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When the going gets tough...

Nick Robinson | 10:18 UK time, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tough. Radical. The end of the something for nothing era.

Those are the words that ministers want to be associated with today's proposals for a shake-up of the welfare state.

Man going into job centreHold on a second though, let's focus on what exactly is the "something" ministers now expect of almost everyone claiming benefits. It is not - contrary to some expectations - going out to work or doing compulsory community work.

The central proposition in today's White Paper is that all those who once were simply on benefit will be expected to agree to the goal of entering the world of work. All those, that is, except those classified as severely disabled or parents of babies under one. The system will accept that "the goal" may take many years to reach or may never be reached at all. During that time the benefit claimant will stay on full benefits and will not be forced into community work providing they stick to a plan they agree with an adviser.

The plan may involve receiving counselling for a problem such as drug abuse or being heavily indebted. It may involve training. It will include help with job search such as advice on how to draw up a CV, money for a new suit or the cost of the ticket needed to get to an interview.

Only if someone who was on incapacity benefit doesn't follow the plan they helped to draw up will they face sanctions. At first, they'll be given a warning (a kind of benefits yellow card). If that doesn't work those on ESA (the new name for those on IB deemed fit to prepare for work) will be fined £12 for a first offence, £24 for a second and then forced into compulsory work such as digging an old person's garden. There will, in other words, be no red card which throws people out of the benefits system altogether nor any American-style time limits for claiming benefits.

Now, I am not saying that today's measures don't represent a major change. They do. Millions of people who were told there was no expectation they should even look for a job will be told that they can and should get one if at all possible. Millions of lone parents who did not expect to have to look for work until their children left home will now be expected to do that. (One of the architects of the reforms, David Freud, writes interestingly about them in today's Times.)

What I am saying is that recent headlines have all been about stick when most of what's in today's proposals is about carrot. How tough they turn out to be will depend on the actions of those administering the system on the ground. What's more, in the short term at least, we will all spend more trying to get people back into work not less.

What makes the proposals really significant is that they represent a consensus between the Labour and Tory leaderships and are, therefore, certain to be implemented in some form. They are not scheduled to come into operation until autumn 2010 - that's after an election and after, we all hope, the recession is over.

Nick Robinson and some japester dressed as a flyPS. Sorry to go on at such length but a man-sized fly may just have distracted you if you were watching last night's Ten O'Clock News. Thanks to those who've said I was incredibly calm. In truth, I had no idea he was there at all. If I had I would have swatted him.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nick, can you ask our unelected PM to call an election

    Brown out!

  • Comment number 3.

    This is chasing a headline, and as with all the statements put out by the Government since Mandy returned, it has no substance.

  • Comment number 4.

    This heavy handed approach will backfire and make this incumbent government redundant. It is time to run the head count reduction program for the DWP, CSA and Councils to save tax payers money.

  • Comment number 5.

    Half baked measures, they will not force the determined work shy benefit recipient to change his ways. ( amend a CV will be enough to keep him on full benefits, really tough measures )
    This is typical Labour, they grab the news headlines, spin it to death and they forget about it!!
    With his polls rating improving why is Moses Brown still scared of calling a general election( perhaps the real PM ,the dodgy Lord, does not think the time is right ). Perhaps his bottom is still sore from the smacking he took after last year's fiasco!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    So hang on. Sounds like a stick but on reflection looks like a carrot. Announced in 2008 but no effect until 2010. Boils down to asking if a jobseeker has thought about doing a cv. Is it a bird is it a plane is it a Dodo no its a Labour election stunt.

  • Comment number 7.

    Nick, repeat after me

    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax
    National Insurance IS a tax

    your repeated assertions to the contrary make you sound like a government stooge. And that wouldn't be good, would it, given that you work for the (allegedly) impartial BBC?

  • Comment number 8.

    Nick...

    can you comment on the rumour that "the fly" was none other than David Cameron - jogging home from a House of Commons Fancy Dress party?

  • Comment number 9.

    Nick,

    for a start it is good to have you back. I hope our comments have not stung you into action. Two blogs in two days is very good.

    Now for these 'reforms'. I have referred before to the demographic time bomb going off. An awful lot of people will soon be retiring and then they will be coming off either unemployment benefit or their disability payments. When you retire your main entitlement will be through the state pension scheme. They may be entitled to some form of means tested tax credits but they will have to declare all their income, or what exactly have they done with their money, given it away.

    I just cannot see these proposals working. Look at what is happening in Greece. Young people will say you have given the banks billions for the bankers and their bonuses, and you want me to get a useless job, or digging old peoples gardens. This is bizarre.

    There will be riots on the streets, this will never see the light of day, unless we are coerced by tales of young women living a life of luxury on our benefits. Interesting photo as well, the person seems to be wearinga prison uniform. Interesting choice!

  • Comment number 10.

    Nick,

    I wonder if this will cause some of labour's natural supporters to vote Lib Dem or someone else?


    Also - I can't believe that we haven't had either 'sticks or incentives' to get people back into work for years already?!!


    How many billions have Labour spent to pay people to watch Jeremy Kyle?


    I enjoyed the Fly demonstrating behind you last night - not sure he got his message across though.

  • Comment number 11.

    If the object is an offence on 'scroungers' why no mention of MPs' expenses?

    Personally, I think this with many other recent 'initiatives' is simply a government seeking headlines to draw media attention away from the economy.

  • Comment number 12.

    This will have an effect on IB claimant numbers, it's just that that effect may not be the one intended.

    Many mentally ill IB claimants (approximately 1 million of those registered) could consider registering for Disability Living Allowance. Those who don't, might easily be bullied into agreeing a plan, and then be in hospital when it comes time to implement the plan: what then?

    What does Frank Field think of all this?

