Readers have their say on the furore over the government failure to provide free school meals during the holidays.
As many politicians once again demonstrate that they are out of touch with ordinary people by voting against providing free school meals in holidays, is now the time to suggest that all politicians should undertake a series of ‘internships’ to build their knowledge and experience before they vote on matters that affect the public?
My proposal would be for each and every politician to undertake one week of ‘work experience’ each year during one of their recesses, where they would step outside of the Westminster bubble and back into real life. There would be a wide range of experiences across all sectors – working in a primary school, following a GP, living on benefits, working on a farm or in a small business, preferably alongside their constituents in their local community.
Further, by the time they get to be ministers one might hope that they have built a portfolio of experience relevant to their ministerial responsibilities, so that an education minister, might have worked in a school, shadowed a headteacher or studied with a 16- or 17-year-old; or a health minister might have worked in A&E, shadowed a nurse or seen how a person copes with chronic illness or disability.
I think people would welcome the opportunity to show politicians what ‘real life’ is like and I don’t think it would be difficult or costly to organise. In subsequent elections, voters would be able to judge the candidates on their willingness to understand their own lives.
We hear a lot about children going hungry, but why is this happening when the government says that most state benefit claimants are already working?
The problem is simply that for years, the wages of retail employees, adult care workers and catering staff etc have increasingly fallen below the increases of others. Employees in the big retail stores are often forced to work most Saturdays, Sundays, bank holidays and many evenings, yet often for the national minimum wage for weekdays.
Creating a graded percentage increase for all Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday work with the going rate being +50% for Saturdays and double time for Sundays and bank holidays would lift thousands of the poorest workers out of poverty and above the benefits limit.
This would save the state indirectly subsidising multi-millionaire bosses. That makes common sense but that is lacking in modern Britain.
Rev. Geoffrey Squire.
Youthlink (England & Wales)
One of Marcus Rashford’s skills, shared by most top sports stars, is an ability to anticipate. He knows, instinctively but also through experience, when to make a run, when to get on the blind side of his marker, where the ball is most likely to end up. These are spur-of-the-moment decisions. Good anticipation is a key indicator of sporting intelligence.
If only the same level of skill and intelligence in anticipation of the results of certain actions were discernible in our government. Schools reopening, students going back to universities, lots of people moving around the country on staycations, eat out to help out – but apparently, to quote Dido Harding, nobody could have foreseen the resulting sudden increase in coronavirus cases.
Provide business and income support to areas in tier three, but only think about doing something for tier two when it becomes obvious that business and employees have already suffered. Underestimate the importance of the integrity of the single market to the EU, and fail to anticipate its red lines for a trade deal. Fail to acknowledge, let alone anticipate, the economic impact of Brexit alongside that of Covid. Fail to anticipate the impact of supporting Dominic Cummings on people’s willingness to follow the rules.
Quite apart from their disgraceful rejection of Rashford’s pleas for free school meal vouchers to continue during school holidays, their inability to match another of his key skill sets indicates a government flying by the seat of its pants and being forced into drastic, spur-of-the-moment, divide-and-rule crisis management. So much for the superforecasters.
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