I note today that Labour minister Caroline Flint has come in for some deserved criticism of labours announcement that they may wish to make people homeless if they fail to get jobs. This is a slightly odd situation as presumably when they become homeless the council would then be forced to find them a home, but that is not the point.
What Carolin Flint has announced is unworkable and does not make sense on a number of levels. What about carers ? What about people who are on incapacity benefits ? I could go on, but there are all sorts of people who simply cannot and should not be expected to work. Then there is the ludicrous situation of people being dependent on benefits which simply cut off, leaving people waiting with no cash for several weeks, meaning that getting a job can throw people in to poverty.
However, let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. There is some merit in the principle of people being encouraged and even coercered in to getting a job rather than excepting benefits, isn't there ? I'm not sure I have the answer, but a a principle the answer ought to be yes.
I heard of a housing officer who recently took a 17 year old girl, with her child, to look at the council flat she would move in to. It was newly decorated, was newly furnished, and was in the housing officer's words, "nicer than his own house", yet the girl's response was that she didn't like it because "it didn't have a dishwasher !"
Isn't this just the problem ? There is an attitude that people demand something for nothing, and they really don't want to pay for a dishwasher themselves. And this comes back to the old problem that the only way you can really get a council flat in some parts of the country is, it seems, to be to get pregnant and have no job.
I work in an area which is predominantly council housing and I know that the vast majority of people work bloody hard for everything they have. I also know, because people tell me, that there is a small minority who seem to have everything but have never done a day's work in their lives. Honest hardworking decent council residents think this is unfair and I actually think a good proportion would want to see the state make "those" people actually have to earn the right to their benefits.
This is not the only problem though, because the real problem is the shortage of council/social housing. Perhaps if Labour sorted out the shortage of council housing, halted the right to buy and released council house sale monies to councils, we could build more council houses and stop the need to be on benefits in order to get a house.