Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Bits and pieces

Two pieces of news this week - unrelated, of ccourse. From the South Yorkshire Star newspaper we learn that in the list of the 100 British companies with the fastest-growing profits, "A4e, whose services span employment, education, enterprise and tackling social exclusion, was placed 83rd after profits rose by 46 per cent to £8.2." And from all news sources we learn that unemployment has risen to 2.5 million.

Demos has produced a report flashily entitled "Liberation Welfare". Demos is a "think tank" which has in the past produced policy ideas for Labour and now, with its Open Left project, seeks "to create a space for open debate and new thinking about the kind of society Britain should be and how to bring
it about. This should be based on idealism,pluralism and radicalism." However, it gives "Special thanks .... to Reed in Partnership and A4e. Without their financial support this project would not have been possible." So we know we are not likely to get an objective view of welfare reform; and indeed the report doesn't question the use of private companies. Rob Harvey and Rob Murdoch from A4e have contributed a sensible article on reforming housing benefit;and much of what is in the report is equally sensible. But what is wrong with Demos' whole approach is the acceptance of private profit at the heart of welfare "reform".

Have you ever been offered a job? If you're a high-flying, skilled person with a good job you may have been head-hunted by another company. But the vast majority of us have always had to apply for jobs, or go out and ask if there are any vacancies, and then hope that we'll be the chosen candidate. But you'd never know this from David Cameron's lastest populist statement of intent about the work-shy. "If you refuse a job offer you'll lose your benefit," he said. Labour plaintively replied that it was already the case. And indeed it has been true since the year dot. Back in the 1960s there was the green card system. The Labour Exchange sent a claimant off with a green card to an employer who had vacancies. The employer had to sign the card to prove that the claimant had turned up; without that proof, benefit would be docked. But even then, the employer had the choice. Some claimants, then as now, were simply unemployable; and a few didn't want the job so could easily put off the employer. Nothing much has changed. It is very rare for an umployed person to be offered a job which he hasn't actively sought; and very rare for someone to go after a job, be offered it and turn it down. So what does Cameron intend? Nothing, I suspect. Once again, the people with the power demonstrate their ignorance of real life for the 2.5 million unemployed.

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