An article in today’s Guardian is suitably entitled “the business of governing is much harder that we would like to believe”. Although on a completely different topic to what you will read here, it strikes a note especially when you cast your eyes over our non-job of the week. We’ve chosen a set of “welfare rights” jobs from Lambeth council:
“Welfare Benefits Project Officer
£30,018 – £32,094
Lambeth is building a team to ensure that vulnerable people in the borough get access to welfare benefits advice. If you are passionate about maximising income for vulnerable people and you have excellent skills and experience in welfare benefits work, then this could be the job for you.
This is one of three posts that will work on our new campaign, funded by Lambeth Council and Lambeth PCT, to improve benefit take up. The campaign is called Every Pound Counts and is part of Lambeth’s Local Area Agreement. It is delivered in partnership with local advice agencies and targets older people, people living with ill health and disability, and their carers, including families caring for disabled children.
This is a key role supporting Lambeth in achieving its Local Area Agreement stretch target for benefits uptake. Working with voluntary and statutory partner organisations to ensure excellent co-ordination of benefits support to clients, you’ll project manage the take up campaign. Activities will include monitoring the contracts with local advice agencies, working on the campaign and developing and delivering a programme of outreach and publicity activities.
We are looking for someone with experience in welfare rights advice, managing contracts with voluntary agencies, and presenting and producing information for a variety of audiences at all levels.
Successful candidates will be asked to apply for an Enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau. Further information about the Disclosure can be found at www.disclosure.gov.uk and in the application pack.”
The objection to this job isn’t that it’s providing benefits; it should form as a critique of the complexities within our government. Referring back to the title of the Guardian article I mentioned at the start, government doesn't have to be as difficult as it is. Vulnerable people shouldn’t be dumped in a state of confusion within a complex benefits system. Our taxes shouldn’t be employing bureaucrats to solve a problem created by government in the first place. Not only are we employing (yes, us, it’s our money) bureaucrats to help those befuddled by the system, but we’re also financing overpayments officers because sometimes the benefits officers get beat by the system too. Talk about two wrongs making a right…
The solution, clearly, is a simple tax and benefits system. It’s not as if alternative ideas aren’t out there. Look at the flat tax phenomenon gripping and propelling the former Eastern bloc into the developed world. Charles Murray’s plan to replace the Welfare State creates a national minimum whilst doing away with whole swathes of public sector bureaucracy. It’s becoming a regular feature in debate on this to raise the personal threshold where one starts to pay income tax. The ideas are out there and we clearly have to change the way our benefits system works. The complexity burns more of our money whilst leaving vulnerable people in a dire situation. The cost of a complex benefits system takes funding away from frontline services. The long run implications of an ever-increasing public sector pay roll will be to swell the size of the state as well as higher tax bills.
Please make this point to the leader of Lambeth Council, Cllr Steve Reed, and ask him what he will do to lower council tax bills in Lambeth.
Also get a local debate started, send your letters to:
South London Press
2-4 Leigham Court,
Email: email@example.com (please make your subject ‘for the attention of Hannah Walker re: letter to the editor’)