It is fundamental to the government's approach to welfare to believe that claiming benefits is a choice people make. They call it "languishing on benefits" and describe it as a "lifestyle choice". When it dawned on them that most people on benefits were actually in work, and were able to claim tax credits because their pay was so abysmally low, or because they were working part-time - well, that must be a choice, too. Little noticed some time ago was the announcement that in order to claim working tax credits people would have to be working 30 hours a week. Clearly, and explicitly, the delusion was that people working fewer hours than that could find some more somewhere. And now comes the plan to deal with those "not working enough". Last Saturday's Guardian had a chilling article about it. "People earning between £330 and £950 a month - just under the rate of the national minimum wage for a 35-hour week - could be mandated to attend jobcentre meetings where their working habits will be examined as part of the universal credit programme." This makes perfect sense in the government's thinking. UC will ensure that "work pays"; so people must be pressured into working more. And if you're not making enough effort, you can be stripped of your benefits. There will be seven categories of claimants, apparently, including those "too sick to work" and those "too committed to work" (which would include lone parents), as well as those "not working enough". The language of the documents seen by the Guardian includes horrible phrases like "the claimant journey". The TUC has responded with the obvious objections, including forcing people to live in constant fear and insecurity.
All of this is called "in-work conditionality", and the Resolution Foundation has published a report on the implications. It's well worth reading. One point which has been raised by many people is that the resources simply aren't there to implement this. More contracts, perhaps? The private sector is already cashing in. A system called Worktrack is set to replace Universal Jobmatch. It's a much more sophisticated system - take the tour on their website. But then look at the pricing - between £500 and £600 per adviser license, with discounts for multiple advisers. And consider that it is extremely unlikely that it will be voluntary for the client to sign up for this.
One company's opinion on how to make the Work Programme better has been published. G4S, like all the providers, has been invited to submit ideas for the "next generation" of the WP. It's not encouraging for anyone who wants to see an end to this useless scheme. Naturally, the providers want to "reform" it in their own financial interests.