Letter - Opinions over the unemployed

I am writing following the Wakefield Council meeting held on Wednesday July 23.

I welcome the council’s adoption of its pledge against the use of Workfare schemes; ‘Workfare’ is a word used to describe a growing number of government schemes that require benefits claimants to do forced unpaid work or face cuts to their benefit payments.

I share the council’s belief that work should pay, their concern that there is no evidence that Workfare assists job seekers in finding work and in fact working a 30-hour week makes that more difficult; that Workfare is replacing paid work; and that workfare stigmatises benefits claimants and locks them further into poverty.

During the debate Coun David Hopkins (Conservative Wakefield South Ward) said the council did not speak for him on the matter and went on to say that “you might as well say people on benefits are being paid to be idle”.

This was a gross caricature of the plight facing the majority of decent people having to live on benefits, especially youngsters who are doing their utmost to secure paid employment in these difficult times.

It merely demonstrates the gulf between Coun Hopkins’ Conservative party and ordinary hard-working people of Wakefield.

Coun Richardson (Labour) was right to point out that “Workfare equals slave Labour and it’s simply a case of some employers wanting the job doing for nowt.”

Peter Box, council Leader was right to highlight that the Conservatives’ lack of reality may well have led to the Conservative group losing five seats at the local elections.

Steve Torrance

UNISON Regional Organiser

May I respond to the point made by Mr Torrance who misrepresented my comment about paying people to be idle.

That comment was aimed at the group of long-term unemployed who have no intention of furthering their prospects of work from the short term schemes which they are sent on by the job centre.

Many long-term unemployed, including young people, do volunteer or join the training, community; and other schemes; and find employment as a result.

We should congratulate them and support them as they move into the workforce.

The real slaves are the minority who cannot see a way out of benefits, encouraged in that view by those who refuse to accept the potential advantages for the unemployed of letting work experience be a way of regaining personal or family self-esteem.

David J Hopkins

Wakefield South Ward