Twelve months ago Tiffany Austin was at rock bottom. The single mother had no job, no prospects and little hope. Yet today she earns £16,000 a year as a bank teller, bursts with confidence and takes pride in the fact that she supports herself and her two sons without government handouts.
She says it’s a ‘miraculous change of fortune’ – and it is precisely the sort of result David Cameron hopes to replicate across Britain with the blitz on benefits dependency that he announced in The Mail on Sunday last week.
Among his proposals, the Prime Minister wants to axe the dole money of the long-term unemployed who do little to find work – or force them into community work. His controversial proposals are similar to the ‘workfare’ scheme in America that 24-year-old Tiffany credits with turning her life around.
‘Workfare gave me my pride and confidence back,’ she says. Under the Wisconsin Works (W-2) initiative for low-income parents, she received £416 a month, food stamps and health care while she undertook otherwise unpaid work experience.
Tiffany also received guidance in putting together a CV and improving her interview technique to help her secure a job.
‘After six months I applied for the job at the bank and got it,’ she says. ‘Now I am on no benefits at all and for the first time in my life I can see a clear career path and have hope for the future. Once you start working, whether it is paid or not, your mindset changes. You have the discipline to get up in the morning.’
W-2 was introduced in 1996 and within five years, the number of families taking handouts had dropped by 95 per cent in some parts of the state.