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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Deja Vu

Photo from 1980s
Over the week-end I found myself caught up in tweet debate that transported me back almost thirty years. It was about the Government's new policy of voluntary work placements for young people who are unemployed. 

Such has been the social media fuss about this proposed policy, that many of the major companies that had signed up to provide the placements, have withdrawn their support.

Twitter is not the best means for nuanced debate. It did
reveal though just how agitated I feel about the government's welfare reform proposals. A horrible sense of deja vu pervades almost every aspect of the proposals.

The Welfare Reform Bill comes back into the House of Lords this week. The Lords has defeated the government several times in their scrutiny of this bill. As Andrew Rawnsley points out in The Observer at the week-end, the government is losing no sleep over this opposition. They are comfortable and confident knowing that there is public support for the hard line they want to take with unemployed people and others who are in receipt of welfare benefits. It seems that hard times breed hard line attitudes - even though everyone is aware that unemployment is high because jobs have gone.

So here we go again, thirty years on, hard line policies that vilify the most vulnerable. Politicians using the rhetoric of fecklessness, setting people against each other. Divide and rule that distracts from the real issue of policies that are hell bent on deficit reduction, not growth, thereby decreasing the chance of job creation. 

Is the answer to the deficit, really to drive those living on the poverty line, below that line? To make homeless, families that live in high rent areas? Families who will go on to cost the state much more money if that homelessness causes instability and dysfunction. To cause people to judge and treat those with disabilities as scroungers? Is that really how we want to live our lives with one another? 

According to a letter from Professor Alan Walker in The Guardian today, out of 27 EU countries, only Estonia has a higher level of poverty amongst unemployed people than the UK. Hard times are bad enough without our being manipulated into bad relationships with one another just to serve political ideology.

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