One Family Director of Policy & Programmes, Stuart Duffin, writes about what should be at the centre of social welfare change.
As an election looms for Spring 2016 we need to begin to raising public awareness on the issue of poverty and its effects on health. Our social welfare system is undergoing fundamental change. Reforms affecting many working lone parents are plunging many into even deeper poverty and reinforcing inequality. Restructuring is creating a system which is leaving more parents without constructive supports, whilst those who may qualify must engage with a system which lacks compassion and fails to treat them with dignity and respect.
The Government’s approach to simplifying welfare is undermined by increasing conditionality, and the erosion of a rights based approach to entitlement. The characterisation of one-parent families as undeserving – ‘skivers’ enjoying an overly generous system or worse, actively defrauding the system at the expense of hard working taxpayers – ignores the evidence about the reality of parents’ lives. This rhetoric is used to justify the approach. Many one-parent families who are on the JobSeekers Allowance for example, are required to engage in stressful work seeking activities despite inadequate childcare provision. Parents are blamed for not being in paid work while the real barriers to employment such as the lack of jobs, lack of affordable and suitable childcare, non-family friendly practices and employer discrimination, and our low wage economy are not tackled effectively. At the same time, an immense amount of unpaid work in caring for children (most often done by women) or socially worthwhile volunteering goes unrecognised and unrewarded.
The need for a new architecture for social welfare and protection has never been more pressing.
Therefore, One Family is developing and promoting a Manifesto for Change, which includes:
- Parents need income security at a level where no one is left in poverty and all have sufficient income to lead a dignified life.
- Make respect for human rights and dignity the cornerstone of a new approach to welfare.
- Radically simplify the social protection system.
- Invest in the support needed to enable families to participate fully in society.
Our future is better when we feel secure and supported; not when we are vilified and our needs are ignored.
One Family’s Manifesto for Change will be available on this site prior to General Election 2016.