Posts Tagged ‘New Deal’

Labour must go further, faster on welfare reform

21/02/2012, 07:00:16 AM

by John Woodcock

The workfare row of the last few days may have exposed the shambolic nature of the government’s work experience scheme, but Messrs’ Cameron, Duncan Smith and Grayling may nevertheless view the fury it is generating as manna from heaven.

For the heated debate over whether or not placements in supermarkets were voluntary or obligatory, permanent or temporary, and exploitative or not, risks giving a false impression that there is a substantial and coherent government programme to tackle unemployment.

There is not. It is right to be angry about the millions out of work who are being failed by this Tory-led government; but so far, what ministers are failing to do should make us angrier than the schemes, however flawed, they are attempting to establish.

Welfare minister Chris Grayling was clearly delighted to take to the airwaves and wind up the rhetoric in the knowledge that every protest he provokes diverts attention from the real scandal: namely, that this Tory-led government is doing far too little to get people back to work, not too much.

The charge sheet of inaction on welfare is growing longer alongside the spiralling numbers of jobless and continued failure to return the economy to growth so businesses can create more jobs. Ministers have set their face against financing extra job opportunities for young people by repeating the tax on bankers’ bonuses; they axed the future jobs fund and have belatedly replaced it with something less extensive; and there are already dangerous signs that their flagship work programme could fail to help sufficient people off the sick because of problems in the contracts agreed with private and voluntary sector providers.

In assessing what is happening now, it is worth dwelling on just how much damage to families and whole communities was inflicted by the last Conservative administration’s failure to act on welfare.

On top of the appalling legacy of long-term youth unemployment, areas like Barrow and Furness still bear the scar of welfare dependency inflicted when Conservative ministers tried to mask the true level of joblessness by parking many thousands of able people on the sick and leaving them to rot. Nothing was asked of them, and no help was given to get back to work. Those people dumped on incapacity benefit were the forgotten millions, sentenced by the Tories to a life of quiet despair.

But in truth, Labour let them down too; we should have spoken up for people trapped on sickness benefit sooner and asked more of them alongside increased offers of help.


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