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I ask Chris Grayling to think again about the pressure to be applied on single mothers to look for work. A working single-mum means children at home all-alone, children unsupervised, children who often will only see their mother for a couple of hours a day. Most single-mums are likely to find work in the service-sector, this often means working unsociable out-of-school hours. Creating yet more alienated children will only deepen social breakdown over time. This is not a question of the single-mum working but rather is centered on the child being home-alone. Please think carefully about this issue Mr Grayling.

This is the most disapointing and poorly throught through speech from a Conservative front bencher in the last six months.
Target welfare waste by all means, and after many years in the DWP I would be happy to give Chris Grayling some REAL pointers on where the loopholes are, but penalising single mothers in this way is both politically ill advised and, frankly, plain wrong.

Has Chris Grayling seriously thought through the implications of compellling single mothers with children over 5 to look for even part time work ?

What is the point of the state subsidising a hard pressed single mum into working 20 hours a week, when one of the inevitable side effects of this would be that the poor woman has even less quality time to spend with her children, reading to them for instance. And what happens if the State has compelled Mum to stack baked beans at a time when her children are leaving school ?
Answer- they attend "after school club" (more state intervention), or wander the streets and get into trouble, or go home to an empty house.

This is a bad policy. As a Conservative I will not support it under any circumstances. I hope many others feel the same.

I accept the thrust Mr Makara's point, however having grown up with a loan parent who whilst bringing up me and my two sisters was simultaneously working and studying for a degree. In all that time we were never home-alone for a single day. I appreciate that different people are in different circumstances and that what works for one will not always work for others but it must surely be better for people to work where they are able. There are usually solutions if one is willing to look for them.

The entire welfare debate has always overlooked the implications of home-alone children. I'd like to know what has shifted the Conservative position from mothers working once their child leaves primary school to mothers working when the child is four! The first ten years of a child's development are vital in creating confidence and a sense of security in the child. This in turn leads to a more contented mind which in turn is more receptive to learning. These things are all interconnected.


Did your mother choose the job she worked in, and the hours she worked ? There is the world of difference between that, and an Adviser in a Jobcentre with performance targets to meet telling a single mum that she must take that job stacking shelves in Asda, or lose her benefits. Trust me, I have seen it many many times, it really does happen. Society has changed and I know from professional experience that many single mothers do not have the extended family or support network to assist with childcare. It really disapoints me that Grayling has gone back down the politically disastorous and morally reprehensible Lilley/Redwood route from the early 90s. All we need now is a little list, and a Gilbert and Sullivan ditty.

London Tory, very good points. The idea of forcing the mothers of young children into work smacks of the Alan B'Stard culture. Something I hoped had died out in the Conservative party. Welfare reform must set the focus on helping the unemployed, that is JSA, into work. That must be the priority. One can't help feeling that the proposals to force single-mothers into work is driven by a disapproval of lifestyle rather than any economic considerations.

I too was brought up in a single parent family by my mum, who went to work. She put myself and my borther through University. I read Tony's points with interest, and would like to know what the solution is?

Is there actually different types of single parents, and do they need to be looked at differently. By that I mean there are couples who split up and then face financial hardship and all that comes with that. And then there are young females who have child after child with different fathers and expect the state to pick up the tab?

Is this a fair categorisation, or just something the Daily Mail would have us believe?

Jonathan Sheppard, the solution is to leave mothers alone to bring up their children until they have left primary school. Has Chris Grayling thought about the implications of school holidays, in particular the six-week summer holiday? Its about time politicians started to respect mothers and the difficult job that they do. No wonder children are failing at school when the very base they rely on for emotional security is being pulled away from under their feet. The Conservative party must drop this damaging proposal.

Personally I think there are huge issues with the whole benefits system which makes working a choice that rational people may not opt for.

I'm sure we can all give littel anecdotes to prove a certain point but I'd like to share one. My wife's grandparents live in a flat in a council estate. One near neighbour could be described politely as a problem family. A single parent with 4 kids - who often don't go to school. My wife's grandfather actually was cautioned by the police at the age of 80+ and with kindney failure when he grabbed one of the youngsters who was up to no good. When the police left they actually told him that they wished they could do more and congratulated him - but that's by the by.

The family get their rent covered, their council tax covered, and I am sure a whole host of benefits. The mother does not work, yet I loathe to call them a parent - as the kids often arent at school.

