So, there’s not nearly enough work for the employable population and by this, I mean those of working age who are fit, healthy, underemployed or unemployed but available. We have the kinds of unemployment which threaten whole communities and entire generations: mass redundancies and NEETS galore who can’t get a foot on the first rung. Now, most sensible managers, given a choice, would utilise this potentially wonderful source first. But not this Government. Oh no….
Instead, the pillocks at the Top Table seemed to have divined that, lone parents and those whose lives are habitually dictated by a spectrum of physical and mental challenges have too little to do and should be the country’s premier source of fuel as a response to economic malaise.
This relentless and ruthless pursuit of the lone parent and the disabled person, at the same time and in the least conducive of economic climates, smacks of crass stupidity and boorishness. Yes, undoubtedly there is need to reform some aspects of Social Security – and certainly Social Care. Yes, undoubtedly there are cheats – but then, is there a walk or sphere of life where cheats do not exist? It seems beyond the wit of this Government to recognise that, as a result of their economic malfeasance, the economic climate is not currently conducive to their ‘welfare’ reforms. In fact, the timing of them is ignorant and cruel and demonstrates that they either don’t care or don’t know how to encourage a climate in which the whole country can flourish. Surely the financial costs can’t be worsened by a stay of these punishing reforms on those whose daily lives are already prescribed in no small measure – especially when the money “saved” is merely diverted to those who are implementing this ridiculous programme. This Government refutes the bigger, wider, sustainable solutions to this socio-political-economic picture, such as major investments in housing; infrastructure; universally accessible and meaningful education and health/social care provision; and whatever else you are mentally adding, dear Reader. But then, as we know, this cowardly Government hides behind easy scapegoats and superficial thinking.
The current measures are not being implemented to bring independence and autonomy to disadvantaged individuals. Nor are they being enforced because the country’s future and economic prosperity depend on it. This is to satisfy an ideological position informed by a mix of puritanical judgement, fake fatherly concern and that panic that comes with a lack of knowledge and imagination. But there is a fine line between pragmatism and cruelty when it requires the disabled and lone parent to validate their existence because they are deemed to be taking up room and draining resources.
A lone parent is often quite literally alone. You can’t rely indefinitely on goodwill and shared resources. If you are the only parent, with little or no unconditional and immediate support, then you are effectively on-call 24/7 – always. You’re bringing up the next generation, the source of Humanity’s continuum – it’s not a hobby – and, while it certainly isn’t temporary, the years when you have most influence and input might be. When you and, mostly you, alone, are that unconditional constant, the stability in your child’s life, you tend to want it to be you who is available when they are upset, or ill, reticent or just on holiday- not the childminder; not Day Care. That’s the sphere of your life in which you need to be reliable – not the job that pays you so little that you still need government credits.
Where is the sense in a society that forces single parents out to work for such low wages that they still require top-up benefits so that someone else, who may not be your idea of a suitable surrogate parent and who may not even like the job, can also be paid a pittance to look after your children? The same society which frets about family breakdown, quality time, modern pressures, neglected kids…
And if you have physical and or mental challenges that were officially recognised as disabling before the economic meltdown, it has already been accepted in some measure that your ability, capacity and reliability are potential barriers which narrow sharply the types of employment available – especially those jobs which pay sufficiently so as not to need government credit. How do you juggle the household, the personal care and the practical help you require: help that is already not always at a convenient time for you; and make yourself available for work: work that is already scarce for ‘fit’ people and probably doesn’t accommodate your variety of needs? How are employers to be convinced into equipping a workplace for someone who can’t guarantee whether they will manage five minutes or an hour of productive and reliable activity from one day to the next? How do you do said work at all if the journey to the workplace is all you can manage? How do you stop yourself feeling like you might be a patronised and resented token, a nuisance, an inconvenient expense? How do you let go any dreams you had of forging your own progression as you’re herded from one advisor to another, knowing you could well be parked and still poor – and that this is it – trapped in a system with ever decreasing exits?
Is it wrong to be afraid that chains of pen pushers have been given arbitrary powers to play around with and effect control over so many real lives?
[Please do know, dear Reader, that I have experience of both single parenthood and disability and that I am not at all suggesting that lone parents or disabled people should in any way be excluded or discouraged from the workforce. Or that they should be prevented from achieving any degree of personal progress and fulfilment. Not at all. I think anyone, including a lone parent or disabled person who wants to, should be able to contact their not-for-profit jobcentre and obtain generous, competent and useful assistance in entering employment. I also believe in lifelong learning for all, access to retraining and voluntary work that is actually voluntary. But then, I believe in lots of things like that…]