Thursday, November 11, 2010

Three strikes and you're out?

A constant reminder that we are in coalition with the Conservatives is the ability of the Coalition to combine sensible reform with some hysterical, sub-Daily Vile headline-grabbing irrelevancy.

And, in the proposals for welfare reform published today, we see that trend repeated. The proposal for a 'Universal Benefit' is an eminently sensible one, reducing bureaucracy, eliminating duplication and good for the environment (all those trees saved!). And yet the headline is 'three strikes and you're out', the frankly absurd notion that benefits will be withdrawn from those who persistently refuse job opportunities.

Really? Has this been thought through any further than "That'll get a good headline tomorrow!"? I fear not. Because yes, nobody wants to encourage the determinedly feckless and workshy, and yes, as a liberal, I believe that escaping dependancy is part of building self-esteem, contributing to your community and eliminating poverty. But what about the wider implications of removing people's income?

For example, are we really going to put people onto the streets, families with children perhaps? Even knowing that we would need to take those children into care, an option which results in the worst life chances for them? Or is driving these people to crime in order to survive part of the strategy?

Alright, I exaggerate a bit, but you get the idea. In reality, I do not believe that the British people want to create the kind of underclass that the American social welfare net (or lack thereof) has spawned. And what that means is that this isn't a policy, it's a sop.

1 comment:

Caron said...

Well said. I'm also very unhappy about this community service idea if you're deemed not to be trying hard enough to get a job.

I've written a post about this which I'd love your opinion on it, even if you can't give it publicly. I agree that there's lots of good in the proposals but that there are three main tests:

Technology - getting HMRC and DWP to get the right system to transfer all the data across and have it working smoothly without people being "lost"

Transitions - how it deals with changes of circumstances. Current system is often rubbish at it & people can end up for weeks without money while things are sorted out. If that happens in the new system, people won't have confidence in it.

Time - proper support into work takes time and can't be an impersonal tick box exercise. Must be meaningful.