Bill Carmichael: How is help to work a ‘punishment’?

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THE Government announced new proposals this week to help unemployed young people find jobs.

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Given that there are almost one million so-called Neets (not in education, employment or training) in the UK and the fact that many of them will go onto a life on benefits, the plan is in fact quite modest. But from the hysterical reaction from the usual suspects you would think Ministers had announced the slaughter of the first-born.

The Green Party described the moves as a “war on young people” and aged Trot Jeremy Corbyn, who incredibly may soon be leading the Labour party, denounced it as “another punitive turn” by the evil Tories.

The charity Barnado’s said the moves “punished” young people – a theme picked up by the BBC and the Guardian who demanded to know from Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock why young people were being “punished”.

So what exactly does this terrible “punishment” amount to? Are young people going to be dragged off to the salt mines to work until they drop, perhaps?

Er – not quite. Jobseekers between the ages of 18 and 21 will be placed on a three-week activity programme in which they will be guided on how to write a CV and will practice job applications and interview techniques. They will then get regular support from a personal “job coach” until they find work.

How evil can you get?

If young welfare claimants refuse to take part in the scheme, they will, of course, lose their benefits. But that is only fair. Claiming benefits is a privilege, not a right, and comes with certain obligations; the main one being trying to find a job so you stop being a burden on your harder working friends and neighbours.

William Beveridge, the architect of the modern welfare state, saw benefits as a temporary safety net, not a permanent lifestyle choice. In fact Beveridge identified “idleness” as one of the five “Giant Evils” in society alongside squalor, ignorance, want and disease. And don’t believe for a moment the myth that there are no jobs to be had – just ask the millions of Poles, Lithuanians. Romanians and Bulgarians, many of whom couldn’t even speak English when they arrived here, who are now happily employed and contributing to their adopted country.

If they can find work, why can’t a million young Britons? One reason is that many of them simply don’t want to and prefer to be paid benefits to do nothing. Another is that many of these Neets, having wasted their years at school, now lack essential work skills.

The new scheme at least tries to address these issues, instead of allowing the unemployed to rot on benefits for generation after generation – the only solution on offer from Labour and the left.

Under Corbyn, Labour will increasingly be seen as the Benefits Party. It refuses to recognise that on its current trajectory welfare spending is unsustainable. The benefits bill, excluding pensions, has almost doubled in 15 years and now amounts to about a quarter of all government spending. It has to be brought under control.

Ordinary people know this. They know from direct experience in their own communities the reality of life on benefits. That is why they support the Government’s welfare reforms so enthusiastically, particularly in working class areas.

The Government is doing the right thing. It should press ahead with a policy of benefits reform that is effective, overwhelmingly popular and entirely fair.

Financial farce

Events in Greece show that tragedy and farce are never too far apart. Earlier this week the German parliament approved a third bailout for the benighted country, despite a rebellion by MPs from Angela Merkel’s ruling party. As a result, Greece will get the first £16bn of a £61bn payment from the EU’s bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

And what will Greece do with the money? It will pay debt repayments due as a result of its earlier two bailouts.

Erm – I may be missing something here, but isn’t this essentially the Greeks borrowing new money from the Germans in order to pay back the Germans what they already owe? Couldn’t the Germans could just pay themselves the money and cut out the middle man?

It reminds me of a perpetually skint regular in a pub I used to frequent. His opening line when I popped in for a pint was always: “If you lend me a tenner I’ll be able to pay you back that fiver I owe you.”

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