In the big news towards the end of this week, stories about "welfare" got rather lost. Iain Duncan Smith finally admitted that his Universal Credit target isn't going to be met; but everybody knew that. Various reports should have caused trouble for the government, but few noticed. There was a report pointing to the failure of HMRC to police the minimum wage legislation properly, said the Guardian. Only a couple of employers have ever been prosecuted, and only one named and shamed, although 10,777 firms have been investigated. On the same day the Independent's Charlie Cooper wrote about the "public health emergency" of food poverty. That's the verdict of a group of expert doctors and academics, following a report commissioned by Defra - a report which, in a familiar move, the government has not published, claiming that it needs a "review and quality assurance process". The Trussell Trust, which runs a lot of food banks, says that they've tried to talk to the DWP, but been refused a meeting. Meanwhile the experts cite recent figures showing a surge in the number of malnutrition cases diagnosed in English hospitals.
The people who read those two articles probably didn't read another in the Express. The paper which has done so much to spread hatred of the unemployed found a story which ticked a different set of boxes. "Veteran loses his jobseekers benefits for selling poppies" it yelled. The 60-year-old former soldier gets £71.20 a week and has done everything he can to find work. However, he "admitted" to the jobcentre that he'd spent 24 hours over a two-week period selling Remembrance Day poppies. He was promptly sanctioned for a month for not "actively seeking work". The response from the infamous, anonymous DWP spokesperson was predictable: "We make it clear to people what the rules are and they risk losing their benefits if they don't play by them. Sanctions are only used as a last resort." The Express's outrage is commendable.
But none of this made much of an impression on the public as a whole, and it all faded away as other news monopolised the media.
The case of the man who was sanctioned for not 'actively seeking work' because he was selling poppies unpaid raises a very important point about unpaid placements which jobseekers are sent on under threat of losing benefits if they refuse. It would be very interesting to see this explored in a court of law, but it is my view that sending jobseekers on unpaid work placements is in direct conflict with the jobseekers allowance regulation which states that a jobseeker must be actively seeking work. This surely still applies even when someone is on a work placement.ReplyDelete
I could also not find any regulations which state that a jobseeker on a work placement has to actually do work, only that he or she must attend, so it would be very interesting to attend a work placement, then sit there looking for work and applying for jobs. Of course the supervisor would not be happy and would challenge it, but the reply could be that the individual concerned was actively seeking work as per the Jobseekers Agreement. The supervisor would then likely want to end the placement but it would be difficult for an individual to be sanctioned for this because the regulations state that sanctions are applied when a placement is lost through 'gross misconduct' (ie theft, verbal abuse or violence)- someone sitting there doing a jobsearch/applying for jobs instead of the tasks the supervisor on a work placement asked them to do does not fit into this category.
Whilst I totally agree would the case get to court? Legal Aid has been cut.ReplyDelete
The motive of the DWP is simply to increase sanctions, not to help people find work. Why else would they condemn someone who, it could be argued, by volunteering was taking the opportunity to improve his chances of finding work?ReplyDelete
I refrain from commenting on A4e for fear that any such post would not see the light of day due to stigmatising A4e and its employees.ReplyDelete
instead I suggest the following article from the Guardian:
Am I allowed to stigmatise IDS?
I've only just read that article and will comment on it later. As you well know, you can stigmatise IDS to your heart's content, and A4e too. It's having a go at the staff in general that is not on.Delete
But I like to keep you on your toes!Delete
to anybody who has had recent experience with the system, it's quite obvious that welfare is simply not a guarantee anymore. the jobcentre is less [much less] about helping people transistion from unemployment into work and more [much more] about punishing those who dare not comply with their jobseeker agreements to the very letter.ReplyDelete
the advisors aren't there to help and nurture- instead they serve only to trick and undermine claims. i hate it. to accept welfare in this country is now to accept servitude.
Wefare sactions are purely a social control and profit-making exercise. They have little to do with "rules-is-rules"! They are a controlling force for keeping wages low and forcing people into low-paid work without complaint. And a profit-making exercise by skimming the taxes already paid in by most of the labourforce, to cover periods of unemployment. We're being played! (Incidentally, I used the word "welfare", rather than "benefits" because therein lies another form of social control - the language used to describe social welfare support as some kind of "benefit". There are no "benefits" to being on the bottom rung of the social ladder!)ReplyDelete
I understand what you mean about the so called benefits of being at the bottom, but I think benefits is supposed to imply/mean the benefit(s) of welfare support. When welfare support payments turned into benefits, I will never know, but our language is always being altered to suit the needs of whoever is speaking at the time and we all know how much politicians love to coin new phrases. ;)Delete
and more from the GrauniadReplyDelete