    And -- to be political -- does this help the Government remain in power next year? Whilst it has the support of the tories, disaffected labour supporters on IB will presumably have always been more tempted to vote Liberal; and up here in the North West, they are the alternative party anyway. I'm not sure I see the electoral advantage of this reform.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thanks, Nick. Interesting blog.

    Forgive me for being a little cynical, but I've heard this before every election from Labour.

    Which is interesting: the government seem to want to be ready for May. Full impact of downturn not yet felt, point to green shots, etc.

    No doubt the final decision will rest on how the first quarter plays out in the polls, but right now, it's still got to look a good bet for Labour. Probably better than waiting . . .

    Finally: I think we all have to salute the sheer brilliance of the Labour PR machine. Big speech by Cameron on a critical issue yesterday completely overshadowed by the evening news slots. Perfect timing - even it's a re-announced policy!! You don't have to like it, but you have to admire it! No wonder the Tories struggle to get their message heard . . . whether that is good for the country may be another matter of course . . .

  • Comment number 14.

    Nick can you explain why we all have to work, in particular, why we should send our children to be looked after by someone else, so we can do a pointless job, the example you give of digging an old persons garden is laughable.

    Anyone would think the State do not want a close family bond, or secure, loved offspring, the future adults.

    Of course our additional taxes will help buy guns and similar plus pay for spaceships to Mars etc.

    cheers


  • Comment number 15.

    This is a sensible and well balanced measure that should have been implemented years ago by this or the previous Tory government. I hope Labour MPs will support it.

  • Comment number 16.

    So many people claim to know someone who is a benefit cheat, but, whilst there are undoubtedly such people, they are realtively few in number and the loss to the state is small. Recent figures show that the chances of a benefit fraudster being caught are much higher than professionals, (the legal profession was an example). The losses from high earning tax evaders are considerably higher than benefit fraud, but there is little sign of the same sort of vicious condemnation that benefit fraudsters get being directed their way.
    I wonder how many of those who attack people on benefits are quite happy to cheat the same taxpayer by paying cash in hand for work-but that's different isn't it?
    If anyone thinks that "the nasty party" has gone away, just read HYS!
    Gordon Thompson (employed)

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    RE john cook @ # 10

    As a Labour supporter I'm not at all put off by this measure. I think many other Labour supporters who are hard working and pay their taxes will be pleased that the government is trying to get others into work.

  • Comment number 19.

    "It may involve training" Really? My partner who has been unemployed and at home with our children for the last 3 years has repeatedly asked his local job centre for help to get on a training course for computer networking. To be told that the only computing course the DWP is allowed to send him on is European Computer Driving License - which will just about qualify you to turn a computer on and use Microsoft Word.

    He has a natural talent with computers and in fact can probably do any computing job put in front of him. However, very few companies will employ someone without a formal qualification, which we can't afford to get. How is the government going to "help him to find work"? By forcing him into a minimum wage job that means that we have to pay for childcare - which will cost pretty much what he earns in a month!

    If you ask me, this is the government just trying to follow even more Friedmanite economic policies. Our government is so enamoured of the US model of government, they fail to see the societal collapse that has happened over there. Do they not realise that increased street crime and violence are a direct result of reduced access to public services? The divide between rich and poor in the US is almost as great as in any third world country. They just hide it better - by not talking about it.

  • Comment number 20.

    It all sounds very good, but I suspect the vulnerable will suffer whilst the hardcore will continue filing their boots at the taxpayers expense.

  • Comment number 21.

    I have a non-operable heart condition which requires large doses of medicine to keep in control.By the time the meds 'kick in' I'm probably good for about 4 to 6 hours in a day.I'm on disability and incapacity benefit,after 26 years in work,does that make me a scrounger?Don't tar everyone with the same brush folks.I've tried going back to work,both times I ended up with long spells in hospital.I've also been told now I'm a Health+Safety risk where work is concerned and can't get insurance.
    My previous jobs were physically demanding as well as 'stressful',I was a Road Patrol for a motoring organisation for 18 years,(not Yellow van one),a police officer for 7years. I also did voluntary work, working with kids and youth in Scouting and under privilidged kids. I took them on hiking and climbing holidays in Wales, another hobby I can no longer do. I'd climbed, prior to the heart giving out, 186 out of the 286 Munroes for one,(thats peaks over 3000ft!)
    I'm all in favour of welfare reform so long as its done compassionately and not used as a means of headline grabbing by what is now, a govt. with little or no credence.Also, please, please,please, STOP tarring everyone on benefits with the same brush. I had to be pushed into claiming help,I had no idea what help was available and suffered for it. While working over the 26 years, I paid vast sums in tax and NI,I didn't mind, if I was earning good money that was fine, now I need help, through no fault of mine, I don't expect to be treated like a leper.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm all for pressurising the idle minority back into work so long as it doesn't mean taking food away from their kids and the disabled.

    But can anyone explain why it's taken the Government over 11 years to decide do this, then to implement it in the middle of a recession, with unemployment forecast to rise by up to a million?

  • Comment number 23.

    DEAR nICK
    FIRST STOP IMMIGRATION ----GIVE PRIORITY TO HOUSING FOR BRITISH PEOPLE AND MAKE A DEFINATE DISTINGTION BETWEEN THOSE WHO HAVE WORKED ALL THEIR LIVES AND END UP LOOSING THEIR JOBS, -----AGAINST THOSE WHO HAVE SPENT THEIR LIVES SPONGING OFF THE STATE.
    THOSE WHO DO NOT COMPREHEND THE FACT THAT WORK IS GOOD FOR YOU, PUT THEM IN THE ARMED FORCES, ITS ABOUT TIIME CONSCRIPTION CAME BACK.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nick change the subject to the falling pound, the Euro, Black Wednesday!

  • Comment number 25.

