‘Gobsmacked’ MP should take wider look at benefits issue

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From: Simon Landau, Talmont Road, Sheffield.

JULIAN Smith MP has said that people would be “gobsmacked” at the number of benefit claimants receiving high benefits in Yorkshire (Yorkshire Post, February 17).

The Skipton and Ripon MP immediately couples this language with a statement that “I’ve spent most of this week meeting people working hard to run very small businesses or facing difficult times to maintain work. Hard-working families will find it startling that people are continuing to complain that the Government is capping these benefits”.

I can report that I too have spent time in Sheffield with the local MP Paul Blomfield meeting people working very hard to run small businesses.

One of these business people told me that he had worked all his life to support his family and that without the support of disability benefits it would have been impossible to work and still provide care for his wife, daughter and son, all of whom have profound disabilities.

This businessman is mindful of the need to control benefits spending but equally he has the nous to know that it is these same benefits that have enabled his daughter to attend university and his son to go to college while he has contributed positively to the economy by manufacturing and selling products.

It is a pity that Julian Smith has not developed the same nous. The families in Sheffield that need high levels of benefit support represent less than 0.3 per cent of the city’s population.

Surely there are more significant groups of people that Julian Smith can focus on?

From: Hilary Andrews, Nursery Lane, Leeds.

WHAT is all the fuss about firms taking on young people for “unpaid” work?

These young people are being paid by the taxpayer in the form of their benefits.

The protesters should change their signs to “the right NOT to work” and have us continue to pay for them to lie in bed and watch TV!

From: Philip Bartey, group chief executive, The Adsetts Partnership, Thorne.

HAS the government fallen into a trap?

In reading the adverse publicity concerning A4e – a private sector prime contractor on the work programme – it struck me that it is surely remiss of government to assume that the only model of successful delivery of the Work Programme must rest within the remit of large private sector prime contractors.

I accept that there are for sure important cost efficiencies to be considered in contracting with large providers. However there is always a price to play unless you consider building flexibility into any such models.

The price to pay will often lead to the “parking” of disabled and vulnerable people in favour of more “job ready” clients – easier to place into employment and resulting in a fast return for a large operator.

The price to pay can often lead to a prime contractor using charities and small community groups to spice-up the bidding process by including charitable sub-contractors only to drop them or load them up with referrals consisting of those furthest away from the employment market.

The price to pay has to lead to a distorted warping of opportunity favouring job-ready clients while disabled and vulnerable groups are left floundering, ignored or ostracised for living off the state. For these reasons we have to be “choosy” when selecting which partners to work with.

When discussing these matters with government, it is clear that the main obstacles inherent in contracting with charities is the fact that they are considered to be fragmented and constricted by object and mission which drives them into operating within a silo.

Compare this approach with the private sector which has no such inhibitions and you can see why there is a competitive mismatch. It is for this reason that we founded The Adsetts Partnership (TAP) – a collaboration between 20 strong regional charities to harness the diversity of provision with financial strength and geographical clout and to present it as one body– a combined force for change– designed to deliver more for less.

We are ready for change but question whether the Government is at risk of falling into its own restrictive silo trap?