Category Archives: DWP

Why Falling Unemployment Can Be Bad News For Everyone

economic-inactivity

Economic inactivity by reason (aged 16 to 64)

More people are in work than ever before claim the DWP triumphantly as the unemployment figures show another huge rise in self-employment.  Whether these people are making any money, or whether they are pensioners with an ebay hobby, does not seem to matter as the Tories attempt to spin that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are working.

Yet all that has happened is the economy has started to grow a bit and so unemployment has fallen a bit.  This is what always happens when economies start to grow – and due to a rising population there are almost always more people in work than ever before unless there is a severe economic downturn.  It matters barely at all what governments do to unemployed people – in a recession unemployment goes up, and in a recovery it goes down.  This is because unemployed people are not responsible for unemployment, despite the multi-billion pound welfare-to-work scam pretending that they are.

Falling unemployment may be good for the country’s economy, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good thing for the people who actually live and work here.  The key to this lies in the figures for Economic Inactivity, currently at its lowest level since 1990 according to the ONS.  This is seen by politicians of all parties as a good thing.  A closer look reveals that is far from the case.

The largest group of people who are economically inactive are those looking after a family, many who will share in their partner’s salary.  The second largest group is students, whilst there are also 1.31 million people who have been lucky enough to retire before reaching pensionable age.  The other groups include those who are long term sick, whose numbers remain fairly stable, and a million or so ‘other’ – students on a gap year perhaps, or volunteers who can afford not to claim benefits.

If the number of people who are ‘Economically Inactive’ is falling, and it is, sharply, then that means less young people who can afford to be students.  It means less parents being able to afford to stay at home with young children, and less people able to afford to take early retirement.  This is not good news if you happen to be one of those people, in fact it’s a bit shit.

What it also means is that these often more experienced workers remaining in, or rejoining the workforce, are crowding out those who are unemployed and desperate to find a job.  This is almost certainly one reason why despite dubious claims that over a million new jobs have been created,  unemployment stood at 2.46 million in the first period after this Government weren’t elected and has since fallen to just 2.24 million.  It could also explain why the number of people unemployed over 12 months was 796,000 in August 2010 and after four years of welfare reforms, workfare and sanctions aimed at this group the number has actually risen to 807,000.

A fall in Economic Inactivity really represents a downward shift in the living standards of everyone.  Those who are slightly better off are having to work longer and harder, and those at the bottom are more marginalised than ever.  It’s good news for the bosses though, as more people are chasing every job and driving down wages for us all.  And for Tories -  who can’t bear the thought of a pleb enjoying an early retirement when there’s still a few years of profit to be extracted from their work – it’s the best news of all.

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DWP Block Report To Cover Up Work Programme Shambles

IDS-slugThe DWP are refusing to release an evaluation of the floundering £6 billion pound Work Programme despite the report having recently featured on Channel 4 news.

The evaluation is believed to be critical of the Work Programme and in particular benefit sanctions, warning that they found: “no conclusive evidence that sanctions were changing job search behaviour or increasing job entry rates.”

A Freedom of Information request asking to see the report has today been refused by the DWP on the grounds that they plan to publish it at an unspecified later date (PDF).  The evaluation was scheduled to be released in the Summer of last year.

This is not the first time the DWP have treated Freedom of Information (FOI) rules with contempt in a shoddy effort to conceal what’s really going on, and wrong, with the department.  A ruling by the Information Commissioner;s Office (ICO) ordering the release of the names of charities benefiting from free labour under the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme has been completely ignored.  A second ICO ruling (PDF) ordering the DWP to confirm whether a charity was involved in workfare was issued last month, and has so far been snubbed.  The DWP were found in breach of the FOI again (PDF) at the end of last month when they were slammed in a ruling for not taking the reasonable steps required to clarify another request relating to Mandatory Work Activity.