When I add it up, after I've paid all my bills, that family my have a larger disposble income than I do.

Now that is just one family in one town in the UK. Then I can walk round town and see shop after shop wanting Christmas staff, yet if I knew that I would be better off on benefits why would I even think of working. Surely something has to be done to the whole work and benefits system which means that those who can work do work, and at the same time ensuring that young children and parents get the adequate support they need.

Tony Makara - I think you are absolutely right. It's bad politics and frankly a sideshow from the main welfare event.
The vast suppicant economy that the welfare state has created. 5.4 Million people on out of work benefits (including single mothers).
A future Conservative government needs to put these people back to work, but as Tony points out treat with care and respect those who need the support of the state i.e. single parents with young/pre-school children and the disabled.

Jonathan Sheppard, we all know that families with large numbers of children can accrue a considerable amount of money on benefits. That is why I have proposed that such families are part paid in food/clothing/energy vouchers. In that way we can ensure that the children receive an adequate diet, access to clothing and warmth. A good parent will provide those things anyway with the money they receive so would not object to such vouchers, but in cases where a parent is slipshod with money then it would help target the benefit towards the welfare of the child.

On the subject of JSA, I have called for a public works programme to provide work and training for the unemployed. I am opposed to gimmicks like the NewDeal and Workfare which I believe to be sweeping the problem of unemployment under the carpet. We have to recognize that with 1.6 million on JSA and only 600,000 vacancies it will not be possible to provide work for everyone. So either we accept lumpen-unemployment as a permanent feature of life or create a radical public works programme, paying a living-wage, to deal with the problem.

But Tony hang on.... we already have the Government telling us how many hard working immigrants have taken up new jobs. So in actual fact the jobs were there, but many chose not to take them, as the system probably meant that if they did they would be worse off.

What is developing is an under class of UK born people who will remain in long term unemployment. This needs to be addressed.

I think that Jonathan Sheppard alludes to the real problem which is that the benefit system currently rewards poor life choices. One of the few league tables that we consistently lead is that of births out of wedlock. It cannot be a coincidence that the benefit system makes single motherhood a relatively comfortable lifestyle choice with little stigma or penalty attached. Of course genuine cases must be dealt with sensitively but reform of the culture of benefits and the right to receive them must be a first priority of the next Conservative government. Responsibilities need to be reattached to benefits.

MikeA, yes, the future Conservative government must set the focus on helping the unemployed into work as a priority. The attempt to shoehorn every disabled person into work is socialist dogma, its a mistake for the Conservative party to continue the Labour party's failed policies.

Jonathan Sheppard, even with all the migrant labour removed we still wouldn't be able to create enough work for everybody. To do that we would need to develop a large manufacturing base. The service-sector alone cannot create enough jobs for a population of our size.

AndrewS, it isn't exactly a chosen lifestyle if a woman becomes pregnant and her husband/boyfriend walks out on her. Its such a shame that the CSA was such a failure, the fathers really ought to be paying for the upkeep of their child.

I think the real issue (and it is in no way related to single parenthood) is that the whole benefit system makes it a rational choice to remain unemployed rather than take a job.

If I knew I would be worse off working why would I take a job. Can you blame people for thinking that way? How many times do we here people saying they want to work but they will be worse off.

For that reason we need to reform the system

Why do we have so many people on long term benefits, and so many jobs have been taken by many hard working immigrant Eastern Europeans. You hear recruitment companies saying that UK born people won't take the sort of jobs that are on offer.

Why - well because they are probably financially better off on benefits because of the system.

The solution? - surely the benefit system needs to ensure that being on benefits is not as attractive as taking a job.

Jonathan Sheppard, I don't think anyone can argue that a single person on JSA is better off on benefits. The disposable income on JSA is a very small amount. Welfare reform is certainly needed but we have to be careful not to punish those most vunerable. I advocate taking the job-seeking remit away from JSA and handing it over to agencies who are better placed to meet the individual needs of those on JSA. As London Tory points out Jobcentreplus are pressurized into meeting government targets, to make the government look good, and this interferes with the service they can provide.

Jonathan Sheppard - I agree that benefits needs to be marginally less attractive than being in work whilst still being the safety net that we all may have need to call on from time to time. I think with regard to the child aspect as well, I think an aspect that needs to be borne in mind is the 'learned behaviour' if a child sees that not going to work is as beneficial as going to work then they will develop an antithetical attitude towards work. This is something we can ill afford as it is this that contributes to a benefits culture.

