Clinton takes hard line on welfare

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON - Redeeming his pledge to 'end welfare as we know it', President Bill Clinton yesterday announced his scheme to limit cash benefits and steer people into finding work, writes Patrick Cockburn. 'Under the President's reform plan, welfare will be about a paycheck, not a welfare check', a summary of the proposal says.

The aim of the dollars 9.3b ( pounds 6.2bn) plan is to steer those on welfare into the workforce, as Mr Clinton promised to do during the 1992 presidential campaign. No new funds will be used but spending will be switched to training, job creation and child care.

Mr Clinton revealed the five- year plan in a speech in Kansas City, Missouri, yesterday that was designed to placate Americans who believe that many of the poor prefer to live on welfare rather than get a job. The administration claims that almost 1 million people will either come off welfare or start working under the reform.

At the heart of the plan is a scheme to place a two-year time limit on cash payments to a single parent over 18. If unable to find a job they will be enrolled in a subsidised job or a community service job. Here they will be allowed to stay indefinitely so long as they continue to try to find a job. 'From the very first day, the new system will focus on making young mothers self-sufficient,' says a summary of the reform.

The plan, based on a scheme Mr Clinton developed in Arkansas in the 1980s, has been criticised for making little difference because single women with children cannot work unless somebody else is paid for child minding. This may prove more expensive than letting the mother look after the child.

His aim, the President said last week, is to produce a programme 'the Bubbas of America and the liberals can get along together on'. The middle-class will be pleased to see that 'parents who refuse to stay in school, look for work, or attend job training programmes will be sanctioned'.