- The Work Programme was meant to start to get the long-term unemployed back into work, and leave them with no excuse for not having a job. It was largely hot air, of course, but Iain Duncan Smith seemed to have convinced himself that it was real. He is unable to abandon that now.
- In the absence of actual jobs, there is a sharp increase in the amount of "mandatory work activity", whether as part of the WP or as a separate programme. Some of this is time-limited, some is indefinite in length. From Monday this is to extend to those who are still officially sick or disabled (see an excellent Guardian article). The DWP refuses to disclose the identity of employers profiting from this scheme, despite a ruling that they should. They have admitted that private companies are involved, but insist that the work has to be "of community benefit". The DWP's own figures show that this activity has no impact on whether someone can get a real job, so the whole thing has to be seen as deliberately punitive, or pandering to Daily Mail readers. Common sense says that this is preventing the creation of real jobs. If companies can get free labour, there is no need to hire anyone.
- In the ideological fantasies of the right, there is no contradiction between the failure of the Work Programme and belief that people dependent on benefits are too comfortable, and need to be made to suffer in order to find work. According to IDS, the system is "stifling incentive, opportunity and responsibility". (The Telegraph yesterday.) It should not "pay for a life on benefits when work is available". Last Tuesday's release of performance data didn't actually happen, you dreamt it.
- So their benefits are to frozen. So far we don't know whether that includes housing benefit. If it does, there will be a rapid increase in homelessness. Even if it doesn't, the impact of an ever-declining standard of living will have the same effect eventually.
- If all you can get is part-time work, and you are eligible for tax credits, you may well have to get more hours to qualify. It's going up to 30 hours a week minimum. So if you can't get more hours, your only recourse is to stop working altogether and depend on benefits entirely.
- The "bedroom tax" isn't a tax at all, but a gratuitously nasty attack on the poorest. Anyone living in "social housing" (I loathe that term) and claiming benefits shouldn't have a spare bedroom. So you'll have to move. If you're unlucky enough to live in one of those areas where there is a severe shortage of, say, single-bedroom flats owned by councils or housing associations, then you're going to have to move right out of the area, or move into private rented accommodation - which will cost more, so the cost to the taxpayer goes up. Wonderful.
Don't look to Labour to change things.
Some people talk in apocalyptic terms about "work camps" or "back to the workhouse". Others foresee civil unrest - rioting, in effect - on a big scale. I don't know. But I'm scared.