Typo: "I advocate taking the job-seeking remit away from JSA"

Should read "I advocate taking the job-seeking remit away from Jobcentreplus"


Anybody with any knowledge of the benefits system/and/or parenting will tell you that being a single mother is most definitely NOT a "comfortable lifestyle choice", especially at this time of year when playground peer pressure is immense.
As Tony Makara correctly pointed out, this policy has more to do with disaproving of a lifestyle choice, or a non choice in the case of many women.
Apart from being morally wrong, it also gives the impression of affluent, middle class people like Grayling bullying some of the most vulnerable people in society. And what about their poor kids ?- the real victims if Mum is made to go out and take subsidised work.

This policy is political poison.

James Burdett, good point on learned behaviour. The structured responsibility of work has many knock-on effects. That's why I think a public works programme is a vital lifeline for the long-term unemployed. Many of the long-term unemployed don't chose it as a lifestyle but simply 'Give up' after being out of work for a while. The benefits debate is an emotional minefield because each case, each claimant is different. We need to protect those unable to work, help those that can work into work, and deal with the fraudsters. Its difficult to get the balance right.

There are people on benefits who constantly say with all the allowances that they receive, that if they take a job they would be worse off. If this isn't true then surely as a rational choice they would take a job?

> The nonsense of bringing migrant > > workers into areas with high levels > of unemployment benefit:

Surely we are not "bringing" them in. They are coming on their own initiative because we have handed control of our borders to the EU.

London Tory - surely there are two issues. I don't disapprove of single parents - that's life - I was brought up in such a family unit.

What I actually do disapprove of is for example a young female having a child by one father, doing it again, and again and again with a variety of fathers who fail to provide anything for their offspring with the knowledge that the state will pick up the tab.

To me that is a very different single parent unit than others - but as has been stated you can't use the term "single mother" or "single parent" to categorise thousands of units - as they can all be very different.

London Tory - surely there are two issues. I don't disapprove of single parents - that's life - I was brought up in such a family unit.

What I actually do disapprove of is for example a young female having a child by one father, doing it again, and again and again with a variety of fathers who fail to provide anything for their offspring with the knowledge that the state will pick up the tab.

To me that is a very different single parent unit than others - but as has been stated you can't use the term "single mother" or "single parent" to categorise thousands of units - as they can all be very different.

Oops - published twice... well I am off to do some hard work with a bit of marathon training! Ughhhh

Jonathan Sheppard, we should be encouraging people to take jobs when the jobs are available. No person can argue against that. However very often the jobs are just not there. Youth unemployment is up 20%. That can't be blamed on immigration. The work just isn't available because we are now a service-sector economy. The entire economy needs to be restructured to provide enough work for everyone. The service-sector, even when job-sharing, cannot provide the number of jobs needed.

We have to recognize that with 1.6 million on JSA and only 600,000 vacancies it will not be possible to provide work for everyone.
That is the ILO figure for those available for and actively seeking work, the figure for those on JSA has been below a million for a long time.

The only answer I see is to merge in work and out of work benefits, reducing the rates of things such as JSA, Income Support etc.... and moving away from means testing. Also scrapping the Minimum Wage and restrictions on trading and on working hours, allowing a true free market in labour. People seek to find jobs because otherwise they then end up in virtual destitution, so long as they don't break the law people are then left to sort out their own problems and either succeed, fail and survive or sink into further degradation eventually self-destructing.

There especially need to be cuts in benefit rates for single people, there need to be fewer benefts, stricter eligibility criteria for disability benefits more vigorously enforced and perhaps use of low interest loans to replace the Social Fund, Student Loans, Free treatment under the NHS, Free Education and Housing Benefits and relief of local taxation.

If people don't like it then they have the option of not claiming and starving instead.

Yet Another Anon, I agree that we should scrap the minimum wage and free-up the regulation and working hours. However I'm not in favour of cutting benefits or encouraging the unemployed to get into debt through loans. We really need to create more jobs, that is the answer. Sadly without a manufacturing base we cannot create enough jobs.

