Thursday, 27 November 2008

Which I followed up with...

And then about a week later you would have found this comment piece by yours truly (which got a rather good response, I recall).

At Prime Minister’s questions this week I asked Gordon Brown about an issue that has been on my mind for some time. It is an issue that is raised whenever I speak to people in the inner-city areas and council estates in my constituency, particularly by older constituents who have worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes, and made their contribution as honest, decent members of the community. They want to know why we seem to tolerate people who are physically capable of work, but have no interest in doing so. They express concern that some– generation after generation in some families - have opted out of civil society altogether: dropping out of school; rejecting opportunities to work or train; indulging in anti-social behaviour and making life a misery for their neighbours. The suspicion is often voiced that their lifestyles are financed by criminal activity.

I do not believe that this is an overwhelming problem; I think it probably only applies to a very small minority of people. But I understand the resentment expressed by my constituents. They quite rightly object to the fact that some people are quick to claim their rights to benefits, to public services - rights funded by the contributions of others - but reject any responsibility to make a contribution to society themselves.

When I left school, many of my friends and fellow pupils struggled to find work; it was the early 1980s, in the middle of a deep and prolonged economic recession. Unemployment was 3 million and rising. People desperately wanted to work, but couldn’t. This is simply not the case these days. In Bristol, Job Centre Plus have 5000 or so vacancies on their books; they estimate there are around 10,0000 vacancies in the local economy. The new Cabot Circus development will bring thousands of new jobs to Bristol city centre, which should make dramatic inroads into the unemployment statistics in our inner-city areas.

The Government is doing many things, on many fronts, to equip people for the world of work: improving literacy and numeracy standards in our schools; introducing vocational diplomas for 14-19 year olds; raising the school leaving age so that young people will be required to remain in education or training till they are 18; establishing modern apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship skills training. We also need to raise children’s aspirations, and show them the benefits of getting a decent education and a foothold on the career ladder. This is particularly important for children from households where parents don’t work, or left education early.

The Government is also helping people who are claiming benefits but want to work. The oft cited statistic is that once someone has been on Incapacity Benefit for more than six months, they’re more likely to die claiming the benefit than they are to find work. And yet many claimants could work if they were equipped with the training, skills and, above all, the support they need to find new jobs. Unlike in decades past when most claimants had industrial injuries, many claimants these days have mental health problems, depression, work-related stress, or addictions. With the right support and encouragement, with mentoring and work experience placements, their lives could be turned around. The new Employment and Support Allowance, being introduced this October as a replacement for Incapacity Benefit for new claimants, will see much more of a focus on what people can do, rather than what they can’t do, and identify what training or adaptations they need to be able to work.

The Government also wants to do more to help lone parents find work. We inherited an appalling situation in 1997, with 1 in 3 children in the UK living in poverty. Our ambition is to halve child poverty by 2010 and abolish it within a generation – and all the evidence shows that the best route out of poverty is to work. Yet 27% of the children living in poverty in my constituency are in workless households. From October lone parents whose youngest child is 12 or over will be encouraged to work; by 2010, this will apply when the youngest child is 7. But we have to be sure factors such as childcare costs, travel to work and school meals are taken into account in judging whether their family will be better off in work than on benefits - something I also raised in Parliament this week.

Through the Government’s efforts many more of those who want to work will be helped to do so. And the welfare state must of course still be there for those who can’t do so. But that still leaves that small minority of people who have chosen not to work. The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced this week that this will no longer be tolerated. Everyone who is long term unemployed, claiming Job Seekers Allowance and participating in the new Flexible New Deal will be expected to take active steps to return to work, including doing at least four weeks full time work or work-related activity in return for their dole money. This may sound tough to some people, but it is clear that if we are to break the generational cycle of poverty and unemployment in some parts of our city, we need to send out a clear message that everyone is expected to pull their weight.


old and angry said...

Just cancel benefits for the workshy!
Work or starve,simple solution.

Old Holborn said...


Much easier to use other peoples money to keep them voting for Labour.

Watch Kerry scuttle up the litter strewn garden paths of the council maisonetted "unemployable" at the next election. Hear her tell them that the next lot might make them get a job if they don't vote for her.

The Penguin said...

Good green credentials there, recycling old material to refresh the blog.

Well done!

The Penguin

Bristol Dave said...

The suspicion is often voiced that their lifestyles are financed by criminal activity.

Kerry, I'd wager the suspicion is more commonly voiced that their lifestyles are financed by the state through the vast range of benefits available to them, paid for by honest hardworking taxpayers.

The welfare state was supposed to be a safety net, to stop people hitting rock-bottom. Your government, and your government alone, has turned it into an easy lifestyle choice for countless idle, feckless families who are convinced the world owes them a living. You do this because you know it ensures they'll vote for you at the next election. You are essentially buying votes with taxpayer's money.

Except you probably didn't feel you could put that.

brainblogger said...

old and angry said...

Just cancel benefits for the workshy! Work or starve,simple solution.

Wasn't that what the nazis were trying to do. "Arbeit macht frei" is a German phrase meaning "work brings freedom" or "work shall set you free/will free you" or "work liberates" and, literally in English, "work makes (one) free".
The slogan is known in the English speaking world for being placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps.

Unfortunately our government seem to be going along the same lines of reducing peoples benefit like in ESA. They currently feel that it is necessary to punish the unemployed and disabled just because they can't get a job. There are other factors that why people can't get a job but it always seems as if it is the unemployed peoples fault. Try being disabled for instance and try getting a job, you will soon find out about the employers who discriminate or find out excuses not to even give you an interview despite the DDA. Try looking at the reality of it.

Old Holborn said...


