The absolute route out of poverty is a decent job. All our efforts and mechanisms should be encouraging people in this direction.
There are wonderful stories of people taking poor jobs, even to their own financial disadvantage, because they believe in the dignity of work or as an example to their children. Most poor people, living on benefits, need real encouragement and help to move in this direction. The benefits system does not necessarily encourage them. There exists an historic and collective memory about losing benefits and about over-payments which frighten people from taking work.
The Community Allowance will enable people to ease their way into work, to get used to the idea of working, and the psychological and financial improvements that go with it.
I have recently chaired a Taskforce for the Government on the Take up of Benefits. I learned of the extraordinary complexity of the benefit system which is of course targeted at the most deprived and least educationally advantaged segments of our society. Unfortunately not only is it complex but elements of the system produce traps for those enjoying certain benefits but wanting to take employment. A lack of understanding of Working Tax Credit adds to the misconceptions. Further- more an over-emphasis on benefit fraud frightens away many who don’t understand the system (of a 2% total of official error, customer effort and fraud, only 0.6% is fraud). To sum up, the Taskforce Report’s headline was that if everyone took up the benefits to which they are entitled, a further 400,000 children would be taken out of poverty.
It is easy to under-estimate the benefits of work. Work is a habit which needs to be developed and encouraged. The advantages of work undertaken within the Community Allowance framework is that it eases that process. Taking on part-time work is a first step that can lead to full time employment. The extra income will bring benefits that can lead to a desire to achieve a full time wage. The extra money will lessen family poverty. There is also the benefit to the Community of the work being done which will improve the environment for all those living there and the worker having a sense of helping others. The income derived will be spent locally thus also improving the financial well-being of the community.
It is a win/win/win. The greatest benefits are psychological – for the person undertaking work and experiencing a sense of personal value – for his or her family, benefiting from the experience of someone without work, under-taking work – for the community, seeing someone unemployed doing work which benefits those around them. We are seeing large scale unemployment in certain areas of the country and especially London. The communities experiencing high unemployment can be ones where no-one in a family has worked for three generations; can be individuals experiencing long-term unemployment; can be young people unable to find work because of the recession; can be ethnic minorities disadvantaged by language, education or discrimination. Every time we help someone into the work process we are making a huge difference to their lives and their well-being. The Community Allowance can be an important process in that direction.
Sir Trevor Chinn, Businessman and Philanthropist