Category Archives: JSA/Workfare/Work Programme

Iain Duncan Smith Is Still A Fucking Idiot – And Only We Can Stop Him

Incapacity Benefit for new claimants will go, replaced by Employment and Support Allowance with the emphasis on what a person with a physical or mental health condition can do, rather than what they can’t.

Peter Hain, Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 2007

We need a system focussed on what a claimant can do and the support they’ll need – and not just on what they can’t do.

Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 2015

It’s just the same old shit, over and over again, whichever bunch of bastards is in charge.  The above two comments were made almost a decade apart and in that period the number of people claiming out of work sickness benefits has barely changed.  And why would it?  In any society there will be some people who cannot work due to illness or disability and as the pension age gets ever higher then that number as a percentage of the workforce will grow.

There is nothing unusual or unexpected about this.  Whoever you are reading this, one day you will get sick and then you will die.  If you are lucky this will not happen until you have reached retirement.  If not then you will be helped on your way to an early grave by politicians desperate to cover up for their failure to provide enough jobs by blaming unemployed, sick and disabled people for unemployment.

Iain Duncan Smith’s speech yesterday was a masterclass in this deception, but everything he said has been said before.  So out of ideas is the Secretary of State that he is now misrepresenting the entire process for claiming sickness benefits – pretending it is a binary system which “decides that you are either capable of work or you are not”.  This is simply an outright lie and he knows it.  Currently claimants are assessed as being fit for work, unable to work, or placed in the Work Related Activity Group which means capable of some work, or of being able to work in the future.  In the recent budget George Osborne declared that this group is to be scrapped, creating precisely the binary system that Iain Duncan Smith says he opposes.  Perhaps he hopes we won’t notice.  Perhaps even he hasn’t noticed.

The UK does not spend significantly more on out of work sickness and disability benefits than other comparable economies.  According to the OECD we spend a fraction more than Poland as a percentage of GDP on ‘incapacity’ – and less than Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, Belgium. Luxembourg, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  It is true as Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday that the UK spends more than France, Germany and Japan.  In humane society this would be a source of pride.  Or at least it would be until you found out that Germany spends over three times as much on unemployment benefits whilst France and Japan – where the retirement age is lower – both spend almost double what the UK spends on pensions.  And the incapacity spending figures by the way come from 2011, before most of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts had been implemented.

Only an astonishing degree of self-delusion could explain Iain Duncan Smith’s latest belief that more workfare, more assessments, and more benefit cuts will magically cure those unable to work because of illness.  But then he is deluded.  That’s why he could claim yesterday that  “The Work Programme is … the most successful back to work programme we’ve ever seen.”  That’s the Work Programme that has seen less sick and disabled people enter employment than it was estimated would have done if the scheme hadn’t existed.  Hundreds of millions of pounds spent on making things worse.  This is what Iain Duncan Smith calls a success.

Rarely, if ever, has such a fucking idiot been given so much power over so many people’s futures.   If the human cost were not so great then the best response would be to point and laugh.  But we can’t do that, not as millions of lives are destroyed.  If society means anything at all it means looking after each other and that means driving Iain Duncan Smith back into the sewer he crawled from before he can do anymore damage.  No-one should stand idly by now.  We need to be relentless as he is, to wake up every day with one thought on our minds – to destroy Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms before they destroy us.

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#WEcan Expose The Wannabe Tory Councillor Behind The DWP’s Workfare Campaign

After failing to become a Tory Councillor Laura-Jane Rawlings decided she was the voice of youth employment instead

After failing to become a Tory Councillor Laura-Jane Rawlings decided she was the voice of youth employment instead

It’s been a humiliating week for the DWP on social media.  Yesterday hundreds of people used the hashtag #fakeDWPstories to take the piss out of the them after Welfare Weekly revealed that they were inventing case studies in support of benefit sanctions.

Whilst all this was taking place the DWP were desperately trying to rescue their #WEcan campaign which had also become a laughing stock on twitter.  This was a shabby attempt to promote unpaid work schemes, and came with a gushing press release promising that up to 12,000 young people would be posting ‘workies’ and sharing their stories of unpaid work experience.  Those 12,000 young people were supposed to come from their campaign partners Youth Employment UK (@YEUKYouth).  They never turned up.  Fucking kids eh.

At first glance Youth Employment UK appear to be exactly what they say, which is “The Voice for Youth Employment in the UK”.  On twitter yesterday they claimed that both the organisation, and the woman who runs it, are politically neutral and all they care about is helping young people get jobs.  They emphatically denied that their Chief Executive, Laura-Jane Rawlings, is a Tory.  That tweet has now been deleted.

