Labour needs an entirely new approach to welfare

John Woodcock, Labour and Co-op MP for Barrow & Furness writes on Labour Uncut that Labour needs to go ‘further and faster’ on welfare reform. Firstly, I find Mr Woodcocks comments somewhat ironic at a time when serious column inches are being devoted, even in the likes of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph to the sheer barbarity of this governments reform agenda.

Welfare reform has failed previously under Labour and will again fail under this government for numerous reasons, however the primary reason is the fact that it has the wrong aims and objectives and the wrong guiding ethos. The sole purpose is not to “get people back into work” but is in actual fact to reduce the visible claimant count and the welfare bill. Like so many cost-cutting exercises of this nature however, these exercises are a false economy. Governments waste more money on their pet projects than they would end up paying out in the first place. The same is true of benefit fraud which is a fiscally tiny problem; the metaphorical ant that government after government lashes tank-sized dollops of cash on to squash.

Workfare is a great example of this; pots of cash chucked at the private sector to create paper jobs which undermine real ones and thus are likely to see a net gain in the number of people requiring state support. The state thus ends up paying out twice and yet its proponents insist this is the ‘economic credible’ solution with no sense of their own laughable irony.

My preferred option would be to end these kind of schemes totally and invest the money in education and re-tooling the long-term unemployed with new skills. No rational point exists in forcing people into economically unsustainable jobs they don’t want because they will reappear on the claimant count sooner rather than later. The vast majority of unemployed people want to work but they are faced with a welfare system that is passive-aggressive to their aspirations and wishes and whose sole aim is to factory-farm them off the books.

This is because its ultimately governed by politicians whose wish is to look ‘tough’ on ‘scroungers’. Note that nobody really bothers to scientifically investigate ‘scrounging’ and assumes a priori its due to innate laziness or ‘bad attitude’. The reason for this is too close examination would lay bare the structural failings of both state policy and corporate practice I have alluded to; it would reveal the bankruptcy of the kind of reform programs Mr Woodcock advocates that Labour runs with.

Rational debates about welfare and welfare policy simply don’t happen in this country because of politicians and the press. Labour does need to grasp the ‘welfare nettle’ but by being at the forefront of promoting rational debate and policy responses; not by running ‘further and faster’ with illogical, wasteful and socially destructive reforms.

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About darrellgoodliffe

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