London Tory. If Mum is not made to take some responsibility for her choice (and like it or not parenthood is now always a choice) then one of the lessons that the poor kids learn is that benefit dependency is OK. The fact that the CSA is criminally mismanaged and that many fathers manage to shirk their responsibilities is something that also needs to be addressed and the only way to do that is to kick this serially incompetent government out at the first opportunity.


'Mum' can be made to take some responsibility for her choice, but not at the expense of the child. My real anxiety is that the unintended side effect of Chris Grayling's proposals will be many more "latchkey" kids, left to wander the streets after school, or let themselves in to empty homes. This cannot be good for the child's long term welfare, or state of mind.

As a parent myself, it really depresses me when I collect my own children from school, and see the school running an "after school club". The poor little kids are exhausted, having already spent 8 hours at the school, and with the prospect of another 2-3 hours of running around the playground to come.
In some cases they are not collected until 7pm.

Tony - I am not blaming immigration in one way. I am actually showing that lots of the immigrants seem to have a much better work ethic than people here.

Again - if you around the shops in any town centre or go and look at your delivery office - they all want Christmas staff. There are jobs out there.

London Tory, very well put. The kids will either be home-alone or dumped into one of these clubs. As you say exhausted and longing for the comfort of home life with mum. A working single-mum might only be seeing her children for a couple of hours a day.

Jonathan Sheppard, I agree that any vacancies going should be filled. However you have to concede that there are just not enough jobs for everybody, even with job-sharing.

Tony - the supply of jobs is not limited. There could be loads more next year - though under this current Government I doubt it because I beleive businesses not Governments create jobs - and this Government has hot the enterprise economy.

London Tory - by implication are you saying that women who work are bad parents? Or that children who go to after school clubs have a worse upbringing somehow.

My mum stopped at home while we were at infant school - but we were lucky becuase we couldfford it. When my parents were divorced my mum worked and I let myself in with a key. Im not sure that I had a worse upbringing. I'm certainly sure it was better for my mum to work than to rely on benefits to bring us up. Surely that is better.

Jonathan Sheppard, there will always be lumpen-unemployment while we do not have a large manufacturing base. On the subject of looking after yourself while your mum worked, how old were you? The debate here I believe is focused on primary school children.

Like I said it was after primary school - however I would certainly never criticise any woman who decided to go back to work (married or unmarried) while their child was at primary school - and would think it would be an offensive think to say to the hundreds of thousands of women who do just that.

Jonathan Sheppard, so you wouldn't object to a four or five year old walking home from school alone and letting itself in and staying at home alone unsupervised until mum returns from work? What about the summer six week holidays?

If Tony Makara and Jonathan Sheppard really want to dominate this debate to such an extent, would it not be better if the editor gave them each other's telephone numbers and they can have it out together?

Do they not realise that repeated postings, such as we see above, have the effect of boring the rest of us into non-participation?

Straightforwardly, the issue for many of us is that we wish for the state to stop subsidising the feckless/those who choose not to work/those who choose to have children as a way of life, and so on.

In short, it is clear that the welfare system is too often creating the problem rather than solving it.

For example, newly self-created single mums should be expected to live in a hostel/with their parents, rather than be placed at the top of the housing list, to end the incentive to choose to have a child rather than go to work.

As for existing non-working mothers, there should be a capping of benefits at their existing level i.e. any further children will not be subsidised by the state.

A personal view - it's called having a debate. But I think I've made my position clear.

Tony - Again I didn't say that - but I have NO objections to mothers or indeed fathers who decide to go to work who have children of primary school age. I have no objection to after school supervision to allow that to happen. I have no objection to people paying for child care so they can re-enter the world of work.

A personal view, your personal view is a caricature of the reasons why the Conservative party has a turn-off for so many people. Straight from the Alan B'Stard school of ignorance. It saddens me to think that a person thinking of switching their vote to Conservative might come here and see your comments about subsidizing the feckless etc. Such language belongs to the last century. It doesn't help the Conservative party one bit.

Lot of interesting debate here. I think there is an argument that we need to exercise some tough love and radical change is needed (not sure about aspects of the single mum ideas though). It is the case that considerable numbers of migrants are being attracted because jobs are not being taken up by some of our own population. Many of these jobs are reasonable jobs rather than gang work or something. It is wrong that we pay people to be out of work when there is work available. Of course some of this work is at the min wage level but surely it is much better for people to be doing something and aspiring to move on from that start point. However it is also wrong that those on JSA aren't allowed to re-train while on their allowance. There is a deeper issue here - it is actually unhealthy (physically and mentally) to foster an underclass and sadly the welfare system has unintentionally been doing this for many years. Even if we had a bigger manufacturing sector, the nature of added value manufacturing able to compete with China would be such that it would not employ the huge numbers of semi-skilled people it used to in years gone by. Lots of issues here for debate and I'm pleased the party is kicking this off,


Tony - enjoyed the debate... will let others have a go. Drop me an email if you want to do a podcast on the issue.

