Category Archives: DWP

Keep The Jobcentre Out Of The NHS – The Fightback Against The Health And Work Programme Starts Now! #donoharm

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Job coaches in GP Surgeries? No!

We call on GPs to #‎DoNoHarm.

Join DPAC, Boycott Workfare, Mental Health Resistance Network on

4 March, 3pm at the City Road Surgery, 190-196 City Road, London EC1V 2QH.

Groups supporting benefit claimants and disabled people are uniting for a protest on the 4th March following the news that Employment Coaches from shadowy US outsourcing company Maximus are to be stationed in GP surgeries in Islington.

The demonstration will take place outside City Road Medical Centre, one of six GP practices in the borough who have opted to take part in the DWP funded pilot scheme.  These surgeries will now have their own Employment Coaches drawn from the welfare-to-work industry who will provide the kind of Jobcentre harassment that disabled people and those with health conditions are already all too familiar with if they are unable to work.

The scheme has been devised by Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who oversee healthcare in Islington and is backed by the local Labour Council who say on their website that this service will create ‘jobs on prescription’.  Many claimants fear the reality could be benefit sanctions on prescription, as doctors are turned into a weapon to impose labour market discipline and bully unemployed, disabled or unwell people into low paid or unsuitable work.

GP referrals to Employment Coaches will not be compulsory to attend – yet.  But this pilot scheme forms part of a national strategy by Iain Duncan Smith to bring Jobcentres into the heart of the NHS.  A new Health and Work Programme is being planned, with the aim of slashing spending on already meagre sickness and disability benefits.  Even those with the most serious conditions may soon to be forced to prove they are constantly looking for work whilst the government are examining the possibility of compulsory treatment for some health problems.

Campaigners warn that any attempt to merge healthcare with the vicious benefit cutting agenda of the DWP will demolish the trust that exists between doctors and patients.  An activist from Disabled People Against Cuts warns that “many disabled people already feel they have to watch every word they say when seeing their GP in case it is used against them at some point to stop their benefits.   Placing Jobcentre funded staff in doctor’s’ surgeries could destroy the doctor/patient relationship and may lead to some people not accessing vital healthcare when they need it most.”

Perhaps most appalling is that the Employment Coaches in Islington are set to come from Remploy – once a government run service that provided jobs for disabled people – now sold off and turned into a privatised welfare-to-work company responsible for sanctioning disabled people’s benefits.  Remploy have become a subsidiary of Maximus – the same company who run the despised Work Capability Assessment used to declare that disabled people or those with a long term health condition are ‘fit for work’.  Maximus are also providers of the Work Programme, a Jobcentre scheme which involves compulsory training or workfare with brutal benefit sanctions inflicted for ‘non-compliance’.

At a time when some claimants have been driven to suicide by the constant bullying, assessments, threats and sanctions that now form part of the UK’s benefits system, there must be no place in the NHS for Jobcentre busy-bodies.  Disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters can and will defeat this appalling attack on the fundamental principle that healthcare professionals should ‘first do no harm’.  Join campaigners from DPAC, Mental Health Resistance Network and Boycott Workfare outside City Road Medical Centre, 190-196 City Road , London, EC1V 2QH on Friday 4th March from 3pm.  Please spread the word and make this huge!

An online protest will also be held for those unable to attend in person.  Watch this space for further details and in the meantime please tweet using hashtag #DoNoHarm

See the Facebook Event Page for more details and please support the Thunderclap – timed to go off just as the protest begins

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How Islington’s Labour Run Council Are Dancing To Iain Duncan Smith’s Tune

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So the doctor says to their patient “I’ve got some good news, and some bad new.   The bad news is you’ve only got six months to live … but the good news is that I’ve found you a temporary job working in Poundland.”

You might have noticed that this joke is not very fucking funny.  But this is the dream of council bureacrats in one London borough who are developing a horrifying strategy for local healthcare which will see “employment viewed as a clinical outcome.”

Whilst the final plans for Iain Duncan Smith’s localised Health and Work Programme have not yet been released, the Labour dominated Borough of Islington are jumping aboard the gravy train early and have set up their own scheme to tackle what they call  ‘health-related worklessness’.  In a report published in 2014 the so-called Islington Employment Commission – a bunch of local employers, councillors, Jobcentre busy-bodies and a token TUC representative – called for radical change in the borough’s employment support strategy. Their proposals mirror almost exactly the current direction of Tory social security policy, even down to using the same words.

