So El Gordo has decided to have another stab at reinventing welfare.
Under the proposals, the detail of which was unveiled by Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary, those out of work and claiming benefits will be forced to undertake a"skills health check" after six months claiming Jobseekers Allowance to identify deficiencies in their basic numeracy, literacy or language needs.
Those who need further training but refuse to undertake it will face cuts in benefits.
The Government will also remove disincentives for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants to study more than 16 hours a week. The so-called 16-hour rule – which restricts people over the age of 19 from claiming housing benefit if they study for more than 16 hours a week – will be scrapped.
I\’m not sure it\’s been all that carefully thought through. That last, for example, seems to open up housing benefit to university students once again, something abolished (from memory, at least) back in the early 80s.
But I have a feeling that the biggest wails will come from the likes of Polly T. How could anyone be so cruel as to reduce benefits?
At which point I would suggest she goes and talks to her mate, Richard Layard. When I emailed her about this a few weeks back she insisted that he couldn\’t be involved with anything as hurtful and cruel as the Wisconsin Reforms (which this quite closely parallels). The only problem here is that the entire idea of restructuring welfare in this manner, of forcing people back into the potential labour force, if not actually back into work, comes directly from Richard Layard\’s work in the 1980s.
People should not be allowed to fester on the scrapheap of long term unemployment: they need, with a mixture of carrots and sticks, to at least attempt to re-engage with the world of work and or training.
Now I agree that you and I, along with many others, would be a great deal more radical. But if Polly does start to criticise all of this it\’s going to be really rather fun. The social democrat criticising a social democratic (both Polly and Layard were SDP members) proposal to remove some of the disincentives of a welfare system with an unlimited times span for benefits.
I await developments with interest!
Update. Christ, that didn\’t take long. Polly:
This time his peace offerings were a third runway for Heathrow, nuclear power stations and docking the benefits of the recalcitrant.