Category Archives: Uncategorized

What A Fucking Shambles, Work Programme Still Worse Than Doing Nothing At All

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The dotted line represents the percentage of sick and disabled claimants who would have been expected to get jobs if the Work Programme didn’t exist.

It is astonishing that the ‘minimum expected level’ of people finding jobs on Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme is the same as would be expected had he done nothing at all.

What this means is that as long as the Work Programme isn’t making long term unemployment worse then both the DWP and the private sector parasites who run the scheme can claim it is a huge success when in fact it’s nothing of the sort.  It is just not doing any damage.  The problem is that in many cases the Work Programme is not meeting the ‘minimum expected levels’.  It is worse than doing nothing and from the latest figures appears to be creating, not curing long term unemployment amongst some groups.

This has left Iain Duncan Smith with nothing to shout about except for the huge numbers of people who have been forced to waste their time on the scheme.  And so that’s what he’s done today as the latest dismal performance figures are released with a jubilant press release declaring that the Work Programme has ‘helped’ more people than any previous employment scheme.  The truth is that the Work Programme has failed more people than any scheme before at a time when we are constantly being told how many jobs are now available.

Of the one million people who have been sent on the Work Programme over 700,000 were back at the Jobcentre after two years of expert help from companies like G4S, Maximus and A4e.  Only a quarter of those on the programme had a spell of 3-6 months in work – slightly below the ‘minimum expected level’.

This is less than the number of people who would have been expected to get jobs if the Work Programme had never existed.  Tax payers have forked out over a billion pounds for this fiasco.  The suffering of claimant’s sanctioned on the scheme is well documented.  The lives lost little more than human sacrifice – scapegoats for a failing economic system.  If there was any more proof needed that benefit sanction harm rather than help then today’s Work Programme statistics provide it.

For sick and disabled claimants the level of failure is shocking.  Just 3.4% of current claimants of sickness benefits (ESA/IB) who started on the scheme in December 2013 had a spell of at least three months in work a year later.  This is barely a third of the number who would have been expected to get a job under their own steam without any compulsory ‘help’.

Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of the Work Programme is what has happened to all those found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and told to frantically look for work or face their benefits being stopped.  Hundreds of millions has been spent harassing this group of claimants, who in many cases are not really well enough to work at all.  Just 1.5% of this group had found a job lasting over 3 months after completing a year on the scheme in December 2015.

Overall the Work Programme is only performing above minimum levels for mainstream Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants who have been on the scheme a year, and then only by a couple of percent.  There is a dirty fucking trick being played here however.  The most successful group of claimants are ‘other JSA’ which represents around a third of unemployed people sent on the scheme.  Over 20% of this group found work after a year.

Other JSA is largely made up of Early Entrants, which means those referred onto the Work Programme before they had been unemployed for over 12 months.  These are often people who have recently left work and are therefore the most employable claimants.  They are not the people the Work Programme was designed for.  They are also by far the most likely to get jobs on the Work Programme.

Documents leaked onto the internet by bungling A4e showed how Work Programme companies can receive huge payments even when someone has found a job themselves and not even started on the scheme.  All they need to do is make sure the paperwork is filled out correctly.  Jobcentre staff are also under huge pressure to produce job outcomes.  By encouraging the most employable claimants to sign up for the Work Programme then Jobcentre staff get a pat on the head when they inevitably find a job and the company running the scheme gets a cheque in the post.  And Iain Duncan Smith can pretend the Work Programme is doing better than it is. Everybody wins.  Except the tax payer and all those sanctioned or forced into workfare and who were back in the Jobcentre after two years wasted on the disastrous Work Programme.

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DWP Attempts To Increase Welfare-to-Work Companies’ Power To Snoop On Claimants

careless-talkPrivate sector Work Programme busy-bodies like A4e and G4S are to be encouraged to snoop on agreements made between unemployed people and the Jobcentre.

From 23rd March 2015  the DWP sent out a memo declaring that: “it would be beneficial for Work Programme Providers to potentially have sight of the Claimant Commitment at the first point of contact.”

The companies running the Work Programme will be expected to encourage participants to share this document, whilst Jobcentre staff will “ensure they highlight to claimants the importance of sharing their Claimant Commitment with their provider at first contact.”

The Claimant Commitment is the agreement that everyone is now forced to sign as a condition of claiming the main out of work benefits.  It details the endless pointless activity that unemployed people are expected to carry out as punishment for being out of work.  Any breach of this commitment can result in benefits being sanctioned.  According to the DWP, allowing companies who run welfare-to-work schemes access to this agreement will provide them with “Information on messaging around a claimant’s non-compliance with work related requirements”.  In other words it will be easier for Work Programme providers to grass you up to the Jobcentre for not carrying out work-related activity.

