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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Tories were right? Is this Ms P Toynbee writing?

An article in The Independent caught my eye, or rather was sent to me by someone so it would catch my eye. The headline is "The Tories were right: workfare really works" and I had to read it twice to make sure I had understood what Ms Polly Toynbee, yes, she of the Gruaniad, the ultimate champagne socialist, had written. The Tories were right.

She goes on to say though, that the Tories are right and will take the necessary action, but that Labour will reap the benefits of the Tories actions. Sadly, she's probably right on that one as well. The medicine the Tories will apply to the welfare system will, ultimately, benefit everyone who truly deserves to be on the benefit system as originally envisaged by Beveridge. The problem is that old and rather immutable law - the Law of Unintended Consequences. If you offer someone money for not working, they soon find a way to stay not working and take the money. As Ms Toynbee says (and I never imagined I would one day find myself agreeing with something she says) that outspoken (Labour) MP, Frank Field, has claimed for years that the present system is designed to be milked by drones and frauds.

Certainly a recent experiment in Hull and the Medway has seen 'unemployment benefit' claimants fall by 50% since it was introduced. Officials and experts are astonished, not because of the fall, but because of what it tells them the figures have been hiding. Only 920 of the 3,100 who have 'signed off' the benefits have declared they had found work. So, either the remainder had work to begin with or were double claiming, or have decided to starve without benefit rather than find work. I find that last extremely unlikely. There are probably a large number who have decided to do their own thing, perhaps were already 'working for themselves' and now will make it official (hopefully also paying tax and National Insurance) or will seek employment themselves.

The two she interviewed for the article were interesting. One is a 'plasterer' who refuses to consider working for less than GBP300 per week, but was apparently happy to live on GBP95 per week benefit. He would, of course, have also qualified for Housing Benefit and probably Income Support Benefit which would add up to around GBP200 per week, so perhaps he has a point in setting his sights so high. The second man apparently owned a substantial house, refused to be "retrained" alongside "illiterate halfwits" and so has let his house out for rent and is using the proceeds to rent a flat in London while he looks for work there.

The rent on his house must be fairly generous if he can afford to rent a flat in London, buy Travel Cards and food on it! One does wonder how many more 'Barry's' are living quite nicely in their paid up houses and drawing benefits?

What the Workfare "Project Work" is throwing up seems to have surprised the Treasury as well as politicians. It seems that the impact from just these two 'pilots' has made everyone sit up and take notice. Hopefully it will result in a complete and long lasting overhaul of a system that was intended to help those who really needed help, but which political cowardice and bureaucratic incompetence has allowed to grow to become an "entitlement" to many who are, as Mr Field says, drones and fraudsters milking the taxpayer.

What a shame though that the remedial action will benefit the very party that allowed it to get out of hand - Labour.


  1. It's an unholy mess, the welfare system. It does need shaking up and streamlining, true. But there are some horror stories going round, well quite a lot actually. It's failing a lot of people.

    When it comes down to numbers, there are only enough jobs for 20% of those unemployed, and the majority of those jobs are part time.

    Where it comes down to morality, people ought to work for a living, even if they are in crap jobs with low wages and have to top up by claiming additional benefits to reach the point the government says families ought to live on.

    A lot of highly qualified workers in unskilled jobs is going to produce two things:

    1) A large NHS bill for job related depression treatment due to unskilled jobs being regarded as 'dead end jobs'

    2) More intelligent, aware workers in those jobs dragging the unions in and pressuring fellow workers to join the ranks.

    We could also, with the low number of jobs, see our best workers leave the country. A 'brain drain' so to speak. If we lose too many of these workers, our way of life and economy will suffer.

    But 'what if's' don't count when something needs to be done now, to reduce the amount spent on welfare. Which by all accounts, isn't that great a figure really. But it's still avoidable spending, and the societal issues it causes perhaps of greater value to our society. It has to be doen with humanity though, and not paying a private company bonuses to force people off benefits, where they face no penalties for having targets that mean they strike off our disabled just to meet those numbers for the week. I've had health professionals mention the numbers of their patients who can't work and now have no income, increased health issues and feel they've lost their lives already.

    I'm in one of those part time unskilled jobs, topping up with benefits, although I haven't for a while, I've just applied, suffering 1/3 of a year living below the 'poverty' line and about to finish 'training' (in the form of a degree) which will lead to career opportunities resulting in leaving the country, the EU even.

    My alternative to leaving is to continue working in unskilled labour, or get in semi skilled work that pays so low I can't afford the increasingly high rents and cost of living here. In fact my neighbour is between jobs right now and has sat down and worked out that a job paying £17,000 a year will equal the benefits/rent/housing benefit they are receiving now due to our expensive housing. Those jobs don't really exist here, let alone ones that pays more than that so that we can pay into a private pension account, get private healthcare, have some spending money to feel part of the society we live in.

    Let's see change, but done correctly. I'm for that.

  2. The Welfare System is in a mess. It has been bloated up to do what its progenitors never intended it to do and none of their successors have ever had the guts to correct that.

    I'm sure you are right, that the manner in which the 'corrections' are now applied will be uneven and in some cases unfair, one can only hope that somewhere down the line it will all even out, though, with civil servants running it, I won't expect a miracle. That there are only about 20% of jobs available to the unemployed is probably about right as well, but that raises a whole slew of new issues, like the mass immigration to 'fill jobs not filled by existing workers.'

    Was it not Mr Blair and Mr Brown who kept telling us that we needed 632,000 new immigrants each year to fill jobs created by the 'growth' their policies were supposed to produce?

    The whole system need to be reformed, as your friend has pointed out, if the benefits he needs total GBP17,000 and the only work he can get pays less, the system has to find a way to 'top up' to the requisite level - but that is probably far to difficult for Whitehall to address.