You couldn't have a better example today of this government's contempt for the truth, and how the media collude with them.
On the one hand there are two articles, in the Express and the Mail. The very names tell you what's coming - a platform for Iain Duncan Smith to lie about some made-up figures. They are the same article, really. The Mail says: "Half of those caught out by benefits cap are 'spurred to seek work': New figures show the system is working". This is based on an Ipsos Mori poll of "more than 1,600 capped households" showed that 28% did more to find work. Pretty thin, you might say. Even thinner is the finding that 11% of capped households have found work, although you'll have to get your calculator out to work that one out. This gives IDS the excuse to claim that the cap is changing people's behaviour, etc, etc. This is the sort of nonsense which he was rebuked for, but he takes no notice.
The Express's version oozes hatred, as usual, referring to "handouts", "welfare bonanza", "workshy", "creaming off" and on and on, but it's the same lie based on the same dubious figures. Bringing in Jonathan Isaby of the Taxpayers Alliance to parrot the right things hardly enhances the credibility of this rotten propaganda.
So for an antidote we turn to the Guardian, and first to an article by Patrick Wintour. The same Ipsos Mori poll which delights IDS also shows that a third of people affected by the cap have had to cut back on essential items. Just as important are the findings of Citizens Advice. The increased ruthlessness of the sanctions regime is driving people to loan sharks and hindering them from looking for work. They point out that on the Work Programme twice as many people are sanctioned as find work.
And then there's an excellent article by Polly Toynbee. The latest employment figures will show that more people are in work; but in the last 3 months all the increase is down to self-employment. And most of it is down to desperation. Toynbee goes on to look at Help to Work. Since nobody actually calls it that, let's refer to it as workfare. She says: "For once, instead of rushing in, the DWP has done a good control trial on this with 15,000 unemployed. The pilot's results, however, were sneaked out just before Christmas with no press release. That's no surprise when you uncover the findings. First the unemployed were given a 13-week warning period to act as a deterrent, and then 26 weeks of either 'intensive Jobcentre Plus support', or the workfare 'community action programme'. Or they went into the control group with nothing special. Here's what happened: exactly the same number in the control group – 18% – found themselves jobs as those doing the forced community work. Just 1% more found jobs from the group with jobcentre support. In other words, workfare didn't work. Although 68% of the control group were still on unemployment benefits at the end, so were 66% of those who did the community work and 64% of those given jobcentre support."
Help to Work is only two weeks from launch, but there hasn't even been an announcement of the contractors, and Toynbee couldn't get an answer out of the DWP. She concludes that the only reason for going ahead with this is that it takes people out of the unemployment figures for 6 months. " Incidently," she says, "these sad long-term cases will do more than twice the maximum any court can sentence a thief to on Community Payback. To be out of work is now officially morally worse than committing a crime."