Every day it seems Wonderland gets a little more mad hatter. I’m not sure how we’re meant to keep up with this decline into madness and bitterness but I find myself increasingly outside of myself which, given I have to appeal to ATOS for help on Tuesday, may well be a good thing. But in terms of being a functioning human being: not so much. I guess I should take comfort that my situation isn’t as dire as poor LindaWooten who, despite the fact she lay dying in hospital (if that’s not going to appeal to prospective employers I don’t know what will), was still found fit for work.
But that’s exactly what they want isn’t it. I sometimes think decisions such as that are deliberate. If the government can ‘demonstrate’ (spelt: demonise) the sickest and most dire of cases are fit enough then what hope for the rest of us. Worse: the rest of us will increasingly be seen as malingerers. That’s the purpose of DWP videos such as those discussed here; a Hit Parade of disabled people spouting clichés to inspire us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and find the work that’s just waiting to be found.
Never mind of course having to compete with people that don’t have a history of sickness/conditionality. Read: no chance.
And so it came to pass that the DWP saw fit to release their plans for dealing with those that fail the WorkProgramme. Note the language: it won’t be the providers that are at fault. They won’t have failed the claimants. The system won’t have let us down. No, whatever the circumstances or outcome, if you don’t find work by the time your sentence ends, YOU will be to blame.
So after you are discharged from the ideological gulag the free market sent you to, you will receive an ‘end of term’ report. Quite what this is meant to be I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet, like a Barnum Statement, it will be equivocal nudge unit inspired ‘not trying hard enough to meet his potential’ nonsense. This will give the targeted advisors you will now be subject to enough rope to hang you with. It is then possible these ‘specialist’ advisers at the Jobcentre will be able to call you in daily. Quite apart from how people are to afford daily travel (and more, such as childcare) costs is not explained, how does attending every day change anything? If it didn’t work under the Work Programme, how will it work at the Jobcentre? What do they have that the WP doesn’t and why bother with the WP in the first place then?
The government, under the auspice of Unemployment Minister, Mark Hoban (who recently pocketed 144 grand from the saleof his state funded second home, furnished again by us), continues to believe in the greatness of the WP. Consequently it cannot and seemingly will not countenance that they and it has failed. Instead we have failed it – if we’d only try harder, malingering less, and stop being lazy…
The statement uses adversarial language: it talks of ‘stepping up the pressure’ and refers to this next step as a ‘tough and uncompromising regime’ (as opposed to the WP of course). To the ruling elite the unemployed really are a more boisterous incarnation of the itinerant school truant. This is dangerously facile and utterly self defeating. Why are we not adopting a more compassionate approach? Why not actually support and help people? Why not find the means – you’ve wasted almost 10 billion on the Work Programme for what? – to address the issues that people have with proper professional assistance.
Instead I have to persuade ATOS and subsequently a DWP Decision Maker sitting behind the scene out of sight and deliberately incommunicado that, without ESA, the Work Programme cannot help me – as if it ever could. It can’t, and hasn’t so far, but at least I’m not currently being bullied by advisors so professional they ignore everything they have been told.
No, instead claimants are placed in a situation most jobcentres will find unsustainable and placed even closer to the precarious cliff edge of sanctions. They will be monitored (more) rigorously, no doubt through the wonky and insecure machinations of Universal Jobmatch. That site remains utterly hopeless and totally untrustworthy, but again its problems will be ignored and the claimant given the blame.
Within days of finishing the Work Programme people will be expected to be either in training (provided by whom? If the WP can’t manage it then how will this materialise?) or on Mandatory Work Activity. In other words, this is the Community Action Programme by another name. No doubt they’ve subtly changed things hoping to avoid the anti-workfare backlash. Good luck!
This period lasts for 6 months and carries with it a minimum sanction time of 4 weeks – though how people are meant to live without food for a month (during which they will still be expected to sign somehow) I do not know. But it is the attitude that is, yet again, all wrong. If they think this will lead to anything other than more confrontation anger and grief, they are wrong. Still, a hundred and forty four thousand quid buys a lot of things to take your mind off of the guilt.