"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Workfare Creeps In.

The unemployed will be ordered to do periods of compulsory full-time work in the community or be stripped of their benefits under controversial American-style plans to slash the number of people without jobs.

The proposals, in a white paper on welfare reform to be unveiled this week, are part of a radical government agenda aimed at cutting the £190bn-a-year welfare bill and breaking what the coalition now calls the “habit of worklessness”.

The measures will be announced to parliament by the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, as part of what he will describe as a new “contract” with the 1.4 million people on jobseekers’ allowance. The government’s side of the bargain will be the promise of a new “universal credit”, to replace all existing benefits, that will ensure it always pays to work rather than stay on welfare.

And if that’s not reactionary enough…

The Department for Work and Pensions plans to contract private providers to organise the placements with charities, voluntary organisations and companies.

Just let the private sector loose on those proposals.

Where to start? Firstly, Labour should take a hellva responsibility for this, they started this hideous Frankenstein monster of welfare reform (thank-you James Purnell….) no wonder they are kind quiet on this. The ConDems are just taking it to another turbo-charged level.

Secondly, will there be rights of appeal when stripped of benefits? Will there be procedures in place for claimants to do this? We will have to wait and see. But these are scary times.

Interestingly, the ConDems and neither did New Labour look and take notice at this research by the DWP on reviewing Workfare schemes globally in 2008. The conclusions were that…

Workfare doesn’t work!

The research found that workfare doesn’t improve job prospects rather it can limit the chances of employment by failing to provide skills training and also time available to find work. And because of the compulsory nature of workfare, people drop-out of welfare and therefore as it acts as a deterrent it is harder to measure the tangible outcomes of welfare.

Finally, workfare can make life so much worse for people, for example, who have disabilities or are lone parents who have problems with meeting the demands placed on them to will ultimately receive penalties and sanctions that could lead to a complete withdrawal of benefits.

What next… Serco run workhouses?

Additional research claims that the tough sanctions regime underpinning WfD (Work for the Dole) and other Australian labour market programmes may have a detrimental effect on labour market prospects. In 2000/01 alone, a total of 350,000 penalties were imposed that ‘counterproductively diminishe[d] many jobseekers prospects of finding employment’, with the burden falling disproportionately on young people and indigenous Australians.

What would be better for ordinary people facing unemployment is proper paid work within reasonable travelling time and with proper child care and training. A housebuilding programme, a energy saving programme, free universal childcare are things that ordinary people need doing. They could provide an enormous number of jobs.

All workfare ideas spring from right-wing theories that the reason people are unemployed is that it is too cushy. Workfare is about bullying people, stigmatising, vilifying and scapegoating the poor for the economic woes of society. It would not do of course to look into the role of the rich and powerful or the organisation of the economy in creating economic problems. Better to find groups who are relatively powerless: yes pick on the weak and hope that you are never faced with physical or mental disability or left with children and no way to earn a living.

And just a final final, why the hell aren’t the TUC condemning this outright because Workfare is an ideological attack on pay and conditions, ultimately workers’ rights something which the TUC should be organising around now!




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