Thursday, November 07, 2013

Language matters

New figures show that 850,000 people on jobseekers allowance have been 'sanctioned' - that is, had benefit docked for 13 weeks or more in the year to June 2013 - because they were not trying hard enough to find work.

The minister responsible, former daytime TV presenter Esther McVey, says the clue to why this is happening is in the name of the allowance - 'jobseekers'. You are paid, she said, only if you are doing all you can to get a job.

This is an interesting effect of changing the name of a benefit. Many years ago, this payment was called 'unemployment benefit' and it was part of a social security safety net that ensured that people who had lost their job didn't go without food, utilities and housing. It was not a payment made as a reward for seeking work but a payment from a society that believed it had a responsibility to those unfortunate enough to be without work. The system offered support and encouragement to those without work to find new gainful employment while assisting with their essential bills.

Sadly the name change - made many years ago - indicates a change in our understanding of society's obligation to those struggling with the circumstances in which they find themselves. And it is one of the factors that accounts for the fact that 500,000 people in our land are dependent on food banks to feed themselves and their families.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is tragic that so many people are hungry or homeless in Britain today. Much good work is done by charities (christian run and others) such as Foodbanks and Night Shelters and yes even by state run initiatives and benefits. Yet the shocking deprivation remains. We can and must do more, as a nation, as a local community, as a local church, as neighbours and individually. But do you mean that the unemployed should not be actively seeking work as well?

June Hodson said...

These figures are just diabolical, what is this country coming to

simon said...

Most people who are without work want nothing more than to find work but with 7 or 8 people going for each vacancy on average - worse in some places - work is hard to find. Add to that, the fact that people tend to stay in jobs they want to do rather than the first one that will have them, it makes the task of looking for work difficult.
So, those without work need help and support to get back into work, work that will pay their bills and which they will stay in for at least the medium term.
I believe people are better off in work for all sorts of reasons, but increasingly, work is not lifting people out of poverty. So as a community we need to offer all the help we can.

Justin. said...

A similar situation exists with 'Council Tax Benefit', only worse as that wasn't branded a benefit at all when it was 'Rate Rebate'. A real pig too, now the Council Tax is so high due to privatisation and profit pushing up the costs councils face. But... There really is a growing group of folk who treat out - of - work benefits as a pension. And it's not sustainable. I personally know 5 people who have been 'on the social' for many years each by choice. They use every trick in the book to stay on it, such as concealing qualifications, looking dumb and unemployable at interviews, and even planning families to have 2 kids at a time at 11 year intervals so they cannot take work. Full marks to the previous government for FORCING 2 of the 5 back into work. One after 9 years off, the other after over 20. They struggled to stay on the dole through the boom times as well as the lean.