The DWP have claimed that if the public were allowed to know who is using workfare then the scheme might collapse.  They pretend this would stop people benefiting from the ‘disciplines’ that workfare offers and may even harm the economy.  After all, if people knew that household names such as The Salvation Army, the YMCA, Groundwork and The Conservation Volunteers were all forcing people to work without pay then they might decide these charities were a bunch of wankers and never give them a penny again.

There is no such excuse for refusing to release an evaluation into the Work Programme however – a report produced with our money.  The only person likely to look like a wanker if people see this document is Iain Duncan Smith himself who is still pretending how wonderful the Work Programme is.  The Work Programme statistics already show the scheme is a disaster and steadily getting worse. No doubt the DWP hope they can hide just how much of a wanker Iain Duncan Smith actually is until after the next election.  But it’s too late.  Everybody knows.

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Virgin Give The Game Away: Unpaid Worker Schemes Bring Corporate And Commercial Opportunities

traineeshipsVirgin Media are the latest company to sacrifice their public image to benefit from unpaid workers on Government schemes.  According to the company, employing young people on Traineeships and paying them nothing can bring “corporate and commercial opportunities”.

The shocking admission comes in a leaflet advertising the Traineeship programme (pdf), which can involve up to six months work without pay.  They have been designed to ‘prepare’ young people for an ‘apprenticeship’ at below the minimum wage and participants are often not even offered one of these at the end of the scheme.  Instead they are given an ‘exit interview’ to pat them on the heads for all their unpaid work.

As pointed out by @boycottworkfare, unpaid work on Traineeships is not yet mandatory, although no doubt many Jobcentre advisors will try and pretend they are.  They may soon be right.  George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement that in future people under the age of 21 who refuse some form of workfare in the corporate sector will be sent on an even longer workfare scheme with a charity instead.  With the latest workfare scheme appearing to be in chaos, it remains to be seen if this particular threat will ever be fully carried out.

In the meantime Virgin Media seem quite happy with the new arrangements and say they will be recruiting unpaid workers on an ongoing basis.  This is hardly surprising, according to the leaflet Traineeships were ‘developed  in response to business needs’ and can help ‘build the workforce required for business success’.  Virgin Media Loves not paying wages and that’s the name of their new twitter campaign.  Let them know what you think @VMLoves

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Just For The Record, The WCA Is Not Being Scrapped, Yet

atoskillsgrafThe report in The Daily Record which claims that Atos style assessments for sickness and disability benefits are to be scrapped should sadly be treated with caution.

There is no doubt that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is in chaos, after the announcement from Atos that they are pulling out of the contract to run the tests.  This has led to a predictable tantrum from Iain Duncan Smith, who is now running round telling everyone he was going to dump Atos anyway and is threatening them with huge fines.  This is the same Atos that he is dependent on to sort out the shabby assessments for Personal Independence Payments, which are currently also mired in chaos.  But there has been no announcement as yet that the WCA is to be scrapped, and the report the Daily Record’s story seems to be based on does not call for this.

The story refers to the recently published response by the Government to the review of the Work Capability Assessment carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield.  The Government have accepted all but one of the recommendations in this report, which includes agreeing to carry out an impact assessment into whether in some cases a decision could be made without a face to face assessment.

Litchfield recommends: “The Department carries out a full impact assessment on an alternative process whereby DWP Decision Makers triage cases” and that “where suitable and sufficient evidence is available on paper and a face-to-face assessment would provide no additional value, the Department should make a decision without referral to its HAP;”

The Government have responded: “DWP will carry out the recommended impact assessment to inform decisions about if and how triage of cases by Decision Makers might be implemented.”

So unless the Daily Record know something that no-one else does, and if they do urgent clarification is required, that unfortunately, appears to be it.  An impact assessment into whether in some cases a face to face assessment is not required – as in fact already happens in some cases – will be carried out.  A small step forward perhaps but a long way from the claim that assessments are set to be scrapped.  Atos still kills, for now at least.

