3 Strikes and You’re O*U!T!
Many of you will have heard by now of the UK Coalition government’s ‘Back To Work’ and ‘Benefit Reform’ proposals to get people off the benefit system and back into the workplace (or into work for the first time!). Whilst most of us agree that change is necessary, the way in which the government is speeding ahead will undoubtedly affect some of your service users or someone who you might know.
This is quite an emotive topic for many people for different reasons.
The Proposals include:
- Capping housing benefit from April 2011, which will also be reduced by 10% for anyone who has been on jobseekers allowance for more than a year
- Withdrawing benefits for Jobseeker claimants for three months for refusing their first job offer. After a second refusal of work, they will lose their benefit for six months; and for three years on their third refusal.
- Reduction and elimination of child tax credits
Advantages of this proposal:
→ The government suggests it will reduce the amount of money to be clawed back from benefit recipients who attempt to go back to work, thus alleviating the ‘benefit trap’.
→ Government wants more people in work
→ Government’s proposals set the tone for more people who are able to work to gain employment and be back in the workplace.
→ Makes people consider what is important to them
Disadvantage of these proposals:
→ Reduced minimum wage which means many more people will be working for less
→ Employers would be at liberty to reduce wages as they know that people must accept the job offer or face the consequences of losing their benefit
→ Automatic system doesn’t discriminate between people’s individual circumstances, e.g. parents with young children, parents of children who are sickly or require extra specialist care, variations in their sickness or disability. If their benefit is stopped automatically and people can provide a ‘good reason’ for it to be reinstated, they will already be without benefits for weeks before it is re-instated (or indeed before they find out that it has been stopped!)
→ Increased distress of some of the most vulnerable people in society including single parents, people experiencing domestic violence or self harm and people with disabilities. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that such a ‘policy could drive vulnerable people into despair’
→ The Coalition government has abandoned the previous government’s guarantee of work AND offer of training to those wishing to go back to work, or work for the first time
→ Coalition government is getting rid of the child tax credit some parents used to get towards assistance with nursery fees. Those who have had their children in private nursery will know that nursery fees can be as much as paying a month’s mortgage!
→ If these proposals go ahead, there is likely to be greater mismatch of new employees taking on new job roles, creating employee relations situations in the workplace at a time when it is least needed
Photo: Courtesy of Carl – Flickr
→ The government’s speed of changes will more than likely create added burden on family units and family systems that may already be fragile, vulnerable or may already be affected by the governments own job cuts and other budget reduction strategies including employees accepting reduced salaries just to keep hold of their existing jobs
→ Simultaneously removing people’s safety nets
→ With the backdrop of more cutbacks, current redundancies, rise in unemployment, closure of important frontline services, the government is surely setting people up to fail!? Where will all these unemployed people find jobs? Douglas Alexander, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “If the Government gets this right we will support them because of course we accept the underlying principle of simplifying the benefits system and providing real incentives to work. But the Government will not get more people off benefits and into work without there being work available.”
→ It is estimated that ‘750,000 households could fall into debt, hardship or lose their homes under the imminent housing benefit cap, and people with several children will be worse off. High rents in cities could result in “social cleansing” as families are forced to move to areas with cheaper rents. This doesn’t take into consideration that people will have existing rental contracts to adhere to.
I know some of you reading this Ezine will already have experienced some of the effects of the government’s proposals and spending review strategies in one way or another, from a personal or professional perspective. I have already experienced them from a personal perspective of my hospital referral being blocked by one of the senior doctors at my GP surgery. I was invited to see him to justify and persuade him to continue with the referral. Why should I be put in a position of having to persuade my GP to help me improve my health?
And, given the client group I work with, I am manoeuvring my business well away from the governments clutches!
How parents or people who self harm can help themselves in light of current and impending government changes:
- Seek advice from relevant agencies e.g. Citizens Advice Centre (C.A.B.), Consumer Credit Counselling Services (CCCS), Jobcentre Plus
- If they are not already doing so, embark on a journey of personal and/or professional development
- Counselling if relevant or necessary, even if only to have clarity and peace of mind in moving forwards with making relevant changes
- Revisit their skills base and have an open mind as to how else they could be utilized
- Perhaps embark on re-training
- If current financial resources allow, embark on a coaching or mentoring programme
- Perhaps consider the possibility of enterprise and setting up their own business or social enterprise
- Possibility of ‘bartering agreements’ between friends or family members with childcare in light of childcare costs and the government getting rid of child tax assistance with nursery fees, or any other ‘bartering agreements’ as may be relevant.
I know some of the parents that I work with are still very fearful of computers and especially the internet, however, now is perhaps an opportune time for them to undertake some training to stand them in good stead for the impending changes.
I will be highlighting some income opportunities in the near future that parents or people who self harm can create or take advantage of via the internet or using their computer. Watch this space!
I wish the best for any who might be affected by these proposals in finding the solutions that work best for them.
This article © Jennifer McLeod 2011. All rights reserved