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Hate on the Dole: George Osborne to Make Unemployed “pick up littter.”

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‘Community Service’ Osborne’s Solution to Mass Unemployment.

The Daily Mail exults, “Benefits will be stripped from the long-term jobless unless they work full time picking up litter, removing graffiti or preparing meals for the elderly.”

“George Osborne will today announce details of the US-style ‘work for the dole’ programme, starting within six months and affecting 200,000 welfare claimants.”

The Independent reports the crucail details.

200,000 people a year who have claimed jobseeker’s allowance for three years will lose benefits unless they take up one of three options after two years on the Work Programme:

  • Thirty hours a week for six months of community work such as making meals for the elderly, cleaning up litter and graffiti or charity work, plus 10 hours of “job search activity”.
  • Daily attendance at a jobcentre  to search for work instead of a  brief interview once a fortnight.
  • A mandatory intensive regime for claimants with underlying problems such as mental health, drug addiction or illiteracy.

Although the benefit sanctions will be controversial, the Tories regard the “work for dole” scheme as an example of “tough love” and insist their aim is to help the jobless back into work.

We note,

Statistics released by the DWP today show that the performance of the Work Programme – which was already achieving less than doing nothing at all – is steadily getting worse.

By June 2013 a lower percentage of people who had been on the scheme for one full year had found a job which lasted at least 6 months  – known as a sustained job outcome – than in the previous two months.  In April 2013 14% of claimants who had been on the scheme for one year had found sustained jobs, by June this had dropped to 13%.*

Boycott Workfare  rightly compares the plans to the punishments given out to those who have broken the law.

Unemployed people and campaigners have condemned George Osborne’s announcement that long-term unemployed people will be forced to work unpaid or face losing their social security as a criminalisation of unemployed people.

The maximum community sentence that a judge can hand out is for 300 hours, but claimants on six-month workfare schemes are already being forced to work without pay for 780 hours. The four-week Mandatory Work Activity scheme is already the equivalent of a medium level community service order that a person might receive if they were found guilty of drink driving or assault.

When a similar scheme was introduced in the US, thousands of jobs in the Parks Department were lost in New York alone – to be replaced with forced unpaid workers. Similar case studies have emerged in the UK, where workfare placements are already taking place in hospitals, council offices, charities and businesses.

What is the record of previous workfare schemes?

A pilot has already been tried.

Boycott Workfare commented on the results,

The preliminary results are from the trailblazer pilot, which tested CAP along with Ongoing Case Management (OCM) – “a more intensive a more intensive offer of flexible and personalised adviser-based support, as well as a set of mandatory activities, delivered by Jobcentre Plus through increased adviser interventions for six months”. These two schemes were tested with a control group continuing on standard job centre plus, and participants randomly assigned to the schemes.

Fifteen to 18 per cent in each programme strand had entered paid employment, become self-employed or were waiting to start work at the time of the survey, six to seven months after starting on the trailblazer. These job outcomes did not vary significantly between programme strands, nor did the types of jobs entered, take-home pay and hours worked.

For participants on OCM, those who reported receiving more personalised support to their individual needs were significantly more likely to be in work at the end of the programme. However, for CAP participants, neither attending a placement nor receiving jobsearch support were significantly associated with a job outcome around the end of the programme.

The majority of participants reported being in receipt of JSA at the time of the survey. DWP statistics published alongside this report found statistically significantly lower levels of benefit receipt for both CAP and OCM participants compared to the control group about six months after starting the programme.

The degrading sight of the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing, with glee, that the out-of-work will have to clean the streets, wash the walls of scribblings, and cook for the old, awaits us today.

His Minister of Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith, is said to be devout Catholic.

Not doubt that played something in the decision to make life hell on earth for the unemployed.

Important Update.

Johnny Void points out how the hard right Policy Exchange has manufactured statistical support for Workfare.

“The general public’s opinions on workfare have been grossly distorted by the nature of the questions asked in this survey.”

