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Daily View: Compulsory labour for jobless

Clare Spencer | 09:56 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Job centre

 

Commentators pick through the arguments surrounding coalition plans to force the long-term unemployed to do manual work or lose benefits.

Stephen Pollard argues in the Times [subscription required] that forcing the jobless back to work is a kindness, recalling a similar scheme he witnessed in the US in the 1990s:

"Many of them really didn't want to be there, but they knew they would lose all benefits if they didn't take part in the training. The atmosphere was not harsh or negative. In fact, as the trainees realised they were no longer consigned to the bin and that there was an alternative life for them, you could almost see the scales fall from their eyes. The will to work was only dormant and simply needed to be brought out. Three years after their training, 88 per cent of the people who found a job were still in work. Object to compulsion if you will, but it's the poor who suffer today."

Peter McKay warns in the Daily Mail that American ideas don't always work in the UK:

"They do far less than we do for the unemployed. A Darwinian 'survival of the fittest' reigns there. Workfare, the U.S. scheme on which our new plans are based, was invented in 1968 not by a conservative but by civil rights activist James Charles Evers."

Jackie Ashley asks in the Guardian how the plans will work for the "workless" as opposed to the "workshy":

"If there are jobs to be had, you can push people into them. If there aren't, you are just pushing them off a cliff, into depression, ridicule and despair. What happens to someone, already feeling crushed and useless because they have been sacked, and then turned down, who does not want to spend 30 hours a week in front of the neighbours, scrubbing graffiti? Will they be watched by security guards, or made to wear identifiable uniforms? If they refuse, what do ministers think they will do when their benefits are cut off for three months? Rob? Deal drugs? Beg?"

The Independent's editorial imagines a problem with the scheme:

"The danger could be that paid jobs will be cut, only to reappear as unpaid jobs in the voluntary sector. It is not hard to imagine the absurd situation where a local council employee is laid off, only to be displaced by a benefit recipient putting in his or her voluntary hours. Which poses the further question of basic justice: whether a job should not be rewarded, at very least, at the rate of the minimum wage."

The political bloggers look at the how the proposals could affect dynamics between the coalition and Labour. Former Conservative candidate Iain Dale says on his blog that the announcements are another example of a policy changes being introduced to the newspapers before they are introduced to Parliament, suggesting PR requirements are taking precedence over Parliamentary proprieties.

The blog Trevor's Den points out that Labour put forward the same policy in 2007 and 2008. Mike Smithson at Political Betting also points to a problem Labour might find if opposing the policy:

"Politically this could be dangerous for Labour because the last thing they want to be portrayed as is the party that supports the 'work-shy' - however unfair that tag might be."

Links in full

Stephen Pollard | Times | Forcing the jobless back to work is a kindness
Peter McKay | Daily Mail | American idea that just won't work here
Jackie Ashley | Guardian | On workfare, maybe the coalition really wants to help the jobless
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown | Independent | The Government has declared war on the welfare state
Independent | On workfare, maybe the coalition really wants to help the jobless
Iain Dale | Workfare: A Failure of Communication
Trevor's Den | Bishop to work for his money?
Mike Smithson | Political Betting | What does EdM do about the "jobless must work" plan?

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