There is no legal requirement to show your Claimant Commitment to your Work Programme provider however due to data protection laws.  You should not be sanctioned for refusing to let them see it.  The memo warns the providers that “If the claimant refuses to share their Claimant Commitment you should not take any further action to pursue.”

It is up to you.  Make sure everyone knows this.

For more information on what you can and can’t be forced to sign and what information you have to disclose to Work Programme companies visit: http://refuted.org.uk/donotsign/

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Boycott Workfare Week of Action 25 April – 2 May: No workfare! No sanctions! Whoever wins we will resist!

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From Boycott Workfare

As the general election campaign gets underway we are already seeing politicians calling for more of the same policies. More workfare. More sanctions. Yet we know that these policies have been a total disaster. It is shameful that workfare and sanctions are supported by all the main political parties. This is why we are holding a week of action in the week before the election. We need your help to expose and challenge workfare and sanctions policies and the political lies that underpin them.

Workfare undermines paid jobs and wages and results in sanctions. It does nothing to improve the chances of people finding a job and exploits those forced to carry it out. Last year over half a million people had their benefits sanctioned. The number of benefit sanctions imposed by the DWP now exceeds the number of fines imposed by the courts. People are being left with nothing for up to three years. There is now overwhelming evidence of the harm being caused by sanctions. Sanctions are damaging the health of claimants and leading to hunger, homelessness and deaths.

Your actions have already had a huge impact in challenging these policies. Dozens of organisations have withdrawn from the schemes following public pressure. Over 500 voluntary sector organisations have now signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement to say they oppose workfare and sanctions and will not be involved. 25 councils have also said they will boycott the schemes. All this means it is getting harder and harder for the government’s private providers to find workfare placements. Hundreds of placements have been cancelled and your actions have made a real difference.

The week of action is a chance for everyone who opposes workfare and sanctions to demand an end to these cruel policies. However you can contribute join us to take action from 25 April – 2 May:

  • Join in with online actions throughout the week!
  • Ask charities you support to sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement!
  • Speak out! Tell those promoting workfare and sanctions what you think of their policies!
  • Hand out our know-your-rights leaflets at your local jobcentre!
  • Plan actions at a workfare exploiter near you!

Remember to let us know what you plan so we can help to publicise it!

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The London Metropolitan Police Are The Biggest Fucking Wankers Of All

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The banner at the recent Aylesbury estate occupation

Class War have reported that at last night’s Poor Doors demonstration the police seized a political banner because of swearing and arrested a person standing next to it.

The banner had been a weekly feature at the boisterous protests outside an East London tower block where residents in affordable housing are forced to use a diffrent door to the rich.  Previously the police had threatened arrests due to claims the banner is offensive, although when coppers tried to find a member of the public who was offended they had been unable to.  It seems that most people agree, the leaders of the four main political parties are  all fucking wankers.

The move sets a chilling precedent.  Will protesters now have to pass a police board of censors before they can display banners and placards at demonstrations?  Will they send snatch squads into the crowd if someone uses a rude word?  Will chants at football grounds of  ‘the referee’s a wanker’ be met with mass arrests?  Or is it only when you call politicians wankers that the Met Police decides to take offence on their behalf?

Class War are predictably unrepentent.  Tomorrow (Saturday 14th March) they will march through Chingford where Lisa McKenzie, recently described as “the living embodiment of class hatred” by Melanie Phillips, will be standing in the election against Iain Duncan Smith.  Join them outside Chingford Station at 12.30pm.

The Poor Doors protest will be back, next week and every Thursday, 6pm, 1 Commercial Street, London E1.

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Workfare Is A Betrayal Of Our Children And We Will All Pay The Price In Time

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Most of the UK’s successful creative people were probably once a NEET – meaning someone under 25 who is not in education, employment or training.  Tom Jones was famously revealed as workshy by his Jobcentre records before going on to become one of the most successful recording artists the UK has ever seen.  Top pop star George Michael even rapped about his experience of unemployment early in his career.  And he turned out all right.  Mostly.

There are just under one million NEETs in the UK, but most of them don’t stay that way for long.  Few make a perfectly seamless transition from education to work, so almost every 16-25 year old will have been a NEET at some point.  Around 15% of NEETs are currently unable to work due to sickness or disability.  Some of them will be in hospital.  Many NEETs are mothers with very young children or babies.  Others will be posh kids, dicking about on gap years or frittering away trust funds.  Prince Harry was a NEET for a while.  The term isn’t very helpful to describe an economic or social group. But it serves its real purpose, to smear the young as lazy or feckless.

Only around half of all NEETs are unemployed, meaning on unemployment benefits, or actively seeking work.  That’s still about half a million and the reason for this is because there are not enough jobs.  In a highly competitive labour market the young will always suffer as they are forced to compete with older, more skilled workers.

