Workhouse rules

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The latest announcements by George Osborne (your report, 30 September) that long-term unemployed people will be forced to clean up litter suggests that the UK government will stop at nothing to humiliate and punish people who aren’t working.

This approach is wrong on virtually every level and it simply won’t work. Unemployed people want to work but the sad fact is that, for many of them, the opportunity simply isn’t out there.

Rather than creating real jobs for people, and supporting them to earn a wage and build their skills, this so-called Help to Work scheme will simply alienate unemployed people and move them even further from the job market.

Community Jobs Scotland has already created more than 3,200 jobs for young unemployed people in charities and third-sector organisations across Scotland.

A forthcoming independent evaluation of it shows that it’s 14 times more successful at getting people into work than the work programme. That’s because it focuses on investing in people, building up their skills and most importantly creating a real, paid job which benefits them and their communities.

There’s no doubt that we need reform, but indiscriminately punishing and humiliating people is not the way to go about it. Welfare is intrinsically linked to the long-term blight of poverty and inequality.

We need to build a system that helps people to up-skill and grow in confidence, a system which places equal value on 
people finding jobs or contributing in other ways, whether that’s by volunteering or by taking on a caring role.

Mandatory community work is no help to the third sector; it doesn’t work for the people involved and doesn’t help communities. Many unemployed people want to volunteer in their communities but universal credit rules and this ludicrous new programme actually make that more difficult.

This £30 million could go a long way to actually helping 
people volunteer in Scotland, for example through paying bus fares and providing lunch, and there is a long queue of charities which could use extra willing pairs of hands. We don’t need this 21st-century version of the workhouse.

Martin Sime

Scottish Council for 
Voluntary Organisations

Mansfield Place

Edinburgh

I have always believed that working for one’s local community was supposed to be a privilege, not a punishment – indeed, it’s one of the reasons people who are active in community maintenance and regeneration are awarded honours like the OBE.

If the government is really keen to get long-term unemployed people into work, there’s an obvious solution of converting “community service” activities like looking after the old, the very young and people with disabilities into properly paid jobs.

At the moment, many people do this sort of work for nothing, or for an insultingly low wage. It’s insulting them even further to suggest their activities are regarded as on the same level as a punishment regime for the work-shy.

(Dr) Mary Brown

Dalvenie Road

Banchory

the Chancellor’s proposed welfare reforms merely highlight the coalition’s failure to create jobs. The coalition will boast that many more are now in employment, but many of those jobs are part-time or zero-hour contracts.

George Osborne’s proposals will involve more staff being required in the Job Centres, community set-up and supervisory teams, to allow the unemployed to sign on every day or do community work.

Have they been truly costed? Or is this a cunning ploy to fill the gap of the many public sector workers made redundant during the coalition’s reign – workers who used to carry out much needed projects in our communities?

Catriona C Clark

Hawthorn Drive

Falkirk