In truth Laura-Jane Rawlings stood as a Conservative candidate in the 2011 Corby Council elections.  She lost and shortly afterwards set up Youth Employment UK.  And be in no doubt, Laura-Jane Rawlings is Youth Employment UK.  She is the sole director, the website is registered to her and even one of her claimed corporate patrons – plotr – is a company run by her.

Her qualification for this lofty position as The Voice for Youth Employment is that she’s a life coach.  In a nice little sideline business if you pay her £35 quid she will talk to you on the phone for 50 minutes.  Her coaching, according to her, is inspired by the discredited pseudo-science neuro-linguistic programming along with counselling and Cognitive Behavoir Therapy – neither of which she seems to be qualified in.  As she boasts on her website, she isn’t really qualified in anything at all.

But of course none of that matters if you know the right people in the Conservative Party and are prepared to say the right things.  Yesterday she gave a cautious welcome to the announcement that young unemployed people are to be sent on bootcamps or face benefit sanctions.  She sounds far more like the voice of the Conservative Party pretending to be neutral than she does the voice of youth employment.  And she has been well rewarded for it.  Whilst Youth Employment UK say they have not been paid by the DWP for the #WEcan campaign, they have received a huge of amount of free advertising including national media coverage.

Youth Employment UK claim to be led by their young members and youth ambassadors rather than just a Tory spiv with a big mouth.  If this is the case then those young people need to know they are ripping off themselves and millions of their fellow young people by endorsing workfare and benefit sanctions.  There is no evidence that Work Experience schemes help people get jobs.  A recent DWP evaluation found that young people who refused workfare were more likely to find work than those who went on the scheme.   Demand a wage and join the fight to destroy workfare.

Visit Boycott Workfare’s website for more info on the fight against unpaid work.

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#WEcan and We Did Fuck Up The DWP’s Online Campaign To Promote Workfare

Once again the DWP have been reduced to a laughing stock on social media after their online campaign to promote unpaid work became dominated with comments from those opposed to workfare.

The #WEcan campaign aimed to enourage employers to provide unpaid work experience placements for young people.  The DWP had also hoped that young people would post up ‘workies’ – apparently the work version of a selfie – on social media alongside their experiences of unpaid work placements.  It turns out though that the young were too lazy and feckless even to bother doing that.  Minister for Employment Priti Patel must be furious.  It wasn’t like this when she worked for the tobacco industry encouraging kids to take up smoking.

Instead what happened is that the hashtag was dominated by people furious at a government that seems obsessed with forcing young people to work for no wages.  Alongside this many people used the hashtag to pledge to boycott some of the companies named as being involved in workfare, such as @marksandspencer, and @Halfords_uk.

Amusingly the DWP also invited people to laugh at them on facebook, where unfortunately for the department the #WEcan hashtag is already in use by the Wellness Education Cannabis Advocates of Nevada. The DWP’s social media team get paid real money – our money – for this bungling shit.

In what seems like an attempt by the DWP to muddy the waters the #WEcan campaign promotes all forms of work experience, including short placements for schoolchildren or paid internships as well as workfare schemes.  This led to some of the organisations backing the campaign complaining that they only do nice work experience and they don’t support the nasty stuff.  These organisations should be at the forefront of challenging the government about ever more exploitative Jobcentre enforced workfare which can now involve 780 hours of forced, unpaid work.  Instead they are quite happily helping the DWP rehabilitate workfare with gushing tweets about how wonderful unpaid work can be.  So fuck them, they are on the wrong side.

The DWP have now resorted to drafting in Jobcentres to tweet furiously and try to rescue the campaign. Make sure it doesn’t work and tell @WEcan what you think of workfare using the hashtag #WECan.  Please spread the word.

Here’s what some people have said so far:

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#WEcan Fuck Up The DWP’s Online Campaign To Promote Mass Workfare

workfare-stick-upA whole host of corporate vultures have teamed up with the DWP to launch an online campaign celebrating young people being coerced into working for no pay for some of the richest companies in the UK.

Marks & Spencer, Whitbread, Halfords and shamefully the BBC have all signed up to the #WEcan campaign which aims to encourage even more businesses to provide unpaid work experience positions instead of employing young people properly.  The new initiative comes as the Government draws up plans to force all unemployed young people into permanent unpaid work if they are unable to find a job within six months of becoming unemployed.  This means they have to find enough grubby companies and so-called charities who are prepared to take part in this shocking exploitation.  The #WEcan campaign is part of an attempt to achieve this, so let’s fuck it up.

