Tag Archives: job seekers allowance

How the DWP Manufactures Falling Unemployment Figures

More evidence is emerging of how the unemployment figures are manipulated more by current policies at the DWP than any true measure of the number of people out of work.

Already it has been revealed that those who have had benefits sanctioned are not included in the Claimant Count.  Now it appears, thanks to some sterling work by consent.me.uk, that those on workfare are counted as employed by the Labour Force Survey, the other measure used to calculate unemployment.

This follows revelations in the Daily Telegraph that a significant number of those ’employed’ according to the Labour Force Survey guidelines, are actually on Government training schemes.

The Claimant Count and the Labour Force Survey are the two measures of unemployment. The Labour Force Survey is based on a survey of 45,000 households.  The claimant count means all those currently claiming Job Seekers Allowance and no-one else.  It does not include those sanctioned and neither does it include those on sickness benefits and found fit for ‘some’ work and placed in the Work Related Activity group (WRAG).

Both of these measures of unemployment fell in the last months figures.  Both of these figures are vulnerable to misinterpretation about the true numbers of unemployed people.  The Claimant Count does not include possibly tens of thousands of people sanctioned each month.  The Labour Force Survey does not include people on workfare.

The Government claim they don’t know exactly how many people are on workfare, however all the indications suggest the number is rising.  Over two thousand people are referred to Mandatory Work Activity on a monthly basis.  Approaching eight thousand young people currently start on Work Experience or other workfare schemes each month.  Over half a million people are currently on the Work Programme, which can include up to six months workfare.  The rise in workfare is clearly one significant factor in the supposed fall in unemployment.

Similarly the number of people facing benefit sanctions has almost trebled since 2009 to approaching half a million annually.  Again, a rise in the number of sanctions handed out could easily outstrip the recent modest fall in the Claimant Count.*

Even without the huge increase in people claiming Working Tax Credit as self-employed, or on zero hours contracts, or in unstable and irregular casual work, both measures of unemployment appear highly vulnerable to policy changes at the DWP.  This helps explains the discrepancy of falling economic growth and falling unemployment.

If more people are sent on workfare, and more people face having claims sanctioned then both measures of unemployment will fall.  Since more people are being sent on workfare, and more people are having benefits sanctioned, unemployment is falling.

Correction 17/10/12:  Recent information from the ONS suggests some people who are sanctioned may be included in the Claimant Count.  It depends whether the claim remains live, many do not.  Am waiting on further information from the ONS and will clarify in a later piece.  Details of sanctioned claimants in relation to the LFS is below.

*The Labour Force Survey does not mention sanctions.  It is possible that some of those sanctioned would not be classed as unemployed – it seems that it would be based on the answers given to questions relating to job seeking activity.  Therefore those sanctioned may also place downward pressure on this measure of unemployment.

Unravelling the Mystery of Falling Unemployment Figures

Another day brings yet another tantrum from the hapless Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.  This time it’s the BBC who are the subject of his potty mouth, with his claim that journalist Stephanie Flanders is ‘peeing all over the economy’ for discussing the strange discrepancy between a nose diving economy and apparent falling unemployment.

IDS appears to think that state TV should ignore this much discussed phenomena and instead broadcast announcements proclaiming what a wonderful job our glorious leaders are doing.  Unfortunately for ministers balanced journalism doesn’t quite work like that.

The truth is that it doesn’t take much digging into the recent unemployment figures to discover that the situation is far from rosy.  The staggering rise in self-employment – 218,000 self employed workers on the year – seems to be one explanation for the fall in unemployment.  Combined with the growth in part time work, this explains much of the economic anomaly which seems to be taking place.

On it’s own, a rise in casual, part time and self employed work still doesn’t fully explain what’s going on.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) still maintain that the number of total hours worked over the economy rose by 0.5%, meaning that even if people are pushed into insecure and casual work, the actual amount of work being done in the UK is still rising.

This still flies in the face of the plummeting growth figures.  To understand why this is happening requires something few economists and journalists possess – an understanding of the benefits system, and in this case Working Tax Credits.

To qualify for the self-employed element of Working Tax Credits, a claimant  must declare that they are working at least 30 hours a week.   This does not mean that they are earning even minimum wage for those hours.  They could be earning nothing at all.  Those on low (or no) incomes as self-employed workers will be recorded in the statistics as working 30 hours a week. So whilst the recent figures show a small rise in the numbers of hours worked, this doesn’t mean that people are actually getting paid for those hours.

