Tag Archives: unemployment figures

One Million Housing Benefit Claimants Who Are Officially ‘Employed’ Makes A Mockery Of The Fall In Unemployment

housing-benefit-graphThe number of people with jobs forced to claim Housing Benefit hit record levels according to the latest figures making a mockery of the so-called fall in unemployment.

The number of in-work Housing Benefit claimants now stands at over 1.049 million, the highest figure on record.  In May 2010, when this Government weren’t elected, the number claiming this benefit was just over 650,000.

Housing Benefit is probably the best indicator of how many people in the UK are poor.  Available to those in or out of work, as well as pensioners, the only criteria are being a tenant on a low income and having low, or no, assets or savings.  Even those with jobs on Housing Benefit will have a disposable income little higher than someone on out of work benefits, as the benefit is reduced as earnings rise.  All of the Housing Benefit bill goes to landlords, and the rates are capped at the bottom 30% of properties in the local rental market.

Both the press and politicians are finally questioning whether the fall in unemployment is masked by a huge increase in the number of self-employed people who are barely scraping an income.  People are known to have been encouraged to come off unemployment benefits and claim the lower rate of  Working Tax Credits by companies running Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare-to-work schemes.  These firms receive huge pay outs if they can persuade a claimant to take this risky move, which involves declaring themselves as working at least 30 hours a week towards self-employment.

If this was happening on a large scale then you would expect the number of in-work Housing Benefit claimants to soar.  The same would happen if many of the people now officially ’employed’ are actually on workfare, or zero hours contracts with sporadic and precarious incomes.  That is exactly what’s happening.  The number of people overall claiming housing benefits hit 5 million households last February and has more or less stayed there ever since.   This is a quarter of a million more than in May 2010 and the figures were at record highs then.  The rise is almost entirely down to claimants who the Government say are working.

If these claimants were actually earning any money, then this would be seen in the average weekly Housing Benefit claim for those in work.  As previously mentioned, the benefit is cut as incomes rise, so it could be that people are only claiming a few pounds a week to top up meagre incomes and pay soaring rents.  The figures show however that this is far from the case.  The average weekly Housing Benefit claim for those in work also hit a record high in the latest period and now stands at £90.44 a week.  This is only just under £3 less than the average claim for those out of work.  What this suggests is that most of these working Housing Benefit claimants have full awards, meaning they are only earning a few pounds at most above current unemployment benefit rates.

No matter how much the Government  try to claim that official unemployment has fallen, the number of people who have incomes around the current level of out of work benefits is higher than ever. This is the reality of the recovery for those not enjoying George Osborne’s house price bubble.  And with both in and out of work benefits being haphazardly slashed, not only are more people poor than ever before, but they are getting poorer.

Above graph from the latest DWP Quarterly Statistical Summary (PDF).

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Don’t Believe The Hype Unemployment Is Back On The Rise

Graffiti Gov lies bank steal rich laugh AThe number of unemployed people has risen by 20,000 people compared with the same period last month despite DWP spin that the numbers out of work are falling.

2.34 million people were unemployed in October – December 2013 compared to the figure of 2.32 million a month earlier.  The rate of unemployment grew to 7.2% of the working age population, whilst the number of people ‘economically inactive’ also rose.

Today’s figures have led to some confusion with the DWP spinning wildly that everything is fine and unemployment is still falling.  The problem lies in the way the figures are presented.  It is true that unemployment has fallen from the previous quarter – meaning there were less unemployed people between October – December 2013 than July – September 2013.  However there were more unemployed people between October and December 2013 than there were between September and November 2013  – suggesting unemployment rose sharply in December, or that the previous two months figures were exceptionally good and that trend has juddered to a halt.

The good news is that the number on people on workfare has dropped, although the number of people now self-employed – although not necessarily making any money –  is soaring, however you look at the figures.  The number of people claiming out of work benefits due to sickness or disability is also believed to be on the rise, although finalised official statistics have yet to be released.

The Claimant Count – the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance did fall in January, but this figure doesn’t include new unemployed claimants on Universal Credit.  The latest figures show that there were 3,600 people on this benefit by November last year, and the number is likely to have risen considerably since then.