All young people should be ‘learning or earning’ according to the commission, a phrase first used by David Cameron when he announced the yet to materialise mass workfare programme for all those under 21.  They also claim that many long term sick or disabled people are not receiving enough employment support because “their benefit does not require them to look for work”.  And for those who do have to look for work as part of their benefit conditions, they say the support is not good enough, and they think they could do better.  In fact salaries depend on it.  As such they recommended establishing a local Health and Work Programme to make ‘maximising employment a priority’ for healthcare services.

Six months later Islington Council teamed up with Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who oversee local healthcare and ominously formed a partnership with Jobcentre Plus. The DWP were  only too happy to help and agreed to fund the salary of an Employment Lead worker to be based at the heart of Islington’s NHS services to “to drive employment outcomes through strategic health commissioning”.  What this means is money meant for healthcare will instead be shovelled into the hands of grasping welfare-to-work parasites with the aim of reducing “entrenched worklessness among residents with a health condition or disability in the borough.

One of the first moves, which is already sparking local outrage, is to introduce Employment Coaches into six GP’s surgeries in Islington.  These tax payer funded busy-bodies will come from Remploy who were recently sold off to giant US outsourcing company Maximus who already run many Jobcentre services. Doctors will be encouraged to refer patients for employment support with the same company who carry out the despised Work Capability Assessment used to stop disabled people’s benefits by finding them fit for work.  A company that has been the target of ongoing protests by disabled people and benefit claimants.  It is hard to imagine a bigger insult to disabled or long term sick people in Islington.  But then perhaps that is the point.

This is leafy, lefty Islington, and so there is lots of gushing talk about quality of life and creating living wage jobs in the proposals for the new scheme.  They don’t really mean it though.  In Islington Employment Commission’s report they discuss how some residents object to taking the first job they are offered because it might be unsuitable or low paid.  According to the commission local employers have told them this is not the case and that people should be prepared to take a job that isn’t perfect no matter how shit, just to get their foot on the ladder.  But then they would say that wouldn’t they. Islington’s Health and Work service is being designed with the needs of employers in mind, not local people.

As such, whilst evidence shows that low paid, insecure, or unsuitable work is bad for your health, doctors will still be encouraged to coerce their paients into taking these jobs.  And whilst Islington Councillors and healthcare bueracrats salve their consciences by telling themselves about all the wonderful opportunities they are creating for disabled people, their partners, Jobcentre Plus will provide the teeth – in the form of vicious and life destroying benefit sanctions – to ensure compliance.  Iain Duncan Smith must be pissing himself as the liberal elite dance to his tune in Jeremy Corbyn’s backyard.  If he can get away with this shit here, he will consider he can do it everywhere.  And that is why it must be stopped.

A protest has been called outside City Road Medical Centre, 190-196 City Road , London, EC1V 2QH on Friday 4th March from 3pm.  Please spread the word, more details on the facebook page.

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Over Half Of All Businesses Launched On Government Enterprise Scheme Would Be Shut Down Under Universal Credit

Precariously self-employed?  The Minister of Death is coming for you.

Precariously self-employed? The Minister of Death is coming for you.

Over half of all small businesses launched under the DWP’s flagship New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme will be ruthlessly closed down when draconian new benefit conditions for self-employed people are introduced as part of Universal Credit.

New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is the Jobcentre scheme under which claimants receive a small allowance for starting a small business for the first six months as long as they agree to occassional harassment from some dickhead advisor from the local welfare-to-work company.  It has been a huge success according to a gushing press release published by Minister of Death Priti Patel today, who claims that 80% of those who started out as self-employed on the NEA are still trading, with nine in ten of them having been in business for over 12 months.

Patel was responding to a survey carried out amongst NEA participants examining the success of the scheme.  A total of 1,500 of those who had taken part were questioned and the vast majority had been sucessfully self-employed for over one year.  The so-called support offered by NEAs was not so popular however.  Of those still trading at the time of the survey 70% had not accessed any help from their provider after the initial launch of their business.  They appreciated the money though, despite it being the miserly amount of £65 a week for the first three months on the scheme and then falling to just £33 for the remaining period.  This is because skint people need money, not lectures from some DWP busy-body whose entrepreneurial flare is so astounding that they ended up working in the fucking Jobcentre.

