A million on long-term benefits are capable of work


Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith is releasing figures today showing that over a million people who are perfectly capable of working have been on work-related benefits for three of the last four years.

So what does he plan to do about it, and will it work?

The speech

Duncan Smith is giving his annual report on the Social Justice Strategy - this is the government's policy designed to give people the support they need to turn their lives around. It includes working with troubled families, improving mental health, tackling child poverty and making work pay.

A report in the Telegraph indicated that he will use this first annual report in order to talk about "the scale of entrenched social breakdown that has taken hold across Britain over the last decade". It will talk about worklessness, and family breakdown - revealing that two thirds of children in poorer families don't live with both parents.

The Express said he will say: "Prioritising children's formative years, we are taking action to prevent social problems from arising in the first place, supporting the strong relationships which offer children the best start in life."

He will highlight progress in getting people into work, but will say there are still far too many people on long-term benefit. And he will emphasise how the government cannot do this alone - but will work with companies and charities to turn lives around. He will say: "By bringing the resources and the rigour of the private and social enterprise sector to bear on tackling entrenched disadvantage, we can continue to make headway even in a financial climate that means government spending is tight."

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Child poverty and family campaigners agree with one element of this report. The view that the early years are the most vital is widely-held - which is why all the political parties have signed up to the Child Poverty Act, aiming at eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020.

They also agree that charities and organisations are doing important work in helping individuals change their lives. However, they argue that rather than being able to solve the entire problem of poverty alone, this needs to work alongside government financial support. Many believe that the government's policy of cuts and austerity are making things worse for families.

The Child Poverty Action Group recently published a report into poverty and austerity. Chief Executive Alison Garnham said the study showed "an enormous rise in child poverty and deprivation that is sending the living standards of huge numbers of children spiralling downwards."

The group's view is that the government's policies are making things worse. It says that the result of austerity will be an increase of 600,000 children in absolute child poverty between 2010 and 2015.

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation, agrees, saying: "We know that changes to the tax and benefits system, along with a hollowing out of the labour market, will mean more people living in poverty by 2020, despite the beneficial impact of Universal Credit."

The coalition set up a Child Poverty Commission, which is similarly critical of government policy. This week, the Independent reported that the chairman and deputy chairman said there was no chance of eradicating child poverty by 2020, and called for the government to put its money where its mouth is - devising a clear and consistent policy, supporting those at the bottom end of the income scale, and investing government money in the solution.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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