    Whilst this government tries to 'look tough' regarding the welfare state, the real problem is Labour's own scorched-earth policies.

    'Waste Now, Tax Later' will cause huge damage to the economy and the very businesses that could be providing the jobs that are needed for the future.

    This isn't a plan. It's an epitaph.

  • Comment number 26.

    Ha, Nick. I saw the fly. Maybe it is a friend of Boris' dancing bear.....

  • Comment number 27.

    So in other words, the government are doing what New Labour seem to do best: making everything fantastically complicated. I predict this will have 3 outcomes:

    1. The system will become much more expensive to administer

    2. Those who are genuinely in need of help will find the new procedures cumbersome and be less likely to get the help they need

    3. Benefit cheats will find new loopholes and manage to exploit the system better than they are doing now.

    Have I missed anything?

  • Comment number 28.

    " I think many other Labour supporters who are hard working and pay their taxes "

    Hahaha that's a good one made me laugh.

    Public sector employees do NOT pay tax. Their income is paid out of taxpayers' money, so they cannot pay tax without double counting.

    And the rest of Labour's vote don't work, so they don't pay tax either.

  • Comment number 29.

    Nick, Grooming appears to be the current buzzword. Do you not think that this is what NuLabour have done over the last 11 years with regards to the benefit culture that has blossomed under them.

    I also brought this topic into play in your previous thread. But those NuLabour numpties on here have no answer.

    My take is:

    There are very few people in NuLabour that I respect. One of those few exceptions is John McDonnell MP, he states the following:

    It is lunacy to force people into jobs that are not there and to force lone parents to take up childcare which is either unaffordable or non-existent

    Notwithstanding the first part, the later part really beggars belief, after 11 years, childcare which is either unaffordable or non-existent.

    Could it be that NuLabour are trying to win back Middle England voters!
  • Comment number 30.

    So net effect:

    More public sector jobs for 'coucellors' to look after these 'return to work' plans. But nothing else changes.

    Is that it?

    Why don't they call them 'career advisors' put up school leaving age to 35yrs and be done with it - zero unemploymnet.

    Waste of more tax-payer money...

    What an absolute joke.

  • Comment number 31.

    Nick
    "Now, I am not saying that today's measures don't represent a major change. They do. Millions of people who were told there was no expectation they should even look for a job will be told that they can and should get one if at all possible"

    This is not strictly true as most of those on benefits were already meant to do this.
    It just isnt enforced. This is just bluff and bluster from the government. Its just words and nothing will change.
    Can you imagine how many enforcement officers would be needed to make this a reality. The costs dont bear thinking about and certainly wont be covered by the pittance of the fine system.

    Talking of bluff and bluster. Ed Millibands asertion that he will force the energy companies to reduce bills. another farce. They can already justify charging prepay meter customers more because of the infrastructure to administer the system. If they are forced to charge that group less the bills for everyone will rise tocover the costs. ITs all just hot air.
    Tlak about do nothing government. This government dont exactly do nothing. They make a lot of noise and achieve nothing. That is worse than actually doing nothing.

    Call an election

  • Comment number 32.

    Free Cornwall. Ditto to that. Totally agree. However, Cornwall is a hell of a lot nicer than London where I live. There are only a few English people left here. The foreigners are in the councils and look after their own. God help you if it comes down there.

  • Comment number 33.

    "So in other words, the government are doing what New Labour seem to do best: making everything fantastically complicated. I predict this will have 3 outcomes:

    1. The system will become much more expensive to administer

    2. Those who are genuinely in need of help will find the new procedures cumbersome and be less likely to get the help they need

    3. Benefit cheats will find new loopholes and manage to exploit the system better than they are doing now."

    Exactly! Especially as, after a few years, they'll hand it over to a private company to administer who'll naturally want to take a profit from it - telling us that they're "much more efficient" while all the time doing what the benefits system is supposedly doing - bleeding the taxpayer dry!

    Why doesn't government instead crack down on all those businesses and businessmen who don't pay their taxes and exploit the loopholes they paid to have written into the tax laws?

  • Comment number 34.

    So more of the old cat and mouse game, forcing, if you can, the willing-to-work into any old job on minimum wage and on the other side of the coin a similar but expensively more complex game with the unwilling; same game, different wording. Against the background of 3m unemployed (by the way!) the MWP will have its work cut out sorting the sheep from the goats (never did before), and then making any real headway at all.

    So more political twaddle about social policy and all this to justify the zillions spent to restore profit to the banks' dodgy retail credit business. When it has done its job in the argy bargy for the next election we'll see it for the wishful thinking it is.

    The Tories are beginning to find arguments they have a chance of winning, and it is no surprise.

  • Comment number 35.

    I've commented long and often on business and welfare, and don't really want to repeat that again. The core message remains the same but economics realities and lessons from punishing everyone because of a few extremists are usefully taken on board.

    My general view is that business innovation and a fair society are key goals, and those must fit together with helping people aspire and step out of their comfort zones. This makes developing positive consensus very important.

    If this project is just another badly targeted stick or carrot, it will destroy innovation and willingness but if it develops the middle way it may have a chance. But, all stakeholders must have a positive reason to get on board. This is essential.

  • Comment number 36.

    #21

    I don't think anybody in their right mind would not support helping people who are genuinely unable to work: as I am sure is the case with you.

    However, there are many people who can work but choose not to: does anyone really believe for example that a full 40+% of the working population in certain areas cannot work? I certainly don't.

    Benefits and support should be there for those IN NEED, not those who can't be bothered.

    And yes, if you can do something but can't get a job, I don't see anything wrong with putting something back into the community that's helping you by, for example, picking up litter, weeding town centre gardens, etc. for part of the time. I would be proud to put something back: it would actually give me a sense of self-worth that even though I couldn't find a job at that time, I was still able to contribute something to my community.