According to the survey the majority of these businesses were sole traders, with some of the most common sectors including cleaning, health and beauty, IT repairs or gardening.  In other words these are largely precariously self-employed workers, struggling to get by from week to week.  And this is reflected in the amount of money they are making.  Over half of small businesses (58%) questioned at the time of the survey had a monthly turnover of less than £1000, and for 37% it was under £500.  Almost of all these businesses will be forced to close when Universal Credit is fully introduced.

Savage new rules for in-work benefits are soon to mean that after one year self-employed people will be expected to be earning the equivalent of the national minimum wage for 35 hours a week if they have no young children or health condition.  That means profit, not turnover, of at least £985 per calender month at the current minimum wage rate – and as that rises this will become ever more difficult for self-employed people to achieve.  Those who do not meet this threshold will not be classed as ‘gainfully self-employed’ by the Jobcentre and so will be forced to claim mainstream unemployment benefits*.  They will then be expected to carry out ‘work related activity’, which means looking for a job, for up to 35 hours a week.  Self-employed activity may not be counted towards this and they could be stopped from doing it at all and forced to attend full-time unpaid workfare instead.  From budding entrepreneurs starting out as their own boss  to benefit scroungers at the stroke of DWP Minister’s pen.

For those with monthly profit at or close to the threshold and passing the test for ‘gainful self-employment’ then the situation will be little better.  These claimants will then be assumed to be earning the minimum wage rate for full time work when their in-work benefits are calculated.  This will include benefits intended to cover housing costs as well as the replacements for both Child and Working Tax Credits.  So should someone self-employed go through a lean patch for a couple of months they will not only suffer through lack of earnings but their Universal Credit will not reflect that loss of income.  The only solution will be to go back on the dole in an effort to restore housing benefits, and that’s assuming the Jobcentre lets them and doesn’t suspend their claim for giving up gainful self-employment.  This is what Minister of Death Priti Patel secretly has in store for all those small businesses she is cheering on today.  Financial destitution and bureacratic chaos.  And once they on their knees, sanction their benefits for not trying hard enough.  Build’ em up and knock ’em right back down.  She hasn’t had so much fun since she was working in PR for the tobacco industry encouraging poor people to take up smoking.

*Such is the shambles in the delayed roll out of Universal Credit that there is a crass attempt being made to bolt this kind of conditionality onto the current Tax Credit system.  As reported in the trade journal Nursery World (h/t @stukisu) many child miners are being inundated with demands from HMRC to prove that their small businesses are genuine and that they are striving their hardest to make a profit.  Perhaps most appallingly, as this is being done before Universal Credit has been implemented, they are threatened not just with loss of their current in-work benefits but a demand for a repayment of all benefits to date – potentially plunging some into thousands of pounds worth of debt.  That’s child minders, working all the hours God sends for shit money, being persecuted and driven into unescapable debt for not making quite enough profit or being able to produce detailed business plans and advertising strategies on demand to government bureacrats.

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Working Full Time And Think You’re Safe From The Jobcentre? Not If The DWP Get Their Way.

When I click my fingers you will wake up, and all your benefits will have been stopped.

Are you striving hard enough? The nudge unit is watching you.

A study released by the DWP today shows that tens of thousands of Tax Credits claimants  – some of them with full time jobs – have received letters and texts encouraging them to contact government busy-bodies for advice on how to increase their earnings by finding a new job or gaining promotion.

This startling fact is contained in an evaluation of the ‘In-work progression advice trial’ quietly carried out in 2014.  This pilot scheme, run by the DWP in conjunction with the shadowy Nudge Unit, involved 75,000 Tax Credit claimants receiving a letter encouraging them to contact the National Careers Service for advice on how to progress in work.  Around half of participants also recieved a text message.

Claimants were chosen largely at random from those earning a monthly income of £330–£960, so those working full-time at the then minimum wage were included in the study.  When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) part-time workers will be forced to endlessly look for ‘more or better paid work’ during the hours they are not working.  They could even be sent on unpaid workfare schemes and if they refuse then vital in-work benefits, including money required to pay for housing costs, could be stopped.   What this pilot suggests is that policies are being considered to ensure even those with full time jobs are subject to Jobcentre conditionality if they are paid low wages.

