We are all deserving, including the lazy

Roberts argues for more tailor-made programmes aimed at getting the
reluctant back to work.

One of
the successes of the Labour government has been its encouragement
of an academic appraisal of paths leading to social exclusion.
However, at times, the failure of the government to apply the
conclusions has been at best, neglectful –  at worst, cynically

week, for instance, the centre for analysis of social exclusion at
the London School of Economics publishes a study that clarifies
what proportion of the unemployed choose to be so. The study
differentiates between outcomes that are voluntary and those
dictated by constraints such as disability, education and child

concludes that less than one-tenth of non-employment for men is
“unambiguously voluntary” and another one-tenth is
“indeterminate”. For women, the figures are 13 per cent
and 11 per cent.

Or, to
put it another way, the majority of those out of work would like a
job. So what do you do with the tiny minority who apparently prefer
to dally on the dole? Gordon Brown’s latest answer came in
his budget when he announced a scheme called StepUP, which will be
piloted in six regions. Individuals not in work within six months
of completing a New Deal programme will be given jobs on the
minimum wage, subsidised by government. Failure to accept will be
punished by a loss of benefits for up to six months. Benefits were
curtailed for 19,344 people in 2000-1, causing “real
hardship”, according to government research.

worrying still, sanctions are imposed mainly in areas of high
unemployment and among certain groups such as ethnic minority
claimants and carers. The use of benefit withdrawal (now, in
relation to child benefit, also suggested as a punishment for
“bad” parenting) is as crude and inappropriate a tool
as spraying a room with white paint because a small nick in the
plaster requires repair.

might be more fruitful? A customised benefits system, tailoring
support and financial help to the individual who wants to return to
the labour market, is already in place for single parents. It needs
to be widened to become the norm not the exception.

If you
want people to get off their butts, it is best to find out why
they’re sitting so tight in the first place – and for
government to acknowledge more expansively that paid work is truly
out of the question for some.

also needs to accept that, however alienating to some of the
electorate, in a civilised society, even the lazy have a right to a
basic standard of living.



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