Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My (revised and re-sent) 'In Work, Better Off?' consultation response

Last-minute Lil strikes again:

Question 1
At the moment, lone parents can get Income
Support until their youngest child is 16.
Is that right or should it stop at a younger age?

My reply to question 1:
It's wrong that it should stop as early as the youngest child's 16th birthday. Young people need their parents to be a constant presence, and accessible to them at any time. This is necessary for them to feel intrinsically secure and happy and therefore healthy, so the benefit should continue at least until the child leaves full-time education. Income support is such a relatively low weekly payment and the children of lone parents, often having only one available parent and often having experienced family disruption, need that remaining parent even more than the children of double parents. Parental care is vital and cannot be adequately replaced by paid staff. Also, lone parents have enough to worry about in fulfilling the duties of two parents, without being thrust into the world of work with all its bureaucracy, uncertainties and complications.

Also, my dictionary's first definition of the word 'work' is as follows: "The application of mental or physical effort to a purpose; the use of energy." Every lone parent I know certainly does this on far more than a full-time basis already. Expecting us to find the extra time to go out to paid employment, when many of us rightly take our parenting duties so seriously is beyond unreasonable. And trying to pretend that what we already do for free doesn't count as 'work' because it's not paid employment is demeaning and insulting.

Question 2
What age should the youngest child be when lone
parents stop getting Income Support?

My reply to question 2:
It should continue for at least as long as the youngest child remains in full-time education.

Question 3
Should we do more to make our support for lone
parents accessible and useful for all groups, such
as parents of disabled children?

My reply to question 3:
Yes, it would be good to offer Income Support to them for as long as they need it too. The value of parenting to a child's sense of security cannot be over-valued, and certainly can't be over-paid. I'd like to see double parented families being given more financial assistance also, so that one parent can afford to stay at home if they wish.

Question 4
At the moment, lone parents are offered more
interviews to help them find work in the 2 years
before they stop getting Income Support.
If Income Support is going to stop earlier, should
we offer other sorts of support? How long should
we offer this for?

My reply to question 4:
You should urgently re-educate your advisors. The last one I saw could not care less about me or anything I wanted to discuss and gave me no useful information. In fact, she denied the existence of this consultation. Why haven't you consulted widely enough, by handing out leaflets about this through your Lone Parent Advisors to give to clients at the compulsory Work-Focused interviews? Most lone parents probably have not been told about this consultation so have had no opportunity to respond. The Lone Parent Advisors could have been asking these questions in the interview and recording the replies for the purposes of this consultation.

Question 5
What sort of extra support should we give lone
parents who move from Income Support to
Jobseeker’s Allowance?
How long should we give them this support?

My reply to question 5:
Income Support is a breadline benefit and no lone parent should ever be trapped in a job they can't give up without losing their house etc. You should therefore keep that funding in place for working lone parents to fall back on permanently and without exception or condition, should the job not work out well for any reason. Every lone parent should at least have the option of putting parenting first and working second, or the current problems we're seeing with depressed and disadvantaged children (highlighted in the recent UNICEF report amongst other places), disaffected youths and mental illness in adults will only exacerbate. People need real homes and families, which contain other people who are actually there.

Question 6
Some people on Jobseeker’s Allowance can say
how many hours per week of work they are looking
for (as long as it is over 16 hours).
Should we allow people to limit their job search in
other ways if we make these changes?

My reply to question 6:
Of course. By all means help them look for work in the time they have available, but do not make assumptions about the time they have available. Home educators like myself, for example, have been told (by the previously mentioned Advisor) that the children will have to attend school instead of being home educated from age 7. This is preposterous and most single parent home educators I know will go without money rather than put their children in school. By home educating on Income Support, I estimate my family's savings to the public purse to be in the region of £14,000 for the year 2008, based on projected costs per school pupil. So if home educating lone parents are bullied into registering their children in schools this will increase costs exponentially to an extent which defies logical explanation. It will actually look like blatant prejudice against home educating single parents, all of whom do an excellent job in often quite difficult circumstances. My oldest son (18) is planning to attend university next year. If he had stayed in school with his deliberately undiagnosed dyslexia, I feel sure he would have been attending one of Her Majesty's prisons instead.

Question 7
How can we show parents that they will be better
off working?

My reply to question 7:
You can't, because they won't! Most will be worse off in every sense, including financially.

Question 8
Should there be any extra support for lone parents
who move onto other types of benefits like
Employment and Support Allowance?

My reply to question 8:
Income Support is a breadline benefit and no lone parent should ever be trapped in a job they can't give up without losing their house etc. You should therefore keep that funding in place for working lone parents to fall back on permanently and without exception or condition, should the job not work out well for any reason. Income Support should be always available for any lone parent who needs it to keep their home and pay their basic bills. Also, I think you should also not attempt to confuse or mitigate these issues by using words like 'support' (which is optional) instead of using words like 'force', 'compel' and 'coerce', which are all far more accurate descriptions of your proposals.

Question 9
We have made childcare better and given people
the right to ask to do their work hours in a way that
fits their life.
What extra support should we give lone parents to
help them into work and support them in their

My reply to question 9:
Why pay strangers to do the work of parents? It's madness. The care provided can never be as good as parental care, simply because the paid staff have no parental love for these poor children. Money is no substitute for love. This fact is plainly obvious but appears to be being recklessly ignored, with dire consequences for our nation. Curricula, inspection mechanisms, criteria and tick box-oriented methods of childcare are no substitute for love either. The benefits of adequate, full-time parental care cannot be over-estimated.