Of course what the evaluation of the scheme showed is that it was a fucking disaster.  Of the 75,000 people offered this so-called help from the National Careers Service only 1.1% agreed to take part.  Of those only 19 were prepared to take part in the evaluation of the scheme despite being offered a twenty quid shopping voucher by the DWP.  15 people who hadn’t taken up the offer also agreed to be interviewed.  Such a small sample out of tens of thousands of people renders the results of this research worthless as even the Nudge Unit quacks know.  But this is about manufacturing evidence, not any real attempt to find out if this is something people actually want or need.

Of the few people researchers spoke to they found exactly what you would expect.  Many older claimants, such as those in their 50s, were quite happy with their work and saw no reason to change anything.  Often people had caring responsibilities that limited what work they could do – usually looking after children or elderly relatives.  Interestingly both those who took up the advice and those who didn’t were found to have similar motivations and attitudes to work.  Many lone parents said they would look to progress in work as soon as their children were older.  Others had clear career goals already and were merely curious about any advice offered.  It turns out that people are quite capable of making their own decisions about work and their lives, usually on perfectly rational grounds, without any help at all from the government.  Also, and amusingly, the evaluation found that the magically written ‘self-efficacy’ letter, presumably produced by the nudge unit, had no impact at all on whether people got in touch.

Whilst this pilot encouraged participants to call the National Careers Service – a fairly benign helpline which does not have the power to sanction benefits – the report provides some chilling pointers to the DWP’s plans.  In a section discussing how advice might be provided in the future it mentions that Jobcentre Work Coaches might be used as ‘delivery agents’.  Whilst the report’s authors note that Jobcentre staff were not included in the pilot study, they say they include this suggestion for ‘policy reasons’.  More ominously elsewhere in the document it says that “current evidence explores attitudes, communications and support needs outside of the conditions of Universal Credit. It will therefore be important to understand how these factors are affected when the idea of compulsion is introduced.

What in-work conditionality for benefits shows, no matter how it finally takes shape, is that it is no longer enough to be hard working, you are expected to constantly compete.  The days when a life working as a council care worker or cleaning up the park might have got you some kind of civic award or picture in the local paper when you retire are long over.  There is no dignity in work now – not real work.

Instead the Tories imagine a UK PLC – some kind of giant version of The Apprentice, full of selfish grasping wankers, ruthlessly fucking each other over until the second we retire – if we get to retire at all. They want to make us like them – obsessed with money and status above all else.  And so the people who do the hardest work in society, vital work on which everybody’s lives depend, are now to be re-cast as scroungers, who aren’t trying hard enough and so need to be punished with forced work, compulsory ‘personal development’ training and benefit sanctions.  It is the worst of all worlds – cut-throat capitalism mandated by a nanny state that seeks to control every second of our time unless we become rich enough to shake them off.  Economically enforced ideology designed to manufacture Tories and destroy any notion of community or solidarity.

Welcome to dystopia, now get back to fucking work.

You can read the evaluation at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/in-work-progression-advice-trial-evaluation

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Iain Duncan Smith and Frank Fucking Field – Two Sides Of The Same Coin

frank-field-mp-008

If it looks like a wanker, and sounds like a wanker, it’s probably Frank Field.

Few people in the modern Labour Party are as much of a wanker as Frank Field – and there’s some fierce competition.

Reportedly a Tory in his youth, Field has slithered around the margins of UK politics for decades, always looking for a way in and always fucking it up whenever he is given one.  After the 2010 election he even slimed his way into David Cameron’s affections, being granted the title of Poverty Tsar – a lord of misery with an insincere smile sent out to provide ideological cover for the Tory Government’s vicious social security cuts.

Duirng the previous Labour administration Field was briefly Minister for Welfare Reform – a position now occupied by the equally odious Lord Fraud.  During this period he proposed a breath-takingly complex reform of the entire benefits system based on restoring the link with National Insurance.  So garbled were his plans that nobody but him could understand them and Tony Blair –  for once in his miserable, wretched, mass-murdering life – made the right decision and sacked him immediately.

