In 2010 a total of 698,000 people had been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the Work Related Activity Group element of Employment Support Allowance (WRAG ESA), Income Support for Lone Parents (ISLP), or a combination of these, for three out of the last four years. By 2013 this figure had leapt to an astonishing 1,244,000.
This does not represent everyone who has been on long-term benefits. Whilst the statistical release doesn’t explain why these claimants were singled out in the figures it seems likely it is because all of those on these benefits are subject to ‘conditionality’. That means they face workfare, benefit sanctions and all the so-called ‘help’ of the welfare-to-work sector to try and bully them off benefits. Many will have endured two years of the shambolic Work Programme and like most sent on the scheme have failed to find lasting work.
The figures are particularly embarrassing for Iain Duncan Smith as this is exactly the groups of claimants many of his bungled welfare reforms have been aimed at. Billions has been spent harassing and stigmatising this group only to make the problem far worse than when the Tories came into office.
The analysis of the figures points out that one reason for the growing number of this kind of long term claimant is that it does not include all those on working age benefits including people in the Support Group of ESA – who are not forced to look for work, or those still claiming the old Incapacity Benefit. The DWP’s excuse is that the Atos re-assessments, which have found hundreds of thousands of people ‘fit for work’ and so placed them under a conditionality regime, are responsible for this huge rise in the number of long-term claimants. Whilst on the surface this seems to make sense, it actually turns out to be complete bollocks.
This is because the total number of people on all working age benefits for three of the last four years – including the ones left out of the first figures – has also risen since 2010, from 2.46 million to 2.49 million. The ESA re-assessments, which have caused untold suffering and are linked to an ever growing number of suicides, have not made a dent. This is backed up by the official figures for the number of people on all forms of out of work sickness or disability benefits which despite Atos, has only fallen by about 200,000 since 2010. This comes nowhere near to explaining the jump of half a million people on long-term conditionality based benefits.
Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms are absolutely hurting – unprecedented numbers of people are finding themselves dependent on foodbanks to feed their children. Welfare reform is costing a fortune, with billions of tax payer’s money being shovelled into the pockets of grasping parasites like G4S. But it clearly isn’t working. 4% of the working age population has now been on benefits for three out of the last four years, up from 2.3% in 2010. Iain Duncan Smith’s reckless experiment has failed. And the cost of his breath-taking arrogance has been homelessness, child poverty and in some tragic cases, even death.
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