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Single Mothers won't lose benefits

Blair's Speech : Single Mothers Won't Be Forced To Take Work

The Prime Minister addressed an audience of young people on a south London housing estate and pledged there would be, what he called no "forgotten people" in the Britain he wanted to build.

In the drive to get people to work in the new Welfare To Work programme he said single parents should not be worried. While all lone parents would be invited in for interviews at their local JobCentre to discuss the opportunities available, Mr Blair made it clear they would not be compelled to take work.

"What we are talking about is empowerment, not punishment, so that as many children as possible can grow up in working households with the expectation of a job themselves," he said.

"Will To Win"

In his first speech away from Westminster since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Blair said there must be "no no-hope areas" in new Labour's Britain.

"I want to give people back the will to win again. This will to win is what drives a country, the belief that expectations can be fulfilled and ambitions realised.

"This new alliance of interests to build on `one nation Britain' can only be done on a basis of a new bargain between us all as members of society...We should reject the rootless morality whose symptom is a false choice between bleeding hearts and couldn't care less, when what we need is one grounded in the core British values, the sense of balance between rights and duties."

"The basis of this modern civic society is an ethic of mutual responsibility or duty. It is something for something. A society where we play by the rules. You only take out if you put in. That's the bargain."

He said that there had to be a reform of the welfare system to help people help themselves, while providing for those who cannot, rather than trying to do it all through the Government.

Blair: intends to help people to help themselves

"Workless Class"

He highlighted figures showing that 5 million people of working age live in homes where nobody works while more than 1 million had never worked since leaving school.

"For a generation of young men, little has come to replace the third of all manufacturing jobs that have been lost...For part of a generation of young women early pregnancies and the absence of a reliable father almost guarantee a life of poverty."

"Behind the statistics lie households where three generations have never had a job...There are estates where the biggest employer is the drugs industry, where all that is left of the high hopes of the post-war planners is derelict concrete."

The Prime Minister said that the decline of the old industries and the shift to an economy based on knowledge and skills had given rise to a new "workless class".

"Today the greatest challenge for any democratic government is to refashion our institutions to bring this new workless class back into society and into useful and to bring back the will to win."

Tories "Failure"

He said the previous government had failed the challenge because it believed a "divided" Britain was sustainable whereas the cost of unemployment had seen the cost of social security spending double since 1979 to almost 100 billion.

"For a country famous for its sense of fair play, it was a source of national shame that visitors should see beggars on the streets and that Britain should have shot up the international league tables for inequality."

"No Quick Fixes"

Mr Blair stressed there were no "quick fixes" and the changes the Government was seeking to bring in would take many years and involve difficult choices. However, he said the Government's policies across a range of areas, from education, health and tackling youth crime, were all aimed towards the same end.

"What unites these policies is the idea that work is best form of welfare - the best way of funding people's needs, the best way of giving them a stake in society. The task of reshaping welfare to reward hard work is daunting. But we must be absolutely clear that our challenge is to help all those people who want to work but are not working with the jobs, the training and the support they need."

"Here in Britain our task is to reconnect that workless class - to bring jobs skills, opportunities and ambition to all those people who have been left behind by the Conservative years and to restore the will to win where it has been lost."

Reaction: Lilley Says There's Nothing Concrete

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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