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It appears almost Thatcher-esque and, while there may be good intentions, there are an awful lot of unanswered questions.

In a shake-up of financial assistance, if you are unemployed you may be referred for drug abuse assessment and you may be required to attend life skills courses, such as money management. If you are unemployed for more than three months, you could be required to undertake 15 hours of community service.

Government also aims to link up with community-based organisations to address social needs and says it is all part of a “social recovery movement”.

There is no question that those who find themselves unemployed need help, but unless these initiatives are carefully targeted and followed up they could be meaningless.

Community service may look good on paper, but what will it be in practice? Cleaning out the hedgerows? Or will it be 15 hours spent learning a new skill? Will it be a one size fits all community service, or will it be tailored to the skills of the unemployed? What happens if a person opts not to do community service?

Money management skills also sound good on paper — but will it work for a single parent household who is juggling spare cash to pay the electric bill, and buy groceries?

Similarly, community-based organisations are in many cases already overstretched, and suffering from reduced budgets as the recession bites into donations. How will they be expected to help? Once, or if, these organisations are involved, will Government then wash their hands of the issue, and pretend the situation has got better?

So many questions and, as far as this newspaper can see, no details to provide answers.

With the budget for financial assistance hitting record levels, Government will clearly want to try and reduce its expenditure in this area. None of these initiatives will do that. The only way that can happen is to make taking part in them a requirement that, if not fulfilled, will mean the level of financial assistance available to the individual will be cut. Thatcher-esque?

For a long time this newspaper has asked Government to provide a social safety net, primarily to help those who need support in order to stop them falling into a life of crime.

The Minister has said that financial assistance is not a right. Then what is? Should there be a right to state support, if the state is in such a mess it can no longer provide a job, or is at such a low ebb that no jobs are being created?

What will be the consequences?

* Let me know what you think in 140 characters or less. Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeremydeacon1

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stands in a British tank during a visit to British forces in Fallingbostel, some 120km (70 miles) south of Hamburg, Germany. on Sept. 17, 1986.

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Published July 02, 2013 at 9:35 am (Updated July 02, 2013 at 9:35 am)


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