Snakes and Ladders in New Labour’s Benefits System

In last weeks post we discussed the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and asked the question whether it actually provided a “living wage” for a cleaning operative, especially doing daily cleaning work, given the difficulty of stringing enough part time jobs together to be the equivalent of a normal full time position.

The situation for our lower paid staff is even more dire than I realised at that time. Consider the following facts as reported in The Daily Telegraph.

  • A family with two children is just £30 per week better off working for the NMW than not working.
  • A single person on the NMW would be £3 per week better off than someone on the higher level of incapacity benefit.
  • A single person on the NMW of £193 per week who is aged under 25 would only be £10 per day better off than a non-working person.
  • If you have a family and only one of you is the breadwinner on the NMW you would be slightly worse off than the same family if they were receiving the maximum Incapacity Benefit.
  • Did you realise a family with one working member and two kids gets £79.50 per week Working Tax Credit. However after means testing they might keep only £6.77?


As part of a company that employs many hundreds of people performing necessary, difficult and often downright unpleasant cleaning duties this situation makes me weep.

I weep for the loss of human potential, weep with anger that this is where 10 years of New Labour has actually taken us to and weep for the frustration that anyone needing an entry level job must feel at trying to better themselves through their own efforts.

I have no answers or suggestions other than you should carefully question everyone who applies for work with your company. A brief look under the surface may show you the true price someone is willing to pay just to get a chance to get a foot on the first rung of the ladder and out of this Groundhog Day of a benefits system.

Would you be willing to do the same? Are you the person to give them that chance?

Columbus Dixon

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