Employing anyone comes with a risk attached.  This is one of the costs of doing business.  Employers have sought to push this cost onto the tax payer and unemployed people themselves by operating government backed ‘try before you buy’ style workfare schemes.  It is not uncommon for young people to be expected to stack shelves in supermarkets for two months without pay.  This would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago.  Now both of the main political parties support this kind of grotesque exploitation.

The reason this situation has emerged is the constant bleating from employers that the latest generation are so lazy they are virtually unemployable.  Yet young people are working longer for less money than they have in decades.  It is a transparent lie, as is the ludicrous slur that young people need teaching how to get out of bed in the mornings – kids have to do that almost every day of their life until they leave school.

Another advantage of bosses claiming the young are lazy and unskilled is that it also allows them to dump some of their training costs onto the tax payer via the education system.  McDonalds would have schools teaching kids how to fry their  fucking hamburgers if they thought they could get away with it.  The entire  education system, from primary schools to universities, is becoming based on the needs of business, not learning for its own sake.  And this too has happened because of endless whining from bosses that this generation is the worst yet.  Until the next one who they will tell us are even worse.

The truth, as Tom Jones and George Michael shows, is that NEETs are one of the most valuable assets that a society can possess.  Young people, left to their own devices and even on meagre resources, can do incredible things – and this does not just apply to the young.  From Harry Potter to Glastonbury Festival, great cultural institutions would almost certainly never have emerged without a functioning social security system.  Young unemployed people already carry out huge amounts of unpaid work, as genuine volunteers, looking after children or acting as carers for older relatives.  Many work on their own intiative, organising gigs, making music, fucking about with computer programmes or making youtube videos that hundreds of thousands of people enjoy.  This  form of unpaid work created the UK’s once thriving music industry.  In the age of user generated content, young people with time on their hands are now driving technology and online entertainment.

A society with any common sense would not just recognise this vital, energised and creative resource but cherish it.  It would accept that young people themselves are the best placed to decide their own destinies in the future they will create.  That they need and deserve time, space and opportunities to be able to plan their lives for themselves.

This would require a higher education system that is flexible and accessible, not one that forces young people to take on eye-watering debt.  It would mean providing genuine training, in real skills, not shoddy workfare schemes or so-called apprenticeships that are little more than an excuse for employers to dodge the minimum wage.  It means allowing young people the time to explore their creativity if they wish, and providing funding for them to do so.  A society like this would trust its young people, not fear them.  And it would pay them a fucking wage if they are working for an employer.

Instead the opposite is taking place.  The young are demonised as lazy who need to be punished with forced work and benefit sanctions.  What is fast emerging is a kind of state-planned employment market, where Jobcentres decide what work young people will do and if they refuse they are punished with poverty.  That work is almost always low paid and insecure, and as most normal people if not politicians know, it is easy to get trapped in a job that leaves you so exhausted and demotivated that you end up not looking for anything else.  Bogus Traineeships, Apprenticeships and workfare are de-skilling the young, the opposite of their claimed intention.

Of course not all young people are perfect.  There’s some proper little bastards out there, often as a result of broken or traumatic lives. But they are a tiny minority, and the very worst thing you can do to someone on the edge of a criminal lifestyle is stop their benefits.  These kinds of young people will not be incentivised by benefit sanctions to take up low paid work.  Not when there’s yuppies to be mugged.  Take away the social security system for this group and you create a small but ferocious outlaw class.  There is no shortage of predators who will fill the vacuum created by an absence of any support at all for the troubled, isolated and angry youth.

Both Labour and the Tories are now competing to show who can be tougher at bullying young people off benefits.  Both are proposing workfare schemes that are unworkable in practice, there already isn’t enough unpaid work to go round.  Both are committed to using brutal benefit sanctions to force the errant young into line.  But creating back of the envelope forced work schemes designed to pander to misinformed prejudices about the feckless youth is the politics of the gutter.  We will all pay the price in time of their betrayal of our children in the name of a pat on the head from the fucking Daily Mail.

Take part in a day of action at jobcentres across the UK on 25 February 2015 in support of the unemployed activist arrested for supporting a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.  Details on Boycott Workfare’s website, please spread the word.

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Is Iain Duncan Smith Bullshitting About Universal Credit? Of Course He Fucking Is

uc-surveyIain Duncan Smith has been back to his bull-shitting best with a string of wildly optimistic claims about the wonders of Universal Credit.

Alongside the Secretary of State’s rare appearances in the media this week, the DWP released a gushing report claiming that Universal Credit was already a huge success.  This document was based on cherry-picked information from two recent evaluations of the pilot scheme currently running in the North West of England which looked at the impact of the roll out of Universal Credit.