Some of Litchfield’s recommendations will be welcomed, such as a six month time limit before someone who has recently won an appeal against a WCA decision can be called for re-assessment.  Others are more dubious, including the idea of involving the Government’s snake oil salesmen, the nudge unit, in the drafting of correspondence sent to claimants about the WCA.

Perhaps the most telling part of the Government’s response to this review is the recommendation that is rejected.  Litchfield makes the fairly reasonable suggestion that so-called Healthcare Professionals carrying out assessments of people with mental health problems should have: “suitable and sufficient previous experience of dealing with people with mental health problems”.

We’re not having that say the DWP, who have deferred agreement on this point complaining that they don’t know what suitable and sufficient means.

All of the recommendations and the Government’s response can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/296328/wca-review-year-4-response.pdf

Litchfield’s initial report is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265351/work-capability-assessment-year-4-paul-litchfield.pdf

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Who The Fuck Does Esther McVey Think She Is?

Esther-McVey-2942256Newly unemployed people are to be treated as benefit scroungers from the first day of their claim the Minister for Unemployment Esther Mcvey announced today.

In a breath-takingly patronising statement McVey rants that from the end of the month newly unemployed people will be forced to show “they are taking their search for work seriously” before becoming eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance.  This will mean producing a CV and signing up for the shambolic Universal Jobmatch – the Government job search site that is a laughing stock amongst claimants, employers and recruitment professionals alike.

This will be treating those recently made redundant  as ‘adults’ according to the minister, who clearly thinks that unemployed people are children.  Those facing these new measures will include people who have worked for years, unlike pampered posh girl McVey who bummed around in her Dad’s company for a while before launching a less than memorable television career.  Yet here she is lecturing people who’ve recently had real jobs about how to make themselves ‘prepared and enthusiastic’ to avoid the ‘one way street to benefits’.

The changes are being introduced despite the Government’s own statistics showing that 75% of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance are back in work within six months.  In contrast the number of people who have been unemployed over one year currently stands at 828,000, up from 757,000 in May 2010 when this Government weren’t elected – and this figure was the highest since May 1997.

With long-term unemployment soaring, and the Work Programme seemingly making things worse, the DWP are turning their attention to those who have just lost their jobs in a shoddy attempt to grab the headlines.  Once there was a time when governments pretended to care about people who had been made redundant.  Now they are more interested in smearing them as potential scroungers and forcing them into demeaning interrogations with Jobcentre busy-bodies in case they are secretly feckless.

This is what this Government really thinks of so-called hard working people.  Get laid off, for any reason, and you are instantly transformed into benefit scum in the eyes of Esther McVey.

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Housing Crisis, What Housing Crisis? Says Homelessness Charity Boss Jeremy Swain

killing-with-kindnessAn astonishing post from the boss of one of London’s largest housing charities shows how those paid a small fortune to represent homeless people are completely out of touch with the reality that their so-called ‘service users’ face.

Jeremy Swain is the boss of Thames Reach, one of the largest providers of emergency and temporary accommodation for single homeless people in London and the South East.  Recently he attended a meeting with Unemployment Minister Esther McVey, along with other highly paid charity chief executives and civil servants.

In his write up of this cosy affair you might have thought that the boss of a charity which works with the homeless people would tear into the Minister about the bedroom tax, the benefit cap or the current brutal benefit sanctioning regime. Possibly he might have mentioned that Boris Johnson’s housing strategy for London contains virtually no provision for desperately needed social housing.  He might even have offered a vicious condemnation of the current appalling policies aimed at people sleeping on the streets which amount to little more than police harassment of those without a home.  Surely at least he would mention soaring rents which are currently making much of the South East unaffordable for people on low incomes, or changes to housing benefits which force people under 35 to try and find a room in a shared house rather than self-contained accommodation.

But instead of this Jeremy writes on the Inside Housing website* that he is  concerned that parts of the homelessness industry “doggedly refuses to acknowledge successes” or makes it an “an article of faith that these are the worst of times” which may even “lead us into unquestioningly believing this to be true”.   There is no mention at all of the vicious welfare reforms which have already taken place, or of the carnage that is yet to come.

