One of the basics of civilisation is that children don’t have to suffer for their parents’ mistakes or inadequacies.
Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,
Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,
Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,
Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity…
A good welfare state is the culmination of civilisation. Whether a parent is able or willing, unable or unwilling, to earn enough to meet their child’s needs, the needs of all children should be adequately met. Otherwise we are not civilised.
Rachel Reeves became Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 7th October, Iain Duncan Smith’s new opposite number, replacing Liam Byrne. (She was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 7th October 2011, and she’s been MP for Leeds West since May 2010.) Her first interview as IDS’s Shadow was published in the Observer late on Saturday night – and Twitter exploded. Blogs to read: Paul Bernal’s “Dear Rachel Reeves”; Mike Sivier’s “Sort out the tax dodgers, Labour, then the benefit bill won’t be a problem”; Jayne Linney “Oh Dear Rachel Reeves – You Got it Badly Wrong!!”.
But in the shouting and the tumult, a handful of people seemed genuinely bewildered as to the problem with what Rachel Reeves had said:
Neither Andrew Spooner nor Hossylass seem to have noticed that while Rachel Reeves is enthusiastic about forcing people into “compulsory jobs”, she’s said nothing about what kind of pay those compulsory jobs will get – and she’s made clear that if you are unwilling or unable to be forced, a Labour government will just let you starve homeless.
If you have been unemployed for a year or two, you are desperate. Read Jack Monroe’s speech to the Conservative party conference. You don’t need a kick in the face, you need a job. And there aren’t enough jobs going.
Well, say the comfortable people who’ve never been there, isn’t that what Rachel Reeves is offering?
Imagine this scenario, then. A woman of 23, with a child to support, loses her job. She can’t find work. After a year, she’s summoned to the Job Centre and told that from now on, she’ll be stacking shelves in Tescos, on whatever pay the DWP choose to give her. If the pay isn’t enough to cover childcare? If the job is too far away and there’s no public transport? If she’s applied to Tesco a dozen times for a paid job and been told there were no vacancies because they can get all the compulsory labour they want from the Job Centre, no cost to themselves? If she wanted to find part-time or flexible work so that she could spend time caring for her child? Tough, says Rachel Reeves: take the compulsory job or we’re done with you, you can die on the street for all we care.
You couldn’t make it up: on the day the Tory / LibDem coalition are rolling out another round of welfare cuts, David Cameron announces he’s working with someone who doesn’t exist except on the Internet. (No, not Michael Green MP.)
I would think anyone who’s ever been seriously ill for however short a time could understand why the Tory/LibDem plans to send sick people out on unpaid work placements is such a horror.
The denial of benefits to people who need them to survive, on the grounds that the austerity programme inflicted by George Osborne needs those cuts, is terrible enough. George Osborne claims that sick, disabled, and unemployed people “enjoy a lifestyle” that people in work are unable to. I’m unsure what the man who seems to routinely buy a standard train ticket but take a first-class seat knows about the “lifestyle” of people who depend on benefits: my guess is, only what he reads in the Daily Mail.
“The Conservative party, the modern Conservative party, is on the side of people who want to work hard and get on,” says Osborne – providing they’re not under 25, or living in a high-rent area, or disabled, or falling into debt, or a single mother, or demanding a living wage.
How many children do you have?
I don’t have any. My sister has one son. Iain Duncan Smith has four – two sons, two daughters – and it appears we should ask him:
Which of your children do you think you could give up if you became poor?
Would he give up the two oldest children? Or the two youngest? Keep one boy, one girl? Both boys? Both girls? Which children would he willingly cut out of his family if he came one of the working poor who need to claim Housing Benefit because rents are so high, tax credits because wages are so low? If he lost his job and had to claim JSA?
Whenever Labour, the Conservatives, the LibDems, or the SNP, talk about how the important things are to let big companies pay less tax and to crack down on benefit fraud, we can be quite sure they are telling a story which is aimed at getting tabloid support:
Tax evasion currently costs this country £25bn a year; tax avoidance – that is, large companies and wealthy individuals who “take advantage” of the system – cost us £70bn a year. In addition to this, £26bn is going uncollected, adding up to a staggering £121bn in total – or, to put it in context, three-quarters of the annual deficit. To put it in yet more context, the amount lost to disability fraud is estimated at £1bn – and this figure should be considered in the context of benefit underpayment, which consistently saves more than the fraud costs. This does not of course excuse fraud, but it does make a mockery of the coalition’s claims that abuse of the system is costing money that they will save by being “efficient” – another euphemism.
All of these parties at Westminster and Holyrood seem to think they can tell us what should matter to us.
I am undecided about how I’ll vote in 2014, and free for nothing, I’ll tell both Labour and the SNP how they could convince me to vote their way.
Tell me you’re going to build enough council houses that everyone who needs to rent one can have one. And keep building them so that as the stock diminishes by Right To Buy, it increases by new builds. You know this will save money – Housing Benefit has effectively become a subsidy for people who can afford to buy a place for the purpose of renting it out. Nice little earner for them. You know this will increase employment, decrease homelessness, improve quality of life hugely, even improve educational scores – children don’t tend to do well in school when they’re living in a bed-and-breakfast. Continue reading
Yesterday, Shadow Minister Toby Perkins tweeted:
Shanene Thorpe says
I got a call from my supervisor asking if I’d be happy to be filmed at work to show the side of the working single parent/ young person. Of course I’d be happy to do that, being a working mum is something I’m proud of… Its not been all plain sailing.
Turned out that was Newsnight actually intended, in a duplicitous move fully in the Daily Mail tradition Continue reading