"However it is also wrong that those on JSA aren't allowed to re-train while on their allowance"

Matt Wright, this is a very good point of fundamental importance. Currently those on JSA are not allowed to claim the 'Adult learning grant' as they are expected to take part in Labour's showpiece gimmick the NewDeal where they periodically disappear from the unemployment figures for 13-26 weeks.

Those on JSA should be given an option to undertake vocational training at college or a place of work while in receipt of benefits, and they must be allowed to complete that training, for the course of the training they should be exempted from being actively-seeking-work, however they must be made to attend training every day.

The conclusion I have reached, for what it's worth, is that it is clear that a centralised, impersonal, bureaucratic system that relies on form-filling and giving everybody equal benefits is simply not up to the job of making the decision as to who is more deserving of benefits than somebody else.

This is another system that needs to be localised so that decisions can be made based on local circumstances.

Trying to reach some catch-all solution that suits everybody is just pointless.

and giving everybody equal benefits is simply not up to the job of making the decision as to who is more deserving of benefits than somebody else.
The benefits system does differemtiate, it doesn't do it very well, many who are in a far better situation get more than others, many who are in a bad way get less - nevertheless it does distinguish between different groups of people.

Having different rates in different parts of the country though is a recipe for benefits tourism, next thing it would be back to local laws saying people weren't allowed to settle so the local area didn't have responsibility for them. There are big enough problems with Housing Benefit as it is without making it worse.

I have only just got on-line - having been making Xmas cards (somewhat late!!) all day.

Tony Makara one suggestion you made much earlier was that vouchers for clothes etc: might be a more sure way of seeing that the children got their needs, I am afraid that the kind of family that Jonathan was talking about, would probably find a way to sell those vouchers!

I think that being a single parent, stuck in-doors with no extended family and quite often not many friends must be lonely, I also think that what so many of these young women need is encouragement and helpful advice (mind you has to be from the right sort of people, anybody employed by this benighted government would be useless - as somewhere along the line, politics would have to come into it!!). In an ideal world I think that centres that would be based close to where many of the 'unmarrieds' lived, or even very near Doctor's surgeries, where mothers - and sometimes fathers could meet, have some coffee, talk to some granny-type figure or some other kindly, knowledgeable person. It might just persuade the women away from internet chat-rooms, or the telly for a while. I did say - in an ideal world!

Tony Makara one suggestion you made much earlier was that vouchers for clothes etc: might be a more sure way of seeing that the children got their needs, I am afraid that the kind of family that Jonathan was talking about, would probably find a way to sell those vouchers!
People have to know how to handle money in order to live in the modern world anyway, on the one hand vouchers makes this too easy, on the other hand people then know that the person on the voucher is on welfare and are likely to be resentful that they are getting benefits when they have to pay taxes and so are more likely to try and rip them off, these tailored benefits come to be seen as subsidies by the companies handling them - there is a big problem that way already with Housing Benefit where landlords lobby for more generous Housing Benefit rules.

Can we not work towards a massive simplification of the benefits' system? There are so many types of benefit coming from different sources and the bureaucracy is not only massive but it gives rise to so much fraud and waste.

To repeat past arguments that have not been answered (i) allow people to earn up to £10,000 a year without paying tax and without receiving any benefit, (ii) consider with IDS whether to pay single mothers the equivalent of a salary in recognition of the value to society of a child having a good and responsible parent and (iii) where the welfare safety net is required, assess each applicant on a points system and award a weekly ammount to be paid from one single source with periodic reviews.

I favour looking at the possibility of paying such a benefit as negative income tax.

David Belchamber - it would be interesting to hear some comments on your suggestions. They sound like good ideas to me, but maybe there are basic drawbacks, apart from quite a few agencies not being able to make quite a lot of money curtesy of the taxpayer!

Patsy, I would welcome comments but I have put these points up before without attracting many.