Already parasites from the welfare-to-work industry are tweeting using the hashtag #WEcan whilst a tumblr page has been set up calling for young people to share their experiences of workfare.  The DWP have also posted a host of youtube videos (comments currently enabled) such as this one which says that “whatever you are doing, any experience is good experience”.  Gone is any pretence at providing placements which involve real training or a chance of a job at the end.  Instead they want young people to mop floors and stack shelves for two months and have the fucking gall to claim they are doing them a favour.

Please help spread the word about this and tweet using the hashtag #WEcan.  And let’s make sure everybody knows which companies are using workfare, starting with @marksandspencer, @premierinn, @Halfords_uk, @WhitbreadPLC, @Barclays and @BBC.

For the latest news on fighting back against forced unpaid work visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

I’m still on a break.  Back properly in a week or so.

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Don’t Let The Garden Bridge Turn Into The Workfare Bridge, Tell @TheGardenBridge To Pay A Living Wage

garden-bridge1

All those struggling with ever more vicious cuts to social security will be delighted to learn that millions of pounds of public money is soon to spent building a new bridge in Central London with a garden on it.  And if that isn’t enough of an insult at a time of soaring hunger and homelessness then – if Lanbeth Council get their way – some of those building this bridge won’t even get paid.

Over £60 million has been pledged already by the publicly owned Transport for London to build a Garden Bridge across the River Thames just yards away from two other bridges.  This vital project, which developers say has the support of business leaders and a famous architect, is the latest attempt to turn the capital into an elaborate Disneyland and playground for the global super rich.  With gentrification fast turning London into cultural desert then ever more gimmicks like this will be necessary to ensure middle class dickheads from across the globe keep flocking to city in the hope of bumping into Harry fucking Potter.

With planning permission granted it looks likely the bridge will now be built, although Westminster and Lambeth Council are still squabbling over the details.  As part of the negotiations, late last year Lambeth Council drew up proposals calling for the construction of the bridge to include ‘training and job opportunities’ for those that face significant barriers to work and ‘need support to get their foot in the door’.

Elsewhere in the document Lambeth say the developers should deliver Traineeships and Apprenticeships to local unemployed people.  Traineeships are a workfare scheme which include up to two months unpaid ‘work experience’ and are used to prepare young people for becoming an Apprentice where they will be paid just £2.73 an hour for the first year.  Let the good times roll.

Lambeth Council have also called for paid work experience placements in horticulture once the bridge is open, although they acknowledge that this would require some funding.  With the Tories promising permanent workfare for those under 21, then it is likely their flagship Westminster Council, who also get a say, will have their own plans to push young people into unpaid or poverty paid work on the bridge.

Nowhere in the document do Lambeth call for those working on the bridge to receive the London Living Wage, so we should, especially at the moment when the developers are pretending to be everybody’s friends.  You can contact them on twitter @TheGardenBridge and via their facebook page to demand that everyone who works on this bridge, whether they are training or not, gets a proper fucking wage.

UPDATE 29/6/15:  The Garden Bridge have said on twitter that they are “in early stages of developing educational & volunteering plans.”  So far they have not ruled out using workfare or committed to pay the London Living Wage.

Join the fightback against rampant gentrification in the capital at Camden’s first ever Fuck Parade on Saturday July 11th.

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Streatham Jobcentre Besieged By Protesters Demanding No Forced Treatment

no-forced-treatmentAround 100 people marched on Streatham Jobcentre today in a fantastic start to the fight against forced psychological treatments for unemployed, sick and disabled claimants.

Protesters gathered in Streatham Memorial Gardens with many carrying banners showing the growing anger at the collaboration of mental health workers and charities with the DWP’s workfare and benefit sanctions regime.  At just after 2pm the protest took to the streets, taking over the busy road before fnally arriving outside the Jobcentre which now also contains much of Lambeth’s mental health services.

The ever present G4S security guards blocked campaigners from entering the Jobcentre, with one member of staff informing the amused crowd that there were no jobs available today.  What bungling Jobcentre workers didn’t realise is that several people were already inside the building where they proceeded to disrupt the opening party of the so-called Living Well Network Hub and hung a banner out of the window to large cheers from the crowd.

The message from those present was clear.  The threatened forced psychological treatments pledged in the Tory Manifesto will be fought every step of the way – and any charities or healthcare professionals who collaborate with this unethical practice will also be held to account.  The re-locating of vast swathes of local mental health services in the Jobcentre building was also the target of anger – a move carried out without any public consultation and which suggests a chilling future for mental health service delivery in Lambeth.

According to The Guardian, the DWP are now denying that Streatham will be one of the pilot areas for the upcoming scheme which will eventually see therapists stationed in 350 Jobcentres.  Apparently the department made a mistake when they said this would be the case.  South London and Maudsley NHS Trust are also spinning fast, claiming there are no plans for ‘formal’ links between the new Living Well Network Hub and the Jobcentre.

