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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Welfare to work?
The last government has favoured getting people back to work with tax credits and various incentives to encourage people into jobs.
Should single mothers, who have been targeted by Labour, be encouraged to go back to work. Is, as the Conservatives say, time at home with their young children just as valuable to a society. They and the Liberal Democrats say tax credits are too complicated anyway - particularly in the area of child support.
Is replacing the benefits system with a system of tax credits really going to help those who need it most? What are your views?
Neither my husband or myself smoke or drink and the last time we went out socially was October 1992 and whilst we struggle to make ends meet, we are both amazed at how other people on benefits in our neighbourhood manage to continue smoking, drinking and socialising. I would love to live independently from benefits as I find the claiming/qualifying process demeaning. Recently, I had the opportunity to work, but was unable to accept the post which was part time and meant that I would have lost my National Insurance Stamp and Carer's Allowance and I was advised by a Benefits Advice Line employee not to take the position. Unfortunately, there will always be people guilty of "working" the Benefits system and I see plenty of these, but I also work with New Deal people in my job as a volunteer some of whom are wonderful youngsters whilst others are completely unemployable, having been failed by both the education system and their parents. The DSS must have a hard time sorting those who wish to work from those who don't but they should have more "grey" areas where there is more assistance and encouragement available for those trying to support themselves.
Gwen, County Durham, UK
Now that my husband is working again, we are worse off financially than when he was on Job Seeker's Allowance, and I have to juggle everything I had to as a single mum. He had to take a job with travel costs attached because we would have been on hardship payments only if he didn't. A job closer to home would have been better, but he had to apply for this one because travel costs aren't taken into account by the benefits system. If governments want to get children out of poverty this isn't the way to do it: forcing my husband in to work has made us poorer.
Mrs Trentham, UK
This government seems to like nothing better than to pick on people who cannot, through no fault of their own, get a full-time, permanent job. It makes me very cross to be labelled lazy and illiterate by Blunkett. I am neither, I just happen to live in a place where there is only seasonal work. Instead of punishing people they should invest in call centres, offices and factories.
The New Deal takes away people's rights. I help my elderly widowed mother with shopping and cleaning, but still want a job. The New Deal gives me no consideration whatsoever.
I think there's a misconception here. People who are already in work do not get tax incentives to remain in work, unless they're working parents, married, etc. Single working people get no tax incentives, yet we still have to work to pay for rent, food, and so on. Many unemployed people who can see no point in getting a job are single and childless. If they can get a living 'wage' from the dole, then why should they bother to work? As ever, the government penalises the single working or unemployed person.
The idea of benefits or tax credits creating "perverse incentives" is a strange concept. I think anyone who has lived (or attempted to survive) on benefits would prefer to live 'independently' without the interference or assistance of the state. Welfare to work cannot work if the jobs just aren't there for the taking, or if the jobs do not pay enough for survival. This is the case for areas (particularly of industrial decline) where joblessness is an issue.
In the case of single mothers, any government in power needs to make a decision to treat mothers as either mothers or workers. Past and present government in the UK seems never to have been able to make up their minds.
As is widely known any means-tested benefit system creates perverse incentives, whether you call it "tax credits" or "the Dole".
The ideal answer, of course, is universal benefits, the Citizen's Income in this case but since no major party dares even think about such a thing then we're forced to consider very complex compromises.
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