The Chief Executive of ERSA, the trade body established to lie on behalf of the welfare to work industry, has said that benefit sanctions are ‘political’ and called for a better evidence base for the current regime.
Kirsty McHugh made the comments in an interview with Inside Housing magazine discussing the number of homelessness charities and Housing Associations that have ended their involvement with Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme. According to McHugh:
“(Work Programme) Providers want to be able to make a judgement themselves as to whether there is good reason why a client has or hasn’t broken the conditions of their benefit. But right now the system does not allow this.
“For political reasons, this government likes a “stick”, but I think we need a better evidence base.”
This flies in the face of the DWP’s current position, which is that benefit sanctions ‘help’ people gain work, even giving them a ‘welcome jolt’. In reality, as those involced in the Work Programme know only too well, they often destroy people’s chances of finding a job as those sanctioned sink into poverty, destitution and ill health.
Inside Housing also spoke to the boss of SHP – the homelessness charity who pulled out of the Work Programme saying that sanctions were causing people to beg and steal to survive. Chef Executive Liz Rutherford gives a vivid description of the type of people who face losing their benefits: “They might be people who were sleeping rough, or with severe mental health difficulties or people with an addiction. They were people who basically needed to deal with these [issues] before looking for work.”
This sentiment is even shared by the odious Bromford Group, the welfare reform loving housing association who recently quit the Work Programme after whining that they weren’t making enough money out of it. According to John Wade, boss of Bromford Support, they were having people referrd to them that weren’t expected to get a job ‘in a million years’ by the welfare-to-work companies running the scheme.
Both SHP and Bromford have spotted the huge scam that underpins the welfare-to-work industry. As SHP point out there is an “‘assumption that something like 30% of those referred to the Work Programme will get a job anyway” whilst Bromford say: “[Prime contractors] would have already modelled, for example, that, if they got 28% of every 100 people into work, then they’ve done fine [as a return on their investment].”
In other words, the welfare-to-work companies represented by ERSA can do precisely fuck all and still get paid billions of our money. Their Chief Executive even admits this is going on, warning that there is a danger people on the sickness and disability benefit ESA are being ‘parked by the system’.
ERSA’s criticisms of the Work Programme show an industry panicking that the game might be up as the dreadful performance of the scheme has shined new light on their grubby little racket. But no matter what they plead, they are fully culpable for the horrific suffering that benefit sanctions have inflicted, often on some of the most marginalised people in society.
The welfare-to-work industry was born with the emergence of Tony Blair’s New Deal, the first attempt at mass workfare and compulsory training for those over 18. For the first time large companies like Reed and Manpower were given eye-watering sums of money to harass unemployed people by forcing them into endless pointless activity. The so-called training they offered was so sub-standard that the only way the government could make people attend was by threatening to take their benefits away. As such the welfare-to-work sector has always been dependent on benefit sanctions for its survival. Their fake concern now is merely them attempting to be given even more power over claimants lives by pleading that they should make the decision about who gets sanctioned, not the Jobcentre. They will want more money for this responsibility of course. The tragedy is that the DWP is currently being run by such a bunch of fucking idiots that they will probably get it.
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