THE UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE BOARD
[To the Editor of TILE SPECTATOR.] Sia,—When the Unemployment Assistance Board was formed, the local Means Test Committee were told that their duties would probably end on January 7th. Some doubt, however, Was expressed as to whether the new Board would be ready to take over on the appointed day. The last meeting of the local Means Test Committee was on January 2nd, at which the officials informed us that this would be our last meeting, as the Board was now ready to take over our duties.
After the conclusion of business, the Chairman thanked the members for the work that they had done since the Conunittee was formed, and we dissolved automatically. Many problems arose at each meeting, and the members did their best in trying to carry out the wishes of Parliament.
In the early days, meetings of the Committee were prolonged far into the night, but during the last two years, one afternoon weekly was ample in which to deal with all cases. In my opinion it was a regrettable step on the part of the department concerned to abolish all these Committees when bringing in the new scheme. They should have been kept in being, in an advisory capacity, to help in the change over to the new system. Men and women of experience had given much time and care to the special problems involved, and they have been dispensed with. This is a serious loss to the community. From every point of view it would be advisable to reform these Committees, and ask them to help for at least three months to inaugurate the new method of dealing with the unemployed, and to act as advisory committees for a further period of three months.
The problems arc human ones, and officials, however well- meaning their intentions, cannot at one stroke of the pen, fulfil the part played by Committees. Difficulties for the future working of the scheme have been made without reason, and the prestige of the National Government has suffered considerably.
The payments to be made under the Board as originally passed by Parliament, were on a more generous scale in every particular with the exception of rent allowances than that worked by the Means Test Committees. The question of rent allowances could have been adjusted when the full scheme had been in working order for a short time.
The estimates of expenditure under the new scheme were three million pounds extra compared with the old scale, whilst five millions were to be provided for taking over the able-bodied unemployed from March 1st. These figures are much too low. Anyone with experience of Public Assistance work would put the extra expense at nearer 18 millions than the 8 millions stated by the Government.
To make the proposed scheme workable, the Means Test Committees should be reconstituted at once for a period of three months in order to help the scheme on its way.
The Appeals Tribunals were constituted some time ago, but it is doubtful whether any of them have, as yet, been called upon to meet. As far as I am aware no Advisory Committees have yet been constituted.
The whole position is chaotic, and in the meantime the position of the National Government is suffering a severe set-back. Its intentions were good, but the practical applica- tion of those intentions has created much misgiving in the minds of those who have tried to help the unemployed, whether under the Means Test or under Public Assistance.—I am, Sir,