Sunday, February 10, 2008

A return to the workhouse?

In the 1920s, the workhouse uniform for able-bodied women was generally a shapeless, blue-and-white-striped frock reaching to the ankles, with a smock over.

© St James Hospital, Leeds.

Social housing tenants should be required to seek work, with the threat that they could lose their homes if they fail to comply, said Britain's new housing minister.

Now Caroline Flint -- in office for only about a month -- finds herself engulfed in controversy.

Shelter, the housing charity, accused her of "wanting to return Britain’s unemployed to the workhouse." Crisis, the Child Poverty Action Group and the National Housing Federation all attacked the idea.

"Ms Flint should be looking to address the problems of poverty, rather than driving the poor in society back into the workhouse," said Cora Carter, chairman of Kirklees Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations.

Read the Financial Times report here.

The workhouse conjures up the grim world of Oliver Twist, but its story is a fascinating mix of social history, politics, economics and architecture. Read more at Peter Higginbotham's web site The Workhouse.

By the way, Florida requires welfare recipients to start working right away, even though federal law says they must start working no later than two years after they first receive welfare.


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