The truth is that there is really nothing useful that can really be learned from how Universal Credit (UC) will work across the board from the tiny amount of data so far available.  Only around 50,000 people have claimed UC so far, and there were far fewer than that when these evaluations were carried out.  More importantly, they are based on new claims only from single unemployed people with no significant health conditions.

One of these evaluations was a survey which compared the views of 900 people who had claimed UC against the same number of claimants on mainstream Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).  In the DWP’s gushing summary of the evidence they declare that Universal Credit claimants were more likely to believe the benefits system is encouraging them to find work and that they were spending more time looking for work.  The DWP also claim huge support for the Claimant Commitment, the agreement unemployed people are now forced to sign which contains a list of largely pointless activities which people must carry out as part of their jobsearch.

As the table above shows, most claimants did believe that ‘some’ of the activities in their Claimant Commitment would help them find work.  But that’s just fucking obvious.  If it says in a Claimant Commitment that you must look for a job, then you are more likely to find work than if you don’t look for a job.  What is important is how the Claimant Commitment is viewed as a whole.  What the survey then shows it that 55% of people appear to have thought that some or all of the measures in the agreement were a waste of time, 59% of claimants thought that some or all of the measures did not take into account their personal circumstances and 46% of claimants thought that some or all of these actions were unachievable.  Disturbingly almost all of them, 76% of claimants, thought that Jobcentres would be checking up on whether they had carried out these pointless, unachievable activities.  What this suggests is that many claimants seem to have been concerned that they were being set up to be sanctioned.  95% of claimants were all too aware that their benefits could be stopped if they did not prove they were looking for work with 89% being aware they could lose benefits for being late to a meeting.

The DWP’s summary of the two reports, which was used for this week’s media offensive, failed to mention two other findings in the survey.  Claimants of UC were less confident that they would find work within three months, with only 76& agreeing compared to 78% of JSA claimants.  They were also significantly more likely to report that there were not enough jobs in the local area, with 36% of UC claimants agreeing this was the case compared to 30% of those on JSA.  This was not expected by the researchers who said it was “surprising as the JSA comparator areas were chosen on grounds that they have similar labour market conditions to the UC areas.”

Which brings us nicely on to the second evaluation which delved into the tax records of those who had been on Universal Credit as a means of finding out whether they had gained work or not after being on the benefit.

The problem facing researchers in carrying out these kinds of evaluations are finding two sets of claimants that are more or less the same in all areas except the one being examined – in this case whether they were claiming UC or JSA.  As noted above, the local labour market is important.  If one group is in an area of especially high unemployed compared to the other then this will skew the results.  Timing is also vital, unemployment goes up and down, so it is important to establish whether the claims were made at more or less the same time.  Another question is whether the claimants are the same – are they equally employable?  Perhaps most importantly is the experience they received.  Did Jobcentre advisors spend more time with UC claimants and provide more ‘help (stop laughing)?  Was the sanction and conditionality regime the same?  Was anyone put off claiming UC by the increased conditionality, such as someone with a health condition who may have decided to try and claim sickness benefits instead?

Sadly the researchers pretty much ignored the last few details, but there was an effort made to establish whether the claimants were roughly the same in terms of age, gender, histories of claiming benefits, sanctions applied etc.  Ethnicity was ignored, perhaps wrongly as the survey evidence showed that UC claimants were 10% more likely to be white.  Unemployment is around twice as high amongst people from ethnic minorities, this could be one small factor in why those on UC were more likely to get jobs.

And it’s fair to say that’s what this evaluation found.  Those who had claimed UC were a bit more likely to have found some work.  But this data is so noisy, with so many bodges, averages and assumptions, that this could be a fluke.  Or it could be down to a whole host of other factors which the researchers couldn’t control for, such as whether someone was pregnant – meaning they would be ineligible for UC, but would still be counted in the JSA group.

It could also mean that the fear of sanctions, as outlined in the survey evidence, might have led some claimants to take up jobs they would not otherwise have done.  This would no doubt please Iain Duncan Smith but it is a toxic scenario.  The people covered by these studies were largely the newly unemployed, and therefore the most employable.  Losing a job can be traumatic, and a recently sacked teacher or electrician does not usually run straight out to take a part time cleaning job on a zero hour contract.  People take a bit of time, not because they are workshy, but because they want a job they have studied or trained for.  If all Universal Credit is doing is bullying the most employable into low paid shitty jobs then it is failing everybody.  The tax payer doesn’t spend a fortune training nurses so they can stack shelves in Poundland.  This also means those who depend on those entry level jobs, who do not have large amounts of experience, stay long-term unemployed.

