The figures speak for themselves – the Work Programme isn’t working. Yesterday’s report by the Welfare to Work industry reveals that only 22% of long term unemployed people bullied onto the Work Programme have got jobs. Of those many will be in temporary work.
Chris Grayling claimed that 36% of people on the Work Programme would gain sustainable long term employment. Yesterday’s figures reveal this is little more than a fantasy.
Of more concern however is the figure given in the Telegraph today (thanks Eric) which reveals officials would have expected 28% of long term unemployed people to have found work without any help at all. This means that the Government’s flagship Work Programme is not just under-performing, it appears to be making the problem of long term unemployment worse.
This almost appears counter-intuitive. How could a multi-billion pound scheme, carried out by experts in the Welfare to Work field like A4e, actually be creating higher unemployment?
The recent drop in the unemployment count may be a blip and is entirely due to full time jobs being replaced with part time positions. But still long term unemployment is rising. The very problem the Government is throwing billions at is getting worse. Worse even than if they weren’t throwing billions at it.
The Work Programme scheme does not exist in a vacuum and is one of several schemes designed to ‘help’ unemployed people into work. Almost all of these schemes have workfare at their heart. Whilst sanctions have temporarily been removed from some of those schemes, possibly hundreds of thousands of people are currently working for free in supermarkets and High Street stores.
The DWP claim they don’t know how many people are on workfare schemes as what the Work Programme providers are actually doing for their billions is shrouded in secrecy.
When the workfare row blew up perhaps one of the most illuminating excuses from corporate workfare exploiters came from Argos, who claimed they only use workfare during the Christmas rush. This was a clear example of real jobs being replaced by unpaid labour, funded by the tax payer. Temporary seasonal jobs are the kind of roles which companies may have been more likely to offer to the long term unemployed. Perhaps some of those people would have been offered permanent positions. These kinds of jobs and opportunities have disappeared due to workfare.
Common sense dictates that unpaid labour is almost certainly one of the reasons that the Work Programme, and all the other workfare schemes, appear to be doing more harm than good.
But could the problems run even deeper than that. Successive governments have sought to blame the unemployed for unemployment, a useful lie which benefits both government and business alike. Governments get to pass the buck for fucking up the economy and the demonisation of the unemployed allows greedy bosses to drive down wages. As people become ever fearful of the murderous stigma that is now attached to claiming benefits, competition for the few jobs out there increases and therefore wages come down.
However the recent Work Programme figures suggest a problem with the current scapegoating of the unemployed. If it is unemployed people’s own fault they are out of work, and long term unemployment is increasing for those on Work Programme, then what the fuck is the flagship Government scheme doing to them that means they are unable to find work?
Of course this kind of thinking is bogus, but ministers can’t have it both ways. Following the logic of Iain Duncan Smith and his bunch of clowns at the DWP, the Work Programme appears to be demotivating people, increasing idleness and making people work less hard to find jobs.
Whilst it is shameful to blame the unemployed for unemployment, government schemes like the Work Programme do have real and tangible impacts on people’s lives. It is entirely possible that being patronised, bullied and lectured at by A4e jobsworths is damaging people’s self-esteem and confidence. It is also possible that the Job Search facilities offered by the Welfare to Work industry are no better than those available at home or in libraries, the only difference being that in those environments they can be used in peace. It is not unimaginable that people on workfare, or pointless fake training schemes, become not only institutionalised, but stuck in a rut and are less, not more likely to look for an alternative. It is therefore even possible that the Work Programme is increasing, not decreasing, dependence on the state.
There are other factors that could be at play. A recent comment from Dave L on this blog says:
“It’s a complete waste of time, in all the appointments I’ve had I’ve had absolutely no help, none at all. Last bit of ‘help’ was a cover letter that they thought was brilliant that contained lines such as “friends and family would say I’m a good worker”… I have work history too, so why put that?”
This is an all too familiar description of life at Welfare to Work companies. Shoddy CVs, poor covering letters, badly trained staff, broken computers and unemployed people forced to send off mass applications for jobs which aren’t suitable, are all too common criticisms. Perhaps the ‘help’ offered by poverty pimps like A4e is worse than no help at all when it comes to finding work.
To further compound the problem, many people currently having their time wasted on the Work Programme may have previously been on courses at local colleges which provided real skills. Depending on which Work Programme shark they are sent to, they may have been forced to leave College to attend A4e. This has been a feature of compulsory Welfare to Work schemes ever since Blair brought in the New Deal way back in the late 90s. That, like Work Programme, was a dismal failure.
Unemployed people need and deserve support. This means access to computers and the internet, advice on career options, as well as more practical provision such as fares for interviews, tools or clothing needed for work. It also means real training, not the airy fairy vague bullshit offered by the Welfare to Work industry where IT training means little more than being told how to turn on a computer and any other training is virtually non-existent.
Where are the training courses for the long term unemployed to become plumbers, hairdressers, IT workers or classroom assistants? They once existed, but in this neo-liberal brave new world training as a nurse, carpenter or midwife is not an economically viable option for most people over the age of 20. As for the idea of education as a life long process, the big lie fed to my generation, forget it.
The Welfare to Work industry has deskilled the training sector in the UK, forcing unemployed people onto ever more pointless ‘jobsearch’ courses and workfare instead of providing real training. They’ve done this because it’s far cheaper to pay someone little more than the minimum wage to run CV Workshops than it is to provide quality acredited training that would lead to real jobs. Once again the private sector has been allowed to run rampant providing public services. And once again the only people who have benefited have been the multi-millionaires who run the Welfare to Work racket.