Would you agree with me that, when we are back in government, we should do two things above all else (i) concentrate on the least advantaged in our very unequal society (on the grounds that those with most advantages will prosper whoever is in power) and (ii) simplify vitually everything in sight?

We do almost have an East German state under Blair/Brown and perhaps the essential difference between the two parties is that we should shrink government, whereas Brown wants to expand it.

David, I would put the second first, as I believe it would SAVE a lot of money, then yes, of course I would address the problem of the disadvantaged. However, that last few words is deliberately worded like that, just because 'concentrating on the least advantaged' is incredibly more complex than that simple phrase suggests! For a start, one needs to define what one means by concentrating on the disadvantaged, and if it is just taken to mean 'better their circumstances' then exactly how? Sure the REAL disadvantaged would love nothing better than to have lots of money to spend, spend, spend, but if it went along with improving themselves in a non-spend way, i.e. studying or working, a lot would need some fairly ingenious persuasion, to be convinced enough to put in the effort without immediate large benefit. Cynical? Sure I may sound cynical, but it takes a lot more than just throwing money at an area, as this ... government has done in millions over ten years, without noticeable benefit anywhere at the bottom end.

I have to get ready to go out - Christmas meal with my tap group mates!!!

The main worry that has been expresed about Grayling's speech relates to single parents. A basic welfare problem is that in order to assist disadvantaged children, whatever the circumstances, we end up paying the parent(s) who are a main reason for the disadvantage. Further, the old adage is right - if you subsidise something you encourage more of it.

Grayling's point about, more or less, forcing single mothers to work when their child reaches primary school age threatens to make things worse. Many, probably most, single mothers confronted with the age of their child meaning they must work will be tempted to get pregnant again. The lower the child's age qualification the more children. (OK I can imagine the screams of derision at this, but, please look objectively; what are mothers going to do when faced with the frightening big wide world and another child?)

We have to find a way of discouraging women becoming single parents without a too heavy handed reaction against the parent, and therefore also, of course the child.

Can I suggest that since we have one of the largest numbers of single parents in the Western world we should carefully look at how other counties address this particular issue. Everyone else seems to have better ways of dealing with it.

Patsy, I hope you had a pleasant evening yesterday and that you return to this thread.

Yes, by all means put simplification first. I have asked before whether a tory government will be able - in the first 100 days - to replace the forms that police have to fill in by simpler versions or modern technology, whather they will get off the backs of businessmen, teachers and doctors and let them get on with their jobs. I doubt it.

Where the least disadvantaged are concerned, we are talking alternative ways of providing the welfare state safety net, not handing out money to all and sundry.

We are talking about concentrating on teaching all 5 to 8 years olds, who are capable of learning, how to read, write and count; it is an indictment of any government that 40% are unable to do so at age 11 and if you do not catch the problem early, you have a problem for life.

We are talking about the sort of work Shaun Bailey does with deprived kids in inner cities and building on what the Salvation Army, Shelter and other charities do for the homeless.

We need and want a moral crusade where we are all working together to make our country a civilised place again in which to live.

I favour looking at the possibility of paying such a benefit as negative income tax
There needs to be a flat rate payment for every UK citizen resident in the UK and those given leave to stay under Asylum Lawswith additions for the Severely Disabled and Elderley - there needs to be a far narrower classification of what constitutes disability.

All this "The Law says you need so much to live on" or statements that people have been found to be unfit for work need to be dropped, instead "The law says you are entitled to x amount" and the law has decided that you have so many points under such and such a disability assessment.

Housing costs, medical costs, Education costs and things currently covered by the Social Fund - except for the Elderley and Severely Disabled need to be covered by low interest loans repayable in the way Student Loans are now, but with no write off at a given age as there is under Student Loans, it should be owed until the amount inclusive of any interest is paid off or the debtor is dead. Convicts should be required to pay for their time inside and the costs of the case for both sides with interest chargeable on outstanding amounts.

People shouldn't just be able to evade their debts, those with long standing debts to others should be incarcerated in debtors prisons and forced to work off their debts.

There need to be stricter residency requirements for claiming benefits, the UK leaving the EU could help prevent people claiming money for people overseas.

Scrapping National Insurance Credits for those on benefits except for those signing on who meet a minimum NI contributions record would both help save money in the short term and save benefits spending in future.