The benefit sanction figures were also released today and show that 236,780 claims were stopped for anywhere between four weeks and three years between July and September last year.  This is likely to have an impact on the Claimant Count as many claimants on long term sanctions disappear off the books.

Whether this month’s rise in unemployment continues remains to be seen.  About the only thing we can be sure of is that even if it does, the DWP will use every last trick in the book to try and hide the truth about unemployment in the UK.  Which is that however you spin the figures there’s still no fucking jobs.

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Number of People on Workfare Hits Record High

WorkFare-not-workingYesterday’s unemployment figures reveal that more people are working unpaid than at any point in the last 15 years.

According to the Labour Market Statistics, the number of people on “government supported training and employment programmes classified as being in employment” rose by 8,000 to reach 168,000.

These all are people on some form of workfare.  It does not include people on other Jobcentre training schemes such as the Work Programme, unless they have been sent to work without pay.

This is the highest number of people in unpaid work since 1998, when Tony Blair squandered billions on the New Deal, a mass workfare scheme for the young that had barely any impact on whether people found a job.  Unlike the current workfare placements however, those on the New Deal could work towards an NVQ and were also paid a training allowance or a subsidised wage*.  On today’s workfare schemes participants are lucky if they get travel expenses and in most cases the training given is non-existent.

Prior to Blair’s New Deal there was no such thing as mandatory workfare, bar a small experiment in the dying days of John Major’s Government.  Now almost all unpaid work can be considered mandatory such is the toxic regime in Jobcentres where claimants can have benefits removed seemingly on a whim by advisors.

Yesterday’s employment figures also showed another leap in the number of people who are self-employed and who now represent almost a sixth of the workforce.  It is not clear how many of this group are actually making any money. Neither is it clear how many people are on zero-hour contracts masking the true nature of unemployment in the UK.

One thing is sure, which is that the number of people who are poor remains at record levels.  Despite claims of a million new jobs since this Government weren’t elected, the number of people claiming Housing Benefits are at record levels.  The only criteria for claiming Housing Benefit is income and assets – meaning it is a good measure of how many people are poor, even if they have a job.  The latest figures show that in May 2013 the number of Housing Benefits claimants stood at 5,072,264 which is just below February’s all time high of  5,078,523.  This represents a jump of around 300,000 people since May 2010.

So whilst more people might be working, there are still more poor people than ever before.  As wages stagnate and the use of workfare escalates, people as a whole are doing more work for less money.  To the braying toffs in charge this represents a huge success.

To join the fightback against forced unpaid work visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

*This is not a defence of the New Deal.  The New Deal was shit.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Rise In Unemployment Down To Fall In Numbers On Workfare Admits DWP

unemployment-rate-may13In an encouraging statement for anti-workfare campaigners, the DWP are claiming that today’s rise in unemployment is partly down to a fall in the numbers of people on Government-supported training schemes – otherwise known as workfare.

According to the Department, the number of people in work fell by over 47,000 over the last three months – which they say ‘reflects’ amongst other things a drop of 16,000  in the numbers on Government employment schemes.

For two years now thousands of people have been involved in taking action to bring an end to unpaid work.  High profile companies and charities alike have abandoned the scheme after storms of protest both online and in the streets.

The number of people working unpaid has now fallen every month since February showing just how effective these protests have been.  This is no time for complacency however.  There are still 147,000 people on some form of government training scheme*.  Those still quite happily using workfare workers such as @salvationarmyuk, @TCVtweets and @Poundland should expect to come under unprecedented pressure from customers over the next few months as resistance to forced unpaid work is not going anywhere.

With the Government unable to use workfare to hide the true state of the labour market, unemployment overall has risen by 15,000 people – the third monthly rise. This has been accompanied by small falls in the Claimant Count, the number of people actually claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance.  One possible explanation for this is that these smalls drops are simply due to benefit eligibility being toughened, meaning more people are unemployed, but less are receiving benefits.

One thing is clear, which is that despite two years of benefit reforms along with ever increased conditionality for those receiving benefits and rocketing use of benefit sanctions, the unemployment rate is barely changed from the depth of the first recession in 2009.

