Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Crazy Idea 18 - Require anyone who receives benefits to work

If you want inspiration for crazy ideas you don’t have to look any further than the government. Whatever wacky, way-out-there plan you can dream up, the government can always top it and add a healthy price tag on top.

I can’t remember when I first jotted down the crazy idea to require anyone who receives benefits to work but it was surreal to read in the papers that the government were now proposing that very crazy idea.

I’m more passionate about some of my crazy ideas than others. This is very much on the low end of the scale. If Living Wages for all is 10, full employment on minimum wage is 9, then requiring those who receive benefits to work is somewhere around a 3.

As an interim idea, I would require anyone in receipt of benefits to carry out a number of hours community service each week. This would have to be a sufficient number of hours to repay society for the benefits received but not so much they are not able to look for paid employment.

It is likely that several attempts may need to be made to work out the optimal hours.

Remember that Minimum wage for those aged 21 and above is currently £6.50. (CI018A)

Job Seekers Allowance for 25 and over is currently £72.40. Divide JSA by minimum wage and you get just over eleven hours. (CI018B)

Would it be unreasonable to ask anyone on receipt of JSA to work eleven hours a week community service?

Some would say it is unreasonable! Mainly because those of us who have worked have paid National Insurance contributions. We paid NI with the promise the state would provide for us if we were unfortunate enough to be out of work.

Fair enough, that is a good argument.

How about people who have never worked? Or have never earned enough to pay NI?

This is where the arguments become much more difficult. Yes, some people are lazy and some people commit benefit fraud. But I would argue that most people would rather work and that the majority of those who’ve not been able to work, or have never paid NI due to low wages, are not responsible for a society that forces wages down as low as they’ll go and outsources work to other countries.

However, regardless of whether previous governments promised to support those out of work or not, the NI ponzi scheme is falling apart.

Remember that Broken Britain has a stated National Debt of over £1.4 Trillion (CI018C); unstated debts which at least double that (CI018D); has been unable to balance the budget since 2001 (CI018E) and is paying just under £50 Billion in interest every year. (CI018F)

I’ve suspected since I was a teenager that I wouldn’t get a pension. I’m now 42 and the situation has got worse.

We as a society need to accept that the situation has changed and unless we make some radical changes, our country is heading for a major crisis where the government will be unable to afford any welfare payments.

It took a second world war for the UK to introduce radical universal changes. Surely we don’t have to experience that sort of trauma to deal with the problems we face now.

How we go about fixing the economy is vitally important.

You may have read these but allow me to draw your attention to the following online articles:

From The Independent, 30 September 2013, George Osborne's welfare war: Work for your benefits - or attend jobcentre daily (CI018G)

Osborne is quoted saying: “No something for nothing anymore. People are going to have to do things to get their dole...”

So, the contract the people had with the government has been broken... By the government. What was the contract? We pay NI and if we are out of work, the government pays our dole – something for something.

It begs the question, why should any of us pay NI any more?

What does Osborne propose?

“Thirty hours a week for six months of community work such as making meals for the elderly, cleaning up litter and graffiti or charity work, plus 10 hours of "job search activity"”

I don’t have a problem with the work being proposed, I do have a problem with the amount of time he wants. The last time I was out of work I spent over thirty hours each week looking for a new job. How is anyone supposed to search for a new job when their time is so limited? Factor in that the community work they’ll be doing will be between tiring and exhausting and this seems like another cruelty from a Chancellor completely out of touch with the working lives of ordinary people.

“Daily attendance at a job centre to search for work instead of a brief interview once a fortnight.” This just annoys me. Have you ever tried using the computer system at a Job Centre to look for work? It is one of the most appalling designs I’ve ever seen. I refused to use it in the end. I could search for and find twenty times more relevant jobs through a Google search than I could using their in house system.

Together, these points makes me think the government actually wants to trap people on benefits. Cheap slave labour who are denied time to find a better job, denied the resources to get a better job...

This is NOT the way to unite a nation to fix the economy!

Here’s another perspective from The Telegraph: Unemployed to do unpaid work or lose benefits. (CI018H)

“The unemployed will have to do unpaid full time work or lose their benefits, in a bid to reduce the amount spent on the jobless.” What’s the problem with this concept? That forcing people to do unpaid full time work will reduce the amount spent on them... It will not, it just means the government gets some cheap labour.

A final perspective from The Express: End of Benefits Britain: Now jobless must ‘work to get dole’, says George Osborne (CI018I)

The Express online states George Osborne “will unveil a £300 million Help To Work scheme in a bid to make the long-term ­unemployed do something for their money.” Those who refuse to take part in the scheme will “lose up to a quarter of their benefits.”

This scheme only aims to help 200,000. Those who are considered long term unemployed.

They will need to “do full-time community work for 30 hours a week for six months or they can agree to attend a job centre, where they must show they spend at least 10 hours a week looking for work.”

I’m all for getting the unemployed into work but making them work for a third of the minimum wage is not the way to end unemployment!

George Osborne has failed to show how 200,000 new jobs will be created to take the long term unemployed off benefit. Instead, his crazy idea reeks of cruelty, forcing those with the least chance of getting a job to work as effective slave labour.

However, to an extent I agree with the government that the current contract between the people and government needs radical change. We don't need the government cruelly imposing change or dictating to us though, we need universal agreement and that will only come about through a national debate.

As I've previously posted, the Government can and should create jobs at minimum wage. Jobs that will serve a purpose, jobs that will be meaningful. This will transform life for millions and transform our economy.

Strangely enough I’ve a few crazy ideas for jobs that could be created at minimum wage which would benefit everyone in society. I would love to hear your ideas.

Do post your own crazy ideas or feedback on mine in the comments below and sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of future posts.

Why should my crazy ideas have any relevance to the economy? I'm the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab, a novel that imagines a fairer future for Scotland where the poor are empowered to change their destiny. I'm director of my own limited company: Goal 31 Ltd and I've over seven years experience working for government and financial organisations. Also, just like you, I'm a taxpayer and for some crazy reason I think that entitles us to have an opinion and for that opinion to be acted on by the government.

As I wrote at the start, I am making my 100 crazy ideas freely available. It seems unjust to propose ideas to fix the economy and then prevent people from freely reading those ideas. 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix the Economy will be published once the craziness is complete.

I can be found on Twitter: @my100goals or on Facebook: There's a short bio here.

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(CI018G; The Independent;

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