* The TUC said (26 September 2013),

Work Programme is still failing to help vulnerable people, says TUC

Commenting on figures published today (Thursday) by the Department for Work and Pensions on the government’s Work Programme, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

‘Despite the official spin, the Work Programme is still failing to deliver for many jobseekers.

‘Just one person in 25 is able to find a proper job after a year on the scheme, and disabled people have seen virtually no benefit since its introduction. Although there has been an increase in placements for those on those on the dole these improvements are starting to tail off.

‘The government is obsessed with punishing those out of work, rather than helping them find jobs. The best way to get to grips with our unemployment crisis would be to offer a jobs guarantee for anyone out of work for at least a year.’

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2013 at 10:34 am

Blue Labour Comes Back and Wants (more) Welfare ‘Reform’.

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Not for Blue Labour.

Radio Four last night examined Blue Labour’s plans for welfare reform (You can hear it here. Transcript here).

Mukul Devichand opened with this,

These voices are the gurus of a new circle at the top of the Labour Party. They’re highly influential: in charge of writing the policies for Labour’s next manifesto and crafting Ed Miliband’s key speeches. And if you thought Labour would simply tinker around the edges of welfare, and reverse some of the cuts, you’d be rrong if this group had its way. Labour long ago jettisoned the idea that the central government could run industry. In this week’s Analysis, we’ll explore how this group also wants the central state to walk away from a top down model of welfare.

Following this Maurice Glasman opined, “The state is necessary, but as a external administrative neutral force it undermines relationships. It can undermine humanity.”

If that is an indication of the quality of New Labour thought we socialists on the dole can rest easy in our beds, till late afternoon if we wish.

The state is a relationship that can undermine humanity, might have been a more coherent idea.

But we let this pass.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham then took another step backwards.

Here are his thoughts on the Welfare state,

I think the problem has been we forgot what it was originally set up for. It cuts people’s legs off. It rewards people the more need they can demonstrate. It does things for people and that’s a mistake. So for example on housing, if you come in and say, “I’m homeless, I’m in need,” we’ve rewarded in the past, we’ve rewarded people. The more need they have, the more likely it is we’ll support them. So you’ve got to show, you’ve got to prove that you can’t do things. That’s the wrong way to do it.

Perhaps Sir Robin has found a way of abolishing need.

Apparently so,

He began by stating,

The Soviets learned in 89 that it didn’t work. We still think we should run things centrally and we’re one of the most centralised states and a democratic state in Europe. It’s nuts. We need to do more in terms of pushing power and responsibility and opportunities down locally, and I’d argue that if we’re going to make the welfare state work there needs to be a much stronger local element where the community and the values of the community can be put to work. You cannot put something that meets an individual’s needs, you cannot structure that from the centre.

As Devichand wryly observed, the Soviets are not around to answer back.

He by contrast has set up Workplace, a local alternative to Job Centres,

The government’s Work Programme is a disaster, and it’s a disaster because it’s designed by civil servants to be run nationally and you don’t start with the employers. We go to the employers and say could we present people to you who are job ready, who are the right people you want? And the result is that not only do we get five thousand people into work; half of them are long-term unemployed, a large number are young people.

The Work Programme is in fact thoroughly decentralised.

It is delivered, in scores of different ways, by private providers, mostly companies, but including ‘social enterprises’ and charities.

This is the result of extensive lobbying by these providers (who’ve become the ‘unemployment business’) as first encouraged by David Blunkett, closely linked to one company (he served on its Board after setting the system up), A4E).

The system is unemployment business driven and nobody knows exactly what they’re going to get.

It is also news that Workplace is unique in going to employers, since that is exactly what all Work Programme providers do.

The root problem is deeper and simpler: there is not the work for the unemployed to be fitted into.