Perhaps rates of contributory benefits could be related to how much NI contributions people had been paying over a longer term, the State Pension is - so why not the same with other contributory benefits.

Perhaps Income Tax payments could be counted as qualifying towards certain extras as well - this would all reward those who had been paying back into the system.

I agree completely with "London Tory | December 12, 2007 at 15:54" who said:

"Anybody with any knowledge of the benefits system/and/or parenting will tell you that being a single mother is most definitely NOT a "comfortable lifestyle choice", especially at this time of year when playground peer pressure is immense.
As Tony Makara correctly pointed out, this policy has more to do with disaproving of a lifestyle choice, or a non choice in the case of many women.
Apart from being morally wrong, it also gives the impression of affluent, middle class people like Grayling bullying some of the most vulnerable people in society. And what about their poor kids ?- the real victims if Mum is made to go out and take subsidised work.

This policy is political poison. "

I'm disgusted at the Tory party posturing about family life but only valuing it if you tick the boxes and ones income is over a certain threshold.

Philipa (at 23:19), what I think many in the comfortable 'mid-band' of Conservatives might not realise is that to win the next General Election effectively, we must not only recover our lost supporters but also win over those who are traditional Labour voters and who have become disaffected.

What that translates to in the real world is the challenge to gain the confidence of people in compromised circumstances by giving them the opportunities to transform their lives in realistic and achievable ways, with relevant understanding and support.

I have spent the past 25 years of my life playing my part looking after the complete spectrum of social classes but mainly the less privileged, and the sincere and dedicated approach has been reciprocated by their support for me since I entered politics 5 years ago.

Society is a pyramid; Conservatives need to appeal deeper toward the base and avoid losing our new found lead. (See also "ToryDiary: A Tale of Two Leaders")

I agree with you, Teck at 00.05: "society is a pyramid; Conservatives need to appeal deeper toward the base...".

Might I refer you to my comments at 10.39 yesterday, as I believe we are saying the same sort of thing.

Hello David Belchamber I am back again, but must get on with making some more cards. I agree wholeheartedly with your post especially the last sentence, I have in mind those brave people - mostly if not all women - who have with a little help taken on the uncontrolled on their sink estates, and managed to turn them around, that is that sort of spirit that is needed all over. Change cannot come from top down or even from middle down on its own, it has to be really wanted by at least some people on the sink estates. I hope nobody gets angry with me for putting my ideas a bit bluntly instead of cloaking the ideas in fuzzy, polite terms!

Whilst of course I agree that the youngest children have to be helped to 'turn around' and also to realise that 'learning' and going to school can be interesting as well as useful, I think it is asking too much of them if they also have to go back to their 'homes' each day to encounter the anarchy (for want of a better word) or mayhem that exists in that place. Even an adult wouldn't be expected to be able to learn a new way of life while at the same time cope with the amoral hell that the children have sometimes been born into THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN!!

Teck Khong @00:05 - I agree completely but you talk about winning, getting in power, and I want to know WHY the conservative party deserve to be in power because with policies like these and attitudes like these they clearly don't.

Patsy [email protected] 11:12 - may I also agree with you and add that in my experience troublesome families know no distinction of marital status.

Thanks David for referring me to your posting of Dec 13, 2007; 10:39.

Having gained over 25 years of first-hand experience in caring for the poor and under-privileged, I would suggest that before we apply the means and mechanisms to transform their lives, we must have empathy with their circumstances and their ethos.

With reference to single parents, knowledge of their behaviour patterns and support systems (if any) is important for the introduction of an effective and efficient programme of assistance. Although the majority would respond to assistance in the expected manner with the desired outcomes, many would simply take the money whether you call it “benefit” or “salary” and misuse it with the consequence that their children’s lives and their future remain blighted.

The gathering of such intelligence should be remit of social services, who would work in association with health visitors to monitor progress of assistance. As time progresses with children growing up and attending school, it would be reasonable for financial assistance to be phased out and substituted by employment.

For our society to remain whole, it would neither be right to dispense money without accountability nor fair to those whose taxes are applied irresponsibly without alleviation of such a societal dysfunction. Ultimately, an enduring and meaningful shift in the behavioural culture comes from a sound education that includes the inculcation of moral values and social ethics.

