Letter to my MP

yes, probably futile, but it excercises the rant muscles…

I’m writing again to ask you to oppose the currently tabled measures to remove parents of children over twelve (initially) and eventually seven from income support, forcing them onto jobseekers allowance, placing their incomes under levels of conditionality that severely threaten the most vulnerable families in society.

In a time when both parties make constant concerned noises over the lack of availability of parents towards their children throughout their childhoods, it seems perversity bordering on cruelty to financially co-erce the parents of the children most in need of parental care and guidance into absence from the home at the whim of job centre employees and the supermarkets who have wangled tax breaks from the government for their collaboration.

Past implementations of similar schemes to remove people from benefit figures have shown that all they lead to is a reduction in full time jobs to be replaced by part time workers on a revolving door of short term contracts.

The government claims that any shortfall in parental care will be met by government funded childcare arrangements: we have yet to see how this phantom army of carers is to be sourced or funded, or indeed how it is to be expanded vastly during school holidays when the demand will sky-rocket.

The government also claims that any conditionality will be deliberately eroded; any parent at home with children who are not at school due to special needs, medical conditions, or simple failure of the state school system to adequately discharge their duties towards the children will not have this taken into consideration, no matter whether this will place vulnerable children back into the same dangerous situations which have forced their parents to remove them from school, no matter how much more money this will cost the taxpayer to fund the educational needs of these most vulnerable children.

Last, but not least, is the sheer economic perversity of the measure; by removing parents from benefits at the time when their youngest child reaches seven, the government is giving an incentive for people on benefits to ensure they always have a child under seven in the house, increasing the number of children in families on benefits. With no age based cut off until the age of 18, the incentive is reduced almost to zero.

The government’s white paper on this matter urged at least the preservation of conditionality, if not the abandonment of the measure altogether, as it is a punishment on the most vulnerable in society. The then DWP minister John Hutton last year stated that it was not the intent of the government to cut into lone parent benefits as “this would be wrong in principle and damaging to the health and well-being of children”, yet the current DWP minister Stephen Timms has stated that all lone parents will be required to demonstrate they are available for work regardless of circumstances.

The policy is an iniquitous, uneconomic farrago, an attack on lone parents for the crime of being lone parents, an attack on the vulnerable on the basis of their vulnerability, an expensive nod and wink to the more prejudiced elements of the media with no regard for the consequences or costs either to vulnerable children or the common tax payer.

“Lone parents” is not a synonym for “feckless parasite”*, it is another term for the widowed, the abandoned, the most vulnerable and often the most heroic people in this society, who are doing their absolute level best for the future of this society by taking a definite economic hit in order to raise our future citizens. By attacking them, this government is attacking the guardians of all our futures.

I urge you to oppose any and all measures regarding the removal of income support for lone parents.

*I am trying so very hard not to point any fingers at any front benchers defending their pay rises and hiding their expenses this week when I say “feckless parasite”…

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