Field has remained obessed with restoring what he calls the contributory principle, despite the stark historical fact that it never worked.  By 1951 almost one and a half million people were already claiming National Assistance, which was not funded from the National Insurance pot.  In fact the overall take from the insurance based scheme – which charges the rich a far lower percentage of their income than the poor – was so low that many people were having pensions and benefits topped up by National Assistance.  But just like Iain Duncan Smith, Field has never let evidence get in the way of his own messianic insistence that if only people would listen to him then he could create a utopian form of capitalism with no poor people.  And he would achieve this by making the poor poorer, to teach them a lesson and turn them into productive strivers.

In 2015 Field was given a new job, elected by fellow MPs to chair the Work and Pensions Select Committee, the body tasked with scrutinising welfare refoms.  This was not good news.  There is barely a fag paper between his views and those of Duncan Smith, and it is in this context that his report examining welfare reform- published this week by the Civitas think tank – should be considered.

Field has made a couple of headlines by pointing out what everyone already knows which is that Universal Credit is a shambles that will not make work pay.  He is also critical of the current benefit sanctioning regime, a bizarre position for someone to take who in 2011 called for greater use of sanctions for people on the Work Programme.  His solution to the mass poverty being engineered by Jobcentre sanctions is not to scrap them, but to introduce the so-called yellow card system – the patronising early warning initiative first dreamed up by a chinless five year old from the Policy Exchange think-tank.

Field also proposes a Future Jobs Fund Mark 2, a revamp of the last Labour government’s short lived scheme which involved paying huge subsidies to employers to provide jobs for young people.  This call comes despite his objection to in-work benefits which he says subsidise low wages – he wants to scrap Tax Credits completely for those without kids.  In other words he’s quite happy to subsidise employers, but not workers, who presumably will just fritter all that extra money away on food and gas bills.

Elsewhere in the report he is mildly critical of the despised assessments for sickness and disability benefits, although his chief objection seems to be that not enough people are being found fit for work.  He claims a long drawn out assessment, made up of several appointments, would be better system, whilst he would expect all sick and disabled people to sign an ‘improving your life’ contract.  Really.

Field also praises the introduction of Personal Independence Payments – the replacement to Disability Living Allowance which is currently stripping benefits from around 23% of disabled people.  He’d just like to see people lose their benefits faster, complaining that not enough money has been saved so far.

He is equally gushing about the Benefit Cap, repeating Iain Duncan Smith’s lies that it has encouraged people to find work – a claim not backed by evidence according to the head of the UK Statistics Authority.  On housing he falls into parroting Labour’s election policy that more houses should be built without any real further details of how and who for.  He then goes wildly off-script by worrying that there might not be enough brick layers.  Luckily he has another brilliant idea.  Young people on benefits could be forced to a attend a ten week brick-laying course at a private college and then spend a year learning brick-laying properly in a presumably compulsory minimum wage job.  To pay for this enforced training he suggests that these young people take out a loan, similar to the student loan scheme.  You’ve never fucking had it so good kids.

Field reserves his most lavish praise for George Osborne, for doing what even Thatcher failed to achieve and cutting social security spending.  He acknowledges that this had little to do with five years of welfare reform and was simply down to an old-fashioned cut – the decision to freeze benefits at below the rate of inflation.  Still Field calls this a big success, whilst he also praises Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with family values and insistence that non-traditional families, like single parents and gays, cause poverty.  It’s like the last half century never fucking happened.

By this point you’re probably thinking who gives a shit what this condescending relic from the past thinks.  Surely a dickhead like this, whose political career is riddled with failure, can never achieve any real influence.  But that’s what everybody thought about Iain Duncan Smith.  Just like his Tory counterpart did in the early part of the century, Field is now positioning himself as an expert on poverty and friend of the poor.  His vile opinions have gone almost unmentioned as he exploits the ineptness of the DWP to raise his own political profile.  With Labour’s social security policies seemingly non-existent he is well placed to position himself as the natural opposition to Tory welfare reforms – despite his rhetoric and ideology being near identical.  He just think’s he’d be better at being Iain Duncan Smith then the Work and Pensions Secretary is himself.  He must never be allowed to get there.

You can read his stupid report at: http://www.civitas.org.uk/publications/fixing-broken-britain-an-audit-of-working-age-welfare-reform-since-2010/

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They Are Coming For Our Kids! Jobcentre Harassment To Start From 12 Years Old.

ids-dead-teddySchool-children as young as 12 are to face Jobcentre harassment coercing them to join unpaid work schemes when they leave education the DWP have announced today.

