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Do your maths please, Mr Cameron

September 28, 2014

Even by the standards of party conference knee-jerk politics, David Cameron’s promise to cut welfare bills by requiring under-21s to work for their dole after six months is audacious. It epitomises the importance of the political narrative over logic or substance.

The rationale appears to be the idea that large numbers of teenagers are choosing to leave school to go straight onto permanent welfare benefits, where hard working people are paying for them to live the life of Riley (which apparently is possible on under £60 a week in a cheap-end-of-the-market room in a shared house).

As a start, this concept seems to show little faith in the Government’s own draconian sanctions regime, whereby anyone who can’t show beyond doubt that they are looking for work will lose benefits. To depict being on JSA as still a feasible lifestyle choice is to suggest that this strategy has failed.

But let’s now look at the facts. Among 18-24 year olds, about 80,000 have been claiming for six months or more – less than 2 per cent of the cohort. Interestingly, as unemployment has fallen, this has reduced by over 40% in the past year, making the “lifestyle choice” theory even thinner.

However, the audacity reaches new heights with the suggestion that saving from this measure will help to pay for three million apprenticeships. Do the maths Mr Cameron. Even assuming that the threat of working for your dole means that no under-21 year old claims it any more after six months, we’re talking about maybe 40,000 or so dole cheques contributing to funding eighty times as many apprenticeships. That means there’ll be a contribution of around 70p a week from this source towards hiring an apprentice. I’m sure employers must be queuing up already!

So this is where the story has got to going into the next election. A million miles from the hug-a-hoodie version of what Cameron stood for. It’s back to all the old strategies of demonising claimants. This has nothing whatsoever to do with deficit reduction. If it saves anything, it will be peanuts. That’s clearly not the point.



From → welfare system

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