I do wish that @bbclaurak at least made an EFFORT to be non-partisan in the #EU in-out referendum debate. She’s never struck me as a #Cameron groupie….or perhaps she just has issues with that other great champion of the poor and oppressed, #IDS?
Politicians are always looking for new angles and prisms through which to observe and present statistics in the most benign way.
A comparatively recent statistical gem is as follows:
“Almost 30 million people were in work at the end of 2012, an increase of 154,000 on the quarter to September and the highest total since records began, in 1971.”
“Since records began” is quite a new angle and as nonsensical as the rest.
Today’s UK population is about 63.2 million.
The 1971 population in was 55.9 million.
That’s an increase of 7.3 million.
In 1971, unemployment was 2.98% of the workforce. Today it is 7.8%.
The figures don’t lie – they’re just encouraged to do so……..
There have been not-so-muted rumblings about the government’s scheme which will force individuals to work if they wish to retain their social benefits. The new Work Activity Scheme is being hailed by the Conservative government as yet another one of the Work and Pension Secretary’s genius initiatives.
The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith is not new to creating jobs for the unemployed. When his wife was unemployed, he found her a job in his own office. Her salary was was paid-for by the taxpayer. Here’s a quote from IDS when BBC’s Newsnight programme and Michael Crick dared to suggest impropriety: “If anybody makes such allegations, I will sue them. I have a whole legal team who have been looking at this and I can tell you absolutely that they will find themselves with a lawsuit.” See here.
The Work Activity scheme will soon be formalised by IDS and will most likely consist of four-week placements for the unemployed as well as benefit-cheating malingerers. Unfortunately, government information is not sensitive enough to distinguish between the genuinely, reluctantly unemployed and the pathologically lazy. Consequently, both the workless and the workshy will receive the same designation and the same treatment.
The scheme has been designed to “flush out” those claimants who have opted for a life on benefits. It is not yet 100% clear how much the government is hoping to save by identifying the workshy but to put it in some kind of perspective, the cost to the taxpayer of fraudulent benefits claims is about £1 billion per year. Compare that with the cost of bailing put the banks at about £850 billion.
The type of work that is proposed will be exactly the work which is currently meted-out to petty criminals who have been sentenced to Community Service – painting railings, picking-up litter and gardening on roundabouts.
There is no doubt that in spite of all of the government’s attempts to “tart up” the scheme, it will always retain that punitive mien.
Here’s a quote from IDS: “One thing we can do is pull people in to do one or two weeks’ manual work – turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm, to give people a sense of work, but also when we think they’re doing other work.”
The only thing that the above sentence shows is Duncan-Smith’s total lack of understanding of the mind-set of an individual who may possibly have been banging his head against a brick wall for years in a vain attempt to secure a job. Picking up litter is the last thing that he or she needs in order to reaffirm themselves as a useful member of society. Manual labour is not a cure for the feelings of humiliation and uselessness which the vast majority of the unemployed feel. Try sending an out-of-work lawyer, architect or computer programmer to pick up other people’s rubbish at £2.17 an hour and you may finally beat his ego into total submission and demolish any vestiges of self-worth.
£2.17 per hour? Yes, that’s Jobseekers’ Allowance of £65, divided by 30, which is the number of hours that these people will be told to work. That’s assuming of course, that the government is not in contravention of Minimum Wage legislation or some dark corner of the Human Rights Act.
Remember that there are already people being paid (at least) the minimum wage to do this kind of work. Is there any danger of them being made redundant because a government has given itself rights to “employ” people on the sort of income that makes as “sweat-shop” wage look attractive?
What the government REALLY needs to do is to create an environment in which it can offer proper jobs and not continue Labour’s method of papering-over the cracks (apologies to Osborne & Little) of a lame economy with the primary purpose of keeping unemployment figures at a level which is tolerated by the electorate.
Twelve years ago Labour introduced the New Deal which twelve months ago, was re-branded as the Flexible New Deal. This was a fully-funded scheme which was paid-for by a £5 billion windfall tax levied on the privatised utility companies. The scheme provided subsidised employment, training and voluntary work for the unemployed.
In essence, Labour’s New Deal was the same scheme as this government is contemplating but with a touch of self-respect thrown in.
The Labour government also had the ability to withdraw benefits from those who refused “reasonable employment” but did not attempt to humiliate them by focussing solely on low-level manual work. Proper companies were offered subsidies to employ people in proper jobs.
Eleven years ago, the Working Families Tax Credit was introduced. This tax credit scheme was designed for the lower-paid as an incentive to work and to continue to work because the scheme was designed to ensure that a family’s net income would be in excess of benefit payments.
Billions were allocated and spent on these schemes but sadly, they do not seem to have had any effect on either unemployment or fraudulent benefits claims.
There were New Deal schemes for a number of groups – from the Disabled to the Over 50s. In comparison, the new IDS scheme seems a very blunt instrument which, based on the previous government’s experience, has little or no chance of having any measurable effect.
The government should state clearly whether or not all of these (Labour) schemes have been ditched and whether the Work and Pensions Secretary’s “Work Activity Scheme” is an added scheme or merely a replacement.
A replacement tagged with the twin components of Coalition brutality and humiliation.