Jobcentres busy-bodies are to be sent out into schools in a chilling move that  Iain Duncan Smith has pledged  will have a ‘dramatic’ impact on the nation’s children and encourage social mobility.  Yet this, of course, is a bare-faced lie.  There is no mention of going to college, university, or even starting a real job in today’s gushing DWP press release announcing the scheme.  Instead children will be encouraged into unpaid Work Experience, unpaid traineeships, or poverty paid so-called Apprenticeships which are little more than an excuse for companies like McDonalds to dodge paying their workers the minimum wage.  This scheme is merely the latest shabby attempt to indoctrinate young people into accepting the life of low paid, insecure, shitty jobs – or unpaid workfare – that the Tory Party have planned for the working class.

The good news is that only one school has agreed to take part so far, the Holy Trinity Catholic School in Birmingham who can be found on twitter @HolyTrinityCol. The scheme will be overseen by creepy Jobcentre district manager @NigelKimpton who seems to spend half of his time squandering tax payer’s money by posting happy-clappy ‘inspirational’ garbage on twitter.  Like the tweet below where he thinks he’s fucking Einstein.  Do you trust this man with your children’s future?

This ideological campaign comes in advance of plans to force all young people into unpaid work for private companies if they are unable to find a job.  From 2017 policies aimed at compelling those under 21 to ‘earn or learn’ will mean vicious benefit sanctions for those who refuse to work for free. And when the Tories talk about learning what they mean is stacking shelves in Poundland for no wages.  Despite their name, Traineeships contain no training beyond basic Maths and English.  They are a workfare programme, designed to prepare young people for being an Apprentice where they will be paid as little as £3.30 per hour.  And once they’ve done that they will probably be slung back on the dole, where they will face yet more workfare.

With the welfare state being weaponised against the very people it was designed to help there can be no tolerance of Jobcentre propaganda in schools – especially when benefit sanctions may be putting parent’s lives at risk.  It is beyond vile, and teachers and school kids alike should tell them in no uncertain terms to fuck off.  As for the rest of us, with mass workfare back on the cards for the young, then it’s time to tell the grasping corporate sector that if you exploit our kids, we will shut you down.

To join the fight against unpaid work visit Boycott Workfare’s website or follow them on twitter @BoycottWorkfare.

Above pic amended slightly and (I think) from here.

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What a fucking shambles, the rise and demise of Community Work Placements

Iain-Duncan-Smith-poutIn 2013 the government published an evaluation of the Community Action Programme.  This workfare pilot scheme involved sending long-term unemployed people to work without pay for six months for charities or so-called community organisations.  It was one of several workfare programmes introduced in a flurry of activity after the 2010 election as Labour’s forced work schemes were shut down at huge cost to be replaced by Tory forced work schemes.  As the evaluation later found, the Community Action Programme was a disaster.

Despite attending full time forced work for six months the programme had no impact on whether people were able to secure paid work.  Even unpaid workfare placements could not be found for half the participants, whilst there was some evidence of claimants transferring to sickness benefits as they were too unwell to carry out full time physical work.  So shit were the results from the evaluation that many assumed it would be abandoned, including apparently Iain Duncan Smith who was unusually quiet about the future of the scheme.

Then came the 2013 Tory Party conference.  Whilst Iain Duncan Smith was reduced to announcing a small scale pilot scheme in his speech, George Osborne stole the limelight by pledging a vast £300 million ‘Help To Work’ programme including forced community work for long term unemployed people, for six months, without pay.  And so the Community Action Programme was renamed Community Work Placements and set to be inflicted on all of those leaving the Work Programme.  As ever it would be overseen by private companies from the welfare-to-work sector.

It was clear that Community Work Placements would be shambles as soon as the tender documents were published.  An analysis of the proposed payment structure by Private Eye found that it could be more profitable for welfare to work companies to keep people on workfare rather than encouraging them to take up short periods of real work.  This of course didn’t bother the welfare-to-work sector, who were more concerned with the requirement that if they could not find somebody a placement then they would have to provide 30 hours of work related activity themselves.

