The DWP have finally released some scant information on the performance of George Osborne’s Help To Work scheme – the £300 million workfare programme announced at the 2013 Tory Party conference and then quietly scrapped in last month’s Autumn statement.
Those sent on Help To Work can be expected to sign on everyday at Jobcentres, face intensive and mandatory ‘interventions’ supposed to help them find work or in many cases be sent on an unpaid ‘Community Work Placement’ for six months. Previously published statistics revealed that such is the unpopularity of workfare amongst charities and community organisations that these placements could only be found for half of those referred to the scheme. What they didn’t tell us is how many people had found jobs. It is only now, 20 months after Help To Work began and in a week when most journalists are pissed or on holiday, that the DWP are admitting just 1,670 Job Outcome payments have been made to the welfare-to-work companies running the programme.
These payments are only made once someone has been in work for six months, meaning many on the scheme have not had long enough to qualify. Despite this, of the 67,000 people referred to Community Work Placements, around half began on the scheme long enough ago to have possibly found long term work. The DWP’s own far from optimistic minimum expectation was that 1,860 people would have found jobs so far. This is not a target by the way, it is a worst case scenario. Whilst the department are not telling us how they came to this figure it is usually judged to be the number who would have found work without any so-called help at all. So far this flagship scheme is performing worse than the worst case scenario.
It seems likely that bullying people into full-time unpaid work actually makes it harder for them to have the time, energy and confidence to go out and find a real job. Meanwhile the brutal benefit sanctions that the scheme is backed with force claimants into a desperate hand to mouth battle just to eat and stay healthy. As dismal as they are today’s statistics only tell one side of the story. We do not know how many people referred to Community Work Placements have been sanctioned and as a consequence possibly lost their homes, had their health demolished (as benefit sanctions are intended to do) or even been driven to their death. The DWP are investigatng 60 suicides which may be linked to Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms. They are refusing to tell the public the results of these enquiries.
Referrals to Community Work Placements are due to end in April next year. Until then many more people will be forced to work for free. This is not going to ‘help’ them to get proper work – today’s statistics prove that. It may even make it harder for them to get a job. But that was never the point. Community Work Placements were introduced as nothing more than punishment for being poor. Well that and to line the pockets of the grasping welfare-to-work industry who are being paid millions to continue this shambles.To join the fight against workfare visit Boycott Workfare’s website.
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