The Work Programme, aimed at bringing down long term unemployment, has also once again revealed to be a complete disaster by today’s figures.  The number of people out of work over one year rose by 23,000 over the last three months, and the number unemployed for over two years soared by 21,000 – a rise of just under five percent.

Iain Duncan Smith has based his welfare reforms on claims that unemployment is caused by unemployed people –  placing the scroungers narrative at the heart of everything he does.  If this is true, then the huge numbers of people still out of work for long periods suggests that his welfare reforms are simply making people lazy and workshy on a massive scale.

If the alternative is true, that unemployment is not caused by unemployed people but is a structural part of capitalism which is made worse by poor economic growth,  then his current brutal dismantling of social security is based on nothing more than lies and contempt for the poor.

Attempting to blame the public rather than the government for high unemployment has been a neat trick, for a while.  Acres of space in the gutter press has been devoted to pursuing this myth, with the aim of stigmatising and finally impoverishing claimants. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and if unemployment continues to stay this high, then Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit bullshitting could start to unravel just in time for the next election.

*not all of these people will be on workfare, some may be taking part in the subsidised-employment Youth Contract racket or other schemes.  It is equally true that not everyone on workfare will be included in this number.

This months Labour Market Statistics are at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/may-2013/index.html

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Huge Numbers on Workfare Mask True Unemployment Crisis

The number of people working unpaid, often for large corporations, is at its highest level for almost 15 years with 166,000 people now on some form of workfare.

Today’s Labour Market Statistics reveal that the number of those on unpaid work schemes rocketed by 22,000 people in the last three months.  The headline figure claims that unemployment fell by 49,000, however those on workfare are classified as employed.  This means that along with 3000 more people beginning unpaid work in a family business, over half of the fall in unemployment is due to people working for no wages.

This is reflected in the Claimant Count, which measures the number of people who are claiming unemployment benefits, and which grew by 10,000 during the period.

People on workfare, often under threat of losing benefits, have long distorted the unemployment statistics.  Last months alleged fall in unemployment could entirely be accounted for the rise in workfare, self employment and unpaid family business workers. 

In the previous months figures it was claimed that unemployment fell by 7000, yet the number of people on workfare soared by 24,000 .  This means that if unpaid workers are taken out of the figures for August’s release then unemployment actually rose by 17,000 people – despite any pre-Olympic boost.

The last time the number of people working unpaid was so high was way back in 1998 when Tony Blair’s mass workfare programmes began to take effect. There are crucial differences however.  Whilst unemployment was high in 1998, it was significantly lower than today with around 1.8 million out of work compared to over 2.5 presently.  Participants on the New Deal received a training allowance, whilst young people on the Subsidised Employment option were paid £60 a week – astonishingly this is more than the £56.45 that young people on workfare receive today.  Even the workfare elements of the New Deal included training, usually with real, acredited NVQs available on completion.

Despite all of this the New Deal was largely abandoned after proving to be an expensive disaster which had little impact on youth unemployment.

Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Work Programme appears to be an equally dismal failure as  long term unemployment continues to soar.  The number of people who have been unemployed for over two years shot up by a staggering 21,000 over the last three months, whilst those out of work over a year rose by 12,000.

The Work Programme is for those who have been unemployed over 12 months.  Almost a billion pounds has been handed to Welfare to Work companies in an attempt to help those out of work a long time to find jobs.  Despite this long term unemployment has risen month on month consistently since the scheme was introduced.

Today’s unemployment figures represent July – September and so are still likely to be affected by the Olympics.  The figures will also be distorted by the growing number of claimants who have had benefits sanctioned – meaning money is stopped due to not meeting the endless and ever changing job seeking requirements imposed by Jobcentres.  Over half a million claims were sanctioned last year and the number is expected to rise.

Sanctioned claimants may or may not appear as unemployed, depending on whether they are able to maintain their claim during a sanction and answers they give should they be questioned by the Labour Force Survey.  Many more claimants are ‘disallowed’ Job Seekers Allowance due to not meeting the stringent benefit eligibility.

With the claimant count on the rise and workfare behind much of the fall in unemployment over the last year, the true picture of the employment market is far from rosy.  Plans for a huge extension of workfare, which the DWP are now trialling in Derbyshire, will see thousands more people forced to work unpaid.

