What happens when you give a small group of people a megaphone, access to social networking and the media? You get the claim "they speak for everyone in the uk", that's exactly the situation we have got over "workfare".
Workfare is a classic case of mountain out of a mole hill but where there wasn't even a mole in the first place. The scheme which is designed to give unemployed people a chance to gain work experience and something to place on their cv thus increasing their chances of getting a job has been jumped on and labelled as "slave labour" by the rent a megaphone bandwagon.
Whether its in final years of secondary school or placements during many educational courses from time in parliament with labour and conservative MPs, journalism, mini pupilages in barristers chambers and vacation schemes in solicitors the concept of "gaining" experience to improve your chances of getting on the career ladder is a well established one, yet a concept the critics of workfare have conveniently ignored.
At a time when the job market is as competitive as ever at all levels young people need every opportunity they can to improve their chances of getting a job and many are grateful of the opportunity available through workfare. But even when due to a challenge jobs market where we need to encourage more people into work the campaign against workfare is taking those vital opportunities away from our next generation, damaging their prospects and continuing the "benefits dependency culture" we saw grow under the last labour government.
The argument we have seen thrown at the workfare scheme is "well if people drop out they face benefit sanctions and then "can't buy food or have money to live" well news flash we all have responsibilities and life choices if I don't go to work on monday morning then I won't be able to buy food or live. Just because you are on benefits doesn't mean you shouldn't have to take responsibility for your actions and face the life choices the rest of us face, in fact its important you do so the transition back into work is a smooth one. Its the same discussion that was had over the benefits cap and living in expensive houses but expecting the state to subsidise even thou if those people were in work they wouldn't be able to afford to live there, the benefits cap helps instil that culture of "life choice and responsibility" and workfare is doing exactly the same thing.
Could workfare be improved? Yes I'd like to see more community third sector organisations involved and experience offered within projects that benefit the whole community too and we need to communicate the scheme effectively to the public and to job centre staff implementing it but is the scheme fundamentally wrong? No quite the opposite in fact, its exactly what is needed to give people the experience they need to get that first foot on the jobs ladder.
As conservatives we are constantly looking to help give people the "step up" to help themselves into work and give them the dignity and self respect they deserve, whilst the left would prefer to pull away that ladder and give people handouts to live instead removing their dignity aspirations and prospects in the process too.