    So: don't worry about being tarred with the same brush as those who can but don't. We are all (Labour and Tory) much more sensible than that.

  • Comment number 37.

    My dad worked up to the age of 68.
    He was a manual worker so could not pay into a pension scheme until late into his working life because schemes were not available.

    As a consequence, he pushed as much money as he could afford into an AVC scheme late into his working life. (big mistake)

    He is now £2.75 above the limit for claiming any benefit whatsoever.
    He suffers with arthritis, spondolosis of the spine and is now 78.

    He has been turned down for attendance allowance by the benefits agency although we do look after him.

    However, in my street is a women who is approx 35, has full disability payments (her car is through the state) and she is as able bodied as myself and any other healthy person.
    I've seen her playing tennis, taking a full active part in aerobics classes at the gym and riding a bike.

    I've reported her to the fraud line 4 times but has anything been done....................NO.

    I'm fed up of this socialist government rebuking the hard working person in this country for the sake of repulsive scroungers like this women.

    Can Mr Cameron please start pushing Mr Brown so we can have a general election.
    Can we also start and see some independant reporting and some hard interviewing of Labour ministers by BBC reporters please, I don't pay my tv licence for an LBC (Labour broadcasting corporation)

  • Comment number 38.

    23

    Or indeed send them all to Cornwall (if your tag is what it seems.) Now there's thought. DWP are you listening?

  • Comment number 39.

    I think we need to get away from a set of values which defines the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. This is pre-Victorian but still seems to underpin public attitudes to welfare.

    These proposals from the government are fair enough as far as they go. A hand-up rather than a hand-out is the best method to deal with poverty.

    I am delighted to learn that at long last the system will accept that working is its own benefit. Too often good people have been signed off work for often treatable medical conditions causing them to go into a long and slow decline.

    Perhaps the tax system can also be modified to allow the lower paid to keep more of their income. This would be a further incentive to work.

    My concern is to how proactive the system will be. Will it really deal with the hardened drug addict? Will it really extend a supporting hand to the long term unemployed? I have my reservations but I will take the positive view.

    I do have concerns as to forcing single parents out into work whilst the child is still young. We need to set a broader standard of childcare within the family throughout the country. Too often mothers are forced out into the workplace whilst their children are too young. I also feel that children start school too early as well. In my view society pays a longer term price for this behaviour: some children can handle it, others cannot.

  • Comment number 40.

    Really enjoyed your piece to camera last night.

    There are no flies on you Nick, ho ho.

    As children, we pretty soon learn, if our parents are sensible people, that pocket-money has to be earnt.

    So if seems more than strange that a vast chunk of the adult population are simply 'given' money by the taxpayer, via the State.

    Now that Government money is 'tight', it is tentatively being withdrawn, or at least, being made harder to obtain 'for free'.

    There is always a cost and somebody always has to pay.

    And usually, that payer is the biggest mug of all time - you and me - the English PAYE taxpayer.

  • Comment number 41.

    #12 Frank Field given faint praise for some aspects, but been quite critical of others

    He said that emphasis should be placed on young people who have never worked, and that eventually there should be no benefit for them unless they work for it.

  • Comment number 42.

    We used to say 'Carrot and stick' but this government has introduced the concept of 'carrot and carrot'!! Ok lets be generous: 'carrot and feather'!! This move is purely an exaggerated soundbite designed to strike a chord with middle class voters who currently feel, with much justification, very hard done by. Like all soundbites it carries no substance. The simple truth remains that Labour (old, new, borrowed or blue, sorry red) will not act to the detriment of its core vote and will continue to soak the hated middle classes. No chance of this comment getting past the thought police!

  • Comment number 43.

    Interesting white paper. Thanks for the summary.

    Wouldn't it be a little more productive trying to address the needs of people like me, who actually want to get back into work (and are not claiming benefits, because we don't qualify and therefore have no contact with the DWP), but are still experiencing problems because of the many prejudices in the world of employment, i.e. too old, too bald, too male, too white, not gay, doesn't like Russell Brand, supports Southampton FC not Portsmouth, left the previous job because dissatisfied with exploitative employer so not likely to get a glowing reference, 4 A levels and 10 O levels, never had a parking ticket let alone any other criminal offence but doesn't have exactly the right NVQ in wiping old peoples bottoms etc, etc... ad infinitum ?

    There really are all sorts of artificial or regulatory obstacles out there, that stop ordinary decent people getting back into work...

  • Comment number 44.

    # 31 Pot_Kettle

    "Can you imagine how many enforcement officers would be needed to make this a reality"

    This government does seem to support the use of enforcement officers for the really important things - such as making sure a Lollipop Man removes the tinsel from his Lollipop for Health and Safety reasons.

    Unfortunately, the track record is not quite so good when it comes to things like the welfare of battered children.

  • Comment number 45.

    What does it say about a PM that needs the Tories to push through these reforms.? Brown should be totally embarrassed that he does not have the support of large parts of his party on this issue. However, they should be going much further and changing the whole of the benefit system so that only those that really need it receive anything. Child benefit should be the first benefit to be cut or at least limited to, say, the first two children.

    If Brown wants to get even "braver" then how about ending 'the 'gold plated' pensions given to MP's and public sector workers. It is an utter disgrace that this scheme is still in existence but no political party is willing to tackle it. Surely this would save even more money for the UK than the welfare changes currently being discussed.

  • Comment number 46.

    UK-SILENT-MAJORITY @ 37

    You fathers story is a lesson to most working people.

    For most working people, if they cannot currently accumulate a pension pot of at least 180,000 thousand pounds, then it is not worth saving anything at all.

    This is because, as your father found out, the State 'benefits' are withdrawn once a certain size of pension pot has been saved.

