Job Seeker’s Allowance: why there should be fewer, not more restrictions.
Another announcement comes out at another party conference that Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) is to be restricted. These attacks on benefits keep coming out to ensure that public outrage at the feckless unemployed is maintained. So nothing new then. It used to be called Unemployment Benefit of course but was remodelled to show that the “benefit” is now an “allowance” (we’re kind like that) only to people who get off their backsides, get on their bikes and ride around in circles…
I have not bothered to look at the Tory Party proposals; I suspect them to be vacuous outpourings from the bubble of a conference hall. I will wait to see what actual proposals come out, if they ever do. No, my argument is that the current rules for claiming JSA go directly against two of the main aims of this government (and indeed the opposition) 1) to encourage entrepreneurship and 2) the big society (or communitarianism if you prefer).
The basic premise of JSA is that you are only a valid member of society if you are in work or available for, and actively seeking, paid employment. You may have decided for instance that your chances of getting a job are slim and have diverted your energies to doing voluntary work.The charity you work for may have invested time and money in training you. You feel fulfilled and proud that you are contributing. But, if a paid employment opportunity comes up-whatever its value to society- you will have to give up your volunteering work at one week’s notice.
Or you might have a big idea, one that needs developing and which won’t create a secure income for some time. If you are honest about the time you put in or neglect your fruitless paid employment seeking activities, your benefit (sorry, allowance) will be at risk.
If you manage to make any money but work less than 16 hours, the tax rate is 100% Worse, if you are trying to build up an enterprise, any money you make might be seen as income whereas you might see it as money to reinvest to build up the business. That of course would be fraud.
There are plenty of ways in which individuals make a valid contribution to society outside of paid employment and these people are often publicly lauded by politicians. But many are deprived of this opportunity or punished for having a go.
I would propose a Citizens Payment. Not a benefit or an allowance but a payment made in recognition of the actual contribution a person makes to the general wellbeing and strength of a community. The work of parents (single or otherwise) raising the next generation, the inventor, the community organiser, the bird watcher, canal clearer, the carer, the artist, the singer, the mender of things , the explorer…..all valued for their contribution and paid in recognition.
There would be many difficulties with this proposal- who decides, what about those (a very small number) who will neither look for paid work nor contribute anything. But the first stage is to try and get across the principle that many have much to contribute in ways that are different to being in paid employment, or seeking it.