Given the huge leap in those now registered as self-employed, and the relatively small rise in hours worked across the economy, this is perhaps enough to reveal that whilst people may be working more hours (on paper at least) they aren’t any better off.

The number of people without children claiming Working Tax Credits under the 30 hour rule has almost doubled since 2004 and is still rising.  There is even anecdotal evidence that Work Programme providers – the grasping poverty pimps paid billions by the Government to get people into work – are bullying unemployed claimants off the dole and onto Working Tax Credits.

This dovetails with the growth in people who are in work, or self-employed, and claiming Housing Benefits – a benefit based on income rather than hours worked.  The latest DWP Statistical bulletin shows a rise in Housing Benefit claims of around 20,000 people between April 2011 and April 2012*.  Whilst this does not represent a huge leap it must be weighed against the far stricter criteria for the benefit.

So whilst the number of people who are ‘unemployed’ is claimed to be falling, the number of people claiming income related benefits appears to be rising.

There are two figures which are key in understanding levels of unemployment.  The headline figure, which states that there are currently 2.56 million unemployed people, is based on the Labour Force Survey.  This is a large scale household survey using internationally recognised measures of estimating  unemployment and is carried out by the ONS.  The second is the Claimant Count.  This is compiled by the ONS from data provided by the DWP and represents the number of people claiming the unemployment benefit Job Seekers Allowance.

Whilst unemployment according to the Labour Force Survey has steadily fallen over the last few months, in part because of the reasons given above, the Claimant Count figures have bounced around, although the number fell last month.

For the last year the Government have been claiming this is down to the changes made to sickness, disability and lone parent benefits.  The argument is that many who were previously claiming Incapacity Benefits or Income Support will now be on Job Seekers Allowance and included in the claimant count.  As ever the Government’s claims hold little water once the numbers are crunched.

The number of people claiming sickness benefits (Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance) fell by just 21,000 between February 2011 and February 2012.  The number of those claiming lone parent benefits dropped by 30,000 in the same period.    Many of these people will not have then been eligible for Job Seekers Allowance.  Even if they were then it would only represent about 4000 people a month – the true figure is probably half that.  What can’t be hidden is that the number of working age benefit claimants in total rose by 117,000 between February 2011 and 2012.

It’s clear that changes in benefit eligibility criteria have had only a negligible impact on the claimant count.  There is one factor however which has skewed the figures considerably.

Over half a million benefit sanctions were handed to Job Seekers Allowance claimants in 2011 and the figure is believed to be rising.  This represents a tripling in the number of claimants who have had benefits stopped since 2009.  The ONS recently confirmed to me that those sanctioned are often not included in the Claimant Count – it depends on whether a claim is maintained throughout the sanction, which in many cases it isn’t.  With sanctions lasting anywhere between two weeks and six months, this is enough to skew the count by tens of thousands of people every month.  Other people are ‘disallowed’ benefits because they are judged to have given up a job voluntarily, or failed to meet JSA eligibility.  It almost renders the Claimant Count worthless, as it tells us far more about the current sanctioning policy in Jobcentres than it does about the true number of unemployed people.

Economic editors at the BBC and elsewhere have rightly focused on the rise in temporary jobs due to the Olympics, the rise in part time work, or zero hours contracts, as some of the factors behind falling unemployment.  All of these will no doubt have made an impact.

But almost a quarter of a million more people on Working Tax Credit (but not necessarily earning anything) and half a million benefit sanctions tells us far more.  Unemployment is not falling as Iain Duncan Smith claims.  The growth in hours worked has more to do with reporting requirements for working tax credits than it does with any genuine improvement in the labour market.  Sanctions grossly distort true  numbers of unemployed benefit claimants.  The number of people claiming Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits is rising, despite stricter eligibility for these benefits.

And once again, even this month, those who have been unemployed for over a year rose, despite over half a billion handed out to welfare to work companies with the aim of cutting long term unemployment.

This Government’s policies are not working.  And no matter how they try and cook the books, neither are an increasing number of people.

Correction 17/10/12:  Recent information from the ONS suggests some people who are sanctioned may be included in the Claimant Count.  It depends whether the claim remains live, many do not.  Am waiting on further information from the ONS and will clarify in a later piece.

