Saturday, 24 November 2007


I've been doing a little bit of homework on the Wisconsin model of welfare reform, much favoured by David Cameron's Conservatives these days.

Here's a chilling extract from a piece by Johann Hari in the Independent:

"Let's look at what happens to when you go into a benefits centre in Wisconsin to seek help. You will almost certainly be a woman with kids: 90 per cent of claimants are. You will be assigned a Financial and Employment Planner, who will show you a "ladder". The top rung is your goal: unsubsidised employment in the private sector. The next rung is subsidised work in the private sector, or a community service job created to provide the unemployed with something constructive to do. You will be matched up with one of these jobs. If you fail to turn up, you will be punished. For every hour you miss, you will be docked $5.15 from your benefits. If you don't turn up at all, you don't get anything. Then they'll tell you that having kids makes no difference. Unless you have a baby that is less than three months old, you have to work full-time in whatever job they assign you. Put your kids in daycare and get out there. Then they explain the real kicker. There is a federal time limit for benefits. In your entire life, you can only ever claim two years' worth of government help. Every week you receive government subsidy, the clock is ticking. Once your two years are up, you won't get any help, ever again."

It's left to the voluntary sector - to churches, food banks, homeless shelters and charities - to pick up the pieces. This seems to me to be pretty similar to what was being proposed by the Tories in the 1980s, although it's presented as new thinking. It's scary to think it could happen here.

Most lone parents in this country want to work. 57% of them already do. But sometimes circumstances make it incredibly difficult for them to stay in jobs - lack of childcare, lack of transport, lack of flexible working, needing to take time off to look after sick children, finding they're not actually better off in work when things like school meals and travel costs are taken into account. The Government will be tightening up rules soon, so that lone parents with a child over the age of 12 will be required to move from Income Support to Job Seekers Allowance; I support this, but we need to be sure that other elements of the package are in place - childcare, family-friendly employers, tax credits to boost in-work income, etc - before they're required to do so.

1 comment:

Lee Skevington said...

Quite right, Kerry, it is inconceivable for single parents to work full time without in some way neglecting their children. Especially when they are young. And quite frankly, the charity sector has no place in providing for individuals – this is the role of government. This does practically stink of Thatcherite nonsense.

However, we know Cameron and his allegedly ‘caring conservatives’ don’t give a damn about single parents. This is why they were so keen to introduce financial incentives to your bog standard nuclear family. To hell with single parents who need our help, they may as well say.

This is but another attack on the non-nuclear family unit. The only individuals who benefit are the private companies who are essentially getting cheap and subsidised labour, while the workers are working for a pittance. I can’t remember the name of it, but there was a similar subsidized scheme in place in the 80s which was shut down. If I remember correctly, companies were taking on the cheap labour then dismissing them after their ‘training period’ was over. Very few actually kept the jobs after this.

It is obvious that nothing is gained by simply introducing a cut-off point and ignoring the problem entirely afterwards. What we would get under this kind of scheme is a massive new underclass in society.

Thanks for pointing this out, Kerry, it is essential that we expose Cameron and the total hypocrisy of his 'caring' Conservatives.