Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dehumanising the unemployed: The tiny numbers behind the governments latest welfare reform plans

David Cameron has announced two plans for cracking down on welfare claimants in the past few days.

Yesterday was the turn of job seekers aged 18 - 21 who, he claimed, would be 'helped' by having to work for their unemployment benefits.

Young people will have to clean up graffiti or make meals for the elderly for 30 hours a week to receive £57.35 unemployment benefit. They will effectively be working for £1.91 an hour.

"That well-worn path - from the school gate, down to the jobcentre, and on to a life on benefits - has got to be rubbed away," Mr Cameron said.

But there are far fewer people on that 'well-worn path' to a life on benefits than you may imagine, and as David Cameron surely knows. A freedom of information request from 2013 showed there were only 1070 people who had been claiming JSA for more than ten years across the UK - just 0.07% of the total number of job seekers.

Likewise, all those obese people David Cameron was targeting over the weekend - latest government statistics reveal there are only 1780 people on disability benefits due to obesity.

With such small numbers involved these plans seem more about hardening public perceptions of welfare claimants than targeting entrenched social problems.

They do exactly what the Church of England warned against in their letter published today, they “stir up resentment against some identifiable ‘other’" and dehumanise the unemployed.

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