If you are unemployed you will be aware by now that it's your fault. You lounge about at home in the lap of luxury while your neighbours go out early every morning to work for their living. You need to be forced to work. Ridiculous, isn't it? But instead of having a rational debate about the reform of welfare, the Conservatives have decided to cut benefits piecemeal. Having spent at least a decade in collusion with the right-wing press to demonise benefits claimants, they can now conduct polls and focus groups to show how popular it is to cut benefits. Surprise, surprise. There's no point in debating the rights and wrongs of this, because it's going to happen. What is worth talking about is a radical rethink of the whole basis of welfare. If you have any thoughts on this, please comment.
There have been a number of interesting reports in the last few days, both factual and speculative. A piece in the Telegraph tells of the views of a group of Tory MPs. They want to cut JSA by 10% after 6 months of unemployment and by another 10% after 12 months. Another far right group, the think tank Policy Exchange, has come up with a report that shows that nearly a third of people leaving JSA are back "on the dole" (their words) within eight months. Now, the conclusions they draw from this are bizarre. Jobcentre Plus should have the same incentives as WP providers (despite the fact that there are as yet no published results for the WP). Nasty things should happen to claimants of top-up benefits who are not doing all they can to find higher-paid or full-time work. It seems to be about penalising people for the economic reality they can do nothing about.
Another interesting snippet comes from a BBC news piece about a disability rights campaigner at the Tory conference. G4S has raised concerns about the number of referrals they are getting. They have halved in recent months. This is not contradicted by a DWP spokesman, who says that the number of referrals was always predicted to fall after the first year. This is puzzling because it doesn't square with what we've heard about at least one A4e office, where the first appointment for someone referred was 7 weeks after the first phone call, and staff said they were overwhelmed by the numbers. Was that unusual?