To test the success of Newham’s scheme we got people saying that they agreed that graft should be rewarded and skivers left out. This was not ,

a gathering of the local chambers of commerce; it was a crowd of the recently unemployed in East London, albeit hand-picked for us by Newham Council….

We are reaching the realm where the inhabitants of  Cloud Cuckoo Land go to get away from their mundane lives.

It is a sad indication of the ‘debate’ set up by Blue Labour that it was up to the Fabian Society General Secretary,   Andrew Harrop,  to talk some sense.

That the reasons why welfare is ‘centralised’ (that, is we all have the same rights and benefits are aligned to need) is that Beveridge,

wanted a uniform, consistent system, so that it was based on your citizenship rather than more arbitrary factors, and there’s still a lot of truth in that insight.

Polly Toynbee pointed out that if we decentralise welfare  in the way Blue Labour want

 In the end you might get some councils who say actually we care more about our municipal flowerbeds.

This is not a joke.

A percentage of  Council Tax benefit has been made payable by those on benefits and  decentralised under the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

Those in Liberal or Tory areas can pay twice or event three times what you pay in Labour ones. Poor areas have high charges, rich right-wing ones, despite their reserves, still shift the burden as far as they can onto those on the Dole.

Toynbee later observes,

I think Labour MPs know so well, they are so rooted in their own communities, many of which are very poor, what can’t be done. They know very well that you can’t take money away from the very weakest and very poorest and they won’t let it happen. So I’m pretty confident that this will end up being a creative policy with a lot of good ideas, that it will spark all sorts of things off, but don’t let’s imagine it’s a new 1945 settlement.

A creative policy?

The Analysis programme  did not go far into this.

But the rest of Blue Labour’s ideas, about contributive benefits, are equally askew. They would create a gap between sections of the unemployed. They would (and are) be hard and expensive to administer.

Countries that operate these schemes , like France, have had to introduce minimum levels of benefit to all, regardless of contribution, and still suffer from continual deficit crises in their systems.

The Living Wage is equally no panacea for low pay. With rents still rising, and the inflation rate on goods that the less well-off buy going up, it does not mean the good life for all.

Jeremy Cliffe, of the free-market Economist concludes,

The Attlee government, Labour’s perhaps most venerated and mythologised government, set in place a Welfare State which involved the benevolent state pulling levers, transferring wealth from those that had it to those that didn’t, and this involves moving on quite dramatically from that. And I think there are many in the labour movement, perhaps understandably those who have worked in the Welfare State, who see their constituents dependent on support in various forms from the Welfare State, those who are close to the trade Union Movement which is obviously rooted in the last fifty or so years of British political economy who are not comfortable with this.

Dropping the reference to the “benevolent state” (Cliffe just couldn’t resist saying that, could he? Still who can deny that  a 1st Class Degree from Oxford teaches you things) and what do we have at fault?

That there is a “transfer of wealth“.

Is this something Blue Labour is against?

Clamp Down on Poor Drinkers: Protest and Revive the Skeleton Army!

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Better a Country Free than a County Sober!

The BBC says,

Ministers are to unveil plans later for a minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales as part of a drive to tackle problem drinking.

The Home Office is expected to publish a consultation on the proposal, which was first put forward in the government’s alcohol strategy in March.

A price of 40p per unit was suggested at the time.

But pressure has been mounting on ministers to follow Scotland’s lead, where 50p has been proposed.

The aim of a minimum price would be to alter the cost of heavily discounted drinks sold in shops and supermarkets. It is not expected to affect the price of drinks in pubs.

The Times predicted a 45p per unit minimum would be set and it said this would raise the price for the average can of beer or cider to £1.12.

According to the NHS website the average can of 4.5% strength lager contains around two units of alcohol, while a small glass of wine contains 1.5 units.

This will affect one group: poor drinkers.

Let us ignore all the ‘medical’ concern about alcohol and binge-drinking.

