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Dark times just keep getting darker…

This is the week that has seen the introduction of perhaps the nastiest of all the Tories welfare reforms: the risibly titled Help to Work scheme. Here claimants will be mandated to one of three outcomes after 'failing' the Work Programme; intensive training', compulsory 6 month community work' at 6 hours a day along with a further 10 hours a week job search, or daily 'reviews' at the Jobcentre.

On top of this other claimants will be mandated to routine 'bursts' of weekly attendance. Where they hope to find the time or the staff escapes me. It seems, the claimant will have no say in this and their path will be decided by their newly branded ‘Work Coach’, because nothing spells hapless ideological punishment like changing the title of the job. Though I'm given to believe travel costs to such daily reviews will be reimbursed (not sure about the work placements, that may be left in the hands of the private providers once again paid to oversee this nonsense), there is no guarantee that one will be given the same appointment slot daily.

I'm sure I don't need to explain why forcing someone to take a randomly assigned chunk out of their day to attend a pointless and wholly punitive meeting is troublesome. What if you have kids in school, caring responsibilities, or have a limited bus schedule to work with, what if you have o be somewhere else...what if you are, I don't know, actually trying to look for work, despite the bullshit the DWP seem intent on throwing at you.

All of this of course is enforced with the threat of our old friend, the sanction. Don't forget Jobcentre Plus is run by a man (Neil Couling) who said, to the Scottish Parliament, that people welcomed the jolt - the short sharp shock if you will – that sanctions gave them. His comments regarding foodbank use are equally odious and, more importantly, equally ignorant.

I mention that because it just goes o show what we are dealing with. There's no point forensically examining just how stupid and unproductive this scheme is (the ONS has done that for us, concluding that the trial scheme helped but 1%). This is pure ideology. It speaks volumes as to the attitude of the ruling elite who perversely project their own dark hypocritical attitude onto the people they claim to be helping. They are the real scroungers, helping themselves to every benefit he corporate and parliamentary world can offer and exploiting it to the fullest while claiming a sense of egregious self entitlement. All the while they assume the worst in the unemployed and the poor: because they are grasping scroungers it must follow, in their twisted minds, that everyone else is. Consequently when they look at someone out of work they don't see a cancer sufferer desperately trying to survive without their PIP month after month, they don't see a genuine effort to find work, they see a scrounger; someone sat on their arse in state sponsored finery doing very little.

Esther McVey was wheeled out, as presumably the pleasant face of punitive change (and because IDS doesn't think he has to answer to lesser folk). This woman cannot help but sound insincere; she could read the weather and you'd think she was hamming it up. Every word is delivered in a painful hammy overacting style as if she was trying to hard to impress someone (I think we know who).

If David Brent were to undergo a sex change and a desire to stand for political office her new name would be Esther McVey. She is such a venal soulless entity; like a used car salesman, or the sort of creature one finds in 'The Call Centre'. Someone that's clearly given up on pursuing anything deeper in life and now wholly embracing the corporate lifestyle; she refers to long term unemployed as having been distant from not just the workplace but also the marketplace! That's all life is to her and that's just sad.

She attempted to defend the scheme, in her own confused way, refusing to give Evan Davis the actual figures but finally owning up that the success rate of the trial was pitiful. This hasn't stopped IDS from committing £300 million to this farce. Given that he was never going to abide by the outcome of the trial (which any fool could have predicted) his profligacy is as egregious as it is offensive as it is ideological. The treasury is a blank cheque to him, even though other people are being turfed out of their homes to pay for it: the DWP recently lost a landmark Bedroom Tax case in Scotland against a disabled (there's a pair of words most civilised folk had hoped the 21st century would have seen the back of - against disabled), but that won't stop IDS throwing our money at DWP lawyers to ensure the right result, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs. It is right, he will say.

This is her response to Evan Davis, when interviewed on Radio 4 on the day this scheme launched. He had twice previously attempted to wrest from her the actual success rate from the trial conducted last year:

“well what we found is significant numbers of increases of people through it could have been nine days where (or were, can't tell her accent) extra were off benefits or twelve days they were extra in work, and that's what we found, so we saw, with this extra support, they were remaining off benefit but more importantly they were staying in work, but it isn't just one form of support, as I said there is the daily signings that's for people who've already been in work who need a little bit more work (presumably she means help), other people needed more sort of employability skills; could they get up on time, could they work with other people, were they positive and confident in the environment, so that was another set of trials that...”

Evan then interrupts because she's not giving him the figures though she then confirms the success rates are 'ones and two's percents" and that if they'd been in the community work programme “you're more likely to be in work by 9 extra days”, whatever that means, and that if they'd done the more intense regime that goes up to 11 days. I've no idea what the more intense regime is. All we know is that there are 3 components which are entirely different: workfare, daily signing, or training. Which is she referring to, or does that mean there are multiple levels or intensities of workfare?

She also quotes a girl she'd spoken to who hadn't worked for 20 years was now happy to do voluntary work. Voluntary, Esther.

Mcvey also claims that half a million people have a job because of the WP and that half of those have a long term job. Sounds like bullshit to me.

Now that the private sector is involved (as if it were ever going to be any different), I have concerns that the likes of G4S, who also have interests in the prison service, will simply farm workfare victims to the same schemes as those running community service punishments. Is there even a difference anymore? Are we going to see the unemployed breaking rocks alongside actual vandals? Is it that unlikely given that community work will include clearing up after such people? Whatever happened to the Tories and their vaunted notions of responsibility?

I now feel that we really are flying without a net. This recent stuff has really upset me and that's because it just feels, now, that there is no ‘safe word’: there's no safe threshold for individuals. No matter how much shit they are put through, no matter how many hoops and how much anti-welfare ideological bureaucracy they have to endure, there is no point at which they will back off. Consequently that means no recognition that someone is struggling, just more misery as they are labelled non-compliant.

There's also no explanation of how someone in the ESA WRAG fits into all this. Am I going to have to do workfare? Will I get the choice of 'intensive training' (whatever that is) instead; I can't do daily signings, but I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted me to come in every day!

There really is no safety net. Just a hard concrete floor covered in broken glass and shit.



  1. There is still some light out there though. There has been quite a backlash against this "Help(sic) to Work" scheme from the voluntary sector, with the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign gaining more than 150 signatories, all of whom have promised as part of their pledge to refuse to be involved in government-mandated workfare.

    Even the Salvation Army have baulked at the idea of forced workfare for six months, although they are still involved in the month-long MWA.

    On the opposite end of the scale of course we have professional troll Katie Price, who said via twitter that unemployed people should be forced to wear special uniforms...

    What a heartless fascist she is.

    1. Not Katie Price! Katie Hopkins is the troll who wants the unemployed to wear uniforms. D'oh...


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