By Bryanie Kane
Plans to be revealed this week by Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, which aim to force the long-term unemployed to partake in manual labour or risk losing their benefits, has been strongly defended by government ministers. This comes after Scotland were named to have the highest unemployed population in the UK, with a rise of up to 10,000 more than the previous quarter and now stands at 216,000.
The plan states that people thought to need “experience of the habits and routines of working life” could be put on 30-hour-a-week placements. Anyone who refuses to take part and adhere to the rules of the plan, such as turning up on time, could lose their £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance for up to 3 months.
Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the state, maintains this idea is in no way to “punish or humiliate” people but to teach them how to be involved in a life which includes hard work. However many unemployed members of the public believe that the government is treating them like villains who cannot be trusted. The Work Activity scheme has been said to have been designed to try and find those claimants who are taking advantage of the system by deciding to claim benefits or who are doing undeclared jobs as well as getting a hand out from the government. Therefore “focusing on the workshy but offering nothing to the workless” as Douglas Alexander accuses the government.
Mary Beckett, 51 and unemployed from Mid Lothian, said in her opinion “This is just another way for the government to pretend like they are helping people like me, when in actual fact they are doing nothing of the sort. They should be putting more effort into creating jobs for the people who genuinely want to work instead of giving all the opportunities to those who are lazy and out for all they can get. I have been left feeling completely useless and deflated. This only adds to the stress that I am going through, and to be honest, at my age and the probability of me getting another job, I’m beginning to see no future at all.” These are issues which many are finding difficult to understand.
Many believe these plans to be unbeneficial to the country as statistics show, 5 unemployed people are chasing the 1 job and the UK currently have 5million people out of work and living off benefits.
The effect of the plan could drive people to absolute despair, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams explains “People who are struggling to find work and struggling to find a secure future are, driven into a spiral of uncertainty, even despair.” However Mr Duncan Smith has defended his plans and says they are a way in which to reduce welfare dependency and to make work pay for the people and the country.
This approach has been viewed by some as harsh and comes across to be more of a punishment “The message will go across; play ball or it will be difficult.”
However Danny Alexander has defended the plan by saying it is supposed to “support and encourage” people to aim higher and take advantage of the opportunity to showcase great employability skills. This therefore means that over time “more people can do what they want to do which is get a job and go out to work because that is the best thing for the country, but it is also the best thing for those individuals and it is by far the best route for anybody out of poverty”.
With the amount of Scottish households without a steady income increasing, the government is using this initiative to move forward in educating the public to the ways of work, and aid in teaching them the value of helping the economy. However, it is argued, that the rise in unemployment is not because of a poor work ethic within the country but because there are not enough jobs to go around. Therefore the idea that the government should focus on creating jobs instead of forcing people into community work, comes to the forefront of the argument once again. Especially when the UK has one of the highest rates in Europe of completely workless households.