MARK SERWOTKA, general secretary of the civil service union PCS, on the final day of the TUC conference in Brighton last week, attacked the Government over welfare reforms, accusing it of “dismantling the welfare state”.
Moving an emergency motion on the Government’s welfare reform proposals he said: “The Government’s proposals for welfare reform outlined in their recent Green Paper represent the most fundamental attack on the welfare state since Beveridge’s proposals established the welfare state in 1948. first time
“Just reflect on this, it is the first time since 1948 that any government has seriously proposed abolishing the ‘safety net’ benefit for those without any means of financial support. It began life as National Assistance – today it is known as Income Support.
“It is not generous, below real subsistence on any modern standard; it is never given without question. But we must always remember – with no basic safety net you don’t just deny the parent – you also deny support to children.
“The Green Paper represents a complete u-turn on ‘workfare’. In 1997 experiments with forced labour, such as that in Wisconsin, USA, were explicitly rejected.
“Rightly, the government opted for The New Deal, increasing support for jobseekers and ensuring that people were better off in work both through the National Minimum Wage and targeting incentives either through Tax Credits or specific programme payments.
“PCS members in Jobcentres are proud of the success of the New Deal, and in particular the voluntary approach central to its most successful strand, New Deal for Lone Parents, that has enabled over half a million parents, mainly women, to break free of dependency on benefits and get sustainable jobs.
approach that works
“When this approach to worklessness is clearly the approach that works, the question we need to ask is, why is James Purnell so obsessed with the forced labour approach?
“It is an approach that goes where even Thatcher and Howe wouldn’t dare to go in the 1980’s; an approach which stigmatises and demonises people as work shy and evokes images of the Victorian workhouse.
“It is shameful that a Labour government are seeking to implement a benefits regime that unpicks the fundamentals of the welfare state, that strikes at the very notion of a safety net for those in need.”