“ERSA believes it would be more appropriate to utilise the skills and experience which exists in the employment provider community” The Employment Related Service Association (ERSA – the trade body established to lie on behalf of the employment provider community – better known as the workfare industry)
“We strongly believe that such in-work support should be contracted out, and would suggest that the existing work-based learning infrastructure would be in a prime position to achieve the results required.” Association of Employment and Learning Providers (also ERSA, more or less).
“Stronger alignment and integration of housing associations into Universal Support and in-work employment support would help engage those facing complex barriers and improve outcomes” – National Housing Federation who represent housing associations.
“The Government should take a holistic approach to in-work progression, ensuring that employers, skills providers and employment support organisations are all involved.” Remploy, better known as Maximus, who can handily claim to be an employer, a skills provider and an employment support organisation.
“National Numeracy can help identify, assess and address poor numeracy … among job seekers …” – National Numeracy
“The Department for Work and Pensions should therefore look to other organisations who deliver specialist job retention and in-work services with a strong track record.” Mental health charity MIND (hint, hint)
“If Universal Credit is to be truly ‘universal’ then no claimant groups should be exempt.” – Workfare company Learn Direct
“We think that charities could play an important role in the delivery of in-work progression.” – lone parent charity Gingerbread
“Specialist organisations already providing support to vulnerable claimants are a key resource. “ Homelessness charity Centrepoint .
“Delivery of pilots, research, consultation and communication could be achieved in partnership with BITC and its business membership base.” BITC (Business in the Community)
It’s like feeding time at the fucking zoo. The above quotes come from submissions to the recent government inquiry into changes to the social security system which will see benefit sanctions for part time workers. This means that when Universal Credit is finally introdeced then claimants without a full time job will face payments being stopped or reduced for non-compliance with Jobcentre demands to constantly look for more or better paid work. They could even be sent on workfare in the hours they are not working. The Work and Pensions Select Committee, a group of MPs who scrutinise DWP policy, carried out the enquiry into these measures which are already being piloted in some parts of the UK.
The responses to the inquiry from the welfare-to-work industry – the toxic mixture of private companies and so-called charities involved in mandatory workfare and training programmes – were united in one demand. They all want some money in the form of juicy government contracts to run any future scheme.
This is despite them almost all acknowledging that introducing benefit conditionality for part time workers has never been tried anywhere in the world and that there is no evidence it will be effective. It is also despite the fact that the proposed system is to be backed by a horrifying benefit sanctions regimes which will see even those with jobs living in unprecedented poverty if they are sanctioned. And of course it ignores the stark reality that it is near certain that no part-time worker in history has ever wished they could be sent on an unpaid work scheme or mandatory CV workshop in the hours they are not working.
It is true that many charities say they are opposed to sanctions for part-time workers whilst even the more naked profiteers such as private companies like Maximus raise concerns. ERSA, who represent the industry, have used the enquiry to lobby for all in-work conditionality to be managed outside of Jobcentres – a long standing aim from an organisation which seeks to place all DWP services in private hands. Others call for sanctions to be fair, or to not affect those they call vulnerable too badly.
Some are transparent in their self-interest such as the National Housing Federation who want ‘stronger integration of housing associations’ into any future scheme suggesting they could act as formal contractors and sub-contractors.. Their only concerns about benefit sanctions are focussed on those with rent arrears or special rent payment arrangements who they say should be excluded from conditionality.
A few submissions call for any in-work conditionality to be voluntary such as the one from Gingerbread, who want working lone parents to be exempt from sanctions. They also insist however that charities should be involved in running the scheme and it is this that reveals the cynicism that now exists within the voluntary sector. Gingerbread also oppose benefit sanctions for unemployed single parents. That didn’t stop them running a lucrative Work Programme scheme where they were contractullay required to report lone parents to the Jobcentre for sanctions in cases of non-compliance. We hate this, they say, it is unethical and counter to our charity’s objectives. So we want a lot of money for doing it is the real message.
Of course some submissions to the inquiry were harsh in their criticism. Boycott Workfare say no claimants should face sanctions whether in work or not and that the record of organisations running mandatory schemes is “a catalogue of corruption, violation of work and safety standards, and abuse.” Oxfam warn that in-work sanctions are overly punitive, fail to take into account employer behaviour and could drive people into poverty. Parkinson’s UK say that neither the voluntary or the private sector should be involved in any future scheme and slam the ‘systemic failure’ of current benefit related health assessments. The University of York who have a team studying benefit sanctions say “in practice, in-work conditionality can be counterproductive – undermining work incentives and opportunities rather than reinforcing them.” And the PCS Union demand that “under no circumstances would it be appropriate to sanction an in-work claimant”, adding “but don’t expect us to do anything about it”. Actually I added that bit.
The difference between these organisation, and those mentioned previously, is that none of them have been involved in welfare-to-work programmes. As such there is no financial incentive for them to modify their demands. They have no need or desire to sell out their principles for thirty pieces of silver from the DWP. So they are rightly damning of these proposals which are based on some horseshit Iain Duncan Smith scribbled down on the back of an envelope one day and new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb is too cowardly to scrap.
In-work benefit sanctions could leave those working part time abandoned to survive on just a few pounds a day, for months, or even years at a time. They are perhaps the most vicious social security legislation yet, from this or any previous government. Those sanctioned will face a desperate choice between eating, or paying to get to work. Homelessness, destitution and unemployment will be the likely outcome for many. All of the organisations that responded to this enquiry know this. Some don’t care. A few oppose it outright and are prepared to say so. But most are content to whinge a bit and then use the enquiry to make sure that if this system is to be widely introduced then at least they will make some money from it. Those whopping charity chief executive salaries won’t pay themselves after all.
You can read all the submissions to the inquiry at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/universal-credit-15-16/publications/
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