A government of fantasists

December 2, 2008 at 10:16 am | Posted in British Politics, Working Class Britain | Leave a comment

The closer that James Purnell’s welfare reforms get to becoming a reality, the more apalling, harmful and unrealistic they appear. In the concluding paragraph of a must-read column on the practical absurdities of the government’s white paper, Polly Toynbee writes:

Politicians like to wave a big stick and talk tough on scroungers to assuage outrage at the feckless workshy. But ask any good personal adviser and they see the complicated human blend of a lack of self-esteem, an ignorance of how things work, obstacles that seem insurmountable, and the time and care needed to sort things out. If more mothers do find jobs, it will be a success. Tomorrow the DWP publishes new research on what conditions should be attached to which benefits. But a warning to Labour: if thousands of mothers end up with punishing benefit cuts because they can’t find work they feel fits their children’s lives, the outcry will be deafening.

The very same day, in the very same newspaper, you’ll find this:

The government will announce further stringent welfare reforms today which would force lone parents with children aged one or more to prepare themselves for work or face benefit sanctions.

The proposals, likely to provoke a confrontation in tomorrow’s Queen’s speech, represent a further extension of the government’s responsibilities agenda. Ministers already faced a backlash over aspects of the planned welfare reform bill as lobbyists argued plans to tighten sanctions and give private contractors a bigger role in job placement, should be shelved in view of the recession.

But James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, will defy critics when he publishes a review prepared by the academic Paul Gregg that will propose all lone parents with children as young as one should be required to make themselves ready for work.

Lone parents with children aged as young as one. In the midst of a deep and lasting recession. Just staggering.

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