    Inadvertently, the State has created a moral hazard here, i.e. you are not punished for not saving for your old age.

  • Comment number 47.

    The trouble comes when you start beating the donkey with the carrot and feeding it the stick...and I'm far from reassured that this isn't what's happening here.

  • Comment number 48.

    So, the primary effect of these new rules will be to 'employ' a new layer of Civil 'Service' mouse-nudgers who will send out Sternly Worded Letters, while yet another new cadre fills in the 27B/6s for the dole scroungers to ensure that not one of them loses a single penny of unearned income?

    This is good news for us taxpayers how, exactly?

  • Comment number 49.

    @39
    "Perhaps the tax system can also be modified to allow the lower paid to keep more of their income. This would be a further incentive to work."

    Theres a good idea how about a 10% tax band, lets call it a starter rate

  • Comment number 50.

    So many people claim to know someone who is a benefit cheat, but, whilst there are undoubtedly such people, they are realtively few in number and the loss to the state is small. Recent figures show that the chances of a benefit fraudster being caught are much higher than professionals, (the legal profession was an example). The losses from high earning tax evaders are considerably higher than benefit fraud, but there is little sign of the same sort of vicious condemnation that benefit fraudsters get being directed their way.

    I wonder how many of those who attack people on benefits are quite happy to cheat the same taxpayer by paying cash in hand for work-but that's different isn't it?


    Yes, this is a key problem. People of "high status" get big rewards and little scrutiny, while those of "low status" get nothing and go through hoops. This is an artifact of ego and stepping away from those extremes is a good idea. Again, this this another argument for developing the middle-way.

    And yes, if you can do something but can't get a job, I don't see anything wrong with putting something back into the community that's helping you by, for example, picking up litter, weeding town centre gardens, etc. for part of the time. I would be proud to put something back: it would actually give me a sense of self-worth that even though I couldn't find a job at that time, I was still able to contribute something to my community.


    Sorry, but this is just more of the same low status reinforcing view from someone who says "if I was in that position". Yeah, it's fine to tell other people they have to take a third rate job to subsidise the living standards of everyone else until it happens to them.

    I am delighted to learn that at long last the system will accept that working is its own benefit. Too often good people have been signed off work for often treatable medical conditions causing them to go into a long and slow decline.


    People say they want better but the class and isolationist attitude of the British gets in the way. People don't want their status or wealth threatened so contain or control the problem by pushing it onto someone else. It would be better redirected in a more achievement and market development orientated direction instead of projecting failure onto someone else.
  • Comment number 51.

    More NuLabour economic thinking here:

    Criticism over NuLabour credit card.

    One financial expert who compares credit card rates said the Labour card charged well above the current average rate of about 15%.

    When the government is preaching to banks to be competitive it is a bit two-faced not to be doing it yourself


    Last quote says it all.
  • Comment number 52.

    Hmm.... so it's a classic Labour SPIN then.


    Big announcement suggesting ONE thing....... but the detail actually painting a completely DIFFERENT picture.


    When is Labour ever going to do what they say (or imply) they will?

  • Comment number 53.

    It really ought not to be about any carrot. Carrots are far less efficient than sticks.

    But, really, it's all incentives, for both the claimants and the workers in the area.

    But will we really crack it with this carrot method? It will remain too easy to just sign off someone with a "bad back" - after all, telling someone that you're cutting off their main income is hard for the people in the sector.

    There should be more of a "need benefits? Prove it" attitude. And take down those stupid public sector pensions. They can have theirs taxed and squandered (or untaxed and boosted) by the government of the day like the rest of us, then maybe they'd be more "prudent" with their votes.

  • Comment number 54.

    Imagine how this feels if you are long term sick. You are being told that your own doctor isn't to be trusted but the nice man down at the Work and Pensions Department knows what's good for you. Work isn't actually a medicine and it can't make you better so you are unfortunately still ill. But he decides how to help you and what he requires you to do. He's some sort of super life coach.

    If you read the disability and mental health sites you will see a lot of very frightened people who don't trust the staff at the benefits office to make these decisions about their illnesses and lives. If you get ill will you trust your own doctor or the staff at the benefits office to run your life. Doctors train for many years and take a Hippocratic Oath. They are trained and employed by the NHS. Why are they being replaced as judge and jury here by an army of who exactly?

  • Comment number 55.

    NuLabour would never risk alienating one of their core voting blocks so as long as they remain in power the rest of us will continue to work to support the chav underclass. Businesses needed workers, so economic migrants filled the gap whilst the proles kept on taking the social.

    Same with their other core voting group, people in public sector jobs. That's why they've increased the workforce by almost a million people in ten years, and let them have their final salary pensions whilst being punitive towards private pensions. They could save billions by trimming the fat but they'd rather just keep on borrowing.

    Most people on benefits would much rather be earning a decent wage. There are far too many who see it is a lifestyle choice.

  • Comment number 56.

    Nick,

    You forgot to ask what number plan this radical welfare reform was, I think this is now somewhere about 27 or 30.

    The only radical way to make people work is to stop handing out cash willy nilly.

    My radical welfare plan would be to reduce payments year on year until year 3 when you do not get anything.

    I think the Americans have something like this.

    ps
    I have just been told this is radical welfare reform plan number 57.

  • Comment number 57.

    Wow! The big news is that 'Big Ben' has disappeared from behind Nick in his picture.

  • Comment number 58.

    Re53
    "Carrots are far less efficient than sticks."

    Oh no does this mean that Sticks need a quango too?

    Carrots you have competition for that yacht that you were after

  • Comment number 59.

    There really are all sorts of artificial or regulatory obstacles out there, that stop ordinary decent people getting back into work...


    My view is that the real problem is people's perspective. Regulations and attitudes are just an excuse. They're afraid of success so push other people into a corner. It's less of a can do approach and more of a politic around the water cooler approach.

