New Labour’s welfare plans will add to unemployment misery

Of the government’s welfare reform proposals, John McInally, vice president of the Public and Commercial Services Union writes on CiF:

Promoting private-sector interests are at the centre of these policies which aim to privatise core welfare and benefit services. This act of social vandalism was first championed by adviser David Freud, whose report described Jobcentre Plus as a “model of public-sector delivery”, yet still recommended privatisation. The retired merchant banker tells us why: the “scale of the potential market is huge … an annual multi-billion market”.

[…]

Evidence from home and abroad shows the private sector cannot be trusted to run welfare services. To maximise profits unscrupulous employers cherry-pick the most job-ready while those who require more intensive assistance are parked on benefits. What else can be expected when profit is the main motivator? On top of this, when companies fail, as is increasingly the case, or when they back out when profit margins drop, Jobcentre Plus is expected to clean up the mess. Proceeding with these proposals, which were drawn up before the recession took hold, is a risk too far.

If there is to be a genuine debate about welfare provision it cannot be on the basis of government spin. Neither can it be on the basis of so-called “independent” advice from merchant bankers nor against the backdrop of “work-shy scrounger” rants in the press. We need to listen to the experts – Jobcentre workers themselves, anti-poverty campaigners and the voluntary and community specialist sector, not those the Confederation of British Industry describe as the “weapon of choice” to privatise welfare and other public services.

The TUC’s Brendan Barber comments:

‘This approach to welfare assumes a utopian world of unrestricted childcare and widely available jobs where only the lazy opt for life on the dole.

‘The reality is very different. Thousands of people are joining the dole queue every day through no fault of their own.

‘The TUC has long supported the case for responsibilities and rights going together in our benefits system but draconian workfare policies are not the answer.

‘The Government should instead put employment services on an emergency footing and ratchet up its efforts to stimulate the economy.’

Compass have started a campaign against the draconian workfare plans. I urge you to sign the petition at Welfare for All:

As the Observer reported on November 2nd the governments own adviser, the Social Security Advisory Committee has raised concerned about the latest welfare reform proposals. The welfare state is one of the UK’s greatest achievements and supports us all especially vulnerable and unemployed people and their families.

In July the government published the green paper ‘No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility’ announcing plans to change the current provision of support.

Many of the plans were unacceptable when they were first published and the worsening economic situation should lead to a fundamental rethink. However the government is pressing ahead despite the current global economic downturn which is leading to increasing levels of unemployment. As a result we have come together.

The government’s proposals remove entitlements and fail to value the important work of parents and carers. Parents with young children, carers, sick, disabled, people with mental health problems and other vulnerable groups face tougher tests to qualify for benefits. If they fail they could be cut off with no support.

We are opposed to the abolition of Income Support which ends the principle that those in need deserve help. We are opposed to compulsory work for benefits. People should be paid the rate for the job or at the very least be paid the national minimum wage.

Jobseekers Allowance is shockingly low at less than £10 a day, if it had increased in line with earnings over the past 30 years the rate for a single person over the age of 25 would be more than £100 a week.

The government wants more of the welfare state to be handed over to the private sector. It is wrong to profit from the sick and unemployed. There is also the intention to share information with the police which raises real concerns about civil liberties.

We want voluntary skills training and life long learning opportunities for unemployed people. The government should focus on ensuring that there is more support to access jobs that have fair pay and decent conditions with a guarantee that when people cannot seek work they will not face poverty.

The government should introduce positive measures to challenge discriminatory attitudes held by employers, encourage flexible working practices and expand the provision of affordable childcare.

We want the government to rethink its plans. Support our campaign to help create a better welfare state and society.

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