Should People On Benefits Have To Work For Their Money?


Benefit entitlement has always been a contentious issue of debate within society and the debate has gathered even more strength as our economy sinks deeper into the doldrums. Yesterday appeal court judges ruled that the UK government has been acting unlawfully by forcing people to take unpaid work experience placements in order to keep their Jobless benefit payments. The 24 year old who brought the case against the government claimed that government work programs requiring unemployed benefit claimants to take on unpaid work placements were illegal as they broke slave labour laws. So should people who claim unemployment benefits be forced to work for their money or do these work programs actually amount to slave labour?

Slave Labour

I do find it slightly Ironic that this court ruling was made on birth date of Abraham Lincoln. Slave labour was a scourge to mankind for centuries and some would argue that it still takes place in some area’s of the world. But do government work programs amount to slave labour? When most of us imagine slave labour we picture chain gangs, servants, sugar plantations or even civil war. Does being forced to work a few hours a week in a retail store really amount to slavery, especially when you’re receiving government benefits in return?

Are You Now A Government Employee?

Should the receipt of unemployment benefit allow the government to effectively become your temporary employer? Should they be able to send you out on to the streets to pick litter, have you maintain public parks or as in this case, send you on a work placement of their choosing to prove your willingness to work? The lady who fought against the government on the issue said that these government work schemes were a complete waste of time and that they were actually preventing her from looking for real work with a wage. She also claimed that they were stopping her from fulfilling her volunteer work which she felt offered her just as much, if not more opportunity to gain work experience as any government work placement ever could.

But is there another side to the argument?

What About Those Who Are Footing The Bill? 

Taxpayers might argue that if we’re ever going to get rid of our benefit culture and encourage people back into work then we need to make people work for their benefits instead of allowing them to play the system, sitting at home all day with no intention of ever getting a job or paying their way. I grew up in quite a poor area where a lot of people lived on jobless benefits and I can honestly say that the majority of people had no intention of ever taking a job, in fact it was the subject of jokes. There are however a group of people out there who are desperate to find work, is it really fair that they are tarred with the same brush and made to work in unpaid jobs when they could be out looking for work?

What do you think? Should people be made to work for their jobless benefits or should they be spending their time looking for a job or volunteering?

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19 Responses to Should People On Benefits Have To Work For Their Money?

  1. I don’t mind people having to work for the benefits. Let’s face it they are using out tax dollars and so we should get something out of it.

  2. I think it depends on the situation. I think for many they should have to do some sort of work or volunteering to make sure that the rest of society is benefitting from the payments. This should also be done, in my opinion, while they’re looking for a new job…assuming they can work.

  3. AverageJoe says:

    What a great idea….I am on a health coalition board here locally and just saw alarming statistics. People on government aid crank out kids. That’s leading to a whole welfare mindset in a subset of people that will be a burden on all of us forever. People without skills or desire to work giving birth to others with no skills or desire. What a mess.

    BTW, I’m not accusing everyone on aid of being lazy. I know a few people on aid who work their butt off to get off aid. Sadly, that’s not the norm based on the stats.

  4. Matt says:

    I’ve been thinking about this tday too.
    It all depends, so I think there’s a better compromise to be had here, but first a couple of comments about the girl bringing the case:

    1stly, she’s a recent graduate, so I believe she IS looking for a good job, and is probably wasted working in poundland or wherever. 2ndly, working 30 hrs a week does seriously cut into the time available to go for interviews and hunt for jobs, and 3rdly, JSA is £71/week. That works out at £2.37/hr. I used to make that much 25 years ago when I was 15, washing dishes as a Saturday job.

    And as for unemployment – I had to claim myself once for a couple of months, and £71/week goes nowhere when you have bills, a mortgage to pay and food to buy. Basically, I just bought the food, I couldn’t do anything else. The worst thing though, was thinking of all the taxes I’ve paid over the years and what help did I get? Effectively **** all.

    Yes, there are those who take the sap, and have no intention of working, so I propose putting the long term unemployed (say 6 months or more? Less?) to work for their benefits. This should include people who can’t hold down a job for more than 5 mins and also closes a known loophole.
    They could sweep the streets, empty bins, clean public lavs (uuurgghh!! *shudder*), pick up litter and maintain the parks and other public areas – for 10 hours a week, which equates roughly to the minimum wage. Oh yes, and they’d start at 6.30am so there’d be plenty of tine left later for job seeking. Turn up late and you don;t get your bbenefits that week. Should get a few of them moving…

    To me that seems fairer. If you’re genuinely the kind of person who needs help for the short term, you’ve probably paid what you owe already, and you’re not going from well paid job to sweeping out the gutter. Then there’s getting value for your taxes out of the workshy.

    Do you think that sounds fair??

  5. Jose says:

    That is a contentious topic! Unemployment benefits in the U.S have been extended to unprecedented lengths of time. Many have dropped out of the workforce altogether. Yet, I’d like to think that having paid into it I’ll at least have a cushion should I lose my job. Having to work for the unemployment benefits would put a bit of a hamper on my job searching capabilities!

    • It would make it harder to get out there and find work. For many if they want to find a job in this tough environment they need to give it 100% but then maybe some part time work could be a good thing to keep you in work mode.

  6. Interesting and I’m really not sure how I feel about this topic in terms of gov’t assistance as there are so many different situations and scenarios. I’m not surprised to hear about this though. I don’t think that people getting EI because they lost their job should have to work especially if they have put their own money into it for years. I do think they should take the time to job search, network and build skills whilst receiving benefits. I’m sure many would like to see themselves back on the job.

  7. I think that there should be a hard cutoff date for jobless benefits. There are too many ways to game the system. If people knew there was an end to their benefits, they would get off their ass.

  8. It’s hard to say exactly. It’s a very complicated subject, but overall, if someone is really spending time looking for a job, then I don’t think they should have to do that kind of labor. But I do think people take advantage of the system. Yeah that’s a tough one…

  9. Pauline says:

    I think they should work for the money, but only half day for example, so they could still look for a job. Yet the benefits in the UK are so low they wouldn’t make minimum wage!
    Another option could be mandatory job seeking, you go to a computer room 4 hours a day, no FB access, only job sites and printing CVs.
    In France they used to call you twice a YEAR to justify your job seeking, I met so many travelers on benefits… And we are talking about 70% of your last salary, that buys quite the trip around India…

  10. This is a bit of a slippery slope, because everyone is different. Most of us pay into it for the majority of our lives, as another commenter had mentioned, but at the same time there is a lot of value in building job skills by working for the money. There are always going to be people who take advantage of the system.

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