Teck Khong - @ 14.01 - While I agree with what you are outlining in your comment as a whole, I have distinct reservations regarding your suggestion that 'social services' should be involved in the gathering of the information required. I don't think anybody would disagree that the social worker has a difficult job, but at the same time I don't think many people would disagree that social workers are also prone to making cock-ups - for one reason or another. I personally think that the whole science of sociology, social science and 'social work' could do with an overhaul, and the reason that I think this is because in this 'dayanage', the type of person who is needed for social work, is a practical, hard working, empathetic type of person, and yet so often the type of person that one meets who is intending to train in sociology is exactly the opposite of that practical, down-to-earth type! Way back in the early 70's I rented a flatlet in North London, and under my bedsit in this Victorian house was another bedsit, which housed for a while a tall self-regarding young man - a combination of Lawrence LLewelyn Bowen and Russell Brandt!!!, and he was teaching Sociology at the local Poly. He was TEACHING, not a student, but apart from an obssession with playing the Dark Side of the Moon, at 3am in the morning to his latest conquest, I am not sure what else he taught! I know this was a long time ago, but this government has been in power for ten years (a third of that time), and it hasn't achieved much, for all the money Mr. Brown keeps scattering around.

So what I am saying is that I don't think that social services would be up to the job of gathering accurate general information of disadvantaged, anyway, apparently they are under-funded and under-staffed, because they are never allocated enough money, and it is Brown's fault not the various council's that he loves to cap, and who have to make large savings where they can, across the board.

Teck, your comments are invaluable. I am concentrating rather on the mechanics of paying benefit because I think the present system is ludicrous and unfair. I am the first to agree that one must empathise with people who genuinely need financial assistance and also that there must be proper accountability.
I believe that the ideal system would be to work out fairly accurately in each individual's case how much s/he needs to live on when all essentials (but only essentials) are taken into account.
If their earnings fall short of that figure then the state should make up the shortfall.
My argument is that firstly it is absurd to tax people on just over £5,000 a year when you can't possibly live on that, so you then have to apply for benefit.
Secondly, benefits can come from a variety of different sources which again is an absurdly bureaucratic way of dealing with it.
It is no wonder that Brown's tax credits have wasted billions of pounds; many people on the breadline have been grossly overpaid only to have to pay the money back months later after it has all been spent.
If negative income tax is a possibility, it would do away with so much waste of time, effort and money.
As to Teck's main point, I would like the tories to enlist the help of faith leaders and charities to supplement the efforts of the overstretched social services in advising and befriending the recipients of benefits and I hope that is where IDS's policies are leading.

Philipa (Dec 14, 2007: 11:36), my entry into politics was both relatively recent and late, not because of disinterest but rather from the outset I believed I could care more by dedicating myself at the tough end out in the real world. For a long time, politics was like a distant planet but when my commitment and ability to help unfortunate people became more and more constrained by bureaucracy and mindless policies, dismounting to join the world of politics seemed the only way to bring common sense and compassion back into society. Hopefully, wealth and breadth of experience would find welcome.

The relevance of this revelation lies in the fact that even though our beliefs are true and worthy, politics has its peculiar rules and taboos so it behooves us to be patient until we grow in strength and stature and into a position where and when we can make our full contribution.

As we are signed up to the Party line, I am led to believe that any change we see fit to introduce for the good of society which is at variance with that line has to be done discreetly.

Teck Khong(Dec [email protected]:7) Thankyou for your reply Sir and I am sure you will understand that it saddens me to agree with you when you say "As we are signed up to the Party line, I am led to believe that any change we see fit to introduce for the good of society which is at variance with that line has to be done discreetly". It saddens me a great deal.

Single parents should work when the children are at school. That is only fair as the current system turns single parenthood into a prize equivalent to the national lottery. What's the 1st thing most people would do on winning the lottery? I reckon the answer to that is give up work - the very thing that single parents don't need to do. Not even for 16 hours. I'm not saying bringing up children is easy, but the simple fact is that most single parents will have a huge amount of time to themselves when the children are at school that could be used for working rather than drinking or playing computer games. No one can claim that housework is as hard as the politics of the office. If I have to work to pay my rent and eat then why shouldn't others? Is my time on this planet worth less than a single parent's? Is it right that an 18 year old single mother who has never worked is financially better off than those in jobs that pay more than the national average wage? It's an insult that they get to sit at home all day with their free housing, foreign holidays, time to do as they please, all the best gadgets - the list goes on. It has to end or eventually NO ONE will work.

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