The results of these two evaluations suggest that Universal Credit could be the blueprint for a low waged, low skilled economy that we all feared.  But we don’t know that for sure.  Until people with kids, the self-employed, those working part time and people on sickness and disability benefits are brought into the mix we know nothing at all about how Universal Credit will function and that won’t be for years. The chances are that all it will do is shift unemploment around, with the most marginalised sanctioned and everyone else bullied into low paid work as soon as possible.  This whole reckless experiment could drag Iain Duncan Smith’s bungling legacy far into the future.  And to what end?  No-one knows.

You can read the survey evidence at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-claimant-survey-nov-to-dec-2014-interim-findings

The evaluation based on tax records is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-estimating-the-early-labour-market-impacts

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A Truly Chilling Move: Now Maximus Are Trying To Buy Remploy

maximusfbUS based multinational Maximus could be set to expand their monopoly over the lives of sick and disabled people by buying up what’s left of soon to be privatised Remploy.  This brazen move is sure to inflame anger against the company who are already facing protests after winning the contract to take over running the despised Work Capability Assessment from Atos.

Shortly after the government embarked on the cruel and vindictive closure of the Remploy factories, parts of the organisation were hived off and turned into a sort of state run welfare-to-work company.  Then last year it was announced this would be sold off to the private sector under an initiative bizarrely called Project Jupiter.

Just two companies have submitted bids to buy Remploy, Maximus and Prospects.  Both of these companies are already involved in the welfare-to-work  sector and the Remploy deal comes with a big juicy DWP contract to run the Work Choice scheme, alongside contracts to run parts of the Work Programme and the Access To Work scheme for disabled workers.  In other words they buy Remploy and the DWP spends the next few years giving them their money back.

Maximus have even produced a cringe-making youtube video (comments currently open) for the staff at Remploy with sinister Chief Executive Richard Montoni and his glassy-eyed corporate lacky Bruce Caswell spinning away the crimes of these profit hungry vultures.  Do not belive the fucking hype.  Richard Montoni earns a staggering $5 million a year to spout this shit.   In the US Maximus have faced both protests and law suits as they have gobbled up ever more public services, including contracts to disqualify people from free healthcare.  In Saudi Arabia they quite happily operate a gender segregated workforce, with ‘male candidates preferred‘ for some roles despite their claim to be equal opportunity employers.  In the UK they are already heavily involved in workfare and the harrowing benefit sanctions regime which has been linked to a growing number of suicides.

Should Maximus be successful in buying Remploy then their power over sick and disabled people’s lives will be chilling and unprecedented.  Disabled people who needs funding for adjustments at work through Access To Work will be assessed by Maximus.  People who need to take time off due to sickness or disability will soon have their absence acredited by Maximus, not their GP, as part of their Fit For Work contract.  If someone has to leave work because of a health condition then it will be a Maximus run Work Capability Assessment which decides whether they are eligible for sickness and disability benefits.  If they are found fit for work, or even possibly able to work in the future, then, depending on where they live they may be sent on the Work Programme.  With Maximus.  If unemployed disabled people want to join the so far voluntary Work Choice scheme then they will be sent to Maximus.  These bastards need to be stopped.

The decision on who gets to buy Remploy will be made in the next few weeks with an announcement expected in March.  You can share your thoughts with them on twitter @Remploy and @MAXIMUS_news.

In the meantime please spread the word about the Day of Action Against Maximus set to take place on the 2nd March.  Please tweet, share, blog and post everywhere: http://dpac.uk.net/2015/01/maximus-day-of-action-2nd-of-march-list-of-events-around-the-uk-scrapwca/

Above pic from: https://www.facebook.com/PhillEvansIllustration

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A Government That Permits The Psychological Torture Of Benefit Claimants Does Not Give A Fuck About Mental Health

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DWP Denial, An Example Of The Shoddy Mental Health Training Given To Jobcentre Staff

This Government do not give a shit about people with mental health conditions, and neither did the last one.  Whilst politicians of all parties offer soundbites and fake sympathy the treatment of people with a mental health condition by the benefits system now amounts to little more than psychological torture.

This is not hyperbole.  Whilst the medical establishment has stood ildly by, and mental health charities have veered between mild disapproval and outright collaboration, the DWP has lanched an all out war on the most marginalised people in society.

Consider the ‘claimant journey’, to use their language, for someone unable to work due to mental ill health.  The first step is to claim Employment Support Allowance, a process which may take months due to a huge backlog of cases.  During this period the claimant will be paid the Assessment Rate, the same amount as mainstream unemployment benefits, and a pittance at currently £72.40 a week.

