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IDS threatens workshy with loss of benefits and promises extra support for two parent family in battle against poverty

By Tim Montgomerie

First the Work & Pensions Secretary introduced the carrots. Half of his contract with the unemployed (launched at Tory Conference) involves his 'Make Work Pay' reforms that will ensure that no person on benefits is worse off if they leave welfare and take a job. The carrot-flavoured half of the contract also involves practical help to acquire skills and confidence on the road back to employment. Today we learn that there will be stick as well as carrot in Iain Duncan Smith's contract.

15796424 Benefit claimants who refuse to undertake training programmes or take job offers will be required to accept thirty-hour-per-week placements where they will have to undertake basic manual labour, including gardening and cleaning up litter. These so-called Work Activity schemes will serve two main purposes; (1) they will instil the "experience of the habits and routines of working life" and (2) they will flush out individuals who are claiming benefits but are actually undertaking undeclared work.

Any person failing to turn up for a Work Activity placement could lose their £65-a-week Jobseekers' Allowance for up to three months.

Mr Duncan Smith commented:

"One thing we can do is pull people in to do one or two weeks' manual work - turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm, to give people a sense of work, but also when we think they're doing other work. The message will go across; play ball or it's going to be difficult."

Iain Duncan Smith believes that work is one of the three essential routes out of poverty*; the other two being a good education and a strong family.

6a00d83451b31c69e20134861a2cc9970c-500wiIn a speech to the Relate charity - last Wednesday - he set out the case for government supporting marriage and the family. A few highlights of that speech are pasted below:

The costs of family breakdown to children: "All the evidence shows that family influences educational outcomes, job prospects, and even life expectancy. That means that positive, family-friendly policies can bring wide-ranging benefits to society. But when government abandons policies that support families, society can pay a heavy price. Take poverty: lone parent families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than two-parent families. Or Crime: children from broken homes are nine times more likely to become young offenders and only 30% of young offenders grew up with both parents. And overall wellbeing: Children in lone-parent and step-families are twice as likely to be in the bottom 20% of child outcomes as children in married families."

The costs of family breakdown to the taxpayer: "As the Centre for Social Justice estimates, the cost of family breakdown is £20-24 billion. And the Relationships Foundation puts the figure at nearer £40 billion. The fact remains that these are huge numbers – yet they represent just the direct costs. The costs to society as a whole through social breakdown, addiction, crime, lost productivity and tax revenues are very difficult to quantify – but research suggests they could be up to £100 billion."

Early Coalition action to help the family: "All of us across Government are working together to support families and family-friendly Government. And we are already making progress on many of the Coalition’s commitments: (a) raising the income tax personal allowance so families can keep more of the money they earn; (b) taking Sure Start back to its original purpose of early intervention to help parents who are struggling and increasing its focus on the neediest families; and (c) putting £7 billion into the Fairness Premium to support the educational development of disadvantaged pupils."

DUNCAN SMITH AITW Mr Duncan Smith welcomed the work that two Labour MPs were doing for the Coalition; Frank Field on child poverty and Graham Allen on early intervention. He said they would help the Coalition to identify pro-family action in nine key areas:

  1. relationship support
  2. parenting support and education
  3. family and couple therapy
  4. therapeutic interventions, for example therapy for post-natal depression, debt counselling and
  5. mental health support
  6. family law advice focusing on prevention, child support and child contact
  7. helping parents reach their own financial and care arrangements for children following separation
  8. teenage pregnancy, and
  9. tackling domestic violence and violence towards women, where a report will be published shortly.

Family policy, IDS said, was being taken forward by the Ministerial Task Force on Children and Families, chaired by David Cameron, and the Cabinet Committee on Social Justice, which he chairs.


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