The DWP have repeatedly claimed that benefit sanctions are a last resort aimed at those who fail to stick to the ever more draconian rules. Yet a damning evaluation of a workfare scheme aimed at young people in London reveals that those who had their benefit claims stopped or sanctioned for refusing to take part were more likely to find jobs than those who completed the programme.
The laboriously named Day One Support for Young People (DOSfYP) Trailblazer was cooked up by then Employment Minister Chris Grayling and London Mayor Boris Johnson as revenge for the 2011 riots. This nasty attempt at collective punishment means that young people in many London boroughs can be sent on workfare for 13 weeks from their first day of claiming unemployment benefits.
A recently published evaluation of the Traiblazer reveals that the scheme has been an utter shambles from start to finish. Almost half of young people sent on the programme signed off or faced sanctions rather then undertaking unpaid work with many claiming they would rather spend their time looking for a job instead.
They seem to have made the right decision. Only around a quarter of young people who completed the scheme had found jobs by the time the evaluation was carried out compared to half of those who refused workfare.
The Trailblazer was supposed to be aimed at those aged between 18 and 25 who had little or no work experience. The evaluation found however that 25% of people referred to the scheme reported over six months prior work history. Some of these young people were scathing about the so-called help being inflicted on them:
“‘It didn’t help me [the placement] it didn’t give me any more experience than I already had and it just used up my time during the week when I could have been looking for work that I actually wanted to do.’
(Claimant, completer, South London)
The programme was run by the upcoming Atos replacement Maximus in north London and the Careers Development Group (CDG) in the south of the city. These companies were supposed to provide ten hours a week ‘provider led jobsearch’ but the report finds they barely bothered. Just over half of young people questioned said they didn’t receive any of these kind of job search sessions at all.
In encouraging news for those opposed to workfare schemes, the private sector providers reported that placements were hard to source with charities concerned about “press coverage and public perception” should they become involved with forced work. As usual the majority of placements were in charity shops. The rushed nature of the referral process meant young people were expected to attend an interview with the provider the day after their intitial claim and start workfare the day after that. This led to chaos with some young people turning up to their workfare placement only to be mistaken for customers with no-one knowing who they were.
Jobcentre staff also criticised the scheme, saying they were not given adequate time to explain the details of the placements in a short meeting in which they also had to process a benefit claim. According to some of the participants they were misled by Jobcentres who implied they were being sent on a training course rather than full time workfare. Some claimants reported being threatened with benefit sanctions due to being unable to attend an appointment the next day because they had a job interview. Other claimants who did attend their next day appointments with the private sector providers were sent away because paperwork had not arrived.
The evaluation reveals that the vast majority of young people sent on the scheme were living in the family home which may have lessened the impact of benefits being stopped. The report notes however that those living independently “would complete the Trailblazer regardless of whether they believed it was worthwhile and were consequently unengaged throughout the placement.”
A third of those who refused to attend forced work were sanctioned, whilst others just abandoned their benefits claim completely. 56% of those who did start dropped out before their time on the placement was completed. Almost a third of them were sanctioned as well. Despite this those who left early were significantly more likely to be in work at the time the evaluation was carried out – around five to seven months after the placements ended.
It is clear from this report that the young people who rejected this scheme were not workshy. Instead they simply had a better idea of how to find work than the bungling fucking idiots in charge of the DWP. They were even prepared to give up their benefits rather than face being ‘helped’ by the Jobcentre. If young people’s future were not being casually destroyed by schemes like these it would be laughable. But there is nothing funny about this appalling treatment of those entering the jobs market for the first time.
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