*Unfortunately there is a lag in Housing Benefit, sickness benefit and lone parent benefit statistics which are now only to be published quarterly.  Therefore the most recent figures are not available and won’t be until November. The most recently published figures are at (PDF): http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/stats_summary/stats_summary_aug12.pdf

Dispatching Dispatches: Channel 4 Join the Benefit Bashers

Channel 4’s Dispatches is set to follow the recent documentary exposing the casual brutality of the current assessment process for sickness and disability benefits with some good old fashioned benefit bashing propaganda.

Monday night will see the Dispatches series examining the ruthless criminals who occasionally may fib to the Jobcentre about their job seeing activity.

No doubt media luvvies at Channel 4 believe that this will demonstrate some sort of balance after their recent condemnation of the Work Capability Assessment.  It shows just how far the demonisation of claimants has come when someone telling a fib on their Job Seeker’s Agreement is now judged to be a similar moral crime to the increasing number of sick and disabled claimants driven to suicide by the harsh reality of the benefits system.

It’s perhaps unfair to judge the programme until it has been screened, but the trailers currently advertised on Channel 4’s website don’t look good.  Entitled ‘Tricks of the Dole Cheats‘, the programme will reveal the “the shirkers’ tricks that make it easy to cheat the system.

With around half a million benefit sanctions handed out last year it is unclear exactly how easy it is to trick the system, but no doubt Channel 4 will enlighten us with a series of cunning stings on Jobcentre staff.  One clip released shows how they cleverly dress someone in paint covered overalls and then send them to sign on.

This is an attempt to demonstrate how someone who is obviously working can sign on without adequate checks from Jobcentre staff.  Viewers are forewarned that crafty claimants who have paint on their clothes when they go to sign on often claim they have been painting when questioned.  As it turns out this is exactly what happens to their undercover sleuth, who is asked why he is covered in paint only to tell them he has been painting.  Channel 4 presumably expected a benefit fraud SWAT team to immediately leap on the man and haul him into the courts to explain why he had paint on his clothes.  Instead benefit office staff, not being psychic and too lazy to follow him home, simply believed him.

It remains to be seen whether Channel 4 will tell the stories of the people plunged into poverty and homelessness due to sanctions, the single mothers interrogated about their sex lives by pervy government busy bodies or the thousands of malicious and untrue calls to the Benefit Fraud Hotline.

Instead it seems a few lame tricks – when Jobcentre staff haven’t fully checked details on the reams of utterly pointless information claimants are expected to produce – are to be presented as evidence of how easy it is to cheat the system.

It is not known how many people are actively avoiding work whilst claiming Job Seekers Allowance, but it isn’t that many.  The number of people unemployed for over two years is 440,000 and not all of these people will be on benefits.  Of those who are the vast majority will be actively seeking work.

Some sadly may be unsuccessful.  Lots of long term unemployed people are nearing retirement age.  Some are homeless, have physical or mental health conditions or criminal records.  Many will have children and be attempting to find jobs that can fit in with school hours and term times.  The enduring myth of millions of feckless spongers just doesn’t stack up when you look at the figures.

It could even be argued that the workshy, in times of high unemployment, are actually doing those who want to work a favour.  If some people can withstand the poverty of existence on Job Seekers Allowance then a sane society might say, with not enough jobs to go round anyway, let them get on with it.    The simple fact is that the vast majority do not choose a life on benefits which increasingly barely cover the cost of even the most basic survival.  If capitalism is so fucking great then what’s wrong with an opt out for people who can’t, or even won’t, join the great rat race.

Increasingly almost as much is spent on harassing the tiny number of alleged workshy as is spent on paying out their benefits.  Right wingers would have us believe that if this harassment stopped, even for a second, then the entire working class would immediately nail themselves to the sofa to watch endless Jeremy Kyle repeats.  The truth is that most people want to work, even if the current failing system doesn’t want to employ them.

The days of an easy life on benefits are long gone, despite whatever nonsense Dispatches have managed to cobble together.  Benefit levels are now so low that few would choose the miserable subsistence life that they just about pay for.  The vast majority of claimants are victims of casualisation, forced in and out of temporary and part time employment usually at the minimum wage, or increasingly workfare.

