Dealing with the perfect storm of social hardship

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Heavy weather rages around many people in this country and I don’t just mean gales like St Jude. In the good times many people were seemingly helped with increased benefits while there was a huge amount of immigration into this country of hard-working people willing to work at jobs us Brits didn’t want to do. Those benefits were welcomed of course, but have proved to be a millstone for many.

Now times are harder and it’s left to this government to do something about it. So I ask everyone to think about the connection between benefits, immigration, education and skills and how it impacts those most vulnerable to these storms.

In the last decade or so some four million people have arrived in the UK, the vast majority to work hard and earn money. At the same time we know too many of our young people emerge from education without the most basic skills or motivation to get on.

Britain was recently ranked 21st out of 24 developed nations in literacy and numeracy. This is shocking at a time when our international competitiveness and our economic future is based on knowledge-based industries.

Then there is the benefits trap so many have fallen into. When rules mean that beyond 16 hours of work you can face a reduction in benefits that is equivalent to a 95 per cent rate of tax, it’s hardly a surprise some are put off. When those on what was then called incapacity benefit have been written off as useless and many not reassessed for 10 years or more, it’s inevitable they lose any hope of change.

The system of help available to those on benefits but who wanted to work didn’t provide what was needed. A picture is beginning to form.

Many people are being out-competed by those more willing to work for any wage; many lack the most basic skills they need to get on and the welfare and benefits system has failed to support them.

This is why government has been doing so much on immigration, on education, on apprenticeships and on benefits.