The latest rough sleeping figures show a shocking 37% leap in the number of people on the streets since this Government weren’t elected.  Statutory homelessness, which in practice largely means homeless families, remains at a relentlessly high level, despite changes to the law which means families can now be fobbed off into the expensive and insecure private sector rather than qualifying for social housing.  Jeremy is right that the number of families in temporary accommodation has fallen slightly since the obscene highs that were seen at times under the Labour Government.  But really, so fucking what.  As the Bedroom Tax begins to bite, and Discretionary Housing Payments run dry then things are set to get much worse, possibly even than we can yet imagine.

For those on low incomes, who are often in insecure housing to begin with, a crisis is taking place, but not one that will ever affect Jeremy’s pay packet.  Benefits are being stopped or sanctioned for the most trivial of reasons.  Atos assessments are driving people into both desperate poverty and ongoing despair.  Plans to strip Disability Living Allowance from a fifth of disabled people will only make things far worse, as will further cuts to housing benefits which will now shrink on an annual basis.  And throughout this onslaught a hate-filled campaign has emanated from the DWP and Esther McVey herself which has led to the most marginalised groups – exactly the type of people Thames Reach work with – being abused in both the national press and the streets.

The sad truth is that at heart Jeremy Swain and Esther McVey are both committed to the idea that poverty is a personal failing rather than a structural consequence of a capitalist economy.  That’s why Swain has remained obsessed with making Special Brew or cider more expensive, rather than tackling the causes of why so many people are drinking themselves to death.  Just like Iain Duncan Smith, Swain believes making poor people even poorer is the only way to bring them into line.

This is why he was also happy to lend Thames Reach’s name to the Killing With Kindness campaign which re-emerged last year and warned “well meaning people” not to give money to beggars because they might spend it on drugs.  In a breath-takingly nasty move, this campaign was launched over the Christmas period.  Give the money to us instead said Thames Reach, so Jeremy Swain can continue stuffing vol-au-vents down his neck and sucking up to murderous monsters like Esther McVey.  There’s a good living to be made from homeless people for charity chief executives after all.  And no need to derail the gravy train, and risk those lucrative Government contracts, by telling DWP ministers what you really think of their vile behaviour.

*you need to register to read it, but it’s free.

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Take Action Against The Green Charities Profiteering From Workfare

groundworkuk-ruining-livesFrom Boycott Workfare

Environmental charities The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and Groundwork UK are two of the biggest workfare exploiters in the UK.  Both accept forced labour placements, often to carry out hard, outdoor, physical work, and both have lucrative contracts to manage workfare schemes

Both charities have been invited by the DWP to help run Community Work Placements – the upcoming mass workfare scheme which involves a shocking 780 hours of unpaid work.  As some more enlightened charities have stated these placements are not volunteering.  Anyone who refuses one of these unpaid positions will face brutal benefit sanctions.

Groundwork receive huge amounts of tax payer’s money already from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the National Lottery.  Unlike other organisations they have remained silent about their use of forced labour despite repeated criticism on social media.  With the Government paying their bills, they are more like a workfare Quango than a real charity.

Both charities however do not just rely on the government funding to survive, but also the goodwill of genuine volunteers, community groups and partners.  As part of the week of action, let’s make sure everyone knows about their dirty little workfare secrets.

Groundwork are on twitter @groundworkuk and facebook them here You can email them at: info@groundwork.org.uk
Tel: 0121 236 8565

Groundwork have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest visit: http://www.groundwork.org.uk/Page/map

The Conservation Volunteers are on twitter @TCVtweets and facebook them here

Email them at: information@tcv.org.uk
Tel: 01302 388 883

To find your local TCV office visit this website

But please note: Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive

For the latest news on the week of action against workfare visit:  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3436

Sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exception

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Iain Duncan Smith Should Be Put On Trial Over The Work Capability Assessment Deaths

atos_kills_bannerThe tragic death of severely unwell Mark Wood, who died of malnutrition just five months after he was found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and the DWP, was not just ‘wrong’ as the Government have today admitted – it was grossly negligent.  Whether this negligence was criminal must be urgently investigated.

