Middlesbrough study reveals generations of welfare scroungers are a myth

Professor Robert MacDonald and Professor Tracy Shildrick, from Teesside University

Professor Robert MacDonald and Professor Tracy Shildrick, from Teesside University

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Health & Education Editor

THE idea that children, parents and grandparents live a life on benefits in workless families is untrue, according to researchers.

The report - based on extensive research in Middlesbrough and Glasgow - examined whether there really are three generations of families who have never worked and whether unemployment in families can be explained by a so-called 'culture of worklessness' - by people's attitudes and behaviour.

Professors Robert MacDonald and Tracy Shildrick from Teesside University and Andy Furlong from Glasgow University, carried out intensive fieldwork but were unable to find families with three generations in which no-one had ever worked.

Workless parents were keen for their children to do better than they had, and actively tried to help them find jobs.

The working-age children of these families remained committed to conventional values about work as part of a normal transition to adulthood. They were keen to avoid the poverty, worklessness and other problems experienced by their parents.

Prof MacDonald explained: "Even two generations of complete worklessness in the same family is a very rare phenomenon.

"We found that families experiencing long-term unemployment remained committed to the value of the work and preferred to be in jobs rather than on benefits."

Prof Shildrick added: "There was no evidence of a culture of worklessness; no evidence people didn't want to work and were happy to be dependent on welfare. In fact, workless parents were keen that their children do better than they had and actively helped them to find jobs."

The key conclusion of the report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is that policy makers should abandon theories of 'cultures of worklessness' and the policies that flow from them - which include reforming benefit systems.

Instead, they should concentrate on providing long-term, secure jobs with good pay to help people move away from poverty.

Patrick Richards, 49, from Middlesbrough, who lost jobs because of problems with his health, said employment "gives your whole day some sort of order...if you are just sat around it can be frustrating."

Roy Cunningham, 50, from Middlesbrough, who had been out of work for several years because of a serious disability, said: "What I want is for my family to have jobs. They're not asking for anything big, they are not being greedy."

Professor Shildrick explained: "Better paid and more lasting jobs - and a welfare system that promises social security not greater insecurity - would have done much to improve our interviewees' lives."

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