Welfare Reform Debate

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Ben Cohen
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A reader writes in:

It's still a lot better to be unemployed in the UK than the US.
I don't see much wrong with a temporary withdrawal of benefits for:
a) refusing to accept jobs offered; and
b) refusing to do community work if you're long-termed unemployed

Pretty sensible to me.

Here's the thing about welfare - it's very easy for the chattering classes to talk about what 'needs' to be done about getting 'poor people' to work. Most of the people reading this blog (myself included) have no clue what it is like to be at the bottom end of the economic spectrum - chronic job instability, cramped living conditions, massive time pressure and lack of support for basic things like child care. Most people living like this, particularly in high price cities like London, are barely surviving as it is. If they are on welfare, it is most likely because they seriously need it. I don't subscribe to the notion that there are hordes of welfare frauds ripping off the system at the expense of hard working families. To put it in perspective, according to a report by the Department of Work and Pensions, welfare abuse totals around 1 billion pounds a year, whereas tax evasion costs the country 42 billion pounds a year.

The Tories have mounted a massive fear campaign in order to convince the country that welfare fraud is at the heart of Britain's economic woes and have used it to ram through some pretty vicious measures that will no doubt hit families extremely hard should the government determine that they are avoiding work for no good reason. I didn't notice David Cameron or George Osborne saying that tax evaders were 'mugging' the public, in fact, they hired one of the country's most notorious tax evaders to do a review of Whitehall spending.

From personal experience, I know several families that could get hit by the new policies - one includes a member who is mentally ill and may be cut off from benefits if she is deemed eligible for work, and another is a single parent household where the parent cannot work because of lack of decent childcare. They are already being sized up by the government and their existing benefits are being slashed.

This is a classic case of the party of the rich using the government to protect their own interests (tax cuts for big business, handouts to banks etc) and austerity measures for everyone else. The Tories are talking like they are taking an axe to welfare to help poor people climb the economic ladder, but in reality, they are saving their precious pounds for the people they were elected to support: The rich.

No one should rip of the welfare state - it isn't right, and it's unfair to those who need it. But creating a system that literally throws people onto the street for not working is not the answer.