Morally, and almost certainly legally, the DWP have a duty of care when making decisions which can potentially devastate the lives of those called  ‘vulnerable adults’ by care professionals.  The Work Capability Assessment, which led to the death of Mark Wood, has already been found unfair for people with mental health conditions in the courts.  Instead of halting the assessments based on this judgement, Iain Duncan Smith has brushed it aside – convinced he knows better than the courts, the medical establishment and the thousands of sick and disabled people themselves driven to despair by the current system.

Mark Wood’s death is far from the first linked to welfare reforms.  A recent report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (PDF) highlighted another suicide which they found was directly linked to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).  In a damning report, the charity surveyed 56 psychiatrists who had treated patients facing one of these crude, computer based assessments.  Their findings are both horrifying and desperately sad:

“85% of the 52 respondents to this question told us about an increased frequency of appointments. 65% had at least one patient who required an increased dose of medication and 35% reported at least one patient who had changed medication. 40% had at least one patient who had self-harmed after the WCA. 13% of respondents reported that a patient had attempted suicide and 4% (two RMOs) stated that a patient had taken his/her own life. 35% said that at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the WCA and 4% told us about a patient being detained under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.”

The Work Capability Assessment must be brought to an immediate halt.  Even the company in charge, the notorious Atos, finally seem to have realised this, confirming this week they will pull out of the contract early.  This is the only way to stop any more deaths, and it needs to happen now, as in this week.  Otherwise more people will die.

It is no longer enough however to call just for the Government to scrap every aspect of the bungled and brutal welfare reforms that are destroying so many lives.  People are dying in one of the richest countries in the world as a direct result of this horrifying attack on the very poorest people.  The politicians in charge know this, but are happy to let these deaths continue as part of the ideologically driven obsession with proving that people on benefits are scroungers or fakes and that unemployment is caused by unemployed people.

According to the Daily Mail, David Cameron has backed an urgent review into the Work Capability Assessment.  This review should not just look into the failures in the process but assess whether negligence has taken place and if so who is culpable and whether criminal charges can be brought.  If Iain Duncan Smith. Atos or the DWP, can be put on trial over these shameful deaths it will not bring anyone back.  But at the very least it will send a message to every politician, today and long into the future, that the UK’s legal system will not tolerate reckless cost-cutting experiments that put human lives at risk.

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Week Of Action Against Workfare Begins: Please Spread The Word!

boycott-workfare-week-of-actionJoin the online action today against workfare exploiters @SUBWAYUKIreland in solidarity with #fastfoodrights. Tell them what you think on facebook, or for more info go to: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3436

The Week of Action Against Workfare begins today with actions across the UK and online scheduled over the next seven days.

The week has been called in response to mass unpaid work schemes such as Traineeships and comes in the month that Community Work Placements are set to be launched.  These mandatory placements will mean unemployed people forced to work in at charities and in so-called community organisations for a period of six months.

In a huge embarrassment for Iain Duncan Smith, workfare’s biggest supporters The Salvation Army have already announced that this scheme is too exploitative even for them to stomach.  The charity had been invited by the DWP to bid for a lucrative sub-contract to administer the placements.  Other charities are also rumoured to be pulling out of the scheme – watch this space or keep an eye on Boycott Workfare’s website and twitter feed @boycottworkfare.

Protests and actions are already planned this week in Cardiff (tomorrow and on Friday April 4th) , Edinburgh, Liverpool, Brighton, Swansea and Glasgow.  Feel free to post details of additional events in the comments.

Online events will also be taking place throughout the week, I’ll try post them here but visit Boycott Workfare’s website for the latest news and join the facebook page for the week of events.

