Single parents and those on incapacity benefits are due to
suffer as a result of government rule changes. From now they will be
transferred from Income Support to Job Seeker’s Allowance. They will have to
show they are ‘genuinely seeking work.’ If not, their benefits could be cut by
up to 40%. This is workfare on the way.
This boot camp
approach to claimants is being wheeled out just as the government’s own figures
show there are 1.8 million people already out of work. This policy is not just
brutal, it is also bonkers. What is the point of forcing people to find jobs
when there are no jobs to find?
It is surely a basic principle of any civilised society that
those who need help are entitled to get it. It is basic decency that people who
are made to work should at least be paid the minimum wage, not left on dole
levels of support.
The government is waving the big stick at the most
vulnerable people in our society. Lone parents with children over the age of 12
will be affected right away. In 2009 the rule change will be extended to those
with children over the age of 10. And in 2010 all those with kids over 7 will
At present 30% of single parents stay at home – but in a
quarter of these cases they are looking after a disabled child, according to
the National Council for One Parent Families. So what are they supposed to do? Children
of 12 and over are at an important turning point in their lives. At this time of
growing up, parents feel they need to invest some care and time in their
children. Most single parents would also like to go out to work. They need the
money and it gives them some sort of social life. But they need a flexible
approach from employers and, in all too many cases, they don’t get it. The
other problem, of course, is that child care is much too expensive for people
who are struggling financially.
The government has a target for cutting child poverty. It’s
not going to get there in time. The result of this policy will be to throw the
drive to end child poverty back even further. In effect they’re tearing up the
Sir Richard Tilt, Chair of the Social Security
Advisory Council, is deeply unhappy about the proposals. He says they could
push people "much closer to poverty". He goes on, "Of course,
the child will suffer, but it’s not the child that has fallen foul of the
system." He adds that there was often a reason that the lone parent was
staying at home. "It may be to do with disability or chronic illness, or
in some cases it may be to do with behavioural problems,"
There are also 2.6 million people on Incapacity Benefit.
Every one of them has been signed off by a doctor. So why are they being
hounded? Ill and disabled people also want to work, not sit around at home being
told by the government that they’re useless and staying poor. But they need
carefully crafted help to get back into the labour force. In most instances
they will also need to be trained in new skills. And in too many cases this is
The trade unions are quite right to call for measures to
challenge discriminatory attitudes held by employers and call for flexible
working practices to be encouraged. But that’s not the whole answer. These
people are just at the bottom of the heap as far as capitalism is concerned. As
long as there’s mass unemployment, and that means as long as capitalism exists,
they will be the first out of the workplace door and the last back in.
Whose fault is it that unemployment is spreading –
probably 3 million by 2010? Whose fault is it that child care is unaffordable?
Not the parents. And who is going to get it in the neck from the
government’s move to compulsion? The kids and the sick and disabled, of course.
This is an absolute disgrace.
Do you think Purnell and the rest of New Labour
thought about this when they rammed through the new rules? All they were
interested in was out-Torying the Tories. The Tories and New Labour are
competing as to who can make the lives of poor people more difficult.
But the government doesn’t always act the hard man
with benefit claimants. Over the weekend we learned that they were doling out
an extra £2.5bn to RBS, owing to a failed cash call on its shareholders. This
is on top of £20bn we’ve already shoveled down their maw. The banks are the
real dole fiddlers. It’s high time to take them over as part of a socialist
plan to eliminate unemployment instead of punishing the poor.
Support Early Day Motion 2434. Let your Labour MP know
what you think.
SOCIAL SECURITY (LONE PARENTS AND MISCELLANEOUS
AMENDMENTS) REGULATIONS 2008
From Lynne Jones MP
That this House notes
the report by the Social Security Advisory Committee on Social Security (Lone
Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 that will force lone
parents with children as young as seven to seek work or suffer benefits cuts of
up to 40 per cent.; endorses the Committee’s view that in the absence of high
quality and reliable `wrap around childcare’ this could increase hardship and
be detrimental to family life; further notes that the report states that `Lone
parents who are sanctioned face financial penalties that will increase child
poverty – an outcome at odds with the primary rationale that the Department for
Work and Pensions has put forward’; and further notes that the reforms could
also damage lone parents’ health by causing worry and stress and have negative
wider social impacts including on children and considers that the Government
should accept the Committee’s recommendation not to implement the regulations.