Contrary to the popular misconception welfare is not something people try to get so they can just sit home and be lazy. People want to work; most human beings have an innate desire to be useful contributors. The problem lies not with the individuals, but with the system. The pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality is still deeply imbedded in our societal values and rhetoric even though the economic and interpersonal systems that made that possible have long since changed.
Part of this systemic change which was discussed at the Welfare Educational Forum that took place at the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, February 13th is the concept of job mobility, and how it doesn’t exist anymore. In times gone by one could start out in a low-wage job and, through a combination of experience, seniority, and hard work, steadily climb the ladder to a position that at the very least offered you and your family some security and often afforded a modestly comfortable life. However this is no longer the case, a department president who fifty years ago began in his company of employment as a secretary or delivery person with no education or experience, will today not give that same position to an applicant with less than an associate’s degree and three years experience (not to mention the credit check, background check, and urinalysis).
Instead of simply cutting funding, under the ludicrous argument that if we give people enough help to keep them out of poverty they will never go to work again, why don’t we take steps to make sure people can work? One of the largest barriers to employment, experience by 23% of participants served by CTWorks, was lack of a high school diploma. Yet only 7.8% of these participants are enrolled in basic education services. Why you ask? Perhaps the answer lies in another fun fact from Wednesday’s forum; CT only spends 4% of its TANF block grant on training and education, as opposed to the national average of 10%. We need to take steps to reduce the welfare rolls by reducing need, not by altering eligibility requirements. Having events in which people can discuss these issues and exchange ideas on how to improve the system are vital.
Photo by UH Manoa Library, “Ad: A good, smart boy wanted for work” June 22, 2012. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.
Photo by dr.coop, “Rule of Thirds - Three Degrees” May 4, 2010. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- 2.0 Generic License.
Written by Alessandra Burgett. Alessandra is a CWEALF intern and MSW student.