This is not true. Earlier this year this was published

There has been a long-term downward trend in the proportion of adults alcohol intake, as in 1998 75% of men and 59% of women drank in the week prior to report’s survey compared to 68% of men and 54% of women in 2010. Furthermore, the average weekly alcohol consumption for all adults was 15.9 units for men and 7.6 units for women and  26% of men reported drinking more than 21 units in a typical week. For women, 17% reported drinking more than 14 units in a typical week

The measure is all about cracking down on “”drunken mayhem” on Britain’s streets.

Or, to put more clearly, about dealing with the rabble.

In recent months Ipswich – apparently a ‘model’ for what could become the norm across the country – has ‘encouraged’ (a visit from the rozzers) off-licences not to sell super-strength lager and white cider.

There has been a hysterical campaign in the local media about street drinkers sipping tinnies of Special Brew and Frosty Jack near the centre of town.

The Council, and all local political parties, have joined in.

To cite a recent story from the Ipswich Star,

As the war on cheap super-strength alcohol is stepped up in Ipswich, a Star investigation has illustrated the size of the task facing the authorities.

Reducing the Strength

The Reducing the Strength campaign was launched in the town in September.

The campaign aims to stop the sale of cheap super-strength beer, lager and cider from off-licensed premises.

The campaign is a joint initiative between Suffolk Police, NHS Suffolk, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and the East of England Co-Operative Society.

Reducing the Strength asks off-licence owners to voluntarily remove super-strength products from their stores.

Yesterday police began rewarding shops which have signed up to the Reducing the Strength initiative, aimed at ridding Suffolk’s county town of the scourge of ultra-potent beers and ciders.

But high-alcohol beverages are still easily found in Ipswich.The Star was able to buy a three- litre bottle of cider – costing just £3.99 and containing more alcohol than the weekly recommended allowance for a man – within minutes of trying.

The 7.5 per cent proof Frosty Jacks cider contains 22.5 units – more than health experts’ 21-unit limit for men.

The cost per unit of 17p is less than a third of the 50p limit which prime minister David Cameron wants to impose.

Now there is a problem with street drinkers in Ipswich, as in many towns and cities across the country.

Why has it grown?

Policies of successive governments, known as ‘neo-liberalism’, or the free for all – for business – have excluded many people from the labour Market.

The Dole these days is only given to those who satisfy an increasingly rigorous set of criteria, turn up to bogus ‘employment’ schemes (3,5% success rate), and have their lives under constant surveillance.

Many, in the words of my mate Neil, say “fuck it, and go and drink cider in the park”.

Alcohol is only one of their choices.

Most mix the booze with even cheaper tranquilizers (Temazepam), and, frankly, any drug going.

The Left and Alcohol.

Some on the left agree with this clamp-down on poor drinkers.

Some cite the Scottish experience of raising prices. They claim it has been needed because they are particularly afflicted.

In Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share there is a scene in that land where out-of-their-brains  youngsters snaffle down a 3 litre bottle of Frosty Jack.

You can see this round here every day. I have left my gaff at 9 in the morning and seen people swigging Tenants Super at the end of the street.

This will not go away if the cost is raised. The hard-core  will just beg and, possibly, shop-lift more.

But what is really behind the thinking of those on the left calling for the less well off to cut down on drinking?

In Britain there was a strong teetotaler movement inside the late Victorian and Edwardian labour movement.

Henry Hyndman though not a non-drinker (he liked his Bordeaux vintages) frowned on the workers imbibing strong drink. He once wanted to snatch a bottle of whisky away from SDF members playing cards on a post-Party meeting train.

Against this prejudice Robert Blatchford  felt obliged to make a defence of moderate drinking in his popular Merrie England (1894).

The ILP initially  made it policy for members to sign the non-drinking ‘pledge’ .

I can’t imagine my Whisky drinking Scottish ILP forebears liking that.

The policy  lasted precisely a year.

Today we see people on the left who have given up changing the world and prefer to try to change (that is cajole) people.

Their attitude is often the same as Hyndman.

