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Britain blighted by Billy Workshy.

Byline: GEORGE TYNDALE

IMAGINE putting in a full day's work, only to be told you have to hand over a significant proportion of your earnings to an 19-year-old layabout.

You have no choice in the matter. It's the law of the land.

You know the 19-year-old has no intention of getting off his backside to find work, but that doesn't matter. You have to give him a handout.

If you don't, you might end up in jail, for the crime of hanging on to your own hard-earned cash.

It sounds like the warped social policy of a communist state, where everybody works for the "greater good."

Except in China, the type of idleness exhibited by this 19-year-old - let's call him Billy Workshy - would probably lead to his execution or, at the very least, his incarceration.

Luckily, Billy lives in Britain where he can do as he damn well pleases thanks to the largesse of the welfare state.

Support for reform of our outdated benefits system, and of dole payments in particular, has overwhelming public backing. There are few issues on which voters of all political persuasions unite quite so strongly.

Yet so little ever seems to get done to right one of the greatest ills of modern British society. Benefits dependency blights communities and condemns generations to do just as their parents have done - sponge off the taxpayer.

Desperate With the economy in such a desperate position, there has never been a better time to strike and claw back some of the billions of pounds owed to the taxpayer by society's shirkers. Such a move would have political and moral support.

And yet we are now in the thick of a series of farcical legal claims likening the Government's back-to-work programme to slave labour.

Under the scheme, it is reasonably suggested that the unemployed should take part in "unpaid" work or risk losing their benefits. The work might be in the public or private sector, or it could involve voluntary work for charities.

In a sense, of course, the work is far from "unpaid" because the individual pockets a handout from the state at the end of each week. It's a carrot and stick approach, which has been proven to work with donkeys, so it should work with most of the nation's hardcore of slackers.

Unfortunately, our friends in the civil liberties industry - which is almost as bloated as the welfare state - have identified a possible human rights infringement. It is claimed that the jobless scheme amounts to "forced labour."

The standard bearer for this fight for justice is unemployed graduate Cait Reilly, from Birmingham. Her lawyers have just about pulled up short of likening her plight to that faced by Japanese prisonersof-war.

Ms Reilly, 23, has taken her fight against the Government to the High Court.

She thinks it's outrageous she was made to work for her benefits, being told that if she didn't stack shelves at Poundland she risked losing her pounds 53.45-aweek jobseeker's allowance.Unemployed mechanic Jamieson Wilson, 41, also from the Midlands, is pursuing a similar claim against the Department for Work and Pensions.

Both Birmingham University graduate Reilly and Wilson, who has been unemployed for four years, say the DWP's programme rides roughshod over Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws forced labour and slavery. So are these two benefit claimants seriously comparing their predicament to that of the oppressed masses of America's Deep South during the 18th and 19th centuries? These individuals and their lawyers should be ashamed of themselves.

Is working for five hours a day in a discount store, as Ms Reilly was requested to do, really the same as being stripped of one's humanity on a South Carolina plantation? Rather than blame society, Ms Reilly, who's been out of work for two years, should have thought more carefully about her degree choice, and its relevance in the jobs market.

The geology graduate might have reasonably concluded her career options were limited.

It's not rocket science, is it?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2012
Words:671
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