Many of the new workfare workers will be doing jobs which would previously have come with wages attached –  an increasingly outdated concept for many major retailers.  Earlier in the year Corporate Watch reported on the situation in one branch of Argos last Christmas:

“There were about 15 of us on placements. The manager said they had overspent on stocking Christmas stuff so they’d got people in on placements [to save money]. The paid staff told us they were being asked to leave before they’d ended their shift as we could do the work. I worked Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. They arranged it so everyone came in those days.”

Should the current trend for workfare continue then over 200,000 people could find themselves in unpaid work over the Christmas period.  And no doubt Iain Duncan Smith will announce this as a huge success – which it is, if you happen to run a supermarket.

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on December 8th.

Unemployment Is Not Falling, Don’t Believe the Hype

The figures speak for themselves.  Whilst the headline figure claims that the number of unemployed people has fallen by 50,000, it takes seconds to discover an explanation for this.

According to this months Labour Force Survey:

the number of self-employed people increased by 35,000 to reach 4.20 million

the number of unpaid family workers (people who work in a family business who do not receive a formal wage or salary but benefit from the profits of that business) increased by 2,000 to reach 112,000

the number of people on government supported training and employment programmes increased by 13,000 on the quarter to reach 158,000″

Which, if you add them up, comes to a round 50,000.

Self-employment and “government supported training and employment programmes” (otherwise known as workfare) have been behind much of the recent fall in unemployment.  There is no evidence that all these new self-employed people are making any money and they may have just switched from Job Seekers Allowance to Working Tax Credits.  Few will be earning enough to reach the magical sum of 35 hours a week at minimum wage.  This will be the required earnings threshold for self-employed people when Universal Credit begins next year.  Unfortunately no current statistics for Working Tax Credits exist.

Many unemployed people will not be included in the figures due to benefit sanctions or workfare on other government schemes which are not counted in the Labour Force Survey.  Thousands of people have been bullied off benefits altogether.

Once again long term unemployment rose.  There are now 13,000 more people who have been out of work over one year than in the previous period.  Despite hundreds of millions being handed to Work Programme companies like A4e and G4S, the very problem they are being paid to solve is getting worse.

Unemployment is not falling and may even be getting worse no matter how much the DWP attempt to cook the books.

Long Term Unemployment Soars – The Work Programme Isn’t Working

Despite Iain Duncan Smith’s multi-billion pound Work Programme and extensive DWP book cooking, today’s labour market figures reveal that long term unemployment is soaring.

Approaching three quarters of a billion pounds has already been handed out to Work Programme contractors – like fraud ridden A4e or the inept G4S – with the aim of finding jobs for those out of work over 12 months.  Despite this vast sum, long term unemployment has steadily risen even whilst unemployment overall has allegedly been falling.

The number of people out of work for 12 months rose by 22,000 in the three months to July reaching 904,000, whilst the number out of work over two years increased by 9000 to 443,000.

Two measures are used to calculate unemployment.  The Labour Force Survey is a national household survey recording employment details whilst the Claimant Count is the number of people who are currently claiming the unemployment benefit Job Seekers Allowance.  Recent revelations have shown that many people currently on workfare schemes are not included in the Labour Force Survey unemployment figures, whilst those who have had benefits sanctioned are not included in the Claimant Count.

The clueless DWP claim they don’t know how many people are currently on workfare, but it is known that over half a million Job Seekers Allowance claims have been sanctioned in the last year.  Therefore any reported drop in the Claimant Count, which fell by 15,000 according to today’s figures, must take this into account.

The Government have claimed that soaring long term unemployment is down to a change in the way figures are recorded.  Previously those who had attended welfare to work schemes were taken out of the unemployment figures and started life as new claimants once the scheme had ended.  According to the Office for National Statistics, Work Programme participants are ‘more likely’ to stay in the Job Seekers Allowance figures throughout the Work Programme, meaning less people are recorded as new claimants when in reality they are anything but.

It is of course true that Labour were cooking the books.  The phrase ‘more likely’ suggests the Tories are as well, just perhaps not by as much.  What they don’t say is that the hundreds of thousands of people who have had Job Seekers Allowance stopped due to benefit sanctions are counted as newly unemployed once the benefit restarts – a fact recently confirmed to me by the Office for National Statistics.