Go and work in the public sector and I'll pay your wages whilst you push bits of paper around your desk all day.

brainblogger said...

Old Holdborn

You make it sound so simple.

Is this an employer having there token disabled person working there and being told that they should be so grateful that they work there. what fun. What are the career prospects of pushing paper round a desk or is it just being in a job that matters?.

Where are all the jobs going to come from for all these unemployed and disabled people. Do you share a job between 4 people? The fact is these jobs don't exist however much labour go on about how there is work for everyone.

What is the true figure of how many people are actually unemployed?

Northern Lights said...

So we should all work in the private sector then OH? I thought we 'detested' corporations.

Shall we all be consultants working for ourselves then?

Old Holborn said...

Brainblogger. You are disabled. It is not my fault. Why should jobs be "created" for the disabled? Why should I be asked to pay for it?

Go and get yourself a job. You can read, write and use a computer. If you can't get someone else to employ you, employ yourself. Don't rely on 646 pompous oafs to change your life. You do it.

My sympathy you have, my money alas not.

Blogsy said...

Funny how the Libertarians don't want to pay for certain aspects of government, yet according to their website we'll all be expected to pay for police to enforce the property system and an independent nuclear capacity via the regressive VAT. If I want the Chinese or the Islamic fundamentalists to take over Britain, can I be exempt (Why should I be asked to pay for it?)

brainblogger said...

Old Holborn

I see it from the other side though and what it is really like. I go to interviews, thats of course if I get an interview, once they see that I am not a 'normal' fully fit person and I work slower than a normal person, who do you think they go for?. No prizes there for the answer there, usually some lame excuse.

I can read and write and think for myself and use a computer but doesn't mean I want to do a job using a computer. I use the computer to communicate because I can express myself better than actually speaking.

The government and the media seem to have created this myth that the unemployed and the disabled are benefit scroungers. There are people who play the system and it makes me angry. You see the people coming out of the post office just got the child benefit spending it on cigarettes and scratchcards, that's not right, that's not going to benefit the child.

The DWP also seem to be making it more difficult to qualify for ESA. The health problems that you suffer with everyday are not as worse now as there for the person actually suffering them. Forcing people onto JSA or reducing there benefits to virtual JSA level isn't the solution.

Its like just because all these people can not get a job lets just make them feel a bit more depressed and reduce there benefit at the same time. What help is that?

The government said there are 600000 jobs at any one time but there are 2.6 million on IB, nearly 2 million on jobseekers and ever increasing and whatever else so the maths don't add up.

So where exactly are all these jobs for all these people going to come from? Someone has to create some jobs from somewhere so there are jobs for everyone.

The whole thinking needs to change not to punish people because they are not able to get a job.

Old Holborn said...


It is not the responsibility of the State to find you a job

It is not the responsibility of the private sector to find you a job.

It is YOUR responsibilty.

Kerry said...

Brainblogger - I agree entirely that we should not punish people who are unable to get a job. I hope the Govt's new reforms will strike the right balance between giving people the support they need to make the transition into work, if they are able to do so, and applying sanctions where necessary to stop people exploiting the system (which unfortunately some people do, and it causes a great deal of resentment amongst people who are working, or people who are genuinely incapable of work who feel they are being tarred with the same brush).

The new system is meant to focus on very personalised support, so that the Job Centre Plus adviser knows the client and what he/ she can and can't do. I know this is sometimes difficult - e.g. I have been talking to ME groups, and that's an illness where people's capabilities can vary a great deal from day to day, and are not easily 'proved' or diagnosed. I do hope that you will feed your views in to your own MP, to ensure that if the system doesn't work to your benefit, the DWP are made aware. And thanks for posting.

As for cancelling all benefits/ starving the 'workshy' - what impact do you think that would have on crime levels? And would you starve their children too?

brainblogger said...

Old Holdborn,

You have completely missed the point saying that it should not be the states responsibility and saying it is all my responsibility.

We don't all sit at home watching Jeremy Kyle on our 40" plasma TV, We go out and do voluntary work to try and build ourselves up just to be let down by the people who say they are going to help.

You don't realise that discrimination against disabled people is alive and kicking among employers and they get away with it so many times. The DDA does not go far enough in my opinion.

Whenever I see disabled people at work they are doing low paid, menial crap jobs like cleaning other peoples crap up in Mcdonalds.
what was I heard "get the cripple to take that meal to the car in the blue bay". Is that what people have to look forward to? I am just one voice of many.

When I go to the jobcentre so they can help me I expect them to help me not just fob me off on a course to practise writing my cv and looking through the paper for non-existent jobs. They have sent me on work rehabilitation courses for months, sent to places to be dumped there, while the people who got me the placement get a nice big fat cheque cause they wouldn't do it for nothing would they?

When I see about the government coming out with all these help they going to give you. I do not trust them. I have heard it all before. If they put the money that they put into saving banks into the jobcentre you would have a lot better service and not just get fobbed off to the pathways to work or should I say the pathways to hell. The people running these are obviously there to make a profit out of other peoples misfortune.

They jobcentre haven't got enough staff in the as it is so what's going to happen when all the new unemployed start coming from people losing there jobs they won't be able to cope, that's of course when they are not closing jobcentres down. What is it Woolworth's and MFI going into administration today?.

brainblogger said...


Is this personalised help you get when you get fobbed off to working links. When I went they came out with in true james purnell style "we see what you can do and not what you can't and do you really want a job?.

Then I get the how they helped some disabled people make a job out of a hobby, of course they would not let me talk to anyone and find out about what they did unless of course I signed up with them. no pressure like, make an instant decision.

Would you sign up to something if you didn't know what you are signing up for first?

I have spoken to my MP recently about my numerous experiences and I am waiting for a reply.