|The News Line: News
Monday, 5 March 2007
BLAIR-BROWN WAR ON SINGLE PARENTS
Prime Minister Blair and Gordon Brown, together with Work and Pensions Secretary Hutton, will today announce a new, savage attack on lone parents and disabled people.
Using the review of the New Deal workfare system they commissioned from City banker David Freud, the three ministers will announce that single parents with children over eleven years old must sign up to a New Deal cheap labour scheme or lose their benefits.
At present single parents are not obliged to seek work until their children reach sixteen.
Freud was called in to cut the number of people of working age on benefits, for which they do not have to be actively seeking work.
Blair also plans to privatise the benefits system, with charities and private companies being offered contracts to run ‘welfare to work’ schemes for lone parents and people on incapacity benefit.
They will get large bonuses if they can keep people in a New Deal ‘job’ for at least three years, as well as being in receipt of part of the state budget and state assets.
Banker Freud’s review recommends:
l making welfare payments conditional on looking for work or taking part in ‘training’
l tackling the ‘problem’ of people doing short spells of work and then having longer periods on benefit
l considering giving people help to pay off debts they have accrued while on benefits.
The report also recommends that organisations running the schemes should be given cash incentives for keeping people off benefits.
Hutton was on BBC television’s Sunday AM programme yesterday promoting the use of private companies and charities.
He said: ‘Job Centre Plus does a fantastic job, but what we should consider now is whether it should focus on those who are easiest to help and if what we should use is a network of specialist providers to provide the help for those who are furthest away from the labour market.
‘It’s easier for people who have been on long-term benefits to work with those types of organisation and develop the personal relationship, than sometimes it is with an arm of the state bureaucracy.’
Pursuing the attack on single parents, he added: ‘If you are a lone parent, the system does not expect you to take any active steps to get back to work until your youngest child is 16.
‘We know that having spent years in the benefits system those single parents are usually not in a position to make active steps to get back to active work so a lot of them go directly from income support onto incapacity benefit.
‘We’ve got to break that logjam.’
The One Parent Families organisation’s director Chris Pond slammed the proposal: ‘It would be a real mistake to start cajoling lone parents, even those with older children, into jobs when it’s just not right for them.
‘Moves to cut benefits for lone parents with children over 11 would be wholly counterproductive. Those who are not in work could face real disadvantages, including a quarter who are caring for a disabled child.
‘In a week when the Equalities Review found that mothers face the most discrimination in the workplace of any group, applying a “big stick” approach to lone parents, rather than offering more help and support, would be not only wrong but also ineffective.’
Pond added: ‘Most lone parents with older children are already working. About 70 per cent already have a job. Those who are not working very often have good reasons for not doing so.’
Labour leadership challenger John McDonnell MP warned: ‘There will be a reaction against this plan right the way across the Labour Party.’
‘It is a recipe for the intimidation and harassment of the unemployed to make profits for private companies.’
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