Today’s report by think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (@IPPR) offers a chilling glimpse of what life might be like for young people under a Labour government.
The paper titled ‘No More NEETs’ has been widely reported in the press as a Labour plan to strip benefits completely from those under 25. This will suit Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves who has already promised to be tougher on welfare than Iain Duncan Smith if Labour are elected. The truth is that this is a paper from a toff dominated think-tank, which may yet manifest as Labour policy, but so far remains the rantings of a few out of touch idiots.
Most of the proposals are little different from those which have failed so miserably over the last fifteen years, since the obsession with hounding young people into unpaid work under the guise of fake training began. The main thrust of the report is that benefits for those under 25 are “conditional on participation in further and vocational education or intensive job search”. This is the same kind of crap that the IPPR came out with over fifteen years ago and which was used to justify Tony Blair’s New Deal in the late 1990s.
The New Deal was Labour’s flagship programme to end youth unemployment forever by forcing young people into some form of work or training under threat of benefits being stopped. The reality of the scheme was the emergence of the monstrous welfare-to-work scam. Companies like A4e trousered billions whilst young, unemployed people were sent on workfare or warehoused for 30 hours a week undertaking sub-standard or often non-existent training. Those who escaped this fate were forced into Subsidised Employment, which meant six months forced work on poverty pay.
The IPPR’s current plans are little different, with unpaid workfare based on the current Government’s Traineeships for some, and a Jobs Guarantee or some form of poverty-paid traineeship for the rest. Welfare-to-work providers will be at the heart of the scheme, sending young people to carry out six months forced work (or so-called training) at minimum wage, before they are dumped back on benefits to make way for the next tax payer subsidised free worker. And when these magical measures don’t work – which they won’t, evidence shows that Government work experience schemes do little to improve people’s chances of finding a job – then young people will be given an “intensive, diagnostic review with their personal adviser”.
After that doesn’t work it will back to the same old ‘participation in learning or work preparation activities’, ‘intensive jobsearch’ and ‘work trials’ that are already inflicted on unemployed people of all ages.
The New Deal for Young People cost billions and largely collapsed as not enough work placements could be found whilst welfare-to-work parasites delivered little of the training they promised. Just like the current Government’s dismal Work Programme, it barely made a dent in the number of people out of work. More importantly, the failure of the New Deal showed quite clearly that you can’t fix unemployment by fixing unemployed people, a lesson which has sadly still not been learned by politicians today. There is nothing in this report that hasn’t already failed countless times to bring down the number of young people out of work.
Unfortunately the IPPR do not stop there and this is where things stray into callous fantasies which would make even Iain Duncan Smith blush. The regime the IPPR describe will not just be aimed at young people currently on Jobseekers Allowance – which will be renamed a Youth Allowance. Young, single parents with children over the age of one along with sick and disabled claimants under 25 and currently on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will be subject to similar conditions.
The report glibly ignores the fact that people on ESA have been judged by not just their own doctors but even the horrific Atos assessors as being currently unable to work due to sickness or disability. Tough shit think the ‘progressive’ IPPR – the pittance extra that these claimants receive will be slashed, leaving those unable to work due to illness forced to try and survive on just few pounds a day. Only those in the Support Group, people with the most serious conditions, will receive any extra in benefits – although the report warns that for even some of this group that may be ‘conditional’.
Single parents with children over the age on 1 will also be expected to take part in ‘back-to-work support’. If they are unable to do so or refuse they will lose not just their own Income Support, but also Child Tax Credits and possibly even Housing Benefits. The risk of hungry and homeless toddlers is apparently worth it if it means struggling single parents are lectured at about their CV for a few hours a week.
Many young people will no longer qualify for help with housing costs at all with an assumption that everyone can stay at home until they are at least 21. Whilst the think-tank say there will be exceptions, such as those who are “unintentionally homeless or estranged from their parents” this will depend on an “assessment of whether they could be housed – or be supported to be housed – by their parents.”
Perhaps more than anything else these proposals show just how out of touch the clowns at the IPPR really are. Will young people fleeing abuse really have to wait around for a DWP assessment to decide if that abuse is serious enough for them to leave home? Has it not occurred to the IPPR how this might be used by exploitative adults to trap children at home? Do they really imagine that this kind of assessment is workable in practice in cases of family breakdown when parents and children may not even be on speaking terms? Has anyone at this think-tank ever even met anyone who has had to leave home at a young age for any reason other than to go to University?
The answer is clearly not likely and none of these new conditions will apply to under-graduates who will continue to be maintained by the loans system. For those parents whose kids don’t go to university however this report carries a very real sting in the tail. The newly-named benefit for unemployed young people will be means tested, based on their parents income. In a policy precision targeted at the so-called squeezed middle, more affluent parents will be financially responsible for their children until they are 22. And that’s how you lose an election. By listening to unaccountable think-tank knobheads who think that crazy schemes they scribbled down on the back of a Starbucks napkin can fix the structural problems of poverty and unemployment.
Whether Labour do listen to the IPPR remains to be seen. The fact that they haven’t spent the day pointing and laughing at these ludicrous proposals is telling. There has been a denial that Labour will stop benefits for under 25s but the report doesn’t actually call for that. Labour have already announced a mandatory six month minimum wage ‘Jobs Guarantee’ for the young which is little more than workfare and will involve 10 hours a week unpaid ‘training’.
One thing is clear – the modern Labour Party are no friends of the poor. Workfare, benefit sanctions and new attacks on both sick or disabled claimants and lone parents are likely to be at the heart of any future Labour Government. The war on the poor will not end if the Tories lose the next election.
The report can be read at: http://www.ippr.org/images/media/files/publication/2013/11/no-more-neets_Nov2013_11516.pdf
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