Friday, 27 December 2013

.... and a happy New Year

While the more fortunate of us were tucking into our turkey on Christmas Day, even if it was courtesy of a charity in a homeless shelter, Iain Duncan Smith was composing a piece for the Daily Mail.  There will, it says, be "No hiding place for those who opt for a life on benefits".  He didn't have to think too hard about it.  All the familiar cliches and lies are there, like "lifestyle choice".  On the benefit cap, for instance, "around 19,000 who would potentially have been subject to the benefit cap have already moved into work".  That's two fingers up to the government's own statisticians who told him that the statement was dishonest.  But the main point of the piece is to trumpet the new scheme "that will require 6,000 jobseekers to spend 35 hours a week at a supervised jobsearch centre.  People who have been out of work for several years or those who are lacking motivation [my italics] will be required to spend up to six months looking for and applying for jobs in return for their benefits."
More dishonest twaddle.  This is about sanctioning as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  Even if they turn up on time and do as they're told, they'll be sanctioned for "lacking motivation".  Some will go into the cash-in-hand economy (which hurts the rest of us) and some will simply be homeless.  But it will give the repellent IDS the chance to say that he's got them to sign off.  There's no detail about who will run these centres, but they will certainly provide jobs for loads of security staff.
The Mail likes this stuff so much that it has an editorial comment on it.  The clever chappy who wrote it thinks that IDS's initiative "will doubtless provoke howls of indignation from the liberal establishment".  (Who are they, you may well ask.)  "It is a robust approach and there are those on the Left who will say it's cruel.  They said the same about the benefit cap, the 'bedroom tax', the unpaid work programme and universal benefit [sic]."  I could go on quoting, but it's too nauseating.
The lie about the numbers being driven to get a job by the benefit cap was published by the Telegraph on Christmas Eve, with elaborations and the statement from IDS that it had "pushed 250 people back into work every week".  (For those who are not clear why this is a lie, it was pointed out by the statisticians that there is constant "churn", some people coming off benefits and some coming on, and there is no way of knowing how many of those signed off as a direct result of the cap.)
More embarrassing for IDS (no, okay, he is never embarrassed) was the Christmas Eve news that 32,000 people had not received their benefits because of an "error" by the DWP.  Not to worry; if they rang up before 5.00 pm they would get the money within 3 hours.  Presumably, if they were lucky enough to hear about this, the unfortunate could phone a premium rate number -something which the government has now decreed should stop.  The DWP will have to give out private local rate numbers - a victory for Margaret Hodge and her Public Accounts Committee.
Boxing Day brought an interesting exclusive in the Independent.  Labour has decided that outsourcing public services is not necessarily a good thing.  They've recognised that the contracts don't provide better competition or drive down prices because "what we have in this country now is an oligopoly of a few companies that are not competing effectively and are providing poor value for money for the taxpayer."  Hallelujah!  Yes, Labour started it, but if they've now seen the light we can only rejoice.  Perhaps they'll also do something about the scam reported in the Guardian on Boxing Day.  The GMB union is taking a case to court against a marketing company, PerDM, which apparently employs people on a fake self-employment basis and then pays them way below minimum wage.
It's not going to get any better, folks.  The best we can hope for in 2014 is that there are more real jobs, and some of those desperate for work and a viable income will escape from the clutches of this appalling government.


  1. It'll be interesting to see the impact of this full-time job searching. IDS is probably right (as are you, historian) that some people are possibly working off the books already or will end up doing so as a consequence of this (or become destitute, turn to crime, prostitution and so on) but if we go along with the pretence that it's about getting people into work, my hunch is that it'll be pretty marginal, and might well be counter-productive in some cases - most employers I've spoken to are reluctant to entertain applications via JCP, and I can't see this helping.

    However, as we've seen with Community Work Placements, the mere fact that something doesn't work and is a waste of money isn't enough to dissuade DWP from pursuing it, usually by bunging a few tens of millions per year to one or more of the usual suspects.

    Interesting that IDS (or whoever wrote the article on his behalf) is still using language more traditionally associated with criminals than the unemployed - 'no hiding place' and so on. This is telling: as with things like CWP, the intention appears to be to punish, harass and humiliate rather than provide any sort of positive support.