They can drink fine wines, good quality real ale, and cider.

But the rabble in the streets need ‘reforming’.

The Anarchist journal Now or Never replies,

With heavy drinking increasingly attacked by the Government and media, Tug Wilson suggests we look to history for guidance, and that it is once again time for drunkards everywhere to march under the banner of the Skeleton Army.

During the late 19th Century the recently formed Salvation Army were taking their message of virtuous clean living to the streets of Britain, deliberately targeting drunks, gamblers, prostitutes and other ‘undesirables’.  The Salvation Army’s unconventional approach was abrasive to both the Christian establishment and many of those they were preaching to.  In choosing to attack popular working class pastimes, they whipped up a violent grassroots reaction and their provocative style of disseminating their message often resulted in public disturbances.  Towards the end of 1881 in Weston-Super-Mare a rag-tag bunch of libertines, drunkards, publicans and brothel-keepers began an organised opposition to the Salvation Army; the Skeleton Army.  Very soon Skeleton Armies started appearing throughout the country.

The present anti-alcohol  lobby is the modern temperance movement.

This measure is ill-intentioned, ill-conceived and will be ill-executed.

Join the new Skeleton army!

As Kevin has commented (below) I shall add this further example of hypocrisy, which I cut-and-pasted from his Blog,

Work Programme a “failure” at 3,5% Job Rate.

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Mr 3,5%, Ian Duncan Smith.

The BBC has just reported on the dismal failure of the Work Programme,

 Official figures showed only 3.53% of people found a job for six months or more – missing the 5.5% target.

Ministers said it was “early days” and the programme was succeeding in getting people off benefits and into work.

The figures, which cover the 13 months from June 2011 to July 2012, showed 3.53% of people were still in employment six months after joining the Work Programme.

The Department for Work and Pensions had told providers they should get 5.5% of people on the programme into sustained employment.

Faced with this poor result Employment minister Mark Hoban took a stand of stout denial.

He said: “It’s still early days, but already thousands of lives are being transformed.”

Indeed they have.

Hundreds and hundreds of posts and comments on Ipswich Unemployed Action have described the incompetence, the bullying, the downright cheating, used by companies operating the Work Programme.

For those on the Programme their  lives are have  changed – for the worse.

The New Statesman comments,

But by any measure (including the government’s), this is a bad start for what David Cameron hailed as “the biggest back-to-work programme since the 1930s”.

Meanwhile  the rats are leaving the sinking ship.

We learn that as  as from 31 October this year David Blunkett is no longer an adviser for A4E.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2012 at 11:42 am

Claimant Spending to be Surveilled to Stamp out Vice?

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The Virtuous Poor.

Demos, originally the child of Eurocommunist Martin Jacques, and New Labour Geoff Mulgan,is now promoting a ‘debate’ about how best to make the out-of-work and other benefit claimants ‘virtuous’.

Amongst their ideas, backed by the normal method of giving weight to hard-right schemes,  a ‘poll’, is to introduce the Charity inspired system of  ‘food vouchers’ in force in the United States.

Brian Wheeler of the BBC reports, (2nd October)

Should claimants be paid vouchers to stop spending on ‘vices’?

Should benefit claimants be prevented from spending the money given to them by the state on alcohol, gambling, cigarettes and other “vices”?

A poll commissioned by think tank Demos suggests most people would support such a move.

This has not met universal approval,

the findings have been met with horror by anti-poverty campaigners, who have questioned whether the British public really feel that way, or whether they have been denied the full facts on poverty by the government and certain newspapers.

Alison Garnham, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the poll, in which 59% agreed the government should control what people spend their benefits on, should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

“In the United States in the 1960s, welfare rights campaigners argued for food stamps for certain groups on the basis that some of them were alcohol abusers, but it’s not an argument that ever took traction in the UK because people would find that offensive.

