This week the Government has been announcing the new Youth Contract, the latest magical wheeze aimed at reducing youth unemployment. It’s no surprise that Chris Grayling has chosen to hide behind Nick Clegg during the fanfare as the whole expensive charade is little more than a mass give away to private companies.
Workfare and benefit sanctions are at the heart of the scheme, which will do little to reduce youth unemployment and may actually even increase it. Not content with destroying the educational chances of a generation, Nick Clegg is now trying to force young people into unpaid work at any cost.
As ever the DWP are being less than honest about how the new scheme will work. Work Experience, the workfare scheme which drew storms of protest last month, has been renamed ‘Voluntary’ Work Experience. Clegg is promising 250,000 new ‘voluntary’ placements. This will be full time unpaid work at places like ASDA and Holland & Barrett.
In reality this will be far from voluntary. There is no mention of the other Government workfare scheme, known as Mandatory Work Activity, in the DWP’s announcement. This seems strange because a recent Freedom of Information request reveals that a chunk of the £1 billion cost of Youth Contract is to be spent on this scheme, which as the name suggests is anything but voluntary.
Last year George Osborne announced that should young people refuse to go on the Work Experience, they “will be considered for mandatory work activity.” In other words if you don’t go on workfare under the voluntary scheme, you will be sent on workfare under the mandatory one. The Guardian recently revealed this is already happening.
So workfare is not only well and truly still in place, but is being hugely expanded. No wonder they got the insipid Lib Dems to take the heat.
As well as workfare the Government is promising over two grand in cash to employers should they take on a longer term unemployed individual. Whilst this will mean they are paid minimum wage, it appears that young people will have no choice about where they work. They will be mandated to work at minimum wage whilst the Government pays the bulk of their salary. Then they will be laid off after six months to make way for the next subsidised worker.
Young people will have to have been on the dole for a year before being sent on this scheme. The flaw in these plans is obvious. If companies are paid two grand to employ someone who has been unemployed for over a year then why on earth would they employ someone who hasn’t. A years unemployment is set to become the norm for young people as greedy companies hold back start dates until they become eligible for their state provided bonus. Even if this helps to bring down longer term youth unemployment it will only be at the expense of the young people leaving school or becoming newly unemployed.
But that’s okay, because they can be sent to work for free on Clegg’s crazy schemes after just six months on the dole. Temporary jobs that were once paid will be replaced with young people on workfare, waiting until they become lucrative enough for private companies to employ properly on minimum wage. For six months. And then along come a whole new crop of young people to exploit. That’s the great thing about the young, they just keep coming. The way things are going the likes of Tesco may never have to pay their workers again as this Government is so intent on throwing free labour at them.
The Youth Contract will cost £1 billion pounds, the bulk of which will be used to provide free labour for large corporations. The Government’s other flagship scheme, the Work Programme, which also includes workfare, is set to cost £5 billion. This money will line the pockets of poverty pimps like Emma Harrison, the former head of A4e now believed to be mansion shopping in any country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the UK.
George Osborne announced in his comedy budget that a further £10 billion is to be cut from the welfare budget. Not content with mass homelessness and increasingly suicides, Osborne wants to take even more from the people with least. Yet here the Government are, handing out money like sweets to private companies.
There is no evidence any of these measure are helping to reduce unemployment. Common sense dictates that many will do quite the opposite. The Government is refusing to release details of how many people have actually got proper jobs because of their ever desperate attempts at bashing benefit claimants. This new mass roll out of workfare must be resisted every bit as strongly as all other attempts to force us to work for free. It depends on major companies and charities taking up the scheme to make it work. That is where the pressure must be maintained. If they exploit us, we will shut them down.