Tag Archives: Iain Duncan Smith

Deconstructing The So Called Jobs Miracle And Why It Has Nothing To Do With Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan SmithRepeatedly over the last few months the Tories have cheered that there are more people working than ever before as if this was some kind of fucking miracle.  In truth it is exactly what you would expect in a growing population.  Unless the economy is in the grip of recession there are almost always more jobs than ever before.  More people means more jobs.  They all have to shop.

According to the Office for National Statistics the total size of the UK’s workforce – which means all of those working, unemployed, or economically inactive, such as long term sickhas grown by 2.6 million since 2010.  In that period the number of people in work has grown by 2 million.  The disparity is partly down to the rise in women’s pension age, a bodge in how the figure are recorded means that all women under 65 are now included in the workforce, even if they are retired.  Previously only women under 60 were included.

The Employment Rate, the percentage of people in work, has only shifted upwards by about a percentage point, from 72.1% to 73.3%.  That’s around half a million people, which is just under the growth in the number of people who have become self-employed since 2010.  How many of them are making any money is anyone’s guess, but we do know that average earnings from self-employment are plummeting.

One of the reasons for the growth in both population and new jobs is migration.  In an astonishing fact, curiously ignored by the Tory press, there are one million more people in employment who were not born in the UK than in 2010.  That’s over half the growth in jobs during the current administration.*

What those million new workers tell us – and some will be UK citizens who happened to have been born overseas – is that most of the growth in jobs has fuck all to do with Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms.

To look at the impact of social security policies means delving into the unemployment figures, and crucially long term claimants.  Figures quietly released last week showed that the number of people who had been on benefits for three out of the last four years has fallen by just 91,000 since 2010.  This is despite economic growth, the Work Programme, mass benefit sanctions and the country recovering from a deep recession.  And even this figure is likely to be revised down as more data comes in.

There were just over 600,000 fewer unemployed people recorded in the latest figures than there were in the last period of the previous Government, and there are still almost 2 million of them.  Most of the jobs the Tory’s are claiming have been created have not gone to people who were unemployed.  And the quality of these jobs is also relevant.  People can be included as offically in employment if they are on workfare for example – although there are currently less people on unpaid work schemes than during the Labour administration.

As well as the growth in self-employment, nearly half a million of the new jobs are part time.  You only have to be working a few hours a month to be classed as employed.  The growth of zero hours contracts is well documented.  The quality of most of these new jobs is shit.

The Labour Market Statistics, on which all this information is based, are messy, not least because they are based on a survey.  What they suggest however is that unemployment has fallen, but not by that much, and that many of the new jobs are part time or low earning self-employment.  This is hardly a great fucking success story for a country emerging from a recession.

Perhaps a better guide to what is really going on are the Housing Benefit statistics.  This is an exact figure and reveals the number of people who need help to pay their rent.  The only two criteria for claiming Housing Benefits are a low income and low or no assets.  By the very nature of the benefit, everyone who is claiming it is poor.

There were 4.751 million people claiming Housing Benefit in May 2010.  In November 2014, the latest month for which figures are available, there were 4.883 million claims.  More people are poor now than before the Tories weren’t elected, despite the so-called jobs miracle   And that is the figure on which Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms should be judged.

*Before anyone starts feeling all UKIP remember this is not a one way street.  A study released last year found that up to 70% of graduates are planning to fuck off soon in the search of somewhere less shit.  For every Polish builder who turns up we might soon lose a marketing graduate from Surbiton.  On balance we’ve probably got the better end of that deal.  Whatever your views on immigration policy, the very worst thing that could happen is for working class people of different nationalities to be be tricked into fighting each other over the scraps they hand down.  The capitalist class of Europe – the bankers, property developers, business owners and landlords – are united.  We need to be as well.

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare and Benefit Sanctions beginning on April 26th.

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Welfare Reform Has Failed – And These Latest Statistics Prove It

ids-slug1Welfare reforms have barely made a dent in the number of long term benefit claimants figures quietly released last week revealed.  There are just 91,000 fewer people who have been on an out of work benefit for at least three of the last four years compared to 2010 despite grandiose claims that a million new jobs have been created during the period.

The figures are one of the Government’s ‘social justice outcome indicators’ and include everybody on sickness benefits, the dole and unemployed lone parents.  2.381 million of these groups had been on one, or a combination of, these benefits for three out of four years in 2014 compared to 2.472 million in the period following the recession in 2010.

