Letter: Voluntary work for the jobless

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Sir: James Fenton's column 'Everybody doth protest too much' (8 February) is right, but does not take the argument far enough.

Everyone knows that if you want some work donated to a good cause, you go to someone already busy working hard. These are the people serving on school boards and probation committees; they are prison visitors and run hospital radio stations for patients; they are on archaeological digs or arranging theatre and cinema trips for the elderly and handicapped; they work on victim support schemes or become Aids buddies.

It is surely sensible to encourage the unemployed to spend at least one day a week doing such unpaid, charitable work as part of their return for benefits? It certainly would help to strengthen their self-respect and win support for them from the public.

The problem for us today is that every suggestion which is right and logical, fair and just is immediately turned into a political issue by Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

The problems of crime, unemployment and poverty could more speedily and better be resolved if they were no longer simply used as arguments by politicians to further their party's future and their careers within it.

Yours faithfully,


London, EC2

8 February