THE Welfare System can only be made stronger if the Government is also willing to support the labour market, MP Jonathan Reynolds has told the House of Commons.
During a debate about the Welfare Reform Bill, which received its Second Reading on Wednesday, Mr Reynolds said it was important that the system was fair and effective and that it enabled the transition from welfare to work. But he said that transition was only possible if there was work available for claimants to take up.
In the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency there are now 16 people chasing every vacancy advertised through Jobcentre Plus. And Mr Reynolds said the scale and the pace of the cuts being made by the Government threatened to send unemployment soaring.
He said: "The Government need to realize that we can support the welfare system and make it stronger only if we are also willing to support the labour market.
"Helping the transition from welfare to work will be successful only if there is work to take up, yet the scale and pace of the cuts that we currently see threaten to send unemployment soaring - just as happened under the previous Conservative Government, when it topped three million on two separate occasions.
"Government Members tell us that the welfare bill is expensive - so too is mass unemployment."
Mr Reynolds recounted the steps that had already been taken by the last Labour Government to reform the welfare system.
He pointed to the merging of the Benefits Agency and Jobcentre Plus to allow people to look for work at the same time as claiming benefits.
He highlighted the launch of the New Deal, under which people were told for the first time they could not refuse help to find work; and the introduction of tougher sanctions for those who could work, but who refused to do so. He also criticised the Government for their decision to axe the Future Jobs Fund, pointing to its success in Tameside and suggesting the decision had been political.
Mr Reynolds said he backed the principles behind the Bill, which aims to tackle poverty and simplify what can be a complex and daunting system. But he said that in its current form it was "ill-thought through" and would be "detrimental to many vulnerable people".
He pointed to the removal of the mobility element of the DLA, the numbers of people who would lose their right to financial support because they had savings Mr Reynolds' speech can be read by clicking here.
Published on March 14, 2011