A press release by homelessness charity Thamesreach, who are part of the network of agencies running the project, reveals a very different story however.  According to them the Hub brings together voluntary sector providers, GPs, psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers with Streatham Jobcentre Plus staff.  The intention, according to the charity, is “specialist mental health services operating alongside Jobcentre Plus Staff” with the  “common goal of improving health and well-being and helping people to get back to, or stay in, work.”  And that is why the project was recently visited by not just Iain Duncan Smith, but the former DWP Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper.  They must think we are fucking idiots if they expect us to believe this is all just some big coincidence.

The protest was called by the Mental Health Resistance Network, whilst campaigners were also present from Kilburn Unemployed Workers, Boycott Workfare and Disabled People Against Cuts.  Those speaking at the protest warned this was just the beginning.  Forced treatment, of any kind, for anybody, will be ferociously resisted.  And therapists, charities and mental health workers should get the fuck out of Jobcentres and refuse to participate in DWP attempts to rebrand unemployment as a psychological defect.

Boycott Workfare will be back on the streets tomorrow for the day of action against workfare exploiters B&M Stores, check their website for details.

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Unemployment Is Not Caused By Unemployed People: Keep The Psychocrats Out Of Jobcentres

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

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

There are some things which need nipping in the bud.  Forced psychological treatment for unemployed people is one of them.  As is the attempt by the DWP to reframe unemployment as a psychological defect or the result of a ‘negative’ attitude.

Unemployment is caused by a lack of jobs.  According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently 1.81 million unemployed people of working age.  In addition to this there are 2.34 million people who are economically inactive and want a job, but do not meet the strict definition of unemployed.  This just means they either haven’t actively looked for a job in the last four weeks or would be unable to start a job within two weeks.  There are also 1.44 million people who are working part time because they could not find a full time job.  That’s over five and a half million people who are under-employed or out of work completely.

Even this doesn’t tell the full story.  There is a growing number of people on sickness or disability benefits, as well as lone parents with children under 5, who are expected to prepare and look for work.  There are people over pensionable age who are looking for jobs, as well as college and even school students.  There are those who’ve dropped through the gaps altogether and neither feature in the counts of people claiming benefits or are likely to fill in the Labour Force Survey from which the unemployment figures are drawn.  There are 86,000 prisoners,  waiting to join the dole queue on their release.

Equally importantly there is now a European wide labour market.  This does not necessarily decrease the overall supply of jobs – immigration also creates jobs, you only need to step into a Polish supermarket to see that.  But it does mean that the millions of people in the UK looking for jobs are joined by many more from overseas.  There is ample evidence of greedy employers only advertising jobs in Eastern Europe as they know they can get away with offering lower wages.  Despite triumphant Tory claims that there are more people in work than ever before, the number of people born in the UK with jobs actually fell slightly in the latest quarter.

All of these people, millions in the UK alone, are chasing just 734,000 vacancies – and the number of  jobs available also fell during the last period.  Of course people in work, who are looking to change jobs, are also chasing those vacancies.  To suggest, when work is so scarce, that unemployment is caused by unemployed people, is offensive and absurd.  The truth is that the tiny minority who don’t want a job, who may be carers, volunteers, artists or just too ill to work, are doing everyone else a favour.  If you don’t agree then why not give up your own job so someone unemployed can take it.

On Friday a demonstration is due to be held in Streatham where mental health workers are to be brought into the Jobcentre.  The Government aplans to introduce Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) therapists into 350 Jobcentres as well providing online Cognitive Behavior Therapy to unemployed, sick and disabled people.  They announced before the election that they soon intend to force some claimants to undergo psychological treatment or their benefits will be stopped.  This will require significant changes in the law and a Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech.  This is not a done deal, there is still time to fight it, and that fight begins on Friday.

Please help spread the word about this protest and come if you can.  Already happy-clappy DWP managers are turning Jobcentres into cults, wittering on endlessly about being positive whilst actually making everyone feel like shit.  Behind the scenes shadowy ‘behavioral insight’ teams are dreaming up yet more harassment of unemployed people based on the flimsiest of evidence.  The rise of the Psychocrat, using psychological therapies to control, not cure, must be halted.  A defiant and well attended demonstration this Friday is vital, to show the DWP that this is a line we will not let them cross.

The facebook page for Fridays protest is at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1632671646970164/  Please share, tweet, blog and make sures everyone knows this is taking place and why.

An important paper by Dr Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn has also recently been published which explores the role of coercion and psychology in welfare-to-work and workfare schemes, you can read it at: http://mh.bmj.com/content/41/1/40.full

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