Traditionally this has been achieved by herding people into a room containing a couple of out of date newspapers and a broken computer and ordering them to stay there for 30 hours a week.  Even this costs money though, at the very least someone has to be paid to sit in a back office all day playing Angry Birds whilst pretending to supervise the inmates.  And not only did the welfare-to-work companies have to provide this activity, but they wouldn’t be paid anything until they found someone a placement.  With the previously mentioned pilot showing that placements could only be found for half of participants then this was not the kind of DWP gravy train the workfare industry has come to expect.

Very few of the usual welfare-to-work sharks chose to bid for Community Work Placements, and those that did, such as Learn Direct, had little experience of running schemes of this scale.  But there was one firm who were very keen to get back in the Government’s good books.  There was just one problem.  At the time G4S were banned from carrying out government contracts due to being  investigated after the security tagging fiasco.

The companies set to run Community Work Placements were supposed to be announced at the beginning of March 2013.  This announcement never came.  It was not until mid-April that the DWP informed those who had bid for contracts whether they had been successful, and two weeks later before they bothered to tell the public.  The investigation into G4S was closed on the 9th April.  On the evening of the 28th April, the day Community Work Placements were due to begin, it was finally admitted that G4S would be running the placements in most areas of the UK.

This delay meant that the scheme was long behind schedule, but those opposed to it were very much on the ball.  First dozens, then hundreds of charities signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary statement pledging not to take part in this or other workfare programmes. Demonstrations were called by Boycott Workfare and other groups, whilst even previously enthusiastic workfare advocates like the Salvation Army said they would not take part in a scheme lasting so long.  The problem of securing enough placements was getting worse.

Over the next year and a half thousands of people were sent to work, without pay, for six month stretches.  Yet there was no word from the DWP on whether any of these participants had gained real jobs as a result of the Help To Work programme.  There still isn’t.  It was not until last month that any performance figures for Community Work Placements were made available at all and these neglected to include job outcome rates.  What they did tell us is that less than half of all people referred to the scheme had actually started a placement.  Which was hardly surprising.

Last week George Osborne scrapped Community Work Placements in his Autumn Statement document rather than admit in his speech that his much fan-fared Help To Work initiative had been a flop.  The truth is that these placements didn’t help anybody except the charities and community organisations who benefited from up to 20 million hours of forced unpaid work.  There have been no statistics made available on how many people have had their benefits sanctioned for refusing to take part in this embarrassing and exploitative mess.  Bungled schemes like this carry real human consequences, consequences that can be tragic.

Referrals to Community Work Placements should end in March next year although it is likely to start being wound down now.  It is in no-one’s interests to keep this charade going, not even G4S who for once are probably not making any money, or at least not much.   Workfare, on this kind of scale, is expensive.  Far more expensive than just leaving people the fuck alone.  The DWP spends nearly twice as much on admin, Jobcentre salaries and payments to welfare to work companies then they do on actually paying people the pittance of Jobseeker’s Allowance.  But don’t expect them to have learnt their lesson.

A new Health and Work Programme is due to begin in 2017.  Once again this will be contracted out to private companies although there is some suggestion that local councils are also to be invited on board the workfare gravy train.  It is likely, although not certain, that this programme will make use of the ‘black box’ approach – meaning welfare-to-work companies having the power to mandate claimants to any activity they choose, including workfare.  Until then those on the current Work Programme can still face forced work under the same arrangements.  Plans have also been announced to compel all those under 21 to carry out unpaid work experience for private companies or be sent on community workfare.  Workfare isn’t going anywhere yet, although that should not stop us celebrating this important victory.

It is an open secret that Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne despise each other.  The lives and futures of benefit claimants now appear trapped between a clash of two egos.  Osborne thought he could do workfare better than Iain Duncan Smith and has been humiliated.  In revenge he seems to have turned off the vast sums of tax payer’s cash that were being used to pay for Iain Duncan Smith’s endless crazy schemes.  What this means for the future is anybody’s guess.  Millions of people are now at the mercy of two warring politicians.  Both believe in a nasty ideology that claims unemployment is caused by unemployed people – and increasingly that sickness and disability are caused by unemployment.  They just disagree on the best way to torment and punish claimants for their perceived sins.   The future is far from rosy for the poor, but in the chaos that is to come there will be more opportunities than ever for collective action to defeat and destroy this bullshit for good.

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