Finally a dreaded brown envelope will drop through the door from the DWP – an invitation to have your mental health assessed by the notorious Atos.  At this assessment you may be found fit for work, fit for some work, or possibly placed in the Support Group.  What this means is that you might suddenly have your income – your only income – stopped.  The stress this places on people who are desperately in need of stability and consistency can be unbearable.  Is it any wonder that the number of suicides linked to this callous regime grows ever higher?

We know from the number of successful appeals that many of these assessments are wrong.  Equally importantly, these assessments have been ruled discriminatory towards those with a mental health condition in the courts.  It will not be a psychologist and is even unlikely to be a mental health trained nurse who carries out the assessment – it could be a physiotherapist or paramedic, and they will use a crude computer based test to come to their decision.  This decision will be endorsed by a DWP Decision Maker, who will not be a trained mental health worker either and who will never have met you.

If you are placed in the Support Group you will be left alone, for a while.  But you can and will be re-assessed at some point in the future.  When that will be is anyone’s guess, it could be six months it could be six years.  Don’t plan ahead.  Your entire livlihood could disappear at any point with the stroke of an Atos assessor’s pen.

It is those who are found ‘fit for work’ or placed in the Work Related Activity Group, meaning possibly fit for work at some point in the future, who face the full force of Iain Duncan Smith’s tyranny.  If that happens your money can be stopped seemingly on a whim by Jobcentre staff working to unofficial targets to do exactly that.  Thousands of people with mental health conditions face sanctions every month.  The front line advisors, fed a steady diet of propaganda that work is always good for you no matter what,  have no more qualifications in mental health than the person who found you fit for work.  You might even be sent off to a private sector shark like A4e and G4S where a low paid goon with a GCSE in being a twat might ship you off on six months workfare.  If you are unable to attend you will be sanctioned, your benefits stopped, and you might lose your home.  If you miss, or are even late to a meeting the same thing is likely to happen.  The very symptoms that some mental health conditions cause – forgetfulness, lack of organisation, bleak depression that stops you leaving the house – will be used against you to stop your benefits.  Report after report has shown that these sanctions cause ill health, suicidal behavior and desperate poverty.

At this week’s sanctions enquiry Employment Minister Esther McVey went on, and on, about how much the Jobcentre does to protect so-called vulnerable people – and if you’re not vulnerable when you start out then you will be by the time the bastards have finished with you.  But in the Jobcentre Decision Maker’s Guidance, the rules on sanctioning are vague.  Whilst it is acknowledged that someone with a mental health condition may have a ‘good reason’ for not complying with a requirement, the judgement rests with a DWP Decision Maker who has never met the claimant and who is acting on a recommendation from a from a front line advisor, or Work Coach.  The decision to apply a sanction is therefore little more than a guess, and not even an educated one, the training given to Work Coaches on mental health is a disgrace.

The quote in the above picture, which suggests Work Coaches will probably never meet anyone in real mental distress and therefore they shouldn’t worry about it, comes from the Employment and Wellbeing Toolkit (PDF).  This is the training document in mental health for frontline Jobcentre staff who now have such huge powers over unemployed people’s lives. It reveals a breath-taking ignorance of the reality of some mental health conditions.

If a claimant says their mental health is causing such problems they feel like giving up, possibly indicating suicidal thoughts, then Work Coaches should attempt to encourage “Better ability to cope to boost self- confidence and help individual develop a more positive appraisal of their skills and prospects, help to break out of a pattern of reinforcing depression and low mood that can undermine their sense of self worth and purpose.”  If a claimant points out their doctor has told them to avoid stress the advice to the Work Coach is to: “Reflect back that not being able to cope and feeling stressed affects almost everyone at some point, but there are still things that can help.”  Cheer up in other words, everyone has a bad day.

The basis of the training rests almost entirely on the ideological assumption that work is always good for you, in any circumstances.  Even medical treatment should be framed as ‘a step towards employment’.  The toolkit even claims that the “search for a job goal can, in itself, have a beneficial effect on mental wellbeing, in much the same way as having a job can promote better health, because it provides a purpose and meaningful activity.”  Looking for a job is now good for your health as well according to the DWP.  This is fucking mumbo jumbo and if this training document was written by a qualified psychologist they should be struck off.

The idea that work is always good for your mental health dates back to a report produced in 2006 called Is work good for your health and well-being? An independent review by researchers Gordon Waddell and A Kim Burton.  It formed part of the evidence that was used to justify the introduction of the Atos run Work Capability Assessment by the Labour administration.  Conveniently for the party that wanted to strip out of work sickness benefits from one million people, it claims that work is good for both people’s mental and physical health.  This position has come to be regarded as a medical consensus.

However this comes with one vital caveat which is that “account must be taken of the nature and quality of work and its social context; jobs should be safe and accommodating”.  A  later DWP backed report looking into work and mental health specifically notes that the benefits of work do “not apply to some individuals in some circumstances and that the social context and the nature and quality of the work are important factors.”

