The government’s ‘Help to Work’ scheme comes into force today (28th April 2014) which places new obligations on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants who have been unemployed for more than two years.
Under the scheme, claimants will be required to attend Jobcentre’s every day, receive ‘intensive job search coaching’, and will be required to complete compulsory work experience placements for 30 hours per week which could last up to six months.
Failure to comply with the new scheme will result in JSA being cut for four weeks, and the claimants could face further sanctions.
Jobseeker’s with learning difficulties will be given additional educational support in numeracy and literacy skills.
The government has signed-up in the region of 70 organisations to provide work placements under the scheme.
One major part of the scheme has run into immediate trouble. A group of leading charities, including Oxfam, has announced that it is boycotting the new mandatory work placement scheme on the grounds that volunteering should be genuinely voluntary and not something that the long-term unemployed are forced to do under a threat of losing their benefits.
30 voluntary sector organisations have joined together to boycott the scheme under the campaign ‘Keep Volunteering Voluntary’. They include Oxfam, the YMCA, and the Salvation Army.
The government scheme has faced heavy criticism from charities, trade unions, and the Labour party for not offering real opportunities for the unemployed, and creating a scheme which does nothing more than falsify real unemployment figures.
Stephen Timms, shadow employment minister, said: “Under David Cameron’s government nearly one in 10 people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) lack basic literacy skills and many more are unable to do simple maths or send an email. A Labour government will introduce a basic skills test to assess all new claimants for JSA within six weeks of claiming benefits.”
Unite’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner told the Independent newspaper:
“This scheme is nothing more than forced unpaid labour and there is no evidence that these workfare programmes get people into paid work in the long-term.
“We are against this scheme wherever ministers want to implement it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector.
“The Government sees cash-starved charities as ‘a soft target’ for such an obscene scheme, so we are asking charity bosses to say ‘no’ to taking part in this programme. This is a warping of the true spirit of volunteering and will force the public to look differently at charities with which they were once proud to be associated.
“It is outrageous that the Government is trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, otherwise they will have their benefits docked.”
Even the Department for Work and Pensions has found that schemes which involve compulsory work placements are of little use in genuinely helping the long-term unemployed. In a study completed by the department in 2008, they concluded “There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.
“Subsidised (‘transitional’) job schemes that pay a wage can be more effective in raising employment levels than ‘work for benefit’ programmes.
“Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.”
Not only are such schemes of no real value in combatting long-term unemployment, they also cost the taxpayer BILLIONS of pounds to implement and operate and place enormous strain on Jobcentre and DWP staff who are already struggling to cope with the incompetence of Iain Duncan Smith and his ridiculous schemes.
The cost of the work programme is estimated to be OVER £5 BILLION (as of the end of 2013) and has resulted in only one person in ten placed on the scheme moving into employment – and many of those have found employment through their own resources rather than as a result of being on work placement through the scheme.
The work programme has also INFLATED the welfare bill by an additional £20 MILLION per annum.
Despite all of the real evidence (much of it originating from government’s own departments) showing that the work programme is a total waste of taxpayer’s money, is of very little benefit to the long-term unemployed, and has caused unnecessary hardship through sanctions and the costs involved in attending work placements (travel and work clothing for example), the government are still intent on pushing ahead with it.
If this were a company, the competence of the ‘management’ would have been questioned years ago, and no doubt those responsible for such inane incompetence which cost billions of pounds taxpayer’s money would have joined the lines of the unemployed.
The long-term unemployed need realistic initiatives to find work. First, there has to be real work available – not part-time or zero-hour contracted jobs which pay virtually nothing and offer no future stability.
We agree that for the tiny, tiny minority of those who are very long-term unemployed who choose not to work there should be tough penalties – but the ‘catch all’ punitive scheme that is in place now serves no purpose at all, except bolster the chest-beating egos of those in government who are the real scroungers in our society.
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