So today George Osborne has announced that the long-term unemployed will have to work for 30 hours a week doing community service in order to ‘earn’ their job seekers’ allowance.
The rights and wrongs of this are not what I’m going to debate.
What I am going to ask is: if this goes ahead, who will look after the children? Children who may potentially be looked after by the currently unemployed parent because other carers are at work, working very hard, to cover an income shortfall. It’s likely, isn’t it, that that single income – if it exists – isn’t sufficient to cover childcare, so taking the other parent or carer out of the equation is going to lead to a situation of even more pressing concern.
And the government’s talking long-term, ongoing 30-hours-a-week. So childcare can’t be covered by an answer that runs ‘everyone has someone who can help out’. I’m looking for an organised answer from a government that has come up with this 30-hour-a-week work scheme in the first place, so surely they must have considered the wider requirements it presents. Isn’t it obvious that one of these is the need to cover the whereabouts of children.
Because there will be children dramatically affected by this scheme, and there is no way that £56.80 a week can cover childcare, because UK childcare to cover four-fifths of a full-time working week (30 hours is four 7.5 hour days, after all) is astonishingly expensive; and we don’t have a state-run childcare system. It just seems to me that this policy driven by an attempt to curry favour with disenchanted voters has been rushed through, not properly thought through, certainly not in terms of the wider implications for the claimant’s dependents.
If it had, someone would have asked, and answered, this crucial question. So if it has been properly thought through, I look forward to hearing the answer.