'Make work pay' - problem not enough jobs, warns TUC
A shortage of jobs will scupper the Government's reform on the welfare system, claims the TUC.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith yesterday outlined plans to ''make work pay'' with a reform of the current benefits system.
The reform would see all work-related benefits brought under a universal credit scheme in a bid to ensure claimants are not better off living on benefits than being in work.
But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ''Making work pay is an admirable objective, but it can only be done by spending much more money or creating real hardship.
''Yet the Government is mainly going down the hardship route at a time when unemployment is high and its own policies mean many will lose their jobs in the coming months.''
The plans are intended to make the system less open to fraud and will put jobseekers' allowance, housing benefit, working tax credit, income support and employment support allowance under the universal credit category, but not child benefit.
If a claimant turns down a job they risk losing three months benefit, if they refuse a job twice they risk losing six months benefit, and if it happens a third time they could lose three years of benefits.
''Some people will undoubtedly make small gains, but it is poor and vulnerable people, as well as working families on middle incomes, who will pay for most of those gains through the Government's £18 billion programme of welfare cuts,'' said Barber.
''With five people chasing every job, the problem is not workshy scroungers but a shortage of jobs.
''Of course we should be tough with the small minority that play the system, but there are already strong sanctions in place. It looks very much as if the Government is trying to blame the victims, while covering up the spending cuts that have already ended the Future Jobs Fund and that will throw up a million extra people on the dole.
''Iain Duncan Smith had interesting policies when he was in opposition, but today the Treasury is calling the shots. Meanwhile the Government spin machine is talking up populist policies like workfare that independent research shows do not work, in the hope that the continuing scourge of unemployment, particularly among the young, drops out of media and public concern.''
Meanwhile, John Philpott, chief economist of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), who has been a vocal critic of the coalition's spending cuts, told the CIPD annual conference this week that one of the main roles that employers could play to was to offer “good work” and engagement, and he wanted to see the Government address this more.
“The quality of management is not really part of the public policy conversation at the moment – one of the challenges for the coalition is to raise it up the agenda,” he said.
“Engagement’s got to come first. You can’t say – we’re coming for your job, we’re coming for your pay and pensions, and by the way if you are unemployed then you are a scrounger and we are coming for your benefits. That’s no way to approach engagement. It’s akin to somebody mugging you and expecting to shake your hand afterwards.''