Perhaps most significantly the slight fall in the figures coincides with a huge rise in benefit sanctions suggesting that people are just being stripped of  benefits, not finding jobs.  The statistics do also not include people hounded into low (or no) earning self-employment by their Work Programme provider and now claiming Working Tax Credits – a practice which has been well documented.  The most recent year’s figures do not even include people who had benefts stopped temporarily following a sickness benefit assessment but have since appealed and are now claiming again.  The truth is that when these factors are taken into account then welfare reforms may have had no impact at all on the number of long term claimants.

Billions of pounds has been squandered by Iain Duncan Smith to bully these 91,000 people out of the benefits system.  Longer term claimants are exactly the group that all of his reforms were aimed at and the dire results show beyond doubt that he has failed.  Economic growth may have returned, but the very poorest are poorer than ever and there are just as many of them.  The cost of these reforms to the tax payer has been astronomical – far more than if these 91,000 people had just kept claiming.  The impact on the lives of those affected by endless assessments, sanctions and benefit cuts has been devastating.

One million people were forced to depend on a foodbank in the last year.  The number of suicides linked to withdrawal of benefits grows ever higher.  Every measure of homelessness has risen steeply.  And it has all been for fuck all.  Billions of pounds spent on brutalising people for no reason and with no results should be the only remembered legacy of Iain Duncan Smith’s nasty little experiment at the Department of Work and Pensions.

Join Disabled People Against Cuts on April 25th when they will visit Iain Duncan Smith Chingford constituency.

You can view the latest statistics at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/duration-on-working-age-benefits-april-2010-to-march-2014

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The Stench Of Racism That Has Always Haunted Iain Duncan Smith

ids-nazi1“Race will come back time and time again to hound the Conservative Party. It is a cancer that is in the body that will spread and eventually kill the Conservative Party.” Lord John Taylor 2001

News that long-term unemployment amongst young ethnic minorities has soared is far from the first time that Iain Duncan Smith has been plunged into a race row.

The comment above was made by Lord John Taylor, the Conservative Party’s first black peer, as Iain Duncan Smith’s Tory leadership bid descended into chaos.  IDS was forced to sack the Vice-Chair of his campaign Edgar Griffin after it was revealed that he was the father of Nick Griffin, the then leader of the BNP.  His wife Jean Griffin had previously stood as a BNP candidate against Iain Duncan Smith.  He was even known to have manned the BNP phonelines.  Griffin was unrepentant about being sacked, claiming that he was just an ‘ordinary Tory’ who shared the grassroots view in the party that ethnic minorities should be assisted with voluntary repatriation.  Iain Duncan Smith claimed the whole row was a smear campaign.

Edgar Griffin was not the only far right supporter of Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership bid.  The apartheid supporting Springbok Club had ‘no hesitation’ in backing his leadership campaign due to his “views and policies towards southern Africa”.  He was also supported by the notorious Monday Club, a right wing group of Tory MPs who campaigned to halt immigration and scrap race relations laws.

On winning the Tory leadership Iain Duncan Smith stuffed his shadow cabinet with extreme right-wingers.  The Monday Club’s support was repaid with the offer of a role for John Bercow – now the comedy speaker in the House of Commons – then a virulent racist and president of the club.  Previously Bercow had called for programme of “assisted repatriation” of immigrants.  IDS also gave a job to Eurosceptic Bill Cash, despite accusations he had cosied up to Italian fascists in an attempt to build an anti-EU alliance.

In 2003 IDS was forced to sack his Shadow Minister Ann Winterton when she was heard making a joke about about throwing a Pakistani out of a window because ‘they are ten a penny in my country’.  His leadership was rocked again by the resignation of Tory peer Lord Skidelsky who claimed the party had become  xenophobic, with ‘hysterical’ views on Europe.  It was not until 2007 that another of his appointments, Patrick Mercer, resigned from his Tory post following comments about “idle and useless” ethnic minority soldiers.

Throughout his time as leader IDS attempted to play down claims of Tory racism, even visiting Bradford to talk to some poor Asian people.  He  shut down his former cheerleaders the Monday Club, although this seems to have been based of pragmatism rather than principle.  Public opinion was fast turning against the Nasty Party as they Tories became known under Iain Duncan Smith.

