The government is paying for unemployed single parents to have massages, beauty treatments and shopping sprees to “boost their confidence” and encourage them to attend job centre appointments.
The treats, part of a programme named Big Brother after the television show, include £30 to spend on a day out, as well as lunch and childcare.
The scheme is being offered in the northeast, Greater Manchester and Hereford and Worcester. It is open to single parents over 18 who have been unemployed or on disability benefit for six months; 1,000 women and some men are believed to have taken it up.
A brochure describes it as a “free two-week scheme that will boost your self-esteem and supercharge your confidence”. Organisers said it would be “nice” if participants found work, but this was not vital.
A man from Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, whose teenage daughter works at a salon involved in the scheme, said: “She was baffled when she was told these women were getting treatment for nothing. They had their make-up done, they had facials, they had their nails filed and some even had their ears pierced.
“My daughter doesn’t get a penny from the government and will earn less than these single mothers get in benefits. What message does this send out?”
How about a message of, "let's go get knocked up and suck on the government teat"?
News of Big Brother, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the European Union, follows last week’s announcement by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of a programme to push benefits claimants into work.
Big Brother’s name was chosen not just because of the programme, but also because it was designed to offer the support a brother would offer a younger sister. The programme is said to have hit its target of getting 40% of clients in the Manchester area into jobs. In the northeast, the aim is to persuade parents to “engage” with job centres and an 88% success rate is being claimed.
Steve Munzer, head of marketing at the training consultants Inspire 2 Independence, which runs the programme on a contract with the DWP, said: “Some of these women really lack confidence. They are taken shopping to buy interview clothes, treated to a stress-relieving massage and sometimes a facial. If you can help them to feel better about themselves, then it can’t be bad. It’s nice if they find work but success is not necessarily judged on that.”
WTF is wrong with people?