Question 10
What more could we do to help poor working
families to earn more?

My reply to question 10:
Increase the national minimum wage to a decent amount and free up the planning restriction laws so that people can afford housing. Spend money on solar panels and wind turbines for anyone who wants them so that we're not all dependent on the extortionate utility companies and stop charging council tax, full stop! It adds insult to injury to bill people for council tax that they can't afford when everyone can see the councils just wasting the money on nonsense which doesn't need funding. Let's all spend less, then nobody has to worry about earning so much.

Question 11
What more could we do to help ethnic minority
women, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi
women to get work?

My reply to question 11:
Do they want work? Do they need work? Who is going to look after their children? Paid strangers again, I suppose. See my answer to question 9. Why would this be any different for Pakistani or Bangladeshi families? It seems odd that you single them out with a special question.

Question 12
Are we right to ask people who have been on
benefits the longest to do more to find work in
return for extra support?

My reply to question 12:

Question 13
Are there any groups or situations where we
should not ask people to do more or where we
should not offer more support?

My reply to question 13:
You seem to have a strange understanding of the term 'offering support'. If it involves any kind of compulsion, it can't really be called 'offering support' can it? You should call it coercion instead of support, because that's what it is. And yes, you should not ask any parents to do more in terms of earning money. Instead, you should appreciate the parenting work they do and stop pretending it doesn't exist or doesn't count for anything.

Question 14
Is it right for us to offer support in different stages
and in a set order?

My reply to question 14:
See my answer above, re: your use of the term 'offering support'. And no, you should *offer* the same *support* to everyone - meaning, just run a job centre in which you advertise jobs for people to apply for if they wish.

Question 15
Should some people be helped or made to move
to the Gateway stage more quickly than others?
Should we look at people’s needs and the work
they have done in the past? Which groups of
people should be helped quickly?

My reply to question 15:
You seem to have a strange understanding of the term 'be helped'. If it involves any kind of compulsion, it can't really be called 'being helped' can it? You should call it coercion instead of help, because that's what it is. Are you trying to change the meaning of these words? And no, you should *help* everyone equally - meaning, run a job centre in which you advertise jobs for people to apply for if they wish. Singling out this group or that group is likely to create resentment between the various groups and this will look quite deliberate on your part. You are already being widely accused of adopting 'divide and conquer' strategies and such an approach can only add strength to such accusations.

Question 16
Should we make people do some work experience
if they have not got a job after extra help from
another service?
How can we make sure that the work experience
will be useful?

My reply to question 16:
Of course not. That would be state-sponsored slavery. And work experience is only useful if people actually, honestly, really do voluntarily WANT to do it. We do not need an authoritarian, slave-driving, family-busting government. In order to have a healthy society we need a benevolent government, please. Ideally one that works for the majority of its citizens and not the various global business conglomerates by which this one currently seems to be employed.


Blogger Elaine said...

excellent Gill concise and to the point

5:39 pm, October 31, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Elaine! It'll no doubt be ignored, but it made me feel better to write it ;-)

And thanks also for your response blog post - it was extremely helpful.

Pity the so-called 'experts' who are being paid about 15x your income couldn't have provided the same kind of help. Shall I stop ranting now? ;-)

5:54 pm, October 31, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Gah, I wish I'd put something in about their definition of the word 'work'. Like the Oxford English Dictionary's version: The application of mental or physical effort to a purpose; the use of energy.

D'you reckon I could email them again... repeatedly? Grrrrrr

7:23 pm, October 31, 2007  
Blogger Fiona said...

yeah, i made an objection to their narrow use of the word "work" as well. as theo would say, it is a travesty.


9:51 pm, November 01, 2007  
Blogger Raquel said...

great response Gill! I've read some really inspiring responses to this consultation..lets hope it sinks in.

11:46 pm, November 01, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh good, I'm glad someone got that in Fiona.

Thanks Raquel. Are we keeping records of people's responses so that we can check them against the consultation 'results'? I reckon we should be, for all the ones we're responding to.

6:51 am, November 02, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I didn't get an acknowledgment due to their full mailbox I guess, so I resubmitted my response including all the things I later wished I'd said.

Thanks to Barbara for securing the extension and to Fiona for widely broadcasting this.

We have until 5pm today, for anyone who wanted to respond but ran out of time!

7:57 am, November 02, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL, the acknowledgement finally came back, with my first - not my second - version attached!

11:08 am, November 02, 2007  
Blogger Mieke said...

Madam, you have a way with words;). Is there not a newspaper or other medium that you could send this to? It deserves a wide audience. There are some questions in there that I doubt would get past any discrimination watchdog. I honestly cannot believe that this is an official government consultation. I know, I'm naive...
Please keep ranting, Gill!

1:48 pm, November 02, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Awww thanks Mieke! xx
I think the EO and AHEd responses both ask similar questions, bless them, so hopefully theirs will carry enough weight to yield some answers. But yes, the whole thing is such a flippin stitch-up, isn't it? Especially when you consider we're apparently bailing out Northern Rock this year to the tune of ***£40billion*** (as discussed by some of us here) so you'd think they could afford to put MORE money in the pockets of our country's parents, not less, wouldn't you?

It shows where funding priorities lie: in the wrong place, ATM I think and the video at that link explains why.

2:10 pm, November 02, 2007  
Blogger Linda said...

Well written Gill.

Thanks for your comments on my 'rant' I was not so good at getting my point over as you but I'm very angry about it all.

9:34 pm, November 04, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Linda, and I respectfully disagree - you certainly are at least as good!

2:42 pm, November 05, 2007  

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