IDS is too ambitious to let bigotry get in the way of his messianic lust for power.  His sudden and surprising conversion to supporting gay marriage came shortly after a cabinet reshuffle in which David Cameron had atempted to sack him as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.  He had never voted for LGBT rights in his life before.

There is still a hint of his former self in his policies however.  In a commons debate on immigration in 1992 Iain Duncan Smith blamed ethnic minorities for a housing crisis in his constituency saying: “The ethnic population of Waltham Forest, which is the fifth highest in London, has put pressure on housing demand.”

In 2013 Iain Duncan Smith introduced a Benefit Cap which is currently socially cleansing large families, many of them from ethnic minorities, from London boroughs like Waltham Forest.

Above pic from Sabcat, where you can even buy it on a t-shirt.

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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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No Statistics On Benefit Uptake Published In Five Years, What Have The DWP Got To Hide?

What the Institure for Fiscal Studies thought about scrapping statistics on benefit uptake rates

What the Institure for Fiscal Studies thought about scrapping statistics on benefit uptake rates

The DWP are trying to hide the truth about the collosal sums of benefits that go unclaimed by using endless statistical meddling as an excuse for no longer revealing this vital information.

Back in the days before the current government weren’t elected the DWP used to publish statistics on an annual basis showing the number of people who were eligible for a particular benefit but didn’t claim it.

The numbers were often used to embarrass the government by showing that far more people do not claim the benefits they are entitled to than falsely receive payments.  They showed for example, that in 2009/10 that the amount of  Jobseeker’s Allowance that went unclaimed was between £1.28 billion and £1.95 billion.  Housing Benefits were under-claimed by between £1.85 billion and £3.10 billion, whilst out of work sickness and disability benefits were under-claimed by anything from £0.75 billion up to £2.04 billion.

Unfortunately, these figures – which were published by the Tory administration but cover Labour’s last year in office – are the last we have.  In 2012, Iain Duncan Smith published a consultation on scrapping these statistics on the grounds that it would save some money and that no-one really cared anyway.  The response to the consultation was clear – some organisations cared very much indeed.  A host of think tanks, charities and academics condemned the plans and the DWP relented and agreed to continue publishing this information.  Or at least that’s what they said they would do.

Initially the department said they would publish the figures for 2010/11 and 2011/12 in February 2014 and then didn’t.  After four years of pretending to tinker with the statistical methods they were expected to finally publish the information this month.  But they aren’t doing that now either.  The latest news is that the statistics are “provisionally due to be published in May or June 2015″.  Which conveniently is after the general election.

So after five years of welfare reforms we will not know whether the brutal cuts have made any difference to the number of people who take up benefits.  We won’t find out whether sanctions and increased conditionality are driving people away from claiming unemployment benefits, or whether the vicious assessments for sickness and disability benefits are putting people off accessing the help they need when they are too ill to work.  We won’t know what the impact of Universal Credit has been, or the changes to Housing and Council Tax benefits.  We won’t know much very much at all, which is exactly what Iain Duncan Smith wants.  Anyone would think they’ve got something to hide.

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As Hunger Soars Iain Duncan Smith Is Still Hiding The Existence Of Emergency Benefit Delay Loans

IDS-malnutritionFollowing last week’s food banks report, which found delays in processing benefits are one of the key reasons for growing hunger in the UK, Iain Duncan Smith said to Parliament:

“Today I have announced that we shall be doing much more to raise awareness of interim payments for people who need them, particularly those who are in difficulty.”

These payments are called Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs).  These are repayable loans that can be accessed whilst waiting fot the Jobcentre to get round to processing a benefit claim.  And the shameful truth is, that whilst the number of people using foodbanks has soared, the DWP have done everything they possibly can to hide their existence.

There is no mention of these payments on the section of the gov.uk website which provides information on “Jobseeker’s Allowance and low income benefits”  or the section on “Benefits for families”.  In fact there is no mention of these loans on any government website at all except buried in policy documents.

This is not surprising.  When Short Term Benefit Payments were introduced, the jobcentre worker’s PCS Union warned that the DWP did “not intend to advertise the availability of STBAs to the public.”  When guidance on the Social Fund was later published, detailing the kind of help available from the government in an emergency, there was still no mention of these loans.