    Waaah. We can't build a gigabit internet.

    Waaah. We can't build a movie industry.

    Waaah. We can't build a Microsoft.

    Waaah. Waaah. Waaah.

    One word: mediocrity.

    America isn't afraid to go for it and the Japanese don't have hang-ups about cleaning toilets. The British can learn a lot from America and Japan. If Britian is to get over itself and stop being such a whiny and nasty little country, it has to drop this nonsense and focus on doing better.

    Now, folks could go on some MBA or communication course, or practice martial arts for a lifetime, and get nowhere. But, something as simple as, say, taking up a hobby can teach the lessons of success, socialising, and developing opportunites that Britain needs to get off its ass.

    I bought a camera the other month and have spent some time dicking with it and reading up on technique. But, it's not going to take photos by itself. Yeah, it's only a little thing but it's one way I can revise and polish my own skills and attitudes so I improve. And that's better than getting complacent or sneery.

    WAKEY WAKEY. THIS MEANS YOU.
  • Comment number 60.

    Nick,

    it would appear that Zanulabour are led by a nose picking Aspidistra who saved the world. You can't make it up.

    I loved your comment about 'hubris'. It is so sad that this country is led by Gordon Brown. At least Mugabe won an election, which is more than can be said for the despot known as Gordon Brown. I would have thought that today when he announced the death of another soldier in Iraq that he could have made reference to our final retreat.

    It is time for him to go, give us an election, in the spring will do.

  • Comment number 61.

    Interesting article in the Times:

    Pound sinks to record low as euro nears parity

    Words like Gold Reserve, Duff Gordon, Sold Off and Euro spring to mind!

  • Comment number 62.

    @59 CEH
    you say "If Britian is to get over itself and stop being such a whiny and nasty little country, it has to drop this nonsense and focus on doing better.
    "

    then end with

    "WAKEY WAKEY. THIS MEANS YOU."

    Talk about pot_kettle

    To quote python " you whining hypocritical toady with your colour TV and your tony Jacklyn golf clubs"

  • Comment number 63.

    What seems to have been missed is that this is all hot air at the moment. None of this will see the light of day until 2010, so the spongers have got at least another 18 months to get as much out of the system as they can.

    Meanwhile......what's going on behind the doors of No10?

    Another diversion, methinks.

  • Comment number 64.

    Children under 1? I still can't understand why it is better to put the kids into care then look after them yourself? Of course, working part time is a given when they go off to school but that is aged 4 not 1...

    Personally, don't care about the benefits or lack of (its ok I never expected anything for my 500 a month paye contributions anyway :oP), when I am in a position to start a family (not yet, only just started my career) in a couple of years, I'll be getting priorities right and giving up for a few years!

    Agree with the rest in principle though!

  • Comment number 65.

    I see that the meglomaniac admitted in PMQ's that he is deluded by openly stating that he saved the world

  • Comment number 66.

    CEH @ 59

    President-Elect Obama has a decent outlook.

    I particularly like the idea of speeding up the next generation Internet (IPv6 for the techies).

    In my opinion, this will bring about a colossal amount of innovation and business in the USA.

    But sadly, we live in the land-of-nod, so I am not hopeful that initiatives such as 'next generation internet' will receive much Government support here, despite it now being as crucial to us now as our traditional utility supplies.

    Our politicians may be rather lacking regarding the 'vision thang' or do they need time to 'shape their public'?

  • Comment number 67.

    @64

    "Children under 1? I still can't understand why it is better to put the kids into care then look after them yourself?"

    Its known as government make work.
    you look after your mates kid and she looks after yours and you pay each other

  • Comment number 68.

    Can we have more articles on Superman saving the world please?

  • Comment number 69.

    Government Ministers


    If any of you think trying to survive on

    POVERTY RATIONS IS FUN YOU NEED TO

    GET A LIFE.

    SO A MILLION PLUS ARE GOING TO BE

    MICROMANAGED INTO GETTING NON

    EXISTANT JOBS????????????????????



    WHATEVER!

  • Comment number 70.

    I know there may not be enough jobs, there never are, but the same people should not be spending their whole lives living off the state for nothing - either contribute or learn skills to get into a job eventually, if you never contribute how are you a citizen who deserves government protection?

    I've never understood the rationale behind allowing a single parent to not work til their child is 16, mine went back to work when i was 8 weeks old, and kids with two parents often have both toiling - I would maybe support it til school age, as child care will inevitably come up, but it's just a free ride - I used to work shiftwork with a load of single mothers who worked odd hours to provide

    politically, I'm not liking that labour are stealing tory policies (granted they've done it for years) - it's just currently scaring me as the government is basically becoming eternally labour, who take ideas from the opposition parties to shut up those who aren't the party faithful in the run up to an election

  • Comment number 71.

    "Lord Mandelson has been accused of bully-boy tactics after it was claimed his lawyers sent a threatening letter to those against the HBOS merger.
    "
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7769285.stm

    How buried was this little gem. Well done the BBC on actually reporting it even ithough it never made the politics or business headlines

  • Comment number 72.

    These measures I agree with. But how does my wife access them? She is not 'in work'. But since I earn slightly too much to qualify for working families tax credit and since Im working too many hours for her to claim any benefit, we're not in the system at all except for child tax credit which anyone earning up to £55 gets, and child benefit which everyone with children gets. She did not have a career before having our son (now nearly 2, so not eligible for any free childcare) so had no job to go back to. She could only now get an entry level job. In order to do such a job and make any 'profit' at all after childcare she would have to go from no work at all to five days full time - meaning our son would need to suddenly adjust to only seeing us first thing in the morning and last thing at night 5 days a week. I know huge numbers of children have to deal with that, but its not what I want for my son, I don't beleive its good for him. We therefore struggle on with my 23K a year (below the national average of £25K according to official figures) because we fall exactly in the middle and dont' really qualify for anything. Therefore my wife's national insurance contributions are not being made - reducing her pension entitlement. We are basically holding on until my son is three so that he can qualify for the free 12 hours a week he'll get.

