< Ideas Bank, < Economic wellbeing
< Regeneration, < New Start editorial index page

There are times when the advent of 24 hour news seems as helpful as a mobile phone weighed down with all manner of gadgetry.

Call me a Luddite, but isn’t the purpose of a phone to make phone calls? If I wanted to watch telly, take pictures or film something I’d have bought a television, camera and a camcorder.

Making a phone call has never been so complicated.

It’s the same with the news. The ever-growing supply of TV and internet news can make it more difficult – not less – to find out what’s going on in the world.

The reason for this particular grumpy old man rant (someone turned 35 this week) is the publication of David Freud’s report on welfare reform - a much-anticipated document and one with radical, potentially far-reaching proposals.

But what is it actually saying?

According to BBC Breakfast, it’s offering free suits and tattoo removal to help people get a job. Didn’t see that one coming.

A quick look on the internet and the news sites are screaming ‘government privatises welfare state’. Best check the telly again.

Sky News reports lone parents will be forced back into work.

Surely not, back in 1997 New Labour’s manifesto was promising a ‘positive policy’ offering advice and support.

What’s the point in 24 hour news when you’re left with no choice but to actually read the bloody thing – all 144 pages of it?

Oh well, here goes. No sign of free suits or tattoo removal. There’s mention of private sector involvement in helping the hardest to reach, but it doesn’t endorse total privatisation.

Tougher measures such as scaling back income support for lone parents sound regressive but there are lots of caveats to protect the most vulnerable.

And the main thrust is for money to be refocused to provide bespoke solutions for getting the long-term jobless into work.

This isn’t a defence of the Freud report, it’s simply a recognition that media and special interest groups can sometimes confuse and scaremonger rather than inform.

It’s also a call for responses from the regeneration sector that serve the most vulnerable and excluded rather than react to the plethora of trigger happy media coverage.

Surely we have a responsibility to look the beast in the eye before attacking it? By all means, read the Freud report and weep – but at least read it.

Austin Macauley, editor, New Start Online magazine

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