Please share, blog and tweet details of all events.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Scam-Ridden Universal Jobmatch Just Fine Says Monster Boss As He Laughs All The Way To The Bank

untick-ujThe breath-taking arrogance of private sector contractors has been laid bare today with the publication of a letter from the CEO of Monster Jobs defending the shambolic Universal Jobmatch website.

Universal Jobmatch is the scandal-hit website which unemployed people are forced to use to look for work.  Monster Jobs were paid almost £20 million to create the site which recently won a ‘worst website’ award at an industry event.  According to The Guardian, Universal Jobmatch is set to be scrapped when Monster’s contract expires in 2016.

This is not the case pleads Monster boss Sal Iannuzzi, in the joint statement co-written with Head of Jobcentre Plus Neil Couling.  The website is ‘here to stay’ he claims.  What’s more it is a ‘powerful tool’  and a ‘secure, and effective recruitment site’, whilst criticisms are based on ‘misrepresentation’.

The letter highlights two main areas of concern, the huge number of bogus jobs posted to the site and the number of duplicate or inappropriate vacancies.  According to Monster, the previous government jobs website also suffered from these problems, with 145 scams acted on in 2012.  11,000 fake jobs were recently removed from Universal Jobmatch due to just one scammer uncovered by a Channel 4 News investigation.  Around 200,000 job vacancies have disappeared from the site over the last couple of months when opportunistic politicians woke up to the reality of this scandalous abuse of public money.

Duplicate jobs remain an ongoing problem.  Recently over 100 adverts appeared for the same ‘four or five’ vacancies.  Many of these duplicate adverts were posted by Monster themselves.  These bastards must think we’re fucking idiots if they expect us to believe this is anything other than the greatest online rip off yet.

Perhaps the most laughable part of the statement is the bizarre claim that “Universal Jobmatch puts all of our customers on an equal footing with everyone else seeking a new job in the UK”.  Sal Iannuzzi seems to think that unemployed people were incapable of using the huge array of other recruitment websites- like the one Monster already run -  until Iain Duncan Smith came out with the whacky idea that perhaps you can find jobs on the internet nowadays.

The truth is that Universal Jobmatch was not developed to help people find work, but as a means of enforcing ‘conditionality’ for unemployment benefits on the cheap.  Iain Duncan Smith had hoped that claimants could be remotely monitored for 35 hours a week as they pointlessly clicked through the range of spam, scam and spoof vacancies that the website is so famous for.

Unfortunately for the Secretary of State he didn’t bother to check the law first.  Under data protection rules you cannot be forced to tick the box giving the Jobcentre access to your account and due to laws on cookies, you can only be forced to use the website on Jobcentre computers (PDF)*.  You can also untick the box in the picture above which gives consent for the DWP to send you emails.  There is no requirement to tell the Jobcentre if you have a home computer, tablet or smart phone.

For once in their miserable lives, the DWP are correct when they say it would be ‘irresponsible’ not to respond to cultural shifts in the way that people look for work in the ‘digital age’.  So no doubt the Jobcentre will welcome the launch of Universal Automation, the app which carries out jobsearch on Universal Jobmatch automatically.  This type of service is without doubt the future of online recruitment and it allows claimants the chance to take a break from their ‘work related activity’ and do something useful instead.  Like try and find work using one of the many other, better online job sites.

These bastards are openly laughing at us now.  You can tell Monster Jobs what you think of their joke website @Monster_UK.

For the latest updated leaflet on Universal Jobmatch rights visit: http://refuted.org.uk/2014/03/26/jobmatchrights/

*There are regular reports of people being threatened with sanctions if they refuse to tick the box allowing the Jobcentre to snoop on their accounts.  The best advice comes as ever from @refuted, which is to ask for this request to be made in writing, so you don’t forget.  If this type of harassment persists ask to speak to the Jobcentre manager.  For advice on making a complaint about the behaviour of Jobcentre staff visit: https://www.gov.uk/complain-jobcentre-plus

For advice on appealing or disputing a sanction decision go to: http://refuted.org.uk/2013/10/27/appeals/

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