Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pay To Work Programs

Virgil Taylor, a 34 year-old Down's Syndrome sufferer and Special Olympics gold-medalist, has, for 17 years, worked for free in a restaurant associated with the town hall and used by the city councillors in Somerset England, washing dishes and wiping down tables.

Recently, though, Mr. Taylors mother received a letter from the Somerset council informing her that Mr. Taylor would no longer be able to work for free. Instead, he will now have to pay £2.50 for each of the 10 weekly sessions that he works--for a total sum of £25.00 per week.

It's an arrogant, and downright shameful, action on the part of the council--to impose a FEE on Mr. Taylor and the other handicapped folks who work in the restaurant, perhaps BECAUSE they are handicapped. The council attempted to explain their actions by saying that the fee is to "pay for transport and also lunch if care service users spend whole days at session."

Apparently the work program is part of a government care service program, in which handicapped people who might otherwise struggle to find employment, are given work, albeit without compensation. The lack of compensation has never been a problem according to Mr. Taylor's mother. "Virgil does not get paid for his time at the town hall," says Joan, his mother. "But I would never stop him going as it makes him feel useful and he is so proud when he puts his uniform on. He does this for nothing, but he loves it and that is the most important thing."

Now, though, the town council, in their arrogance, have determined that this "service" they provide--offering self-worth to the handicapped--should come at a cost. And the service that Mr. Taylor and the other handicapped employees render (namely the cleaning of tables and dishes) is not sufficient recompense; they now need to pay.

I wonder what the councillors would do if all those who now render these services at no charge were to quit? If Mr. Taylor and his colleagues were to decline the invitation to pay their £25.00 per week, who would clean the councillors tables? My guess is that they'd have to hire replacements--at a cost far greater than a lunch and a bus ride to and from work.

But, then, I shouldn't be surprised. These are, after all, politicians; and politicians, as a breed, aren't widely known for making logical and informed decisions. This, in all truth though, reaches a whole new level of pathetic arrogance. The councillors should be ashamed of themselves.

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