On Tuesday, October 1, Andrew Neil’s Daily Politics show discussed the George Osborne-Iain Duncan Smith workfare plan at length.
The big surprise for me was hearing a Labour MP interviewed who acknowledged that they would do similarly — get people off of the dole between years 2 and 3 of receiving benefits. (I don’t remember who it was as I was working on a household project with my back to the screen at the time.)
It will be interesting to see how Labour spin (contradict) this between now and the 2015 election.
Anyway, the Daily Politics also revealed that the Conservatives planned for the announcement about workfare — because that is what it is — to be divided between Osborne and IDS. Apparently, some at the conference wondered why both were unveiling it.
On the day of Osborne’s conference speech — Monday, September 30 — Andrew Neil’s panellists said that Osborne’s star is currently in the ascendant and has been since the summer.
That reminded me of French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici’s (PS) announcement several weeks ago that the recession was over. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it on RMC (Radio Monte Carlo), especially when he said to ignore the figures, just watch the growth trends. Really?
Within 24 hours something interesting happened. By chance, I was watching BBC news the following evening and heard them announce that George Osborne said the recession is over.
How do these guys get their talking points? Does an email come in from Brussels with a dissemination schedule: ‘Moscovici will go first; Osborne follows a day later’? It’s all rather strange.
Now onto the Conservative Party conference. Osborne was comfortable and confident. Could he be party leader one day? Neil’s guests doubted it, saying that it would be difficult for a Chancellor to lead in opposition. It has been done but not for a few decades.
The one thing that was troublesome — and my better half was with me watching the speech — was the workfare part. My better half said, ‘I don’t think much of that’. Nor do I.
It was — and even with IDS’s explanation the next day — unclear whether this relates to dole recipients or JSA claimants or both. What made it worse was that nearly everyone on Neil’s show — including IDS — used the word ‘welfare’, thereby conflating the two.
Working people pay tax to claim JSA if they need to; it’s an insurance policy. The dole is something else entirely, paid for by other people. Only one of Neil’s guests made that point, which was ignored.
The slogan of the Conservative Party conference — ‘For Hardworking Families’ — was alienating. What about struggling single or widowed hard-working mothers? And unmarried, uncohabitating hard-working singles, for that matter? What are they to think about the Tories? What do the Tories think of them?
Why didn’t they say something like ‘for working Britons’ instead?
IDS said that the idea for transitioning claimants out of the dole between years 2 and 3 came from the German government who, according to him, have implemented it successfully and achieved a desirable reduction. He also said that only ‘selected’ individuals would be called into the Job Centre every day. Hmm.
I cannot see how this would work. See the comments on Conservative Home’s post — almost all of which are against the plan.
These are the questions people have:
– Will JSA claimants be stigmatised as welfare recipients?
– JSA is taxable income. So, that considered, active job seekers are also supposed to eke transport money (petrol or train/bus fare) out of a weekly £69 to visit the Job Centre daily? Incomprehensible.
– Applying for a travel warrant at the Job Centre is time-consuming and can only be done during certain hours when the man or woman behind the counter is there. I know, because I’ve done it. It took me nearly an hour, even though I had all my interview paperwork with me. The workfare plan would require the travel warrant employee to be there the better part of a day, rather than one or two hours in the afternoon — extra expense.
– How much extra will requiring more regular or daily claimant visits cost with regard to Job Centre staff?
– IDS said that the government want to do away with dole claimants working in the black market. He then said that the government has already been able to shed several thousand long-term claimants. What happened to those people then? Did they go on to work in black market jobs?
– Thinking of a long-term unemployed person, how are they going to manage sitting in a Job Centre from 9 to 5 or attend a ‘course’? What if they are emotionally disturbed? How would this affect earnest people also attending, hoping to get back into work? What dangers would an emotionally disturbed claimant pose to Job Centre staff?
– As for the call for the unemployed to pick up litter — which Osborne mentioned — aren’t taxpayers footing the bill for council workers to do that job? What happens to them? As the Conservative Home readers ask, do the council workers get made redundant so that JSA or dole claimants do that work?
– What about zero-hours contracts? Are these part of the lower unemployment numbers?
– Osborne also mentioned the unemployed preparing dinners for the elderly. That’s a particularly frightful idea. The reason is that, in the 1980s, I knew a guy who worked behind the counter in a café in the US. He said the owner ordered them to put out the same old mayonnaise-based salads (e.g. egg, tuna) every day until the containers were empty. Another employee flatly refused to wash his hands after using the loo. He took particular relish in making sandwiches. Yes, I can see this would work really well in the Osborne-IDS plan (not); talk about killing off the elderly.
Yes, we need some sort of welfare reform. And Labour probably have the same ideas as the Tories; remember the campaign of welfare fraud adverts with actors who looked as if they’d walked out of Shameless? As if no one else commits fraud.
I do not know why the DWP cannot just target and deal with the problem people without making a new wide-reaching programme out of it. Put those almighty government computers to work, quietly target the fraudsters and, job done. Isn’t that how it used to be?