I listened to James Purnell today, defending the government's proposed welfare reforms.
Labour have the amazing ability to introduce something I disagree with every time I decide that I realy should join the party again. Sure enough, its not only taking the entirely wrong stance on sex work and mercy-killing, but now the welfare reforms of Purnell.
I am no dinosaur on this matter, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with making the finding of employment a far easier and supported process. But there is a problem with this latest batch of reforms.
First, it assumes there is full employment for all. There isn't. Were it not for the fact that women largely didn't work until the 1970's, the full employment figures of the past would have been rather less full too.
The current plans appear to be particularly targeted on single parents and disabled people, particularly those who have been out of the workforce for a while. But since when has bringing up a child not been a job? Is it really going to benefit lone parents to force them to take work when their children are still small?
And let's get real. In a time of recession, does purnell really think that employers are going to prioritise the employing of people with child care responsibilities and no other carer on call, or people who have been out of the workforce for a while, or those who may be less 'productive' according to the rules of the profit motive? Of course not. If there are not the jobs to go round - and there are not - then those at the back of the queue certainly do not need the sort of pressure which these reforms suggest.
On top of this, it remains a fact that employers remain hostile to part-time employment, and I include supposedly 'progressive' employers in that. Employers want full time staff who they can rely on being 'in position' all week. Once one gets part-time work it is made clear enough that the agenda is for you to go full time as soon as possible - but this simply isn't either feasible for many, or perhaps not what they feel to be best for their well-being? Of course, sharing out the available work is inherently fairer, but the benefit system currently makes matters very difficult for part-time work to pay.
Anyway, there is a petition against the reforms. Please sign it