Posts Tagged ‘‘The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes’’

Jobseeker’s Allowance and the ‘Work Commitment’ – Another Return from the Pre-War World

March 7, 2016

I’ve got a feeling it was Major’s government back in the 1990s that had the bright idea of renaming Unemployment Benefit the ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance’, in order to placate the foaming Tory hordes convinced that the unemployed are all workshy scroungers. Instead of benefit being granted to the unemployed, simply for being unemployed, it is now an allowance given on the understanding that you are ‘sincerely seeking work’. The process has gone further under Cameron. When you sign on, you’re expected to sign a contract stating that you are doing so, and binding you to agree to the terms and restrictions imposed by the government. In infraction of these terms, no matter how small or imaginary, gets the ‘jobseeker’ thrown off benefit, either to beg from friends and relatives, go to food banks, or starve to death.

It’s another return to the wretched, dismal world before the welfare state. After the introduction of some kind of unemployment relief by the Liberal government in 1911, unemployed workers seeking such government support also had to show that the were ‘genuinely seeking work’. Eric Hopkins in his Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes notes that the phrase was removed by the Labour party in their second government in the 1930s. Hopkins states that this made it much easier for the unemployed to get benefit.

So, under Thatcher, Major, Bliar and Cameron, we’re going back to the pre-War world of insecure and temporary benefits and poor and costly medical provision. All for the enrichment of the very Tory middle classes, desperate to put those pesky oiks from the working and lower middle classes in their place.

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