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‘Make it more possible for people to work’
4:22pm Thursday 28th June 2012 in Letters
In response to the recent attention focused on the welfare system, I feel compelled to share my own experience with benefits after hearing a number of people accusing those of us who are languishing on benefits as being idle, unmotivated, unwilling and similar.
I was employed in the IT industry in Leeds for some ten years before the company I was working for encountered financial difficulty in 2007 and I was made redundant.
Since then I have been self-employed mainly giving guitar lessons but do not make enough money to support myself and my son without housing benefit and tax credits. I would dearly love to find a full-time job to either replace or supplement my self-employed income and eliminate the need for state aid. Despite a concerted effort to find work over the last five years I have only been put on in temporary or voluntary positions.
I have even volunteered to work in IT for no pay just to keep my skills up to date and have been turned down. Some of the many jobs I have applied for have had more than 100 applicants.
In Otley there is a fairly vibrant market economy. However, over the last few years I have witnessed the closing of a large number of local businesses. Some of them seemed to me to be long shots from the start, but others should have been viable. Most of the buildings these businesses once occupied remain empty. All of these vacant premises represent potential jobs to me.
I know a number of people who run businesses in our town, some who have had to close shop and some who have looked into starting their own business. I am told that the prevailing reason that many of these businesses close, or never open in the first place, is the high cost of running the business due mainly to very high rates. I dare say high rent, taxation and cost of utilities all play a part as well.
I believe the Government is focusing on the wrong thing. Rather than reducing the benefits that are supporting people out of work, why not direct their efforts towards making it more possible for people to work? Then all those who are willing to, and in fact desperate to, such as myself, can get off benefits and become fully contributing members of society again. I know that there are programs in place to aid in this, but it is not nearly enough. Our economy must be allowed to grow rather than being suffocated by short-term greed. Perhaps then our welfare system can again become a last resort for the few rather than a crutch for masses who have run out of options.
For the record, I do not question the particular steps that have been suggested by Mr Cameron on this occasion. I do think that his ideas bear merit, but they are only improvements to a system that shouldn’t be needed in the first place.
Chris Smithies Otley