    Finally, the Mail's editorial piece is so moronic and factually away with the fairies that I won't comment, but as an aside prompted by their criticism of 'UN meddlers', I'm abroad at the moment in an A10 country and have been for a week or so. We've had different people round for dinner practically every evening, and the question of Cameron, May and Conservative anti-immigrant rhetoric has come up every time, without fail. None of the people raising it with me have the slightest desire (or need) to move to the UK for work, but are bewildered by the turn the country appears to have taken. They're not the only ones, and frankly, I'm embarrassed.

  2. I think IDS has been found out by other Tories and isn't taken seriously any more, unless he has friends in high places in which case the unemployed should be very worried.

  3. "Goes on to insist that looking for work should be 'full-time' in itself"

    This from the lousy DM peice. MP's have been recommended an 11% pay rise by IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority). Even though the main party leaders openly reject this pay rise, it'll probably go through.

    So whaen do we see MP's treating their 65k (soon to be 74k) careers as full time jobs? How many make cash on the side doing a few hours work a year as "business consultants" and non-exec directors?

    That Historian mentions the fact that people could be sanctioned for lacking 'motivation' got me thinking about this thread on the money saving expert forum here:

    It started off with a chap (who does not hide he is homosexual) being sanctioned for wearing a T-Shirt with a pro-gay slogan on it.

    Most posters told him he was silly and should remove it to avoid a sanction. However, the thread has now spiraled into silly comments about people needing to wear their suits just to sign on in order to 'show willing' and how the JC needs a dress code for jobseekers otherwise they need sanctioning!!!

    I have contributed to this thread and you can find my comments toward the latter part of it. (One of my points being that wearing out your best clthing to the JC is not a wise move when you need them for interview and possible work purposes). Many of the comments show such a lack of clarity and thought that it shows how easily people can fall for the pro-sanctions claptrap emanating from Smith and McVeys mouths.

    1. Many years ago (about 25) I was briefly out of work. I went to the Jobcentre one day to look at the vacancies, and found one I could apply for. The clerk phoned for me - could I come now? It was just down the road. The trouble was, I was not dressed for interview; in fact, I was scruffy. But I went, and made sure I apologised and explained before anybody could say anything. They gave me the job. I'm not sure what the moral of this is, except that who cares what you're wearing?

    2. When i went to see my Post work programme Support adviser.. It was windy, it was raining, i came in looking like a drowned rat, hair everywhere, and wet, she made comments about my looks because my hair was a little flyaway.. storm outside.. hair will be blown about. They dont actually care they will find any reason to sanction people. It shouldnt be how you look it should be can you do the job, I had comments because i had a beard, as if having a beard makes you less able to do a job..

  4. Telling the truth and avoiding a misleading manipulation of the govt’s own statistics should also be “full-time jobs,” should they not?

    It seems to me that the DM have failed to notice that IDS is now trying to blame Benefits claimants for the fact that his own ideas have proven themselves to be hideously expensive and hideously ineffective. IDS has evidently run out of any other people to blame for his own incompetence.

  5. "The GMB union is taking a case to court against a marketing company, PerDM, which apparently employs people on a fake self-employment basis and then pays them way below minimum wage."

    Ahhh....sounds familiar. I have been for a couple of interviews with shysters such as these. One of them called xxxxxxxxx Marketing in Leeds city centre. The very quote from the Guardian piece is so true:

    "The jobs, presented as a swift route to management, were described as self-employed and payable by commission only."

    I along with others were sat in a room filling out the application form. When came to my turn to be interviewed, the interviewer was some young slick suited third rate Arthur Daily / Del Boy Trotter wannabe telling me how i could be successful in management and earning £30k within six months. Forgive the language, but I have worked for and with bullshitters in the past and have developed a sixth sense where they're concerned.

    A Ch4 Dispatches episode looked at these sham jobs a couple of years ago. They put the points raised to an employment lawyer. His view was that if you are being given set hours, told where to work and a dress code, then you are not self-employed, as the Guardian piece points out.

    And of course, another sad aspect of this is the fact that even armed with others prior experiences, a jobseeker could still be mandated to apply for this sham of a non-job or be otherwise sanctioned.

    1. You touch on an important point which is that a berserk conditionality and sanctions regime is grist to their mill, as it now means that nobody who happens to encounter then is free to tell them to get lost. With the (apparent) increased number of scammers trying to charge a fee (a conditionality tax?) for 'registration' or 'training', the whole thing starts to look even more sordid and frankly rather like extortion in full view of a complaisant state apparatus.


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".