1/08/2008

Tories "work for benefits" plan does have some merits

Far be it for me to heap praise on the Tories or their usually vacuous leader "Call me Dave" Cameron, but despite the incredulous comments from both the government and the Lib Dems about the Tories proposals for a "work for benefits" scheme for the long term unemployed, I actually think it has some merits on a number of counts, but it cannot work without a root and branch review of the whole benefits system

In the first instance, I genuinely think a policy such as the Tories are proposing will have the effect of giving the proverbial "kick up the arse" to few tens of thousands of professional unemployed. Like it or not, there are a number of people in this country who collect benefits each week who have no intention of getting a job because they receive so much in benefits that they will be worse off if they get a job.

These people therefore contribute nothing to society or make any recompense for the benefits they receive. The plans, as the Tories propose it, will at least ensure that these people will have to give something back to the hand that feeds and clothes them.

The other benefit of the Tory proposal is that for some long term unemployed, it could be a route back in to work. Let us not forget that whilst you can walk in to jobs in whole areas of the country, there are still unemployment black spots where the long term unemployed get stuck being unemployed and employers are loathe to take on someone who has been without work for some time who they perceive to lack the necessary skills. A "work for benefits" system will, I think, help those people.

The problem though, at the moment, is not always that there are not jobs, but the nature of the perverse benefits system which traps people in a benefits dependency state, where it makes you better off to have no job, particularly if you have lots of children. I highlighted last year an example I knew of in Norwich with a refugee family, and to me the system is crazy. We are supposed to have a system of tax credits to help people on low incomes, but the system is still twisted towards making chunks of society better of out of work.

The problems with the benefits system does have its roots in the previous Tory government who were so desperate to massage the unemployment figures, particularly in blackspots where steel mills, coal mines, car factories, were suddenly closed, the Tories encouraged the Social Security teams sent in to these area to put people on Incapacity Benefit so they would not be counted as unemployed. I am also worried that the Tories might be trying to put in to place a system which attempts to intimidate people with genuine health problems. It remains to be seen what the Tories policies will mean for people on Incapacity Benefit.

I am also a little concerned that the Tories want to put their scheme in the hands of private contractors, with the Tories, yet again, obsessed with letting companies make money for shareholders (and million pound payouts for directors no doubt too), but for once I will overlook that and say despite what their political opponents might say, and my better nature, the Tory plans makes more than a little sense.

5 comments:

Ordovicius said...

I have a completely different view

Justin Hinchcliffe said...

You been nice about the Conservatives, me being nice about the Lib Dems - what a turn up for the books!!!

jailhouselawyer said...

According to Dave we will have our benefits stopped if we refuse any reasonable offer of a job. I would love nothing better than to be offered a job. As I am prepared to accept the offer of a job, can Dave now please offer me the job?

Lee Griffin said...

I largely agree with the article here, posted much the same over at my site. It's a time to debate new ways of trying to tackle the bad end of the rut. The new deal is clearly a good concept for getting those that want to work out of unemployment, now it's time to look at getting those that are lazy or stuck in a loop to get back in to employment.

I think, unfortunately, Ordovicius misses the point some what, especially as the issue of clearing people off incapacity benefits is seperate to dealing with those stuck on job seekers allowance. Though clearly Dave arbitrarily stating that half a million people under 35 "can't be that ill" is a startlingly stupid move.

TAGilbert said...

I worked for the Probation Service, which enforces Community Service for the Courts. I'm not up to date, but I recall that it was rather expensive to administer compared to the value of the work done by those compulsorily 'employed'. Of course, non criminal sanctions would be different, and enforced differently, but I can't help thinking that Cameron's plan needs a rigorous Cost-Benefit analysis. In my view a tapered system, with far lower marginal tax/loss-of-benefit rate, would persuade many more people stuck on benefits that it was worthwhile to make an effort. The tax and benefit system also needs uniting and simplifying, so that people know where they will stand financially if they take a job - almost impossible with the current complex array of tax and benefits.

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