This follow up report also points out that: “People with mental health problems who do find work are more likely to be underemployed, employed in low status or poorly remunerated jobs or employed in roles which are not commensurate with their skills or level of education (Stuart, 2006). They are overrepresented in the secondary labour market, which consists almost entirely of parttime temporary jobs. Whilst many who have had mental health problems might value the flexibility, jobs in the secondary labour market are often unstable, poorly remunerated or open to exploitation.”

In other words, exactly the kind of jobs that unemployed people with mental health conditions are likely to get are the ones that are likely to be bad for their mental health.  That this stark fact has been ignored lies at the root of the atrocity that is currently taking place in Jobcentres across the UK as Work Coaches are pushed to get people into any job, as quickly as possible.  If they then leave, or get sacked from that job, they face benefit sanctions.

The medical consensus is wrong.  Work is not always good for you.  Some work is good for some people,  and some work is bad for some people. If you spend your life sitting around writing DWP reports on a nice salary then of course, depending on your health condition, you will probably be better off at work than living in poverty on benefits.  But if you are in a low paid, insecure job, where some jumped-up wanker with a clipboard sets time limits on toilet breaks or threatens you with the sack for taking a day off, then work can be very, very bad for you.  Sadly, at the bottom end of the labour market, this is increasingly what work looks like.

The attitude of many employers to people with a mental health condition is appalling.  Discrimination is rife, as it is towards those with any health condition or disability.  The government’s Access To Work fund which is supposed to help disabled people find work is a shambolic disaster. The number of claimants on sickness benefits who find jobs through the Work Programme is tiny, especially amongst those recently judged fit for work by Atos.  There are currently just short of two million unemployed people in the UK and that doesn’t include most of the two million people on sickness or disability benefits who are classed as ‘economically inactive’.

This is the reality of the labour market and no amount of benefit sanctions or Work Capability Assessments will change that.  Instead of employers being taken to task for their shoddy treatment of people with mental health conditions, that discrimination has been weaponised against claimants to cut their benefits.  People with mental health conditions are being sanctioned to death in some cases for the crime of not having a job when there’s no fucking jobs to be had.  It is right that urgent work needs to be done to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health conditions – and that stigma, in part emanates from the DWP Press Office and their snide insinuations that people on benefits are feckless or lazy.  It is also correct that far more should be done to end the prejudice in the workplace that causes people with mental health conditions to become excluded from the work force.  All of these things can happen without blaming claimants themselves for the dire situation.

There is no such thing as a fair benefit sanction, and the claim is not true that these kinds of conditions have always been at the heart of social security, benefit sanctions were barely used prior to 1997.  We live in a society with high unemployment, where real full employment – that is everyone having a job – is deemed neither feasible nor desirable by the very same think-tanks who dream up policies to punish unemployed people.

Benefit sanctions can now last three years and are causing desperate suffering.  It will always be the most marginalised, people with mental health conditions, homeless people, those with already damaged lives, who face the brunt of these policies.   It is time to condemn this mass malpractice to history and work towards a system that provides humane care and security for everybody.  Benefit sanctions must now be scrapped with no exceptions.

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Permanent Workfare, Housing Benefit Cuts, Food Stamp Style Smart Cards And School Children To Face Jobcentre Harassment – The Latest Rantings From Iain Duncan Smith

IDS-slugSchool children will face Jobcentre harassment from the age of 15 whilst claimants thought to have drug and alcohol problems will be paid benefits on smart cards if the Tories win the next election said Iain Duncan Smith in his speech to the party’s conference today.

18-21 year old who cannot find a job are to be placed on permanent workfare, whilst further caps on Housing Benefits will see yet more cities become unaffordable for anyone currently unable to work – whether this is through sickness, disability, high unemployment or having young children to care for.  And if this wasn’t enough then benefits are to be frozen for two years, meaning a real term cut in the incomes of the UK’s poorest people, whether they are in or out of work.

The smart cards will be for people Iain Duncan Smith thinks have fallen into a “damaging spiral” and are spending all their money on drugs, alcohol and gambling.  Whilst details so far are scant, it seems likely to be similar to the Australian Basics Card which aims to control how benefit recipients spend their money.  The scheme has already proved hugely expensive and has led to people unable to shop at cheaper stores such as Aldi, who government officials say do not meet the “set criteria”.  Predictably Basics Cards have not prevented claimants buying drugs, alcohol or tobacco.  In the UK it is likely to stop people who have genuine problems with drugs or alcohol from seeking treatment in case the Jobcentre find out.  It is a stupid idea, as unworkable as it is callous.  You can see why it would appeal to a nasty fucking idiot like Iain Duncan Smith.