Short Term Benefit Payments were brought in to replace Crisis Loans which Iain Duncan Smith scrapped in April 2013.  These were small interest free loans which could be taken out if benefit payments were delayed or in the event of a household emergency.  The average sized loan was about thirty quid and the repayment rate was almost 100%.  So blasé was the Secretary of State about ending this vital support that when he was interviewed a year later he seemed to have forgotten his petty and vicious decision and claimed that they still existed.

Crisis Loans were a well publicised part of the benefits system and could be accessed by calling a dedicated phoneline. Unlike STBA’s, Crisis Loans still even have their own webpage – which states they no longer exist in Scotland, England and Wales – but makes no mention of their replacement.  This is not an oversight as Iain Duncan Smith is now trying to pretend.  It is clear that as families with children have gone hungry whilst waiting for benefit claims to be processed, the DWP have pursued a strategy of hiding information detailing the emergency payments they are entitled to.

The reason for this has not been to save money or cut the deficit, these loans barely cost the tax payer a penny.  The existence of these payments was hidden out of pure spite – to deliberately make life harder for people in desperate circumstances to access the help they need.  Now we are seeing the results of that policy with unprecedented numbers of people dependent on food banks to survive this Christmas.  That means children going hungry and all because of a nasty and vindictive little move by Iain Duncan Smith – and one that he is now trying to hide.  Don’t let the bastard  get away with it.

Short Term Benefit Advances can only be accessed by speaking to Jobcentre staff.  Child Poverty Action Group have published details on how the process works.

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Jobcentre Busy-Bodies To Outrank Healthcare Professionals In Treatment For Addictions

Iain_Duncan_Smith_pissedJobcentre busy-bodies could soon have the power to force people in treatment for drug or alcohol problems to take up full time ‘work related activity’ if they are unable to beat their addictions quickly enough.

The DWP has published guidance on the support (stop laughing) that will be offered to people claiming Universal Credit who have a dependency on drugs or alcohol.  Claimants will be given six months to undergo what the Jobcentre calls ‘structured treatment’ during which period they may not be required to look or prepare for work.  After this has elapsed however it will be a very diferent story.

The guidance warns that any further treatment will only be taken into account in a Claimant Comitment if Jobcentre advisors agree this if the best way for a claimant to achieve their ’employment goals’.  This truly chilling move means that the newly named ‘work coaches’ will be able to demand someone attends workfare raher than continue with treatment for their condition.  Jobcentre staff have no adequate training to make these decisions but they will now have more power over patients than the medical professionals treating them.  It is not hard to imagine some jumped up sanction happy Jobcenre twat deciding someone who has relapsed needs a short sharp shock of forced work which they will possibly fail to attend and end up being sanctioned for.

Of course the Jobcentre cannot actually stop anyone attending treatment.  But if a counselling or support sessions happens to clash with what they’ve decided you should do that day then you may face benefits being stopped for choosing getting better over ‘work related activity’.

The good news is that Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to force people into treatment seems to have been quietly abandoned, at least officially.  The document states that: “You will not be forced by your work coach into receiving treatment.”

It does not say what will happen if you refuse treatment.  It all sounds a bit like so-called voluntary unpaid work schemes.  There is a danger that if someone doesn’t agree to go into treatment then they may end up being sent on workfare instead.

Whilst some people with dependencies can lead functional lives the stark fact is that the most chaotic drug and alcohol users are not fit for work.  And they won’t get fit for work within six months.  Some people have to wait that long to get into rehab.  Whilst the pampered rich may be able to check into a plush private clinic and then go back to their warm homes and affluent lifestyles, the poorest face long waiting lists, shit housing, and now, the likelihood of benefit sanctions.

If there were any grown ups at the DWP then they would understand that addiction is a serious and complex health problem which cannot always simply be fixed in six months.  An adequate social security system needs to accept this and not drive people into the ground if they are unable to work.  Employers are hardly rushing out to hire people with current drug and alcohol problems anyway.  There are two million people without these problems desperately looking for work after all.

But a realistic approach to how society handles addiction would not get Iain Duncan Smith any pats on the head from the Daily Mail.  So instead the Government is adopting policies based on lazy tabloid stereotypes which will do more harm than good.  And cost more money in the long run.  It’s enough to drive you to fucking drink.

You can read the guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-support-if-you-are-dependent-on-drugs-or-alcohol

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