Sunday, February 04, 2007

New Labour: war on the poor

The unholy trinity of Gordon Brown, Jim Murphy and John Hutton have been lately making their positions known on welfare reform aka getting skivers off the dole and getting feckless youth back into education.

First up is John Hutton who wants to see changes on lone parents’ benefits in them getting back into the workforce. At the moment single parents can claim Income Support until their youngest child turns 16 years. Hutton wants to reduce it to 12 years.

"If we are to eradicate child poverty, then I believe we will also need to go further in challenging existing assumptions about who - and at what point - someone should be in work."

Hutton sites Sweden which has around 80% of lone parents back at work as opposed to over 56% in the UK. Hutton fails to mention that money has been invested in the childcare system in Sweden.

As Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) argues, lone parents need good supportive and flexible working conditions (certainly the pay gap is amplified for women workers who return to the workplace) and the government should invest in high quality free child care and not harass and bully lone parents into working.

Many European countries spend 3 or 4 times more than the UK on child care provision. In Sweden the early system is an almost universal public service and in Finland every child has the right to a childcare from birth. While in the UK childcare is fragmented and beset with uncoordinated initiatives.

“The typical cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under two is £142 a week in England, that's over £7300 a year; a rise of 27 per cent in five years – outstripping inflation by nearly 20 percent”.

Next on the agenda are people claiming incapacity benefit who refuse to attend back-to-work schemes could get their benefits cut.

“If one million incapacity benefit claimants return to work, the country would move closer to Labour's ambition of an 80% employment rate, Mr Hutton said as he unveiled the Welfare Reform Green Paper”.

But it not on the claimants’ terms it is on the government’s terms and this bullying will cause no end of distress to people with disabilities. The government is determined to attack people who experience discrimination and oppression in this society but have no plans to tighten up anti-discrimination laws and support people entering employment as opposed to forcing them against their will.

And the attacks keep coming thick and fast as Gordon Brown is threatening to take benefits from young people who refuse to take up education or training opportunities. “He wanted to ensure all aged 16 to 18 were in some form of education, as part of a drive to improve the UK's skills”.
Brown wants to double the apprenticeships but where from and what kind? Statistics indicate 267,000 of those aged 16 and 17 are not in education or training. And no attempt by New Labour in trying to understand why this is happening instead there will be further attacks. No mention of good quality training and day release, for example, where young people can learn a real trade and their options open to learn other skills.

New Labour won’t put in the money but they are happy to create misery. Why blame these young people when really it exposes the unequal educational system?

Last but certainly not least, is Jim Murphy (DWP minister) who is proposing to make it harder to prove someone is unfit for work. But don’t despair Jim’s got a blog dedicated to welfare reforms and tackling child poverty but unfortunately it is moderated though it aims to take a “cross section of views”…. Yeah right!

This souless government is hellbent on attacking some of the most powerless in this society and it has that strong Dickensian stench about it. When will we get the return of the Work Houses? A modern version of the Poor Law or is that the Welfare Reform Bill? “Cap in hand” charity dished out from religious organisations and finally the total dismantling of the welfare state. New Labour is deepening its vicious Dickensian character.


AN said...

When supporters of the govt list acheivements they often mention Working Tax Credit, but I am far from convinced.

As it forces women to go to work, even if they don't want to. Why shoud single mothers have to work to poay someine elese to look after their childre - if they want to fine, but Tax Credit enforces it.

Indeed, if the cannot get 16 housr work a week, they cannot get the benefit

AN said...

BTW - I thiight this was a very good and informative post.

Too often the left talks in generallities about new Labour, without dissecting the policies in detail, so this is usefull stuff.

Louisefeminista said...

The prob with Working Tax Credits is that they are a bureaucratic nightmare and cause no end of trouble for people and are utterly inflexible.