So the Tories are cooking the books as well, just in a different way to the last government.

And even if they weren’t, and they are, long term unemployment is still soaring.  The headline figure, which reveals that 21,000 more people have now been unemployed for over 12 months, relates to the Labour Force Survey figures, not the Claimant Count.  In fact the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance for over 12 months only rose by about 5000 in the same period.

There have been attempts to portray Iain Duncan Smith as a friend of the poor with claims that he is bravely holding out against George Osborne’s brutal cost cutting agenda.  But IDS doesn’t want more money for benefit claimants, the families who’ve had benefits sanctioned queuing up outside foodbanks are testament to that.  Iain Duncan Smith simply wants even more money to pursue out of touch and ill thought out schemes like the Work Programme and Universal Credit.

£5 billion is set to be doled out to private companies running the Work Programme, whilst billions more is to be squandered on Universal Credit.  Neither of these initiatives will help those with least, in fact quite the opposite.  All the poorest will get is forced labour on the Work Programme and benefit sanctions under the endlessly complex new rules to be introduced with Universal Credit.

IDS is pissing away billions on his increasingly hare-brained schemes, which will do little more than plunge millions into poverty.  Nothing the clueless Secretary of State has claimed about his daft ideas has even come close to manifesting in reality, yet still more and more money is pumped his way.

Rarely has a government department gambled so much on a single politician’s delusions.  And even when those gambles clearly aren’t paying off, no-one in either the DWP or the Cabinet is brave enough to call an end to the shambles.  There will surely come a time when Iain Duncan Smith’s political careers lies in ruins due to his recklessness.  The tragedy is that he intends to drag what remains of the welfare state and the millions of people who depend on it into the shit with him.

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

Disaster For Work Programme As Long Term Unemployment Continues To Rise

The Government’s multi-billion pound scheme aimed at helping the long term unemployed back into work has taken yet another blow as long term unemployment continues to rise.

Despite overall unemployment suspiciously falling, the number of people out of work for over 12 months has risen by 3000.  This continues a three month trend which has seen overall unemployment going down but long term unemployment rising.  The number of people out of work for over two years rose by 18,000 in the last three months.

Over half a billion pounds has been handed out to private sector companies such as G4S and A4e as part of the Work Programme, the Government’s flagship scheme aimed at finding jobs for those out of work for over 12 months.   Today’s figures conclusively dispel any claims from the lying Employment Minister Chris Grayling that the Work Programme can be considered a success.

Whilst the scheme has seen claimants forced to sleep under bridges and welfare to work contractors mired in fraud allegations, it appears to be having no impact whatsoever on long term unemployment and may even be making the situation even worse.  Meanwhile social enterprises are going bust due to the bungled payment structure, whilst the DWP has indulged in endless chaotic wriggling about the exact nature of workfare on the Work Programme.

Early performance figures have shown less long term unemployed people are finding jobs than if the Government had done nothing at all.  Even the recent G4S Olympics farce may yet turn out to have the Work Programme as a contributing factor.

The Work Programme is doing nothing more than lining the pockets of inept welfare to work firms whilst the DWP bury their collective heads in the sand.  The Work Programme is not working.  No-one is getting job.  Charities are being financially strangled.  Long term unemployment is rising.  Workfare has been rejected by both the business community and the public alike.  And yet still Chris Grayling is throwing tax payer’s money round like confetti seemingly oblivious to the desperate mess he is making.

He won’t be happy until the full £5 billion, the total budgeted cost of the shambles, has all been squandered.  Rarely has there been an example of a Government so desperate to give away billions of pounds and quite happy to receive nothing in return.

Whilst benefit cuts and austerity are plunging millions into poverty, insecurity and even homelessness, Work Programme contracters like G4S are handed endless cash to prop up the failing scheme.  Even if the joke security company don’t take the money they were promised for fucking up the Olympics they will take millions more for fucking up the Work Programme.  And Chris Grayling will no doubt cheer them along as the thieving corporate bastards make off with yet more of our money.

In other news Pizza Hut are the latest company to deliver a humiliating snub to Chris Grayling after announcing they will no longer be involved in workfare schemes.  More details from Solidarity Federation.