    These measures are aimed at people who have been getting handouts for years - justifiably in many cases I know - but what about us? How do we get some help getting my wife back to a job that's actually going to allow her to work a sensible number of hours and still actually see some additional money for it? We're being penalised for managing without help on the one hand, and then on the otherbeing told we're not fulfilling our obligations to society because my wife dares to stay at home and look after our child? I thought the government wanted to strengthen the family unit? How is forcing families to spend all their time apart addressing that?

    And also - where are all these jobs going to come from? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a recession on?

  • Comment number 73.

    Not bad, Nick. Now you have NuLabours spin merchants providing you with copy.

    Nick Robinson and this BBC Blog are now officially the media mouthpiece for Gordon Brown. As such, I despair for the future of free and fair elections, when the largest, most important, and most influential mass-media element in the country discards it's remit of political independence in such a shameful manner.


    For gods sake, get some chutzpah, get some independence, and get some balance!

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    @ 64

    helengelic, working part time isn't a given - seeing as you have millions of mothers all in the same boat at the same time, and jobs that fit in with school hours simply do not exist in such numbers......

  • Comment number 76.

    As a taxpayer fed up to the back teeth of seeing my money wasted by this governemnt I would like to see awhole lot more stick.

    Compulsory contraceptive injections for anyone on benefits would get my vote. Anyone who cant afford to support themselves has no right to expect us to pay for them to have children.

    I would love for myself or my wife to be able to stay at home with our son in his formative years, but thats only an option for scroungers who've never worked a day in their lives.

  • Comment number 77.

    Chrisleopard @#18

    Of course hard working Labour supporters will support it as there is not that many of them. The problem being for Labour MP@s most of their supporters are mainly working class and the immigrant community most of which are on benefits. So it would be suicidal for them to back a measure that is going to make their constituents work for a living.

    I would have no compulsion in not paying unemployment benefit after 16 weeks without the claimant working 32 hours per week in the community and if there is a disability involved, work based on their abilities and for those who say they can't I say If a Para Olympian can, you can it is not what you can not do but what you can do. All to often we hear from the Disabilities community we don't want to be discriminated against well I won't, go out and get a job. Yes there still need to be some form of benefits to the less able bodied as their cost are higher than most.

    Freedom of speech mods

  • Comment number 78.

    So Gordon saved the world did he? Looking around he didnt do a great job.

    FreeCornwall (it was bloody expensive last time I went) Conscription won't work, the forces don't want it as it gives you a bunch of unmotivated surly youths with guns.

    Great idea.

    Plus it costs a fortune, but if you're willing for your taxes to increase, then by all means crack on, you have to pay them, you have to clothe and accomodate them and you have to equip them.

    I dont know whether you've noticed, but we're having difficulty equiping our current troops.

    Still I suppose its one way of getting mine fields cleared cheaply

  • Comment number 79.

    # 63 shellingout

    you say: "so the spongers have got at least another 18 months to get as much out of the system as they can".

    There are certainly some who play the system, but most people on benefit are not spongers.

    The real challenge for government is to support the businesses that provide the real jobs. As has been said elsewhere, the economy is currently based on people taking in each others laundry.

    Brown's policies of waste, borrow and tax will strangle the very businesses we need to provide long term employment for the future.

    Brown's policies will only act as a weedkiller to the green shoots of recovery.


  • Comment number 80.

    post 69


    Sorry,


    NON EXISTENT JOBS!

  • Comment number 81.

    SAVING THE WORLD???



    Just heard THAT WOMAN Patricia Hewitt

    HOW TOTALLY PATRONISING AND ARROGANT





    WHY DO THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY HAVE

    THE RIGHT TO CLING TO POWER

    AND BANKRUPT US ALL??

  • Comment number 82.

    Post 76


    Selective breeding? NOW theres a THOUGHT

  • Comment number 83.

    #76 Idespiselabour

    Yep - I have to agree with this.

    We scrimped and scraped when our boys were little because we didn't want to farm them out to childminders - we couldn't have afforded to in any case. We didn't qualify for any financial help either, even though one of us was at home bringing the children up. Our eldest son is now 26 and, if anything, things have deteriorated.

    Peple can claim benefit without ever having worked a day in their lives. How can that happen? Look at Karen Matthews. She now has her "first job" in prison. People can enter this country and claim benefits for their children who live abroad. I have also heard that people of certain religions can also claim for more then one wife. It's scandalous. No wonder people are getting angry.

  • Comment number 84.

    "If that doesn't work those on ESA (the new name for those on IB deemed fit to prepare for work) will be fined £12 for a first offence, £24 for a second and then forced into compulsory work such as digging an old person's garden."

    Is that deliberately to try and catch someone out? Presumably if you're on incapacity benefit, manual labour could prove a bit tricky?

  • Comment number 85.

    Does that mean MPs will be forced to get a real job?

  • Comment number 86.

    # 53 RichardManns

    Vote Tory like you, is that what you mean?

    Dream on boy!

  • Comment number 87.

    dear Nick
    *32,
    YUP, TOO MANY foreigners in local councils and Yes they do discriminate, Howevr you can voice an opinion and Vote them out, OR JOIN THE MASONS.

  • Comment number 88.

    I have just graduated this year from a top university and yet I cannot seem to get a job no matter how hard I try! There doesn't seem to be any temp work either.

