you heard about the one which Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems want to change so that in the future it is not fit for purpose?

Peter Hain announced yesterday that the government intends
to treat 'benefit claimants as active job seekers rather than passive dependents'. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats support this, and denounce the government for not having done more, quicker, to get people off benefit and into work. Whichever party wins the next election, there will be much more emphasis on people proving that they are looking for work before they receive their benefits, even if they have medical problems, or children to look after.

In recent years, there has been a steady growth in the number of jobs available. Many of these jobs have been low paid, required skills which people out of work don't have, impossible to combine with looking after children or whatever, but they do exist, and the policies are intended to make it possible for people out of work to get these jobs, be it with more childcare, skills training, compulsion for the 'workshy' and so on.

But it is not entirely fanciful to suggest that in the future, there might not be more jobs than at present. With the state of the global economy, trouble in the public finances and so on, it might well be the case that there are fewer jobs available, and that many people won't be able to get a job, no matter how hard they look for one.

So I asked one of the proponents of Welfare Reform what would happen in such a scenario. His answer was that the entire system is based on the assumption that the number of jobs will continue to rise indefinitely, and would have to be totally redesigned if this were no longer the case. (This is someone who supports the reforms).

There are parts of the country, and millions of people, who have still not recovered from the devastation of mass unemployment in the 1980s. If mass umemployment returns to Britain, then people will have to cope with benefits which are lower than under Thatcher, and be required by a system which is not fit for purpose to spend their time searching for jobs which do not exist. Those that don't comply will have their benefits cut or stopped entirely. Meanwhile, more of the resources available will be spent on advisers monitoring that people are searching for the jobs which don't exist, and punishing them if they fail to do so.

There are many different ways of addressing this risk and trying to deal with it, but what bothers me is that it isn't even being considered. So the point when support from the welfare state is most needed is exactly the same as the point when the new system becomes not fit for purpose.


At 12:12 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What puzzles me is

a) it's not like ministers are unaware of this, thanks to the actions of people like yourself

b) it's not like this is a hot topic - I can understand though obviously oppose attacks on asylum seekers and other migrants given the political climate, but there is no hoo-har about loads of unemployed people lazing about on benefits at the moment

c) yet they are actively pursuing a path which is short-termist, will have limited benefit even if it is as successful as hoped (probably forcing a few thousand people into work at the most), and has incredibly dangerous consequences if it all goes tits up.

So what is their motivation on this? It seems like everyone is sticking their fingers in their ears and going lalalallalallala

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