Sunday, 19 May 2013

Thoughts on work, welfare and Bradford...


So I'm sat at the breakfast table in a North Yorkshire B&B where, by happenstance, everyone present has a current or past connection with Bradford. The conversation chitters back and forth, what people do (or don't do), memories of Bradford and inevitably a discussion about Bradford's 'problems' such as they are.

What struck me however wasn't the shared concern about Bradford but the near universal view that, at the heart of the problems - 'grooming' of young girls, crime, city centre decline, the persistent failure of estates like Ravenscliffe, Holme Wood and Allerton - sits the benefits system. Not immigration, not the corruption of youth by radical clerics and not even the legacy of industrial decline. The benefits system.

The discussion touched on using pregnancy as a route to housing, on why Bradfordian's don't take jobs killing chickens despite the lack of work and how the Asian community now seems to have a more enterprising outlook that the white population. And we kept coming back to there being no - or insufficient - incentive for someone to take that chicken-killing job.

What my fellow politicians need to understand is that, if we proceed to ignore these views and listen to the welfare industry's special pleading, we reveal ourselves to be just as out-of-touch as that industry. Everyone but us seem to see a world filled with people living off benefits, cash earnings and petty crime - a world of smuggled booze and fags where social and family arrangements are determined by the best way to maximise income from benefits rather than by the desire to support a future generation to success.

Those people sat round that table may be wrong - for sure we aren't representative. But those voices remind me that the need for benefits reform isn't about saving money. It's not about cuts. And it's not about "demonising the poor" as so many advocates of welfarism claim. No.

We need benefits reform so as to give the people - and especially the young people - of Bradford's inner city and Bradford's estates the right chances and incentives to succeed, to get to a place where an Incommunities flat in Buttershaw isn't the only choice.


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