Benefits Debate Comes to Town

Iain Duncan Smith is in town today, visiting Craigmillar in the build up to the unveiling of the Coalition’s welfare reforms. Pam Orchard, our Deputy CEO, has done a piece to camera for coverage on this evening’s Reporting Scotland, due to Cyrenians being the new provider of the local Learning and Work service. We all want to see people benefiting from work. The issue is; how is this best achieved?

"The key to tackling poverty is getting people back into work," says IDS. We concur. "Those who are able to work will be given the maximum support and help to start and continue working. Many of them want to work and don’t want to be trapped on benefits but had lost their confidence and did not know what to do or where to go."

Absolutely no argument there – except that we would say that it’s not ‘many’ but the vast majority who in our experience want to work.

Of course the biggest anxiety for all of us working with a passion to help people into a working life comes from the knowing that the bottom line to reform for the Government is to chop more than £4 billion extra from welfare in the next Budget.

There are certainly savings to be made from cutting bureaucracy, simplifying the systems and cutting out the many tick-box programmes that don’t make a difference. Cuts that make it harder for Cyrenians and others to provide help that genuinely works or cuts which push people deeper into poverty are simply counter-productive – provided that your outcome really is to see everyone possible is benefiting from work.

The journalist’s question was: ‘where are the jobs going to come from?’ Cyrenians has no control in the big picture over that… although we have ourselves created over 10 jobs this year with more to come as social enterprises such as CORE and Cyrenians Farm grow through commercial success. But top-notch services like Learning and Work will ensure that if and when and where the jobs are available people are well prepared and supported to make the most of it.

Of course there is a whole other dimension to this debate that I’ll pick up in future blogs and love to hear your views about.

It’s about seeing ‘work’ in a wholly different way, re-shaping our vision of it to be more flexible, more inclusive, more valuing of what each person can give according to their abilities and less damning and punitive with those who are unable to fit the current moulds.


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