Permanent workfare for 18-21 year old is equally draconian, and equally unworkable – so unworkable that it was actually first announced in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement last year and then never implemented.  Already there isn’t enough workfare to go round, and with resistance to workfare showing no signs of dying down, there will be few community organisatins willing to take part in such an explitative programme.  Meanwhile sending Jobcentre busybodies to harass schoolchildren when they should be studying for their GCSE’s and aren’t likely to be looking for a job or eligible for benefits for two or three years seems little more than a waste of everybody’s time.

With Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms unravelling in all directions and poverty not seen in generations returning to haunt the UK, there was nothing in his conference speech to suggest he has learnt anything from his failure.  The scary thing is, he thinks he is doing a wonderful job – even still pretending that Universal Credit will eventually be rolled out across the country.  Yet across the UK millions of people are facing a Winter where they will face the bleak choice between heating or eating and many will not be able to afford either.

It is horrifying that the Tories seem to think they can win an election by making poor people poorer.  Perhaps more frightening is that the Labour Party have eagerly embraced this vile competion to attack and scapegoat those with nothing.  Whoever wins the next election it will be down to us – unemployed claimants, disabled people, parents and low waged precarious workers – to fight these bastards.  It will be the struggle that defines the neo-liberal age as capitalism run rampant drives people into the the ground in the name of making more profit for the rich.  We must continue to fight, and we must win.

Crash the Tory Party Conference Twittersphere with DPAC!!  (@Dis_ppl_protest).  Use Hashtag: #CPC14 to send your own messages or tweet DPAC’s!

Then join the week of action against workfare next week and support the Focus E15 mums fighting for decent housing for all of us – for more details follow them @E15OpenHouse or on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Focus-E15-Mothers/602860129757343

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#proudtowork – Yet Another Money Grabbing Scam From The Welfare-To-Work Parasites

Welfare to Work bosses pictured at yesterday’s #proudtowork launch

The body established to lie on behalf of the fraud ridden welfare-to-work industry have launched a new campaign on the back of a report so breath-takingly dishonest it would make Iain Duncan Smith blush.

According to the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the floundering Work Programme has been a huge success and is set to add £18 billion to the economy.  This is based on a report which ERSA commisioned from a consultancy company called Europe Economics who have mangled the figures in an attempt to hoodwink the DWP into giving Work Programme providers like A4e and G4S even more tax payer’s cash.

The report claims that around 100,000 people have gained jobs over the last three years as a direct result of the Work Programme.  Whether this is true is almost impossible to establish.  Long term unemployment has fallen, but only stands at 20,000 lower than back in 2010 when this Government weren’t elected.  Economic growth has eventually returned which would cause unemployment across the board to fall.  The report claims to have accounted for this by looking at the number of job vacancies, but what they don’t measure is the huge rise in self-employment.  According to ERSA boss Kirsty McHugh at the launch of the report, one in ten of the job outcomes on the Work Programme is self-employment.  There is no evidence wheher this self-employment is actually making claimants any money or whether they have just transferred their claim over to Working Tax Credits after pressure from their Work Programme provider.

The report decides to completely ignore Employment Support Allowance (better known as sickness benefit) claimants on the Work Programme, the worst performing aspect of the scheme.  It acknowledges that the growth in people getting jobs could be down to other welfare reforms and that the Work Programme might just be displacing jobs elsewhere. In truth they have pulled this figure out of their arses.

But then it gets worse.  The £18 billion they claim the Work Programme has added to the economy is over the next 50 years.  This is made up of the extra money the claimant will receive over their working life, the money saved by the government in benefit payments, and some magical money added on top which they pretend it will save businesses.  The problem with this figure, and it’s a fuckin big one, is that it assumes that everyone who gets a job and keeps it on the Work Programme is a 17 year old with 50 years of working life ahead of them.  17 year olds aren’t even eligible for the Work Programme.

Even taking their bungled figures at face value, all the report shows is that the Work Programme is adding £140 milion a year to the economy.  It is costing around three times that.  People leaving the Work Programme are now being forced onto the £300 million Help To Work scheme.  These costs will go on and on as new schemes are devised to harass and demoralise unemployed people.  Even when the figurs are spun to the point of parody by the very same industry that is raking in all that money, all they can do is show the Work Programme is costing a fortune to achieve virtually fuck all. But then being paid a fortune to do fuck all has long been about the only speciality of the UK’s biggest benefits scam, the welfare to work industry.

ERSA have launched a twitter page as part of their latest marketing strategy to lie bout the success of the Work Programme in the hope of being paid more of our money.  You can find them @Proud_to_Work and they are tweeting using the hashtag #proudtowork.

The report is available at: http://ersa.org.uk/media/news/work-programme-add-%C2%A318bn-value-uk-economy

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