The war on the poor is set to continue if Labour win the general election Rachel Reeves confirmed in her speech on social security policy today.
Pinning the blame for unemployment directly onto unemployed people, Reeves has set out a number of measures to fix those unemployed people with forced work and benefit sanctions.
At the heart of Labour’s policy is the so-called Jobs Guarantee which will see everyone who has been unemployed over two years – or a year for those under 25 – condemned to forced work for paltry sums of money. In a genuinely nasty move, this work will be pegged at minimum wage and set at a maximum of 25 hours a week, meaning participants will not be eligible for tax credits.
For the vast majority of claimants, who pay rent for where they live, the bulk of any extra money will go straight to landlords due to housing benefit payments being cut as income rises. For most claimants the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will merely mean they have enough money to travel to their forced work placement and on a good day afford a cheap lunch.
This workfare plus a sandwich scheme will be backed with tough benefit sanctions, already one of the main drivers of poverty in the UK. A report published last year by Citizens Advice warned that sanctions had led to people becoming homeless, attempting suicide and being forced to go through bins to find food. Labour’s workfare programme would only makes these problems worse as over-zealous Jobcentre staff and welfare-to-work crooks seek out ever more ludicrous ways to leave people destitute. If Labour are elected then we might yet see what happens when the foodbanks run out of food.
As well as 25 hours a week forced work, claimants will have to complete 10 hours a week ‘training’, leaving little time to actually look for a job. With training increasingly a euphemism for workfare, it remains to be seen what shoddy provision this will entail. One thing is for sure – it will be done on the cheap and is unlikely to lead to real skills or qualifications.
Around one million people could be forced onto this scheme and it is likely that most will be employed by the public sector or in charities as they were under Labour’s Future Jobs Fund. That means one million new workers entering the workforce, with wages pegged at minimum wage and no employment rights. If people on Labour’s workfare are sacked they don’t just lose their job – which on these terms might be a blessed relief – they lose everything, even entitlement to the pittance of benefits.
Astonishingly Reeves also called for higher wages in her speech today, although there was little indication of how that might be achieved. Yet it’s hard to imagine a better strategy to force down wages and undermine working conditions for everybody than an army of poverty paid workers who face destitution if they leave, get the sack, or take industrial action. If the unions tolerate this, then they will only have themselves to blame as their relevance in the public sector vanishes into thin air.
Anyone who thinks that cash strapped local councils will not use claimants facing the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee as a cheap source of tax-payer funded free labour is a fucking idiot. Ignore what Rachel Reeves says about shrinking wages – her policies are a blueprint for high unemployment and low pay.
What she doesn’t say is equally as important as what she does. There is no mention of scrapping the despised Work Capability Assessment – and Ed Miliband has already said that these assessments will stay. There was also no mention of halting massive cuts to Disability Living Allowance, which will see a fifth of disabled people losing vital benefits. Ominously Reeves talks of ‘better targeted support’ for single parents and disabled people to enter the workplace to combat what she repeatedly calls ‘worklessness’. Anyone who thinks we can trust the Labour Party to end the demonisation and harassment of sick or disabled claimants – which they started whilst in Government – is also a fucking idiot.
As Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms bring back poverty not seen in generations, the answer from the Labour Party is more of the same. Despite a spate of reports of suicides linked to welfare reforms over Christmas, they are every bit as committed to driving the poor into the ground as the Tories they are so desperate to copy.
It is hardly surprising that an Oxbridge clown like Reeves, with her background in the banking sector, is so clueless about what people with nothing really need, which by the way is more money. She’s probably never done a real day’s work in her life, let alone had to survive on benefits. But that won’t stop her condemning people to lives of utter misery by blaming them for the poverty caused by capitalism. There will be more tragic deaths linked to the erosion of the welfare state if Labour are elected next year. And if Rachel Reeves still has her job, then she will have just as much blood on her hands as Iain Duncan Smith.