That an over-privileged Oxbridge twat like Chris Grayling can accuse benefit claimants of being snobs for objecting to forced labour shows how pitifully out of touch this government are.
Grayling, clearly rattled about the ongoing disintegration of the government’s welfare policy, has unleashed a torrent of lies in the Telegraph this morning.
Perhaps the most brazen is the quote: “We won’t and don’t force anyone to take a work experience placement. Where we use mandation in our welfare policies, it will be to do useful work on community projects. We will never mandate anyone to work for a big company. They wouldn’t take them if we did. “
Just one of several new workfare schemes is called the ‘Mandatory Work Programme’ (the clue’s in the name). Under this scheme, which Job Centre advisors can re-refer people onto indefinitely, claimants will be expected to work 30 hours a week, for four weeks per referral, or face benefit sanctions of three months. If they leave and then return to the placement the sanction will still remain in force. Where claimants end up working will be down to providers, almost all of whom are private sector poverty pimps. Claimants could be referred to private companies or charities alike. Whilst it is true that on this scheme the DWP has stipulated that placements should have some community benefit, one of those benefits is astonishingly ‘working towards the profit of the host organisation’.
Other workfare programmes could include working in Poundland, on the government’s ‘work experience’ scheme which has seen thousands of young people employed in High Street stores across the country. Under this scheme participants may opt out after one week, after that they must complete the full eight weeks or face sanctions. Many people say they are not informed of this cooling off period, including Cait Reilly who is currently in the middle of a court case over something Grayling claims doesn’t exist.
Lastly, the Work Programme, the government’s flagship scheme, leaves private sector providers free to mandate people wherever they want, including workfare. In fact they must, as it states in the DWP’s own providers guidance:
“Where you are providing support for JSA participants, which is work experience you must mandate participants to this activity. This is to avoid the National Minimum Wage Regulations, which will apply if JSA participants are not mandated.”*
Yet again a DWP minister is telling outright lies to defend the government’s flawed welfare policy. And he doesn’t stop there. Grayling claims that under Labour if someone did work experience they ‘lost their benefits – simple as that’. Which is a huge porky. To their absolute fucking shame Labour introduced workfare, in fact the New Deal was one of Blair’s flagship policies. In those days workfare came with a benefit top up under the subsidised employment scheme, where young people received an additional payment on top of their benefit if they worked for a private company. They also had the option of taking up full time education or training instead, or joining the doomed Environmental Task Force. This all changed with the introduction of the Flexible New Deal which saw tens of thousands of people forced into workfare at places like Primark. So in fact compulsory ‘work experience’ was very much a part of life for claimants under Labour, the only difference under the Tories is that it’s use has been massively extended, sanctions have been toughened, and now sick and disabled people will also be forced to take part.
Finally Grayling claims that 20,000 young people have found work after taking part in work experience. This may or may not be another fib, as the DWP have been dragging their feet on releasing information on exactly how many people have got jobs through their workfare schemes. Even if it is true, then the question should be asked how many of those 20,000 (which isn’t actually that many) would have got jobs anyway, without being subject to slave labour. Young people get jobs under their own steam everyday – it’s entirely possible that workfare is in fact hindering people’s job search and just providing a fat payment for poverty pimps like Emma Harrison who recently trousered £9 million on the back of bullying claimants into workfare.
One thing we do know is that despite all these schemes youth unemployment is still soaring.
Grayling claims that objection to workfare is down to ‘utterly misguided left-wing commentators, newspapers, broadcasters, trade unions and lawyers’. Yet it hasn’t been Guardian journalists bombarding Tesco’s facebook page demanding they pull out of workfare.
Grayling is correct to accuse the Guardian of hypocrisy for condemning workfare whilst offering unpaid internships. It’s also telling that the Guardian have remained somewhat quiet about the use of workfare by charities (major advertisers). But whilst it’s true that the intern system in media outlets effectively bars working class young people from becoming media luvvies, it is hardly comparable to working in Poundland or a charity shop for 30 hours a week with no prospect of a job at the end of it.
Grayling should be all too aware of this, as after Cambridge he began his career as a trainee with the BBC. A year later he became a producer. Now he owns four properties, two of which we paid for, two of the others he rents out.
That an Oxbridge toff, landlord, thief and liar can claim that his experience is comparable to working class kids facing forced labour is beyond belief. That he can lie so blatantly about his own department’s policies just highlights the arrogance of this incompetent government.
Tesco appear to be hiding behind Grayling’s lies that their use of workfare has not been mandatory. Some companies and charities alike, including Argos and the Salavation Army are unrepentant over their use of forced labour. Resistance is growing fast however. The National Day of Action Against Workfare on the 3rd March will see action against workfare exploiters in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Sheffield and Tunbridge Wells, with new towns and cities signing up every day. More companies are likely to pull out of the scheme this week leaving the Government’s welfare scheme in tatters. The online storm shows no signs of dying down. It’s time to say enough is enough and condemn workfare to the dustbin of history where it belongs. No-one should be forced to work without a wage.
*UPDATE: Shortly after this post went online all references to mandating claimants to work experience mysteriously disappeared from the online provider guidance on the DWP’s website.
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