New psychoactive substances are untested and can be dangerous. They have been connected to paranoia, psychosis, and seizures. Fatalities related to legal highs are growing at an alarming rate and more and more substances are being produced. No sooner is a substance outlawed than a new chemical formulation is synthesised, often more dangerous than the last.
The Bill will drive the market underground and criminalise thousands of young people but evidence suggests it won’t curb use. It does not differentiate between dangerous substances and those which are scientifically proven to be harmless. A health and education based approach which grades drugs according to their risks would be far more effective and credible.
This Bill will incentivise work, ensuring that it pays to work rather than depending on benefits. 18-21 year-olds who have been out of work for more than six months will be required to participate in an apprenticeship or a community work placement or training in order to receive their benefits. What’s more, the creation of 2 million new jobs will further help young people move into employment. In encouraging young people to earn or learn, the Bill will reduce benefit dependency. With two more million people now in work and less people claiming unemployment benefits, this Bill will ultimately build on the government’s programme of welfare reform.
This Bill will only save £1.5 billion of the total £12 billion welfare cuts that Osborne has promised to make. The Bill is a politically and ideologically motivated move. While many assume that unemployment benefits drain public spending, the reality is very different. Over 1/2 of welfare spending is on pensions, which account for 54% of the £207 billion budgeted for benefits and tax credits. However, Pensioners’ benefits are protected from the cuts. In freezing and capping working-age benefits this Bill will push the most vulnerable in society into crisis.
The Bill will help families with the cost of childcare and support mums and dads in work. Ministers say up to 600,000 families will eventually benefit from the move, worth around £2,500 a year on top of the £2,500 they can already save from existing free childcare offers. Under the proposals, parents in England will be entitled to up to 30 hours a week of free childcare for their three and four year olds, for 38 weeks a year. That is double their current allowance of 15 hours per week.
Critics say the current free childcare scheme is severely underfunded and are unsure how further free childcare will be paid for. The Pre-school Learning Alliance conducted research that revealed that childcare providers are already facing funding shortfalls of around 20%. Also the 30 free hours only applies to children of parents who are both working, or single parents, and excludes stay-at-home parents. Both parents must be working for more than eight hours a week to qualify. Critics worry that this is not fair in certain situations.