“I think we have a very different culture. I just don’t think it would be acceptable in the same way,” she told a Demos fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference

Those who will gain financially from the idea are already lobbying hard.

‘Cool card’

In the United States, people on “food stamps” are given a pre-payment card that they can use to buy food and other essentials – but not luxuries such as alcohol and tobacco.

The introduction of the Universal Credit next year, which will see six work-related benefits rolled up into a single payment, potentially opens the door to a similar system in the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron has not ruled out exercising more control over how claimants spend their money, although there is no suggestion, so far, that food stamps will be introduced in the UK.

Some, including Mastercard, which sent along a representative to the Demos fringe meeting, are pushing for the combined payment to be loaded on to a pre-paid card.f such a card were to be introduced, explained Matthew Mayo, Mastercard’s head of business development in the UK and Ireland, claimants could be blocked from using online gambling sites, for example, but not from buying booze at a supermarket.

Cards could also be used to incentivise healthy behaviour, he added, and some local authorities are already experimenting with such a policy.n the London borough of Camden, primary school children on free school meals can apply for a “Cool card”, which entitles them to £15 a month worth of activities such as drama tuition, climbing wall and martial arts.

The idea has its supporters in the Labour Party as well as opponents,

‘Feckless’ claimants

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, an aide to shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, said she backed the idea, in principle, of using pre-paid benefit cards to encourage people to make healthy eating choices by offering discounts on fruit and vegetables, for example.

But she rejected the “obnoxious” suggestion that “feckless” benefit claimants blew all their money on “fags and booze”, instead of feeding their children.

Like Alison Garnham, she feared controlling what benefits are spent on would rob the poor of control over their lives and add to the stigma of being on benefits.

What alarms Labour politicians is that voters appear to have stopped thinking of benefits as social security – something they pay into for use in hard times – but rather as a charity handout to the poor, and that this will fatally undermine the welfare state.

One of the most striking findings of the Demos survey was that 18-24-year-olds were one of the most likely age groups to call for government controls on how benefits are spent.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne agreed that a majority of people thought benefit recipients were lazy and did not really want to work.

There are most resolute opponents,

Campaigners like Alison Garnham argue that the public attitudes have been influenced by tabloid caricatures of benefit scroungers when, in fact, the amount paid to out-of-work people had gone down, in real terms, over the past 40 years.

“Six out of ten poor children live with a parent who is working. The reason they are poor is because their parent is a cleaner or a care assistant not because they are a drug addict or an alcoholic,” she told the Demos meeting.

“It’s generally desirable for claimants to have control over their own money, not paid on their behalf to somebody else. So I find myself asking why would the state want to have more power to interfere with how this money is being spent?”

“There will be a small group of people who have trouble budgeting or who are alcoholics, for example, but there is some really good evidence that poor families are very good at budgeting their incomes.”

Demos deputy director Claudia Wood said the think tank would be staging a similar debate in Birmingham next week at the Conservative Party conference, which, she added, might produce a very different response.

Article + comments here

The Daily Telegraph states that the Government says,

“”There are no current plans for the Coalition to introduce vouchers for welfare recipients, but the Prime Minister said there needs to be a public debate on the issue earlier this year.”

Demos poll

  • 59% agreed the government should control what people spend universal credit on
  • 77% said yes to monitoring people with a substance or gambling addiction and 69% for those with a criminal or anti-social history
  • 68% agreed the government should stop all recipients from spending their benefits on gambling
  • 54% agreed with the government stopping people spending their benefits on unhealthy items such as cigarettes or alcohol
  • 46% opposed benefits being spent on branded goods such as Nike trainers
  • 38% backed a ban on buying junk food and 35% on holidays
  • Poll was carried out by Populus Data Solutions, based on a survey of 2,052 adults

Comment: The Busy-Bodies behind this idea should be taken to the nearest public stocks.

Claimants will be supplied with rotten Supermarket vegetables and  invited to express their views on this proposal.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 3, 2012 at 10:37 am