Tens of thousands of people are now working for free, sometimes for multi-national companies.  Those on the minimum wage are forced to rely on in-work benefits to simply keep a roof over their heads.  Long term unemployment continues to rise despite the hundreds of millions handed out by Chris Grayling to welfare to work parasites like A4e.  Any notion of job security has all but disappeared, whilst cuts to further education have killed any illusion of social mobility.  Capitalism has created an economic underclass that is devastating the potential of millions of lives.  We are simply now only judged on how much money we can make for the rich and we have colluded in attacking each other instead of aiming our guns squarely in the faces of the bastards living lives of luxury on the back of this shit.

So Channel 4 found a few people who didn’t apply for as many jobs (that they probably won’t get) as they were supposed to as part of their Job Seekers Agreement.  Well big fucking deal.  What next, a gritty expose of how many people sometimes take their library books back a bit late?

Tricks of the Dole Cheats will be shown on Monday 13th August on Channel 4 at 8pm. In what appears to be a crude taunt by overpaid media twats aimed at the unemployed, they will be tweeting using the hashtag #hownottogetajob

Combat Channel 4 Dispatches ‘Tricks of the Dole Cheats’

IDS’ Same Old Deal on Benefit Reform Will Punish The Sick

Baldyman must have had to think extra hard about his new ‘radical’ proposals for people on Jobseekers Allowance, aka the dole.  It seems that he thought all the way back to 1997 when new Labour launched the New Deal, which including mandatory 30 hour a week activity for the long term unemployed.

Whilst IDS is promising 4 weeks hard labour, New Labour splashed out over $6 billion on job creation schemes like the Environmental Task Force and subsidised wage slavery.  It was eventually scrapped because it was shit.  It was replaced last year by the all new Flexible New Deal, which is also now likely to be scrapped, because it’s shit.

What Iain Duncan Smith’s new scheme is likely to be called is still up in the air as are the finer details, however we can reveal exclusively on the void that it will be shit.

The first New Deal led to people sitting around in offices for 30 hours a week because work placements couldn’t be found for them.  It did however make a lot of people rich on the back of the poor.  Meanwhile those noble Brits who were actively avoiding employment, estimated by the DWP at only around 100,000 people,  blagged, scammed and skived their way through just like they have with every other piece of shit the state has foisted on them.  And just like they will again.

For the other million or so on the dole, well it fucked up people’s college courses, led to depression and even abuse by private training providers and wasted a lot of people’s time.  One thing it didn’t do was lead to a significant number of people finding work.

Ever keen to outdo New Labour scum though, this is likely to be more shit than anything so far.  The original New Deal included a training option, which although predictably shit, did provide some basic skills provision or English Language tuition for the handful who managed to blag themselves onto one of the courses.

This is the essential difference between New Labour and the current shower of scum.  New Labour ground your face in the dirt if you were poor supposedly for your own good, Baldyman and his rich chums just like kicking the poor.  It makes them feel better about the size of their electoral mandate.

The most truly brutal aspect of this policy is not just the unemployed who are likely to humiliated and exploited on enforced community service.   That’s not good enough for the Bullingdon boys.  It is the sick who will bear the brunt of this scheme.

One of the tories latest ‘radical’ plans for welfare include testing everyone currently claiming Employment Support Allowance/Incapacity Benefit (aka the sick) with the intention of moving up to a million people onto Job Seekers Allowance.  A scheme so radical it was actually introduced by Labour and has been happening for two years.

Employment Support Allowance is paid to those, who up until recently, had been declared by their doctors as too ill to work.  However GPs, who will soon be running the NHS, are no longer considered to be clever enough to make that kind of decision and it is now left to private company Atos Origin’s computer.

Atos Origin are an IT company who have been paid billions to come up with a test that shows most people on benefits are skiving.  These tests have been widely slated and not just by us.  The Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Macmillan Cancer Support are amongst some of the dangerous radicals who have condemned these tests which have led to people with serious conditions, including potentially terminal illnesses, being declared fit for work.

This declaration not only leads to a benefit cut from around £95 to £65 a week, but also means that they will become eligible for the new forced labour scheme.  If they don’t find a job quick enough they will also be forced to pay anything up to twenty five quid a week of their rent due to the 10% Housing Benefit cut for people on the dole for a year.  As we have warned, after essentials such as water and fuel this could leave people with a pound or two a day to live on.

So there you have it.  The kick in the tail.  Whilst all Baldyman plans for the unemployed is the same old deal, they will now be joined by the sick and disabled as they clean the streets and dredge canals.

That’s cancer patients, forced to do physical work and not being given enough money for food.  Welcome to Hell.

Benefit Claimants Fight Back