Letters: Workfare is no way to get people into real jobs


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I was horrified to read the leader defending the Government's workfare schemes ("Not slavery, work experience", 7 August).

Jobseekers allowance is a subsistence benefit; as the QC representing the two claimants in court stated, this is an entitlement provided for those who cannot find work; it is not something that must be earned.

To suggest that people should work for their benefits is to undermine the entire basis of the welfare state, which is a collective safety net for use when people need it.

The leader claims that the priority should be to get people working, but there has been a great deal of research showing that workfare schemes do not do this. In fact, they may exacerbate unemployment as paid jobs are replaced by workfare.

Izzy Köksal

London SW9

Your newspaper should be ashamed of its endorsement of the vicious sanctions placed on those relying on benefits. This scheme is not about "getting people working again" . Rather it is another punishment to appease the right-wing voters, who have a pathological hatred of the Welfare State.

What on earth can a middle-aged man or woman "learn" from stacking shelves at the local supermarket?

And where exactly are these "jobs" they are "preparing" for coming from? There are 2.6 million unemployed, with 0.45 million vacancies.

Christopher Munro


Olympic lesson: spending cuts don't work

Mark Steel's excellent article (9 August) missed one important lesson from the Olympics. We have been successful because public money has been well managed to deliver individual success.

There are real lessons in this for the wider economy, but already we hear Cameron talking about the need for more competitiveness in schools while his Sports Minister doesn't deny that sports spending will be cut. When this happens we will be back to a handful of medals earned by people who benefit from an elitist public school education, like the wider economy!

Dr Robert Sloss

Bury, Lancashire

Stan Labovitch (letter, 7 August) asserts without a shred of evidence that the majority of the rowers and spectators at last week's Olympic regatta were privately educated.

British Rowing has invested heavily to broaden the appeal of rowing to everyone as a healthy, outdoor, lifelong, fun activity and has in place talent-spotting schemes to identify likely future champions. While good facilities are beneficial, an inspirational coach is most important in nurturing a young person's talent. This does not require a purpose-built rowing course and is happening all over the country.

Since the weekend I (and I imagine every rowing club secretary) have been inundated with requests from people of all ages and backgrounds who want to learn to row. I doubt any of them are privately educated, and we wouldn't discriminate against them even if they were.

Christopher Anton

West Midlands Regional Representative, British Rowing Council, Birmingham

Beyond winning medals, a central point of the London Games is to "inspire a generation" – presumably to take up sport.

I was therefore shocked to see from your table (9 August) that £27.3m has been pumped into rowing, compared with £5.3m for triathlon and £9.6m for badminton. These two sports lend themselves to mass participation in a way I just can't see rowing doing. In most cities one can imagine people "popping out for a run/cycle". But "going for a row"? Unlikely.

Andy Weeks


Our noble Anthem

Thank goodness for one sensible letter on the National Anthem (8 August). Peter Wilkinson is right to draw our attention to Beethoven's positive assessment of "God Save the Queen", but he nevertheless feels it is "maybe time for a change". What could be the reason for changing something that works so well?

Our National Anthem dates back to the 1740s and was the earliest of its kind. If there are problems with the words they do not all have to be sung, though personally I am not offended by the second verse. One does sometimes have to "do battle" (hopefully metaphorically) with "knavish tricks". The music is superb: that wonderful drum roll and a noble melody that is very easy to sing. Perhaps those who find it dirge-like have heard dirge-like performances?

Rachel Greenwood

Bewdley, Worcestershire

Our National Anthem is indeed dreary, but we are not alone in this. Most governments have a knack of ignoring their most attractive native tunes, and perhaps the worst offenders are the Italians. As they do not wish to use one of their greatest compositions perhaps we could take it over, with lyrics adapted to reflect the current economic situation: the slaves' chorus from Nabucco.

Colum Gallivan

London SW17

Answers for ambiguity

Catherine Robinson misses the point in her letter of 8 August. She quotes the sentence "The street kids stand at the traffic lights, selling cigarettes, chewing gum and shoelaces." She says an "Oxford comma" is needed after "gum" to resolve ambiguity. But the reason the sentence does not make sense is not the omitted optional comma, but absence of a hyphen in "chewing-gum".

Andy Mort

Chesterfield, Derbyshire

I never use the Oxford comma, but then I don't expect punctuation to do the heavy lifting in a sentence. The ambiguity Catherine Robinson quotes can be resolved by one of the following: "The street kids stand at the traffic lights selling chewing gum, cigarettes and shoelaces", "The street kids stand at the traffic lights chewing gum and selling cigarettes and shoelaces" or "The street kids stand at the traffic lights chewing gum and shoelaces and selling cigarettes".

Roland Taylor

Macclesfield, Cheshire

Vote for the prat

If Boris Johnson really believes that "no one wants a prat like me as PM", how does he regard the Londoners who voted for him to be their Mayor?

Bob Jenkins

London W2

A tamer world

First, Christopher Hitchens. Then Gore Vidal. Now Robert Hughes. Scourges all. Who's left?

Peter Denton

Teddington, Middlesex