I've just watched an entertaining but infuriating interview with Mark Hoban on BBC's Newsight.
It started with a clip from the classic film Metropolis, a scene of mass forced labour. It was then pointed out that 130,000 people have been "sanctioned" for not taking part in any of the 7 schemes affected by today's court ruling. A Human Rights barrister said that they may have a right to compensation. A TUC spokeswoman said that they support good quality work experience schemes, but not unpaid work in return for benefits.
Then the interviewer, Gavin Esler, turned to Mark Hoban and asked why his department was so incompetent. It was rapidly clear that Hoban wanted to talk only about the vindication of the schemes themselves, not the court ruling. They don't agree with the court, and want to be able to be flexible and respond quickly. This is not a major blow, he said, it was "business as usual". What provision has been made to repay people, Esler asked. None, they're not going to pay. (The interview was taking place against a backdrop of a scene of forced labour from Metropolis.) Esler asked if people like Cait Reilly are workshy. We offer help, said Hoban, not answering the question. Then, astonishly, he uttered the phrase "tailored, personalised support". When Esler put the contrary case, Hoban said that they were "very effective schemes in getting people into work". I wanted Esler to bring up the DWP's own figures which show just how useless they are, but instead he turned to the Work Programme, and the 3.5% success in its first year. Hoban repeated the phrase "personalised support". So all the evidence that the WP offers nothing of the kind can be ignored by this government, and the same old lies can be propagated.
I agree completely with Zoe Williams in her Guardian piece: "All the statistics released about the Work Programme show execrable results, and yet we've heard nothing about penalties, or remaking the contracts, or rethinking the system. There is a creeping sense that this is turning into a cash cow for the private sector, a get-out-clause for the government ("we've spent all this money, if people can't get jobs despite our help, it's because they are inadequate"), and unemployed people will be left at the bottom, ceaselessly harassed by a totally specious narrative in which their laziness beggars a try-hard administration."