Government must encourage, not threaten, jobless people

08 Dec 2008

Speaking in advance of the publication of the Welfare Reform Bill this week, John Mason has warned over demonising and punishing the unemployed.

Mr Mason also said that debate over welfare reform had to be separated from high profile cases such that of the Karen Matthews, after Conservative leader David Cameron suggested the case was an example of “our broken society”.

Mr Mason said:

”Reforms must be about helping and encouraging people back into work, not demonising and punishing the unemployed.

“I accept that people should not expect something for nothing, but the approach should be about enabling people to get into work, rather than threatening them with a return to the workhouse.

”In particular, the proposals to force lone parents, with children as young as one, out the door to work is frankly draconian. It is also unfortunate that some politicians have chosen to suggest that the despicable behaviour of Karen Matthews was somehow typical of child benefit claimants, which it clearly is not, and such cases need to be separated from the welfare reform debate.

”The fact is that a huge amount has changed since the Welfare Reform proposals were first mooted in July, and now any reforms must reflect the changed economic climate.

”With dole queues getting longer every day, the focus should be on stimulating the economy and creating new jobs and opportunities.

”While we will look cautiously and constructively at the wider proposals, half-baked and draconian reforms are not the answer.”