    I have to show to the job centre that I apply for at least 2 jobs per week already, otherwise I will not receive my jobseekers' allowance. I can't help but feel that there are harsher measures for other people in my position because the government has simply given up on those who make a career out of living on benefits. These shouldn't ordinarily be seen as harsh measures as I feel that I should prove I am actively seeking employment to receive my benefits.

    The problem is that, being a graduate not on a Graduate Training Scheme, employers either require a minimum of 5 years' experience or a Diploma, meaning I would be overqualified and therefore not expected to stay in that job for any period of time.

    Although I am applying for at least 2 jobs per week, they are starting to dry up, and I would hate to be in the situation where I am actually seeking employment, but not finding any and therefore not receiving jobseekers' allowance.

    I would like to know what the Government would propose to do for the plethora of graduates in my position.

  • Comment number 89.

    Our politicians may be rather lacking regarding the 'vision thang' or do they need time to 'shape their public'?


    I had a longer comment but it ran on a bit. So, to acknowledge your point and give folks something to follow-up on their own time I'll recommend watching The Genius Club. It's only a B movie but has something to say folks might find worth reflecting on.
  • Comment number 90.

    # 77 rockyhippo

    Well, thats the working class, immigrants and the disabled consigned to perpetual poverty or qworse in your ideal world then.

    May I say what a pleasure it is to have you as a fellow citizen - not!

  • Comment number 91.

    We all know this is another red herring to appease the middle classes.

    The programmes they are talking about to give each person a personal counsellor are both extravagant and will be far too expensive to fund.

    They already know this because they've tried it already.

    In 2010 we will still have a majority of those same people on benefits plus a million or so others from the fallout of the recession.

    More Talk Talk But no action.

  • Comment number 92.

    Nick Robinson's article is pure New Labour spin. He might just as well have had David Freud write it for him. When is the BBC going to get a backbone and start offering balanced and unbiased reporting that actually puts the facts out for people to weigh up?
    The evidence used by Freud and his cohorts claiming that work is helpful to the sick and disabled is based on tiny studies that have little validity. It is a concept that has been promoted by big business in the US who want to make money out of a privatised UK welfare system. New Labour is following the US model where millions of people are thrown off benefits into further poverty with no health care. Do we really want to return to the days of the Victorian workhouse and children up chimney's? The UK already has one of the highest levels of child poverty in Europe.
    There is evidence to show that the stress of being placed under pressure by the benefits system contributes to exacerbating the ill health of sick and disabled people. Nick Robinson must be naive to believe that these changes will not place sick and disabled people under further stress and pressure when they are trying to rebuild their lives.
    The take up of back to work schemes already in place for sick and disabled people has been lacklustre to say the least because these schemes are tokenistic and run to make a profit rather than actually help people. New Labour are intent on privatising welfare services and this means that profit comes before the people they are meant to serve.
    It is estimated that millions of people do not claim benefits that are rightfully theirs yet we are told that we live in a culture of scroungers. This is ironic considering that tax payers have had to bail out the super rich who have got us into what is shaping up to be the worst ever economic crisis.
    So less of Nick Robinson promoting New Labour's new measures to scapegoat sick and disabled people and more of him and the BBC investigating how Brown is trying to place the burden of this economic crisis on the poor and sell off the welfare system to rapacious US capitalists who got us into this economic mess in the first place.

  • Comment number 93.

    THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

    'government' (with a small 'g') has had 11 years to do something and has procrastinated endlessly.

    This is another election sound-bite to appeal to 'hard-working families' and to be 'fair' and is 'the right thing to do'.

    More (za)Nu Labour rhetoric and obfuscation.

    They know that most of those on unemployment and incapacity benefits who should not be will vote Labour, so does anyone believe they will bite the hand that feeds them ?

    Pull the other one.

  • Comment number 94.

    I notice the K Matthews name come up

    her situation is very sad and yes she must

    and has taken blame.


    But we must ask WHY did she do it,is our

    society rotten?We have so many at the top

    getting money for nothing,so is she any

    WORSE than the ones at the TOP?




    I JUST ASK THE QUESTION?????????????

  • Comment number 95.

    Was that today's substance free eyecatching headline? Back to the drip drip one headline a day no doubt scheduled for the weeks ahead. Seemed to happen a lot when Blair wanted to "move on" from Iraq or to create an impression in the media of high energy government. A cynic would say Brown is now using the same tactic to move on from his low polls rating last summer. Hear the Ministers past and present take their turn to parrot the "do nothing party" line while being given a soft interview by the BBC on the headline of the day.

  • Comment number 96.

    Was there something briefly in BBC News today about troops home from Iraq next year? Excellent news - when will the date be set for the long overdue Public Inquiry?

  • Comment number 97.

    Why is it when we had 10 years of (credit growth) the government did nothing to get these people back to work and allowed foreigners in to do the jobs.

    Now the jobless total is going to spiral out of control they decide they want to do something?

    once again, spin, spin and more spn from a group (ministers) who if brains were made from leather, wouldn't have enough to saddle an ant.

    why is it we allow ourselves to be ruled by such incompetant half wits?

  • Comment number 98.

    A complete and utter waste of time and money, and an insult to the British people's intelligence.

    Nothing more than that which we've been on the receiving end of for a decade: spin. It's the only thing "New" Labour ever knew about. However, the spin is about to unwind with a vengeance and it'll be taking off a few Labour heads as it does so; Brown's will be the first.

    Bring on an election now.

  • Comment number 99.

    88#

    Laura:

    What subject did you graduate in?

  • Comment number 100.

    @82 alexander

    No I'm not quite that radical! Not selective breeding, just social responsibility i.e. not popping kids out as a source of income.

    Although thinking about it... If we started to breed for intelligence (and not have a lowest common denominator education system) maybe, just maybe, Labour would be consinged to the political dustbin where they belong!

 

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