Welfare Reform - what will the outcome be?
My first major piece of legislation that I worked on five years ago was the Welfare Reform Bill. It was a very swift learning curve in terms of understanding how legislation worked, the behaviour and protocol in the chamber and all the unforeseen consequences of the debate.
The next iteration of this is the Welfare Reform and Work Bill which has now been pushed back a week because of the really important debate on Syria. That subject is perhaps best placed for another time and will take up more space than my column allows.
The consequences of this piece of legislation will be significant, not least cutting support to even more people, and the last time was pretty brutal. The areas that I am working on are firstly around disabled people getting in to work. The Government aspiration is to have 3 million new apprenticeships and we are waiting to find out how that will be recorded. This is not about getting a half a million people through six difference programmes. This is about a meaningful experience, which is properly run, with a qualification at the end, but also, and very importantly, the opportunity of a real job at the end of it.
In a recent debate I raised the issue of unemployment in the North East. When so many jobs are being lost, the reality is that there are not enough jobs to go around, let alone for people who may be viewed differently. We know that many employers do treat disabled people differently. I do want disabled people to be in work, I don’t want people to think that their only option in benefits, but the reality is that there are not a lot of jobs to go around.
We are waiting for an answer on how recording of this information is going to be laid out. Yes, they have to look at the details of the quality of the opportunity, but there will be many people asking for that information to also be looked at regionally, because with the recent data that shows the reality of the north south divide, then the apprenticeship is not an end in itself
I do sometimes worry that this will be the case. That once 3 million people have been through the system, then that box is ticked. I suppose that an endless system of schemes are better than nothing, but what I would much prefer is some further thought being given to job creation. The cost of keeping people in work is, I believe, significantly better value than being on the benefits system. That is what we are going to be spending at least the next month and more ‘debating’.