Thursday 11 December 2008

Government's Welfare Reform White Paper- Attacking the Poor with Prejudice

Yesterday morning I listened to James Purnell's interview on the radio where he decribed welfare benefit claimants as offenders. I wasn't particularly shocked therefore when I saw the detail of his welfare reform white paper.

The reality is that however they are dressed up these proposals represent the first step in implementing the long term New Labour plan to introduce full blown workfare and private welfare insurance.

At my weekly advice surgery I already see too many people who find it too difficult and complicated to gain the benefits they are entitled to.

I raised my concerns in Parliament, explaining that with 2 million unemployed, the country facing the longest and deepest recession in decades and also according to Gordon Brown a lack of affordable childcare, the Government has sacked 30,000 workers in the Department of Work and Pensions. These are the very people who are supposed to help and advise people get back into work.

If there are no jobs because of the recession, putting people under pressure and threatening to cut their benefits is brutal and pointless.

I also question the Governments priorities.

This recession was caused by a small group of very rich speculators in the banks and financial insitutions who brought our economy to its knees but who have walked off with huge bonuses and massive pensions. We now know that between £20 billion to £100 billion a year of tax payments is not paid by many of these companies and individuals as a result of tax evasion and avoidance.

In my view the Government should prioritise tackling this tax evasion by the rich rather than atacking the poorest in our society.

I interviewed Mark Serwatka, General Secretary of the PCS, whose members staff the job centres and DWP.